AJR  Features
From AJR,   July/August 1999

State of The American Newspaper
Newspaper Monopoly   

Chains are proclaiming “location, location, location” as they swap properties for geographic dominance.

By Jack Bass
Jack Bass is a former Nieman Fellow who published his own weekly newspaper, covered politics for 10 years and taught journalism for 11 more.     

The newspaper chain is trying to figure out if it makes sense to add a certain 40,000-circulation daily to its portfolio. Decision time is fast approaching. So the CEO spreads before him all the pertinent documents to be studied--cash-flow models, market analyses, payroll and circulation breakouts, broker recommendations, highway maps.

Highway maps?

Absolutely--in some ways maybe the most crucial papers in the stack, truth be told. That's because where newspaper companies once were quick to gobble up most any property that came available to them--call it growth for growth's sake--today they have come to embrace the mantra of "location, location, location" with a fervor that would put a real estate agent to shame.

On a scale never before seen or imagined, newspaper chains are concentrating their holdings into tight geographic groups. Stimulated by new opportunities for cutting costs and building revenues, and encouraged by tax laws and changing trends in retail advertising, such established companies as Thomson, Knight Ridder, Cox, Media General, Hollinger, Gannett, Donrey and MediaNews are swapping properties like baseball cards, unloading papers that don't fit their geographic strategies and acquiring ones that do.

Thomson Newspapers has a fancy name for a complex of papers in close proximity--it calls them "strategic marketing groups." Cox speaks of "regional groups," while MediaNews and other companies simply use the more generic term "clusters."

Whatever you call them, they are transforming the landscape of newspaper ownership in America and fundamentally changing the way the industry does business.

The Project on the State of the American Newspaper has identified 125 major regional concentrations, involving more than 400 papers--or well over a fourth of the nation's dailies. And the numbers keep growing. By the end of this year, predicts Owen Van Essen of the brokerage firm Dirks, Van Essen & Associates, another 30 or more papers will be traded among at least 10 different companies, all aimed at tighter concentration of ownership.

The ultimate cost-cutting prize is having two or more papers share the same printing plant. But even when this isn't possible, nearby papers may share overhead costs such as accounting, they may pool their regional sports coverage or their state and regional political coverage, and (although this is rare) they may even share a centralized copy desk.

"The closer you are, the more you can share," explains Brian Cooper, senior vice president of Cox Newspapers, which will soon open a new plant to print two of its North Carolina papers.

Geographic concentration also allows more enticing deals to large retail advertisers. With one buy order, one ad sheet and one bill, a Sears, a Circuit City or a big regional bank can place ads in any combination of newspapers it wants within the group. For advertising agencies, which increasingly make buy decisions for the major retailers in regional malls, the combined circulation of a newspaper cluster, purchased on a cost-per-thousand basis, makes more sense than buying space in bits and pieces from competing papers with overlapping circulation areas.

But while the economic advantages of geographic concentration become more obvious every day, the implications to readers and to journalism are less clear.

Since Cox acquired it in 1995 and integrated it into a three-paper group, the Greenville Daily Reflector in North Carolina has updated its computer system and is getting Washington coverage of its congressional delegation for the first time. It is scheduled to move into a new printing plant in October.

Since MediaNews bought the 35,000-circulation San Mateo County Times in 1996, to add to its other holdings in the San Francisco area, it has reinvigorated an afternoon paper that was losing money and lacked the resources to adequately cover the local pro sports teams. Now the Times shows a profit, runs nearly twice as many pages as before, and covers local news well enough to hold its ground against the San Francisco Chronicle to the north and the San Jose Mercury News to the south.

On the other hand, after MediaNews bought Long Beach's Press-Telegram from Knight Ridder in 1997, it slashed newsroom salaries, damaging morale and prompting more than half of a seasoned and respected staff to leave. Knight Ridder did something similar with the Monterey County Herald, which it acquired in 1997 in an exchange of California and Colorado papers with Scripps Howard. The new owner cut staff in Monterey, refused to recognize the existing Newspaper Guild contract, crushed morale and alienated many people in the community.

An obvious drawback to geographical concentration is that it reduces the competitiveness and diversity of journalistic voices. In 22 states now, one company controls 20 percent or more of the daily newspapers operating there. For example, Media General owns one-third of all the properties in Virginia. Lee Enterprises owns one-third of Montana's daily papers. And more than half the 44 dailies in Oklahoma now belong to a single company, fast-growing Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., or CNHI.

