Shortly after high noon last March 17, three Dallas newspaper executives boarded American Airlines flight 316 to New York City. Like many of the blue- and gray-suited businessmen on board the wide-bodied jet, the three were headed to the East Coast to hype their products. What distinguished the newspaper brass from the other businessmen was the size of the audience they would be addressing. The next morning, several million Americans would sip their coffee as they watched two of the three executives exchange verbal potshots in a spirited television discussion of a newspaper war in a city better known as the headquarters of a bunch of silver-helmeted Cowboys.
Sure, the great newspaper war has drawn ink from such mighty publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time and Barron’s. But this was national network television: 10 minutes on Good Morning America, the number one morning news program. Doing battle for The Dallas Morning News was Burl Osborne, editor and senior vice president. In the Dallas Times Herald’s corner was Lee Guittar, chairman and chief executive officer. The third executive, working off-camera, was Jeremy Halbreich, the News’ 31-year-old senior vice president and Harvard-educated boy wonder.
Much like the war back in Dallas, the rhetoric carried into America’s living rooms on March 18 was laced with oversimplification, confusing statistics and apple-and-orange comparisons. In short, neither executive came home carrying the other’s head. But if one were forced to declare a leader in the decade-old newspaper war today, it would have to be the News, which has edged ahead of the Herald in overall circulation and advertising linage. Yet the two newspapers remain locked in a neck-and-neck battle and are both re? Newspapers’ owners . . . page 90
? Rogue reporters raise hell, write news . . . page 91
? The history of Dallas’ newspapers . . . page 92
? Circulation of both papers, overall and in Dallas County . . . page 174
porting multimillion-dollar profits to their stockholders.
It was Guittar who so aptly explained to the folks in TV land that, right now, the real winner in the Dallas newspaper war is the reader, jokingly known in Dallas newsrooms as “Joe Six-Pack.” These are good times for Dallas newspaper readers. Both papers want you, and they’re willing to spend their corporate bucks lavishly for the opportunity to throw a paper on your lawn.
But if you’re looking for a winner in the ink war, don’t hold your breath because it may be another 10 to 15 years before the victor collects the spoils. “I don’t think the competition has come to the stage of actual bloodletting yet,” says top Wall Street media analyst J. Kendrick Noble of Paine, Webber, Mitchell, Hutchins Inc. “However, it is truly a tough fight, and both newspapers are well-regarded nationally.”
Noble says that it wasn’t until the News’ parent owner, A.H. Belo Corp., went public in 1981 that it became clear to outsiders that the News had edged ahead in the war. In fact, says Noble, before Belo broadened its earnings potential last June by announcing its intention to purchase six TV stations from Dun & Bradstreet for a whopping $606 million, analysts generally believed that the Herald would be the winner in the end since it has at its disposal the immense financial resources of its parent company, the Times Mirror Corp. of Los Angeles.
“For a period of time after it was purchased by Times Mirror, the Times Herald made some significant inroads,” says noted newspaper industry analyst John Morton of Lynch, Jones and Ryan in Washington, D.C. “However, the last couple of years, that growth has been slowed significantly-and indeed, reversed. The Morning News was a little slow at taking up the battle, but once they joined it, they demonstrated that they are able to put up a good fight.”
Who’s got the best shot at being the ultimate victor? “Right now, it’s a tossup,” says Morton. “It’s going to be a long and drawn-out battle for many years to come.”
IN THE BEGINNING, it really wasn’t much of a war. Although the two Dallas papers have been competing for readers for nearly a century, the prospect of either producing a quality editorial product didn’t emerge until the Times Herald was purchased by Times Mirror in 1970. Before the out-of-town takeover of the Herald, the News was resting on its dubious journalistic laurels (it was known to Herald staffers as The Snooze), and its content was directed to readers in the Park Cities and in North Dallas. The Herald, on the other hand, wasn’t seriously challenging the editorial dominance of the morning paper. The afternoon paper was known to the competition as the Crimes Herald, and Herald executives seemed comfortable with its image as a paper that appealed to the blue-collar worker.
