Saturday, November 04, 2006

Examiner goes on damage control mode

After months of ignored complaints from readers, Phil Anschutz's Examiner in Baltimore has finally acknowledged that it is delivering papers to residents who don't want the right-wing newspaper.

This morning, buried on page 20, the Examiner carries a story headlined "A complaint about delivery of The Baltimore Examiner." Note the word "complaint" in the singular, even though stories in both the Baltimore Sun and the alt-weekly Baltimore City Paper have said that the paper has received numerous complaints. City Paper even ran pictures of signs people had put outside, trying to stop the paper (see above).

Then, the brief introduction to the publisher's "letter" describes the "delivery problems" as being from a "small percentage of area residents." Really? If the Examiner doesn't even respond to people's complaints, as City Paper alleges, how would it know the number of complaints? In the letter, Publisher Michael Phelps strikes the same tone, saying the Examiner has received a "small number of requests" to stop delivery and a "handful" of complaints. He doesn't give an exact number, so one is left to imagine what "small" and "handful" might mean to him -- 1,000? 10,000? Who knows? It sounds like Phelps has his hands full.

The letter goes on to claim that the Examiner is reaching 236,000 "Baltimore market households each day" and has a daily readership of 360,000 people. We note, too, that not only was the story buried on page 20, well past the local news section, it also appeared on a Saturday -- a day often regarded as the lowest day of the week for readership.

THE POINT: This blog reports on the free daily newspaper industry. We're also very bullish about free dailies, beliving they are the future for print journalism. But when a publication like the Examiner attempts to downplay or obfucate an important issue like this, it reflects poorly on other free dailies who have better business practices. We hope the billionaire who owns the Examiners spends a little of his money to improve distribution.