What Will Happen If The Sun Stops Publishing?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the San Bernardino Sun, through 3/31/2011, has a six-month average daily circulation for Monday Through Friday of 57,503.  In the early 1990s, when the paper was owned by Gannett, that number was closer to 100,000.  The 1990 population of San Bernardino was 164,164, in  2000 it was 185,401;  the 2011 estimate is 211,076.  With a population gain of almost 50,000, the circulation of the paper has declined almost as much. According to the paper’s website, it claims that it serves Adelanto, Apple Valley, Banning, Barstow, Beaumont, Big Bear, Colton, Crestline, Fontana, Grand Terrace, Hesperia, Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Redlands, Rialto, San Bernardino, Victorville and Yucaipa.  The core area served is probably San Bernardino, Rialto, Colton, Redlands, Highland, Loma Linda, Grand Terrace, and Yucaipa.

In comparison, the newspaper to the south has an average daily circulation for the same time period of 121,825.   Since the Sun and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, both owned by the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, have merged, we have seen more stories from the West End in the Sun, and no doubt the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin has more East End news. The Sun gets all of its Redlands news from the skeleton staff at the Redlands Daily Facts.  When I started as Assistant City Attorney at the City of Redlands in 2006, the Sun still had someone covering Redlands City Hall.

The Sun was never the Los Angeles Times, but in the past its staff was doing a decent job covering the City of San Bernardino and other area City Halls.  After rounds of layoffs, there is rarely anyone with any institutional knowledge at the publication.  Moving out of downtown has not improved coverage of City Hall, either.  The current inattention to the San Bernardino City Clerk’s race verges on criminal negligence. What are the issues in the San Bernardino City Unified School District election?  You would not know reading the Sun. Yet, the San Bernardino Unified School District is the eighth largest school district in the state.  The paper, if it was not already, has become akin to the break-in joints in the casino world, somewhere to start, but not somewhere to make a career.  Add to that situation the collapse of print journalism in general.  In turn, the quality makes people stop subscribing, which makes advertisers stop advertising because they can reach fewer people.  The current situation is not good for the area.

At some point, if the Sun stops publishing, there will be a huge void in reporting to the detriment of San Bernardino County.  The Los Angeles Times does not cover the area, except for its drive-by reports that lumps the two counties together and makes some generalizations.  The Press-Enterprise may fill the void, but without competition, no matter how meager, there will be plenty of stories not reported.  The internet cannot fill the void, because the content is largely from the print newspapers already.  The Los Angeles news stations will report fires (unless there is a closer fire) and sensational crime.  Maybe the East Valley will get another free weekly that will partially fill the void.

In short, no mater how you feel about the quality of the Sun, it provides an important service, and if it stops publishing after 117 years, the City of San Bernardino will be poorer for it.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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