Even during the early Seventies, many Dallas editors were out of touch with what was happening journalistically in other big cities; many were better drinkers than wordsmiths. Newspaper accounts, whether written by City Hall reporters or feature writers, were often rewritten to resemble police stories. “If he didn’t say it, then he should have,” one former Herald rewrite man often retorted when questioned by reporters about his embellishments.
Enter Tom Johnson, who in 1973 was hired to become the Herald’s executive editor. Johnson, a former LBJ aide who had managed Lady Bird Johnson’s Austin-based broadcast properties, was the consummate front man. He’s handsome, charismatic and articulate, and he did much to quickly upgrade the Herald’s image by hobnobbing with Dallas city fathers and overseeing some splashy investigative projects. By 1975, his flair netted the paper a mention by Time Magazine as “one of the five best newspapers in the South.” But even then, the paper was worlds away from becoming top-notch; it was also given another label, that of the Los Angeles Times Herald by former County Judge Lew Sterrett.
Likewise, the News was hobbling along under the stoic leadership of Executive Editor Tom Simmons. Back then, it had a reputation as being better-written than the Herald, even though its reporting staff was young. But it was clearly a status quo paper, still clinging to its traditional conservative ways.
Then something happened that would force both papers to depart from the ways of the past: The Herald introduced a morning edition in September 1977. “That kind of jolted us,” says Halbreich. “It was a step up in the competitive balance. What it told us was that these guys might be looking to become a morning newspaper. At first, we thought they were trying to get our market.”
What it meant was full-scale war. The News quickly snapped to attention and within a year commissioned the well-known New York City polling firm of Yankelovich, Skelly and White to study its position in the Dallas market and assess the likes and dislikes of its readers. Using the study, the paper soon developed a “slow, steady strategy” aimed at ensuring its dominance in the local market and gradually moving toward becoming the best paper in the Southwest.
But what the News really needed was a general to replace Simmons, who was nearing retirement. So, in 1980, the paper began a nationwide search for a new executive editor-a search that reportedly included interviews with such well-known journalists as Jack Nelson, chief of the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau. The man who the paper ultimately hired was Osborne, a bulldog of a man who, as managing editor of the Associated Press by his early 40s had obviously left footprints on backs on his way to the top.
The Herald, on the other hand, had quietly put its commander in place in 1975 by hiring as its executive editor Kenneth Johnson, formerly of the Washington Post, a man described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by those who have worked for him. Johnson, whose icy stares send chills down reporters’ spines, is also a believer in “creative tension management,” one of the reasons the Herald’s newsroom has a reputation for not holding news staffers for long periods of time.
Putting these two hard-chargers at the helms of the papers has resulted in almost daily skirmishes in a war that exists at several levels. In the newsrooms, reporters do battle daily to get stories first. When they’re second-tantamount to being last-they get their butts chewed. Editors on both sides have mapped out strategies designed to bring their respective papers into the big leagues. Those tactics have ranged from introducing new consumer sections to opening news bureaus all over the world-even raiding the other newspaper’s staff. In the board rooms, executives have been charting complex corporate strategies to ensure that their organizations will have adequate funding to continue what is expected to be a long war, while at the same time keeping the stockholders satisfied by producing bottom-line profit.
The competition, for the most part, has been both ethical and gentlemanly. But there have been occasional signs of a bitter conflict. In 1980, the Herald hired a team of detectives to infiltrate the News’ operation to find out whether it was dumping papers to falsely inflate circulation figures. “We were a little insulted by it,” says Halbreich. “But apparently they were successful in getting inside our paper. We even feel that one of the private investigators was on our payroll, working in the mail room.”
The dark side of the war has also become apparent in the newsroom. In 1981, the News secretly negotiated to hire Times Herald staffer Bob Rivard, but when Herald editors learned of Rivard’s intention to leave, they responded with a better offer. The day after Rivard told the Herald that he was staying, an editor at the News anonymously received a dozen black roses.