The Journal Register Co. owns five of Connecticut's 18 daily papers; they cooperate in both newsgathering and business operations. Times Mirror owns three other Connecticut papers, which share some editorial functions. These two chains account for more than half of all the local papers sold in Connecticut each day.

Twelve of New Jersey's 19 daily papers are owned by just three companies--Gannett, Newhouse and Macromedia. They account for two-thirds of the circulation of all New Jersey-based dailies. They also dominate coverage of the state government, furnishing 29 of the 38 newspaper reporters assigned full-time to the capital.

Concentration of newspaper ownership is nothing new, of course. But in recent years it has become pervasive. Of the 543 newspaper trades and acquisitions recorded between 1994 and 1998, all but a few have resulted in tighter concentration of ownership within a state or region. Indeed, the idea of building clusters prompted most of those sales in the first place.

Some major players have taken advantage of the seller's market to pare their holdings to more manageable levels. Thomson has lately reduced its U.S. daily newspaper holdings from more than 150 to just 50. "The problem with the 150-odd newspapers was rather like a biblical farmer scattering his seed on the land," Stuart Garner, Thomson's chief executive officer, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "There was no logic in where the newspapers were located."

Now there is a logic. Forty-five of those 50 remaining papers are in specific clusters--three in southeastern Indiana, eight in central Wisconsin and so on.

"Newspaper companies are going to have to find more and more creative ways to keep their companies growing," says Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews and one of the industry's leading practitioners of clustering. "Eliminating duplication is one of those things that help do that. This is not a growth industry."

David Lord, president of Pioneer Newspapers in Seattle, agrees. "Overall, there is an industry recognition that we have to do it. Logically, it makes sense."

Imagine a huge game of Monopoly, with all the players trading properties. Everyone knows that Boardwalk and Park Place are worth more if you own them both, which means a player who owns one will pay a premium to get the other. It's the same with newspapers. Consider a recent deal between Thomson and Ogden, a subsidiary of Nutting Newspapers. Thomson traded away four dailies in Ohio and Pennsylvania with a combined circulation of 90,000 to get a single paper in Wisconsin, the Oshkosh Northwestern, with a circulation of just 25,000. The reason Oshkosh was so important to Thomson was that the company already owned the four other dailies that ring the Lake Winnebago area. Ogden co-owner Robert Nutting hadn't planned to sell the Northwestern, according to a member of the family that originally owned it. "The story we heard," the family member, Thomas H. Schwalm, told the Milwaukee paper, "was that Thomson kept throwing newspapers at Ogden until he couldn't say no."

Or try following this transaction without a scorecard. In 1996, three companies--Thomson, Cox and Hollinger--executed an elaborate three-way swap involving 15 daily papers in seven states. Thomson picked up Cox's six newspapers in Arizona: the Yuma Daily Sun on the California border and five suburban dailies along Phoenix's long eastern flank--the Chandler Arizonan-Tribune, Gilbert Tribune, Mesa Tribune, Scottsdale Progress Tribune and Tempe Daily News-Tribune. Subsequently Thomson merged all five of the Phoenix-area papers into the Mesa-based Tribune, with zoned editions for each community. (A year later Thomson would augment its Phoenix cluster by acquiring, from Ottaway Newspapers, the Daily News-Sun in Sun City.) Cox, meanwhile, got from Thomson two North Carolina papers--Elizabeth City's Daily Advance and the Rocky Mount Telegram--to go with the nearby Greenville Daily Reflector, which it had bought from an independent owner. Simultaneously, Cox got from Hollinger the Marshall News Messenger in East Texas, where it already owned three dailies, one of them less than 20 miles from Marshall. Cox said it also received cash and "other considerations."

Hollinger sent Thomson a weekly and a cluster of three small dailies--the Greensburg Daily News, the News-Times in Hartford City and the Rushville Republican--in the southeastern corner of Indiana. The dailies had a combined circulation of not quite 13,000. In return, Hollinger got three dailies from Thomson--the Enid News and Eagle in Oklahoma, the Register-News in Mount Vernon, Illinois, and the Herald-Palladium in Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, Michigan. (The Enid paper was subsequently resold, to CNHI, bolstering its concentration in Oklahoma.)

