’Tis the season…for newspapers to file their annual forms with the U.S. Postal Service disclosing how many copies they sold over the last 12 months. And once again, the numbers submitted by Florida newspapers are grim.
Newspapers make a living sticking their noses into other people’s business, yet they can be notoriously close-mouthed when it comes to talking candidly about their business. Early every autumn, however, newspapers across the nation disclose their all-important circulation numbers in what are called a Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation.
Daily newspapers use independent carriers to deliver most of their papers. But newspapers that also use the Post Office to deliver copies must file PS Form 3526 to remain eligible for cheaper periodical mailing permits. Editors or publishers who furnish false or misleading information, or omit requested information, can face criminal sanctions, including fines and imprisonment, and/or civil penalties.
Florida Bulldog used the Freedom of Information Act to request the forms filed by 20 of the largest Florida newspapers since 2015. It took the Postal Service a year and two FOIA requests to mostly supply them.
What those statements and additional reporting reveal isn’t pretty. Almost across the board, Florida newspapers endured serious circulation erosion in 2017.