IN RECENT MONTHS, the rhetoric has cooled and the newspaper fight seems to have become more genteel. Earlier this year, publisher Tom McCartin announced that the Times Herald would no longer “waste” newspaper space by running ads touting its own merits. “Historically, you’ve seen both Dallas newspapers publish promotional advertisements extolling the virtues of their own paper,” he wrote in a letter to advertisers. “. . .Quite frankly, many advertisers and readers are tired of it.” Instead, McCartin pledged to use that space to run community advertisements.
The battle now has turned to the “upscale” market. Upscale is an industry term for consumers who are on the higher end of the socio-economic scale, the ones with the money to spend on expensive products. Today, the Herald is after the upscale market that has traditionally been commanded by the News. “Dallas has been changing, we’ve had to change with the city,” says McCartin. “The Dallas Times Herald is changing its marketing position. We used to be the mass paper, and they used to be the class paper. Now, we’re adding class to mass, and they’re trying to add mass to class.”
“Dallas has become an upscale market,” Guittar says. “It’s very difficult for a newspaper to change its habits and appeal to a new market. The area is attracting an upscale retailer, and it’s going to be a free-for-all. It’s going to be a hot newspaper market for the next 10 years.”
The quest for the upscale reader has spurred what has been the most visible sign of the competition between the two papers: the introduction of special sections, the slick weekly supplements targeted for specific reader interests and advertiser markets.
The News’ “High Profile” and the Herald’s “Unique” sections have been the most blatant appeals for the upper-income reader. “High Profile,” introduced in September 1981, was designed to be a combination of People magazine, W and Interview, says Ellen Kam-pinsky, an assistant managing editor at the News. “We wanted to put out a Sunday product with pizazz that was sort of ’in the know,’ ” Kampinsky says. “I think Dallas people are pretty glamorous, and we’ve got enough people in Dallas who are interesting and make good profiles.”
Although Kampinsky admits that the section is not designed as an “expose” medium (newsroom reporters regard the section largely as society fluff), she says that stories for the section are thoroughly researched. In fact, she says, the people at the Herald laughed when they first saw “High Profile”; there was much talk that “the Herald would never stoop to that level.”
But talk is cheap. Last October, the Herald introduced “Unique,” a Wednesday section that strikingly resembles “High Profile” with its slick look and upscale appeal. The new section was the work of Ron Boyd, a former city editor with The St. Petersburg Times who had given notice at that paper and was in the process of moving to Paris to live when he was hired by the Herald. While he admits that his section reports on the wealthy and society circles, he discounts the notion that it is bad journalism. “It is a kind of society beat for the city,” he says. “There’s no question that that’s what we’re concerned with. I consider it good journalism, and it’s a great deal of fun. Personally, I’d much rather be dining at the Mansion with the Hunts than doing stories on landfills in Denton.”
But the signs of the print war are not limited to society coverage. The News recently added a science and technology section called “Discoveries”; a full-page color weather report; and “Metro Report”, a short summary of suburban news complete with man-on-the-street interviews. It also began printing its TV magazine on slick paper. Osborne says that the News also plans to open a news bureau in Oklahoma City this fall to cater to Oklahoma residents who have moved to Texas.
But during the past year or so, there have been signs of competition in areas other than news content. The News offered a free paper to anyone who popped into a 7-Eleven and bought a cup of coffee; the Herald offered free papers on Monday through Thursday to anyone who subscribed to the paper from Friday through Sunday-a legitimate circulation tactic admittedly stolen from the Washington Post. The Herald angered News executives last year when it began offering discounted advertising rates, a practice the Herald described as “rate incentive packages.” The News dubbed the move a desperate attempt to chip away at its ad linage lead.
Although much of the improvement in both newspapers has been the result of rivalry, some of the prosperity must be attributed to other factors. One is the simple fact that Dallas is still growing. Unlike many papers experiencing financial problems that stem from circulation losses, the population of the metroplex is increasing by 50,000 annually. While other newspapers throughout the nation are trying to figure out how to eliminate features from their papers without sacrificing quality, the Dallas economy is affording both Dallas papers the luxury of deciding what they can add to their publications.
Dallas is fortunate to have two financially sound and highly competitive newspapers; as of last year, there were only 29 such cities in the United States. In 122 other cities, papers either operate under joint publishing agreements or are operated by the same parent company. Even in most of the 29 competitive-newspaper towns, one paper easily dominates the other.