As a result of this complex trade, both Thomson and Cox were able to concentrate their holdings. Hollinger did not, but the three stand-alone newspapers it received had a combined circulation of 67,000, while the four papers it gave up had only about 21,000. If nothing else, this comparison suggests how much more highly valued papers may become when they can be sold into a geographical group or cluster.

Such groups need not be limited by state lines. Knight Ridder owns the largest newspapers in each of the Carolinas, the Charlotte Observer (244,000 daily circulation) in North Carolina and The State (120,000 circulation) in Columbia, South Carolina, as well as the fast-growing Sun News of Myrtle Beach (45,000 circulation) on the South Carolina coast. Peter Ridder, publisher of the Observer and the younger brother of Knight Ridder Chairman and CEO Tony Ridder, says the distances between these papers "prohibit clustering in the traditional sense." It's 90 miles south from Charlotte to Columbia, 140 miles east from Columbia to Myrtle Beach, and almost 200 miles northwest from Myrtle Beach to Charlotte.

Still, since coming to the Observer in 1997, Ridder has pushed for greater sharing and "partnership" among the three newspapers. The Observer has joined in the sharing of content--especially sports--that had been going on for some time between Columbia and Myrtle Beach. Because Myrtle Beach is a golfing mecca, the Sun News files golf coverage to all three newspapers. It gets coverage of Clemson and University of South Carolina football from The State and racing news from Charlotte, a NASCAR hub. A Carolinas.com Web site lets users click on any of the three papers.

Since Ridder's arrival, Columbia and Charlotte have been sharing South Carolina governmental and political news. And the Observer's Columbia bureau has been cut from two reporters to one.

Traditionally, the Observer's reputation in South Carolina has been one of aggressive enterprise in covering state government and politics. The State currently runs stories generated by the Observer's one-man shop in Columbia. A veteran journalism watcher there tells me the arrangement has reduced competitiveness. If the Observer is covering a story at the Statehouse, he maintains, The State doesn't assign one of its reporters, who might see a different angle.

So far, the Observer hasn't developed any significant joint advertising arrangements with its South Carolina partners, but it is exploring ways to do that, especially something related to golfing in Myrtle Beach. "If there's a market, we'd do it in a minute," Ridder says.

Since all these papers circulate in the Myrtle Beach area, "We're in a lively three-way competition," says Paula Ellis, publisher of the Sun News. She adds, "We cooperate when everyone agrees it's to the advantage of all."

Says Ridder, "I can see more and more synergies between the three Carolina newspapers. I am certain that will happen."

Synergy notwithstanding, the proliferation of geographic concentration all across America raises hard questions for journalism:

• As time goes by, will there be fewer competing journalistic voices in a given state or region? One already sees this happening in places like Connecticut, Virginia and New Jersey.

• What happens to clusters when they mature? Since the trend is so new, it's impossible to say with any certainty. In and around Westchester County, just north of New York City, Gannett for years operated one of the nation's tightest and most conspicuous clusters. But last fall it merged those 10 separate nameplates into a single suburban paper, the Journal News. Now readers get late sports results, a bigger newshole and other editorial improvements that efficient consolidation can offer. Yet, with Westchester County's scores of incorporated municipalities and independent school districts, many readers mourn the diminishment of "local, local" news and lament the snipping of another thread to their particular hometowns, the vanishing of a newspaper masthead that was overtly "theirs." Strong, independent weeklies are thriving there.

Out in California, meanwhile, the Contra Costa papers that Knight Ridder bought in 1995 from the family of Dean Lesher still publish as separate entities through the week. But the chain wasted little time before consolidating what were five different Sunday papers into a single muscular edition that circulates nearly 200,000 copies.

• Will the fatter profits generated by the new geographic strategies mean more money for journalistic improvements, or will newsrooms languish even while earnings rise, as has often happened in the 1990s? Singleton speaks optimistically on this point, despite his reputation for keeping a tight rein on newsroom budgets. "The revenue implications are more important than cost-cutting," he argues, "because selling advertising jointly not only helps your revenue base, it increases your newshole. If you sell a page of department store advertising that you didn't have before, you get a page of news you didn't have before. One of the beauties of clustering is that it takes papers standing on the brink and makes them very healthy."

