The Rockdale News claimed Saturday that as a weekly newspaper it distributes more editions in a week and contains more local news and photos in a week than the Rockdale Citizen. If this is what they consider to be credible information, their readers ought to be concerned.
Distribution can be a misleading term and has nothing to do with how many papers are sold. For a free newspaper like the Rockdale News, distribution is whatever number they tell the press crew to print. They started their paper with 10,000 distribution, but that number has dwindled to 7,500. If the paper is free, why decrease the distribution?
Bottom line, a company publishing a free newspaper can throw out all the copies they care to print and deliver, but how many of these do you see littering the driveways and roadsides of Rockdale County. If only a handful of people are paying to have it delivered, how many wind up in a Dumpster somewhere?
Because the News isn't audited, there really is no way to tell how many are actually delivered or how many people read it. Having a newspaper audited really isn't all that expensive. So why not do it? After all, it provides real numbers that readers and advertisers can rely on. Unless, of course, you don't want your readers and advertisers to know the real numbers. The Rockdale Citizen is audited and has been for many years. We don't claim inflated numbers that can't be proved and don't mean anything.
Story count is another ambiguous claim made by the other product. What constitutes a "local story?" Is it a calendar listing that has been expanded so they could claim it as a story? Is it a press release that's been regurgitated? Is it a column or an obituary? Is it some advertorial copy they ran for a business in exchange for that business buying an advertisement (another credibility issue)?
The News' claims are based on an "average" number of local stories per week. Again, another credibility issue. Was the average based on two weeks? Or was it over three or four? Which weeks are we talking about? Were they randomly selected or handpicked for obvious reasons? The News doesn't say so there's no way to substantiate their claim. They should have more respect for readers' intelligence than that.
From our perspective, here is how the news business works in Rockdale County. The Rockdale Citizen sets the print news agenda throughout the week and the free weekly follows up on Saturday. Sure, from time to time, the competition may publish a story before we do because of our print schedule or because we may have different priorities. But the Citizen provides a complete news package throughout the week, along with features, editorial commentary, TV listings, a religion section, comics, crossword puzzles, weather, stocks and the top state, national and world stories.
The other newspaper also touted all the organizations it has been involved with or helped in the few years they've been in business. The Rockdale Citizen has been involved in this community for more than 50 years. We don't promote and participate with local organizations so we can brag about it later. It's just what we've always done and always will do.
We're not sure why our competition feels so threatened that they chose to attack the Rockdale Citizen with specious claims. But if tough times lead them to attack their competition, then that's another credibility problem. And without credibility, a newspaper isn't worth the paper it's printed on.