- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

The Washington Examiner, which will be distributed free in Washington and its suburbs six days a week, debuted yesterday with Page 1 articles on youth violence, the impact of a Pentagon terror plan on commuters and Montgomery County’s prescription-drug import program.

District, Virginia and Maryland readers received zoned editions of the 64-page tabloid with different headlines on the front page, teasing to mostly the same content inside. Photographs and features on baseball in the District, singer Celine Dion and military death benefits anchored front pages. In the District edition, Mayor Anthony A. Williams offered a welcome to the paper.

“The Examiner presents a new concept of journalism that we think fits the busy Washington regional market, where our readers may be analyzing the dangers of the Middle East one minute and cheering on their 9-year-old at soccer the next,” James McDonald, the publisher, wrote in the first edition.

The newspaper will rely on a small editorial staff, wire services, a news-sharing arrangement with WTOP radio, “dialogue” with readers on the editorial pages and other features it considers experimental.

Mr. McDonald in an interview called the paper a “work in progress.”

“If you watch the paper over time, you will find something that is easy and engaging to read,” he said.

On its first day, it suffered the problems that have plagued publications since shortly after Johann Gutenberg invented movable type. One headline, for example, read, “Earth shrugs, we parish,” in an article about the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The Examiner joins a crowded market, with its 260,000 copies to be distributed Sunday through Friday through delivery, street racks and handouts at Metro stations.

The Washington Post reports an average daily circulation of 707,690 as of September 2004, according to an audit by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the industry standard. The Washington Times reported a circulation in the same period of 100,603, the ABC said.

The Post in August 2003 started a free daily tabloid called Express, meant to be read in 20 minutes. The company last year said it distributes 175,000 copies daily. The weekly Washington City Paper, which is also distributed free, says it has a circulation over 92,000.

“We are competing for the time of the consumers versus the media in general in the marketplace,” Mr. McDonald said. “I don’t consider us going against anyone head-to-head in particular.”

Wesley Pruden, the editor in chief of The Washington Times, said The Times welcomes the new competitor. “The more the merrier,” he said. “Cities are defined by their newspapers, and there can never be enough newspapers.”

Newspaper readership nationwide has been steadily declining; cities with two daily newspapers are rare and three-newspaper towns nearly extinct. Competition from other news sources, such as cable television and the Internet, are changing the way people get their news.

The Post’s circulation, for example, declined by more than 54,000 since 2000 and The Times by 2,350, according to ABC figures. Meanwhile, an average of 35 million Americans per day used the Internet to get news in 2004, up from 19 million in 2000, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Many of the Internet readers, however, get their news from newspaper Web sites.

The Examiner is a new incarnation of Maryland and Northern Virginia Journal newspapers, which ran their last editions Monday.

The venture is financed by Clarity Media Group, a Denver-based company owned by Philip Anschutz.

Mr. Anschutz founded Qwest Communications and owns Regal Cinemas, the San Francisco Examiner and Major League Soccer teams including DC United.

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