• Will there be less journalistic competition? It depends. In the Bay Area, Knight Ridder's San Jose Mercury News and its Contra Costa papers go head-to-head against the complex of papers owned by MediaNews, and both those groups compete vigorously against the area's dominant metro, the San Francisco Chronicle.

This new order, though, raises another concern. As a few newspaper companies ring big cities with their coordinated groups of small to medium-size papers, will major metros lose the fight for suburban readers and advertisers? Will this further isolate suburbs from their central cities, and further deprive suburbanites of an understanding of big-city problems? It's easy to imagine this happening in places like Philadelphia and Los Angeles. But for now, the question remains unanswered.

If it ever is answered, chances are it will be in the affluent communities east of San Francisco Bay, where you can find one of the nation's most sophisticated clusters coolly humming along, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It's almost 8 p.m., and Nancy Conway, executive editor of the five Alameda Group dailies, drops by the "news center" for a final checkup before heading home. In a large second-floor room that approaches the size of a basketball court, dozens of copy editors, grouped in units of three to six, sit at their terminals. They're doing the usual things--polishing copy, writing headlines and captions, laying out pages. But not for one newspaper--for five. Simultaneously.

The news center, in the upscale, aptly named Alameda County town of Pleasanton, is a unique place. Some 70 people work here, many of them processing copy and photos for newspapers in communities 30 miles apart. The staff is young, and most don't live in those communities, don't work there, and seldom visit.

Centralizing the copy desk and composing room functions of five different papers is designed to promote efficiency and save money for their owner, MediaNews. From that standpoint it appears to work extremely well. Still, watching the dispatch with which these people do their jobs, in almost assembly-line fashion, it's easy to conclude something important may be lost in the process.

An editor of one of the outlying newspapers admits as much to me. "It's harder to do a good job," he says, when your paper's editing team "is not sitting next to you. There's a communication that's so intimate, especially when you're on deadline. We try to be creative, but this process forces us to be efficient. It's hard for copy editors in a different location to have a sense of the community and a feel for the newspaper."

There is little time to fret about it, though. That's because the copy streams in steadily, not only from the five scattered newsrooms but also from a regional staff that produces news, business and entertainment stories for all the papers within the cluster--the Oakland Tribune, the Tri-Valley Herald in Pleasanton, the Daily Review in Hayward, the Argus in Fremont and the Times in San Mateo. The operation is so complex that Conway says it took her a year to fully grasp it. She has moved in the last year to decentralize as much of the operation as possible. But due in part to the mechanized atmosphere and the limited opportunity for collegiality, turnover is high. "There's an open position most of the time," she acknowledges.

On the other hand, without the kinds of innovations MediaNews has imposed, a couple of the papers in the Alameda cluster might now be losing money instead of making it. They might even be gone. With its centralized control and coordination, the news center is part of what makes Alameda County one of the country's most thoroughgoing examples of newspaper clustering.

It is the brainchild of William Dean Singleton, who has popularized several of today's hot newspaper trends. He engaged, for example, in one of the first tax-free trades of daily newspapers--an exchange with Harte-Hanks in the mid-'80s. Such exchanges were common in real estate back then. Now they're common among newspapers as well.

It was also Singleton who popularized the word "clustering" as it applies to newspapers. As a broader business term, clustering refers to the geographic concentration of interconnected companies and institutions within a field. Silicon Valley is a cluster in this sense--a nexus of enterprises, all engaged in high technology, cooperating and competing simultaneously. For Singleton, however, the term means the combining of operations for newspapers in close proximity to one another--usually in the same or adjacent counties.

Singleton developed his version of the idea 16 years ago--not in California but in southern New Jersey, where he and a partner bought the Gloucester County Times in Woodbury and Today's Sunbeam in Salem, an adjacent county seat. "Clustering seemed the right thing to do," Singleton says. "The papers are 28 miles apart. They had many of the same advertisers. It did not make sense to have two operations."

It became obvious to him that both papers could be printed in a single plant, with a single composing room, and that one accounting department would suffice for both. Besides the cost-cutting, their combined circulation made them more attractive to department stores and other regional advertisers, who could get a combined, discounted, "one buy, one bill" rate.

Singleton doesn't claim he invented this kind of clustering, but he says he wasn't aware of any other papers that were doing it when he started.

