Down East 2013 ©
Dropping numbers: It’s October, the time when leaves fall – and so do circulation figures.
Each year at this time, newspapers have to file a form with the U.S. Postal Service in order to maintain their favorable mailing rate. The document requires publishers to report their distribution of papers, both free and paid. Here’s what this year’s figures for some of the state’s dailies look like.
The Portland Press Herald: Average daily paid circulation was off about 2 percent from the previous year, declining from 64,392 in 2007 to 62,981. But the actual figures may be worse than indicated in the postal filing. The Press Herald sells thousands of copies each day at steep discounts to area businesses to give away to customers. These papers are included in the paid distribution and may significantly boost the numbers, without doing much for the bottom line.
The Portland paper also reported free distribution of 2,182 copies of an average issue this year (down from 2,261 last year), but anyone who’s attended a Portland Sea Dogs game knows far more copies than that are handed out at Hadlock Field alone over the course of the summer. Apparently, that doesn’t count as “free.”
Another interesting figure: The average number of copies of the Press Herald distributed to stores, but not sold took a sharp jump in 2008, going from 8,161 in ’07 to 9,537 this year, a 17 percent increase.
The Bangor Daily News: The circulation decline was sharper at the BDN: just over 5.5 percent. In 2007, the paper sold an average of 60,644 copies each day. In 2008, it’s down to 57,300. There was no significant change in free distribution (keeping the above caveat about the Press Herald’s freebies in mind), but copies not distributed (which appears to include unsold papers) increased from just over 4,000 in ’07 to more than 5,000 in ’08, a 27 percent hike.
The Lewiston Sun Journal: About 4 percent of daily readers evaporated in the past year, with average daily distribution dropping from 32,784 to 31,486. While the Portland and Bangor papers showed little change in the percentage of their papers that were paid (as opposed to free) circulation, Lewiston did. In 2007, almost 97 percent of its papers went to paying customers. In 2008, that figure slid to just over 93 percent.
Dropping the ball: The Sun Journal once again failed to send a reporter to an event of significance in Portland. On Sept. 30, the developers of a proposed casino in Oxford County unveiled their design plans at a news conference 40-odd miles south of the Lewiston paper’s office . For the second such event in a row, the Sun Journal took a pass, instead opting to run the Portland Press Herald’s article on Oct. 1. 
How big a difference did it make not having a local reporter on the scene? In this case, very big. As an excellent editorial in that same Oct. 1 edition of the Sun Journal made clear, there are a lot of unanswered questions about the casino’s ownership –  questions the Press Herald reporter doesn’t appear to have asked.
Maybe with all the money the Lewiston paper is saving by not having its reporters travel, it could afford to send the editorial page editor to the next casino news  conference.
Dropping the “acting” title: WCSH-TV, Channel 6 in Portland, and WLBZ-TV, Channel 2 in Bangor, have a new news director. The Gannett-owned stations have promoted Maureen O’Brien to the post. O’Brien had been the stations’ managing editor, before being chosen as acting news director in June, when longtime director Mike Curry retired. O’Brien has been with WCSH and WLBZ for just over five years. after stints at a Burlington, Vt. station and at rival WGME-TV in Portland.
Dropping by: Thomas Cushing Munjoy, the pseudonymous ex-blogger and Press Herald critic, sent an e-mail this week, indicating he’s lost none of his edge. Of the recently introduced story-swapping arrangement among the state’s dailies, Munjoy had this opinion:
“Story sharing (as practiced by the Maine newsies, it’s like passing around a bad needle) … what an innovative concept … up next semaphore and smoke signals.”
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.