Get Riehl: Confessions of a News Addict

by Richard J. Riehl on December 4, 2012

My name is Richard and I’m a recovering newspaper junkie. After trying the more fat, less filling version of U-T San Diego’s North County Times Lite, I canceled our subscription last month.

They didn’t make it easy for me, continuing to deliver the ad-bloated pages of self promotion posing as a newspaper at our front door for two more weeks in hopes I’d fall off the wagon.

I now get my regional news fix from sources free of U-T San Diego’s political agenda: San Diego NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, Voice of San Diego and San Diego Reader; and neighborhood news from The Coast News, and Carlsbad Patch.

I’ve kept my withdrawal symptoms under control by succumbing to the sensual pleasure of what the New York Times calls “the tuck,” “the delivery,” and “the crinkle,” with a subscription to the Sunday edition.You’d think I’d finally be free of U-T San Diego. But you’d be wrong. Two Sunday mornings ago we found two packages wrapped in plastic at our front door: the Sunday Times and a “U-T SD Extra,” a free copy of the Health section of U-T San Diego, wrapped around a packet of ads thicker than the old North County Times Sunday Edition.

Disgusted by the litter, I checked the Carlsbad City Municipal Code and discovered Section 040 of Chapter 8.32 PEDDLERS, SOLICITORS, VENDORS AND CANVASSERS: Entering private property for the purpose of sale without permission.

“No person shall go onto private property within the city for the purpose of selling, offering for sale or soliciting orders for the sale of any merchandise, product, service or thing whatsoever when the occupant of such property has given notice or warned such persons to keep away. A sign posted by the occupant of the property, with the words “no solicitors” or “no peddlers” or other similar words, at or near the front door or primary entrance to a residential structure on private property, shall constitute sufficient notice or warning pursuant to this section.”

The promotional garbage left on our front porch contained a solicitation for subscribing to the daily edition. We don’t have a “no solicitors” sign posted near our front door, but our condominium association has one at its entrance. So I sent an email to the U-T advertising director, Kimi Macias, citing the city code and informing her we don’t want any more complimentary issues. I got no reply. The following Sunday another SD Extra lay on the sidewalk before our front door.

I’ll try a “no peddlers” sign next Sunday, but I’m not hopeful it will work. There’s a smell of desperation emerging from the U-T’s corporate offices about their circulation numbers, after they dropped sharply last year. We’ve heard nothing but happy talk from the co-owners that the purchase of the North County Times and a new “multi platform strategy” will turn that around.

At an Oceanside Rotary Club meeting last month, as reported in the club’s November 16 Shorelines Newsletter, CEO John Lynch claimed the U-T is 10th in the country in circulation and that “their combined multimedia opportunities had the capacity to reach 96 percent of the households of the San Diego region each month.”

He didn’t bother with any evidence to prove his claims. In the interests of “keeping them honest,” I checked the latest September 30 national rankings of newspapers by the Alliance for Audited Media. The Union Tribune does not make it into the top 25 of dailies in circulation, ranking 23rd in Sunday circulations. Over the last year the Sunday edition lost 17,000 readers.

As for the Union Tribune’s “capacity to reach” 96 percent of households in the region, let’s do the math. According to SANDAG there are 1.1 million occupied households in our region. The newspaper’s average daily circulation is 300,000, on Sundays, 352,000. Lynch’s undefined claim of “capacity to reach” could be made by just about every media outlet, assuming 96 percent of households have radios or TVs.

As long as we’re making unsupported claims, here’s my own conclusion from an out my car window conversation with a North County Times street corner hawker who told me, “Everybody hates the new NCT!” He’d sold only 5 newspapers in three hours at the intersection.

As consolation for our continuing receipt of free copies of Sunday U-T SD Extra’s, our toy poodle Olivia is gonna love her new pooper scooper.

Richard Riehl writes from La Costa. Contact him at

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