The Buzz

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Well, that was a lousy couple of weeks for the Tribune Co.! Along with circulation overstatements at Newsday and Hoy-the latter's was almost 20%, the company whacked around 300 jobs at its Los Angeles Times, Newsday and Baltimore Sun. And the FCC's attempts to lift cross-ownership rules governing, among other things, newspapers and local-TV ownership, were pooh-poohed by a federal appeals court. It's now conceivable-if unlikely-that Tribune could be forced to sell same-market newspapers or TV stations that it owns.

All of this is highly unusual for notoriously steady media company that's long been a Wall Street fave. But save for the circulation shenanigans, Tribune faces the same stubborn set of facts as many other newspaper companies. Print reliably trails other media in recovering from the ad recession. The big-city papers trail smaller papers in coming back.

Newspapers' proponents argue they remain the best, last mass medium, and more often than not the single media entity that looms largest in local citizens' minds. But big-city dailies in every generation contend with new competitors-radio, TV, Web. The latest are the invasion of free dailies, which further crimp potential readers' time and mind share. Newspapers may be the biggest game in their towns. But, as sluggish newspaper stocks testify, what that is worth these days may be another story.

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