But here in Dallas, the print war continues to rage and probably will for some time. “Both papers are here in the market to stay,” Hal-breich says. “Neither one is going to disappear in the next 20 years.” Yet, there are areas and categories in which each newspaper is strongest. Here’s an itemized inventory of what’s happening on the major war fronts:
Nowadays, reporters type their stories into computer terminals rather than typewriters, but the high-pressure nature of the news business hasn’t changed much over the years. Newsrooms are still working environments fraught with reports of chain-smoking, ulcers, divorces, alcoholism and cynicism. Reporters are still regarded as among the worst-dressed of any profession, and even though the public considers the media its watchdog, surveys continue to show that reporters have a public credibility rating on a par with used-car salesmen. Things just aren’t as glamorous as they were portrayed in All the President’s Men. Newsrooms are a mixture of tension and fun, an atmosphere perhaps more accurately depicted in the old Lou Grant shows.
Clearly, the newspaper war has awakened the sleepy newsrooms of both papers. Over the past few years, both publications have introduced new sections and are using more color and attractive graphics as well as sporting bigger news budgets and larger staffs. They have even been engaged in a seesaw battle to open bureaus in such previously ignored places as Toronto, New York City, Mexico City, Costa Rica and Cairo. The papers are also paying more attention to the quality of writing; journalistic standards, in general, have been toughened. The News, for example, employs a full-time writing coach, who regularly critiques stories after they appear in the paper. The war has also prompted both papers to hire reporters who specialize in such topics as mass transit, the environment, computers and even architectural developments.
Not that both papers don’t nave tar to go before they reach their goals of becoming as reputable as The New York Times or the Washington Post. On the contrary, both Dallas papers continue to occasionally exhibit a bit of provincialism in their news coverage and at times have spent a lot of money in an attempt to imitate more powerful newspapers-without producing the same results. Both papers spent months tracking a federal investigation of cocaine use by members of the Dallas Cowboys, but neither paper broke the story until it first appeared in The New York Times. And both papers spent considerable time developing investigative stories about lead contamination in West Dallas, then suddenly dropped their probes until problems were publicly raised later in congressional hearings in Washington.
During election time last spring, Osborne complained twice to News city desk editors about reporters who were writing stories concerning newly elected mayor Starke Taylor. On one occasion, Osborne lamented to an editor about the city room’s practice of identifying Taylor as a “millionaire developer” in stories. Another time, he complained about a story that showed the results of mayoral exit-polling conducted by News staffers, which revealed that voters chose Taylor because he was “the lesser of two evils.” “They obviously don’t know Starke like I know him or they wouldn’t say that,” Osborne told an editor.
Both papers also sent reporters to cover the war in the Falkland Islands last year-a very pricey venture that most staffers agree could have been as adequately covered by the wire services. The News spent more than $30,000 to cover the war, and upon the return of the staffer, initiated budget cutbacks in every news department to pay for the costly story. Aiming to capture journalistic awards, the News also spent more than $100,000 to produce an exhaustive series of stories about Hispanics in America, a project that yielded stories that sounded more like the work of a government grant than a newspaper. Staffers at the News privately balked at their city editor earlier this year, when 11 reporters were assigned to cover the mundane opening of the new Woodall Rodgers Freeway.
Still, both papers are perceived by newspeo-ple as being the leading papers in the Southwest. In a poll conducted last June by the Media Research Institute at California State University at Northridge of more than 600 publishers, editors and journalism professors, neither paper was rated as one of the top 15 in the nation. The poll did firmly establish the two newspapers as the leaders in the Southwest.
“These are probably the two best papers in any one city in the country,” Guittar says. “And they’re probably both among the top 20 best papers in the nation.” Guittar concedes that the News currently has the Herald on the defensive editorially, but he says that it was just the opposite earlier in the war. “Burl [Osborne] has made some changes at the News,” Guittar says. “Right now, we’re kind of in a response mode.” Some of the News’ improvements, Guittar says, have been in the Herald’s future-idea hopper, but the News beat the afternoon paper to the punch. “But our long-range aim is to produce one of the top newspapers in the United States,” he says.
