'Dallas Morning News' Admits Inflated Circulation

Latest Print Publisher to Report Overstatements

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Another newspaper circulation overstatement flap hit today, as Belo Corp.'s Dallas Morning News said an internal investigation discovered overstatements of around 1.5% daily and 5% on Sunday editions.

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The Morning News said it had told the Audit Bureau of Circulations it would restate its previously reported circulation numbers for the six-month periods ended Sept. 30, 2003, and March 31, 2004. For the latter period, the Morning News reported Monday-Friday circulation of around 530,000 and Sunday circulation around 755,912. The overstatements the Morning News admitted to today would total around 7,950 daily copies and about 37,795 copies on Sunday.

In the announcement, the company said the paper's executive vice president of operations resigned immediately. The company did not name the executive, but Barry Peckham had been serving in that position since the late 1990s, according to the Newspaper Association of America's Web site. An assistant in Mr. Peckham's office at the Morning News said Mr. Peckham was no longer with the company.

The Morning News is the flagship property of Belo, and its pre-overstated Sunday circulation figures made it the largest in Texas. The company said it will announce its plans to compensate advertisers for the inaccurate circulation within one week.

Belo said it was investigating circulation practices at its other major newspapers, the Providence Journal and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., but that it expected no significant issues to arise.

In June the newspaper industry was rocked by near-simultaneous reports of overstated circulation at Tribune Co.'s Newsday and Hoy, as well as Hollinger's Chicago Sun-Times.

Another circulation flap arose this summer, involving Ziff Davis Media's PC Magazine classifying free subscriptions ordered from a Web site as paid. In a filing with Securities and Exchange Commission this week, Ziff Davis reported that "no substantial problems" had arisen with its "customers" owing to this situation, and that the circulation issue would have no material impact on company finances.

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Bradley Johnson contributed to this report.

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