INK-STAINED LAMENT

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Things do seem stacked inevitably against the print segment of the nation's media.

As the most-recent Audit Bureau of Circulations numbers show, the erosion of newspaper circulation continues. The vast majority of the top 100 daily newspapers in this country had daily-circulation drops during the April through September period.

There's nothing new here, actually, even if it is especially disturbing to the ink-devoted among us. This has been a long, steady trend over the years as TV news has grown to occupy its prominent position in our society.

Newspapers aren't alone; about two-thirds of the 25 highest-circulation magazines saw a decrease in single-copy, newsstand sales in the six months ended June 30.

So is there any hope of bringing back readers? Well, about the only thing would be a good, juicy, celebrity sex scandal, maybe even involving murder. Everyone knows that's the sort of stuff that sells papers, right?

No longer. That drop in newspaper circulation coincided with O.J. Simpson's indictment for allegedly murdering his ex-wife and her male friend, and the court hearings.

The growth of televised courtroom drama looks to surge, especially the real-life variety as epitomized by Court TV, doubly so given the ruling by Judge Lance Ito in Los Angeles to allow news cameras into the Simpson trial. As much as the Ito decision delights us, it sure won't leave us much time for reading.

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