The News has the same objective in mind. “It’s possible to publish a truly distinguished newspaper in Dallas,” Osborne says. “I would like to think we can be as reputable in this market as The New York Times or The Boston Globe are in their markets.”
Osborne says that the News has made progress in improving its editorial department, but adds: “That’s not to say we’re happy. They [the Herald] are very aggressive competitors, particularly in the advertising sales and circulation areas. We don’t take them lightly. Nobody I know feels comfortable here, and if I find somebody who is, I’ll certainly make them feel uncomfortable.” Does Osborne think that the Herald scoops the News in any areas? “Outside of a couple of comics, I can’t think of anything I’d like to swap,” he says.
Although Guittar believes that the score is relatively even in most areas of news coverage, he says he thinks his paper is better-written, and he lauds such Herald columnists as Skip Bayless. Blackie Sherrod, Jim Schutze, Bill Porterfield and Molly Ivins, all known for their offbeat way with words. “But columnists can be too patronizing or argumentative,” Osborne responds. “The tone may be as important as the content,” he says. “Are you fair, calm and reasoned, or are you shrill and unpredictable? I’m not being critical, but for the News, we need to be calm, direct, fair, accurate, balanced and restrained in our approach.”
Guittar claims that the Herald is also ahead of the News in what he calls “freedom of play of the news,” meaning that he believes his publication is less sensitive to how the Dallas powers that be might react to negative news about the city. But Osborne responds: “We publish for this city, but I don’t know that we have ever backed away from any type of story.”
Currently, the News estimates that it employs 300 people in its news operation; the Herald says it has about 235. Although the pay scale for reporters at both papers has increased dramatically in recent years, it still ranks below that of similarly sized papers in other cities. The News has a far better reputation for holding its news staff longer than the Herald.
Both sides have been guilty of “raiding” each other’s staffs, a traditional symptom of a newspaper war. Executives at both papers say they’d rather not hire each other’s staff members, but both admit that they have done it. Such practices reached a seemingly all-time ridiculous low last year when the Herald stole sports columnist Skip Bayless from the News for a six-figure salary, a new car and a country club membership. And the Herald has unsuccessfully attempted to hire away popular News columnist John Anders, but it did succeed in hiring away society columnist Nancy Smith and medical reporter Linda Little.
But the Herald has twice thwarted News attempts to hire two of its better staffers. When the News attempted to hire former Metro page columnist Jim Henderson, the Herald offered him a post as national reporter; and when the News tried to hire projects reporter Bob Ri-vard, the Herald responded by offering to make Rivard chief of a newly formed Central American news bureau.
It would be unfair to credit either of the two papers with doing a significantly better job editorially than the other. They both compare favorably with most papers in the country when measured journalistically, although the Herald has captured more journalistic awards lately. It recently won its third Pulitzer Prize for photography-which was no accident, but rather the result of having assembled one of the better photo staffs in the country. Both papers desperately want to win a Pulitzer for writing.
In terms of total paid circulation, the News has a strong lead over the Herald. The latest Audit Bureau of Circulations report (released in August) set the News’ March 31 circulation at 320,811 daily and 396,713 Sunday. The comparative figures for the Herald are 268,439 daily and 355,253 Sunday. The News also has the daily-newspaper sales lead in the Dallas-Fort Worth SMSA (Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area), an 11-county area generally thought of as the Dallas-Fort Worth retail trading area. On Sunday, however, the Herald sells more papers in the SMSA. In the 39-county North Central Texas area (which ABC calls the primary market area), the News leads in sales of both daily and Sunday papers.
When the focus shifts to Dallas County, the opposite is true. The Times Herald also leads in the six-county area, which includes Dallas, Collin, Denton, Ellis, Kaufman and Rockwall counties. But, again, the figures are relatively close, and in Dallas County, the Morning News has narrowed the gap significantly since 1981.
At the heart of the circulation debate is the argument made by Herald executives who claim that readership outside the six-county area is unimportant. “We made a deliberate decision to target on serving our market, which we define as the six-county area,” Guittar says. “When you move outside that area, they kill us. But that’s very expensive circulation. It’s easy to grow that way.”