A boyish-faced man of medium height, Singleton, 47, met with me recently at the unpretentious MediaNews headquarters in Denver, whose Post is its flagship paper. Dressed in slacks and a long-sleeve pullover shirt, he looked like a relaxed suburban real estate broker who enjoys desserts. Singleton's older sister, Pat Robinson, serves as his personal secretary, the fully trusted keeper of the gate. In a single word she sums up what she remembers most about her brother as a child growing up poor in a small Texas town: "Determination."

Singleton explained how, in clustering the two New Jersey papers, he and his business partner and mentor, Richard Scudder, hit upon the formula that would help propel MediaNews into the big time. Today it is the country's seventh-largest newspaper company, based on daily circulation; it is fourth in terms of number of daily papers owned, 51. Among privately held firms, it is outranked only by the Newhouse family's Advance Publications.

In New Jersey, Singleton says, he found out the hard way--from subscriber complaints--that readers can be passionately parochial about editorial content. Though Salem and Gloucester counties are literally side by side, he says, "we learned early that [they] are very different. Readers in one county went through the roof if stories about the other county ran in their paper." He came to believe that highly localized news was the key to attracting and holding an audience advertisers would want to reach.

In 1985, MediaNews purchased three family-owned East Bay papers--the Daily Review, Argus and Tri-Valley Herald--all in fast-growing Alameda County. Over the next decade, the deathbed resurrection of the Oakland Tribune and the purchase of the money-losing San Mateo County Times south of San Francisco added 100,000 more in circulation to the Alameda Newspaper Group, or ANG.

"San Mateo was a family-owned newspaper that could not have remained viable if standing alone," Singleton says. "It was squeezed between San Francisco to the north and San Jose to the south. It had lost major advertising and was deteriorating. It had all the overhead of a single newspaper of 37,000. They couldn't cover the Giants and 49ers on the road. It was losing money when they decided to sell it. We made a lot of overhead go away. We were able to put in a lot of regional and national advertising, opening up the newshole. Suddenly a paper running 24 to 28 pages is now running 40 to 48."

For the year ending March 31, ANG's newspapers were the only ones in the Bay Area to show circulation gains. Preliminary Audit Bureau of Circulations figures show that since 1998, the five ANG papers gained 1.2 percent daily and 2.3 percent Sundays. In contrast, Knight Ridder's Contra Costa group lost 4.6 percent of its circulation in the same period.

The Oakland Tribune publishes three zoned editions daily, each with a section of local news. There's an Oakland cityside edition, one for the upscale East Bay Hills and a third for the city of Alameda, which was already there when MediaNews acquired the paper in 1992. The paper's overall circulation is 70,000.

"After doing some initial flushing out of circulation in certain areas, the Tribune's circulation has remained steady," says ANG President Scott McKibben.

But Singleton wasn't done shaking up the state's newspaper landscape. Early this year, in a boldly innovative stroke, MediaNews cut a deal to take over a majority stake in Donrey's nine California papers. Most of these are in the southern part of the state. But in the Bay Area's hotly contested newspaper wars the merger allowed ANG to leapfrog Knight Ridder's Contra Costa group to acquire the Vallejo Times-Herald, with its 20,000 circulation. This gave Singleton a foothold in the North Bay, at the base of Solano and Napa counties and not far from Sonoma and Marin counties--all unclustered areas with single-owner newspapers. He routinely waves off speculation about his next move, but one can only imagine Singleton's mind revving with strategic possibilities as he contemplates a map of the Bay Area.

McKibben moved to California three years ago to run ANG. Along the way he has raised editorial salaries--with reporters starting at $500 a week minimum (this will go to $525 in August) and averaging a bit over $700--and ended a decade of newsroom rancor by overseeing an agreement for a Newspaper Guild contract that covers newsroom employees at the five core papers.

And as much as it pained him, he won the respect of his editors last year by acceding to a majority vote of the editorial board to endorse Democrats Barbara Boxer and Gray Davis for senator and governor. A self-described Midwestern Republican ideologue, McKibben notes that as group president he had the authority to dictate political endorsements. "I told them vehemently how much I disagreed with them," he recalls, "but they convinced me that their position was built on good, sound logic and on fact and not on emotion, and the only reasons we differed were on philosophical background. So I let the editorial board go with who they wanted for governor and U.S. senator here. I am now in a part of the country that is basically Democratic, although out where I live in the suburbs is 57 percent registered Republican. I opened the paper here on two consecutive days and I was sick to my stomach."

