Ask not for whom the bell tolls, you network anchors, it tolls for thee

When network anchor Brian Williams went on the air recently to report that the Christian Science Monitor was converting from a daily newsprint publication to a Web-only existence, he couldn’t help but gloat.

“In plain English, the Internet and changing reader habits are killing the old newspaper business. Circulation is declining almost 1 percent every passing month,” he was quoted as saying.

My counterpart at the Tacoma (Washington) News Tribune and longtime fellow member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors could not let this canard go unchallenged. In a Nov. 1 column, Zeeck laid out the facts instead of the assumptions.

He noted that, according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, newspaper circulation is down 4.6 percent for the six months ending in September compared to the same period a year ago, not the 12 percent Williams touted. The Review-Journal actually grew slightly less than 1 percent in circulation.

The gauntlet was cast and Zeeck would not retreat.

He did the research and found that between “2006 and 2007, when daily newspaper circulation dropped about 2.5 percent nationwide, ratings for the national TV network news dropped 6 percent …”

Over a 10-year period network news ratings dropped 34 percent, Zeeck found, while newspaper readership dropped 16.9 percent.

To add insult to injury, Zeeck noted that he watched Williams on TiVo, skipping the commercials.