Not so, say the people at the News. “Dallas County isn’t the market anymore,” Osborne says. “The SMSA is the market advertisers buy, and we lead there. Historically, the Herald has had a very large lead in Dallas County. In the past five or 10 years, that lead has changed. I think the fact is, they’ll take circulation wherever they can get it.”
Circulation figures, in general, show a dramatic turn since World War II in favor of the nationwide morning newspaper market. Between 1946 and 1982, morning newspaper circulation in the United States has increased from 20 million to 33 million, while afternoon circulation declined from 30 million to 29 million. That stark reality has been largely responsible for the Herald’s introduction of a morning edition, which is now home-delivered anywhere in Dallas County. About 35 to 40 percent of the Herald’s circulation is morning, according to McCartin.
Does the increasing morning circulation of the Herald mean that it will convert strictly to a morning newspaper? Probably-someday. But for now, Herald executives say that they still have a hard-core afternoon readership that they aren’t willing to abandon. “If the market moves us to morning, then we’ll go that way,” says Guittar. “But the risk would be great if we suddenly flipped our paper to morning. In Dallas, there are a lot of young single folks who like to read the paper in the afternoon. It would look arrogant to an awful lot of people.”
But anger is apparently what people in Piano felt when the Herald announced last November that it was forcing morning circulation on areas outside Dallas County. Since January 1982, people who live in Dallas County have had a choice of a home-delivered paper either in the morning or afternoon. But those outside Dallas County currently get the morning Herald, period. The Herald claims that it’s too soon to judge the overall effect of the decision to go all-morning in Piano, but recent circulation figures don’t look encouraging. In 1981, the Herald sold more papers in Collin County, both daily and Sunday. As of March 31, the News now has both the daily and Sunday circulation lead.
Newspapers typically measure their advertising success by the total space devoted to ads, a measure called advertising linage. In total advertising linage, the News has a substantial lead, much of it a result of its large classified-ad sections. In 1982, the latest full-year ad linage count supplied by Media Records Inc. (an independent firm that compiles ad linage) shows that the News had a total of 89.8 million lines of advertising. The Herald had a total of 77.7 million lines of ads that year. Those figures represent a compilation of retail, general, automotive, financial and classified advertising, and the News dominated in every category last year. Despite the gap, both papers have enviable ad linage figures when viewed nationally, and they have in recent years consistently ranked among the top 10 or 15 papers in the nation in terms of total advertising revenues. The latest year-end figures, for example, show that the News has the second-largest classified-ad linage in the country.
The News hasn’t always been the ad linage leader in Dallas. As late as 1972, the Herald had 63.5 million lines of advertising, while the News had only 62.7 million lines. Herald execs say that the reason for the shift was a result of the changing market and the paper’s strategy shift to the upscale reader.
“Within the last 10 years, we’ve lost millions of lines of ads almost overnight,” says John Wolf, Herald senior vice president in charge of advertising. “Some of our mass advertisers, like Western Auto, Woolco and Spartan, have gone out of business. That was tough to overcome, but overcome we did.”
Wolf says that the Herald has been consistently chipping at the News’ dominance in retail department-store advertising, capturing a piece of the action from such upscale advertisers as Neiman-Marcus and the stores and shops at Galleria.
“We’ve got such advertisers as Neiman’s, Marshall Field’s, Sakowitz and Lord and Taylor,” says McCartin. “That just would not have happened even six years ago.”
Corporate powers at the Herald would love for you to think that Aggies and old people are the backbone of the News’ readership. Likewise, the News would like you to think of the Herald as the paper preferred by factory workers and plumbers.
Such stereotypes aren’t really true. In the majority of readership categories, neither paper is crushing the other in terms of a complete control of a specific audience. Each paper, however, does tend to draw certain types and categories of readers, according to recent readership studies conducted by independent national firms. The latest study of who reads the two papers, completed this year by Scarborough Research Corp. of New York, produced statistics showing that the News is more widely read by adult men, in both Dallas County and the SMSA. But, it says, more adult women read the Herald than the News.