ANG's combined one-buy, one-bill circulation of 237,000 (including Vallejo) attracts national advertisers and major retailers. Roughly 35 percent of all display advertising runs in all the papers, McKibben says.

The readers of all ANG's papers get staff coverage, at home and on the road, of the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants in the summer and the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers in the fall--coverage that none of the papers could afford alone. The top reporter's salary, $58,000, goes to a sports columnist.

Nancy Conway, who years ago stumbled into journalism after she was unable to find a teaching job, directs the overall news operation. But each paper has its own editor and reporters to cover local news. Although editorials are written for the group, local editors decide whether to run them or substitute their own on local issues.

Conway, who began working for Singleton in 1978, runs her shop with a heavy emphasis on communication among her subordinates. Her top editors respect her. They confer twice daily, via conference calls at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., to go over news budgets, including Bay Area stories from sports, entertainment and business, and from the 15-person regional news staff that works out of Oakland. The editors also get together every Tuesday morning at 10:30, at rotating locations. They start by discussing editorials and regional issues and remain for lunch, breaking up at 1:30.

In 1997, when welfare reform was a major issue, Conway assigned a five-person team that worked five months on a comprehensive, five-day package of stories and photographs that focused on Alameda County. Across the bay, the San Mateo paper published a different version that was localized for its area. The series won the 1998 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism from the Casey Journalism Center for Children and Families at the University of Maryland. It also won the 1997 California State University at Sacramento print journalism award for excellence in reporting on California state government and politics.

A Sacramento-based reporter files state news for all ANG's papers. Conway keeps a rapid response team on alert seven days a week for big breaking stories.

The regional news staff covers growth and transportation issues and other stories of common interest to all Bay Area readers. After a major storm, a single story may run page one in all the papers, but each will have localized color photos and perhaps local sidebars. "We'll get the story and tailor it to our readers," says Editor Ernie Hines of the Tri-Valley Herald.

During my visit, a story on a major Bay Area traffic study got heavy front-page play. The four Alameda-oriented papers focused on how the Sunol Grade, a notorious climb of Interstate 680 in the southern portion of the county, was becoming the Bay Area's worst commuter nightmare. The San Mateo paper, however, emphasized increased congestion on the cross-bay San Mateo Bridge.

Page two of each paper is devoted to Bay Area news, which reader surveys show is second in interest to more localized news. Regional, state and national-international stories fill up the A section. Local news, sports, editorials and letters to the editor may differ in the papers that have zoned editions. On a random day's look at all five of the ANG core papers, the two Tri-Valley editions carried a lengthy local editorial endorsing a $150 million school bond issue affecting both circulation areas, but the editorial did not run in the zoned San Ramon Valley Herald that serves a separate school system.

The local section for each newspaper is staff-written, with the editor determining story placement by phone or e-mail with his designated news editor at the news center. The center is in the same building as the Tri-Valley Herald. This works well for Hines, because his news editor can simply walk downstairs to confer on story play or quietly discuss a personnel problem. News editors for the outlying papers--the farthest of which, San Mateo, is 40 miles away--are less fortunate; they make do as best they can by phone.

Because the papers serve suburban commuters who travel clogged highways, McKibben says the goal for home delivery is 5 a.m. for readers with longer commutes, and 5:30 elsewhere.

San Mateo Editor Terry Winckler says one of the great advantages of clustering for small papers "is pooling resources when it makes sense. You metro-ize those things in common--major tragedies and crime news; the earthquake; major grass and wildfires; bigger-picture stories, such as Yosemite, that everybody relates to..[and] that you couldn't get by leaving each newspaper totally autonomous. We've learned to select those news and information areas that all can use to combine our resources."

San Mateo is the only afternoon paper in the group. Winckler's 2 p.m. deadline for the last edition allows him to carry final New York stocks to the heart of his circulation area. But there have been problems, too. Early on, ANG made some of the same mistakes in San Mateo that Singleton's New Jersey papers had in regard to what is, and isn't, "local." ANG's natural East Bay sports bent drew huge complaints from Peninsula readers in San Mateo. "Focus groups showed that San Mateo fans loved the Giants and 49ers, but loathed the A's and Raiders," Singleton recalls. "We were catching hell because we were emphasizing East Bay sports. We learned the hard way in San Mateo that it was a separate county."

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