In general, the younger a person is, the greater his tendency to read the Herald. The 18-to-24-year-old reader goes very heavily for the Herald, while the 24-to-35-year-old reader also prefers the Herald in most geographic categories, but not overwhelmingly. The tide turns heavily in favor of the News, when a person turns 35. In the 35-to-44 age group, the statistics begin to lean heavily toward the News. For age groups 45 to 54,55 to 64 and 65-plus, the News wins the readership race handily.
The Scarborough study somewhat supports the News’ claim to capturing the upscale reader. In general, it shows that the higher the individual income and educational level of a person, the stronger his tendency to read the News. College graduates strongly choose the News, while high school grads are reached in greater numbers by the Herald.
Although the Herald hypes itself as the paper preferred by newcomers to Dallas, the statistics disagree. More people who move to Dallas County from out of county read the News, according to Scarborough. As might be expected, more people in finance, insurance, real estate and management and professional jobs prefer the News. Ironically, more people who are in the fanning, forestry and fishing professions read the Herald.
The USA TodayChallenge
This month, you’ll probably notice blue newspaper racks all over town right next to the usual Times Herald and Morning News boxes. Inside will be a slick, colorful-looking newspaper called USA Today, a “national newspaper” produced by the Gannett newspaper chain, introduced last fall on the East Coast.
Journalists have already nicknamed the paper McNewspaper after the famous fast-food chain and have correspondingly called its brand of news reporting “junk-food journalism.” USA Today is a publication known for its tight editing, plentiful use of color and employment of technical art and graphics to “tell a story at a glance,” which has caused newspapers all over the country to take a serious look at the appearances of their publications. The target audience of the new publication is the frequent traveler.
Negative response to the paper’s superficiality recently caused USA Today’s money section editor J. Taylor Buckley to remark, “The same editors who call us McNewspaper have already been stealing our McNuggets.”
Executives at the Dallas papers don’t seem to be losing any sleep over the new paper’s introduction to the Dallas market, but they are concerned that its reputation as a “second buy” could slow some of the recent circulation growth of both newspapers. It could also affect that 10 to 11 percent readership overlap in Dallas (those people who currently are regular readers of both the News and the Herald).
In recent weeks, the News has introduced a full-page color weather report and a daily man-on-the-street question-and-answer article-two features that were introduced by USA Today last fall. Halbreich says that the additional competitor did have something to do with the new features in the News. “We do not believe USA Today will take circulation from us,” he says. “It may slow our growth for a while. I’d be deceiving you if I told you USA Today hasn’t made us do some rethinking. The mere fact that a new competitor’s in town is going to cause a change in emphasis.”
But Guittar says that he’s not concernedabout the new kid in town. “It had no appreciable effect on circulation in Denver,” hesays. “When the paper first comes into townyou’ll see more promotion than you’ve probably ever seen before. There’ll be billboards,full-paper ads and you’ll see it on television allday. Then after about three or four weeks, theads will stop, like falling off a cliff. The DallasTimes Herald will even accept full-page ads forthe new paper because we don’t consider it acompetitor.”
The Dallas Morning News is owned by A.H. Belo Corp. of Dallas, and it is the flagship of Belo’s publishing operations. Belo also owns one weekly and six daily Dallas suburban newspapers; television stations in Dallas (Channel 8), Beaumont, Chattanooga, Houston, Sacramento, Tulsa and Hampton-Norfolk, Virginia; as well as two radio stations in Dallas and two in Denver. (To comply with FCC regulations, Belo plans to sell the Beaumont and Chattanooga TV stations this year.)
Total Revenues (1982): $203,436,000
The Dallas Times Herald is owned by The Times Mirror Corp. of Los Angeles, which owns four other metropolitan newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Denver Post and The Hartfort Courant. Times Mirror also owns seven television stations (including Channel 4 in Dallas); two community newspapers; and interests in book publishing, newsprint and forest products, information services, cable television, magazine publishing and art and graphics products.
Total Revenues (1982): $2,369,446,000. (Times Mirror Corp. does not break down revenues for each newspaper.)