Weekday circulation of the Los Angeles Times fell 6.5 percent in the six months ending March 31 from the same period a year ago, while other suburban newspapers reported mixed figures, according to data released Monday.


Times weekday circulation averaged 907,997 in the six months ending March 31, while Sunday circulation was 1,253,849 in the same period, according to figures the newspaper provided to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Sunday circulation declined 7.9 percent from prior-year levels.


Although many U.S. newspapers have been losing circulation over the past 20 years, the recent declines at the Los Angeles Times have been especially steep and contrast with more stagnant trends at other Southern California newspapers.


Southern California's second largest newspaper, the Orange County Register, reported a weekday circulation of 300,972, down 2.9 percent from the prior-year levels, while Los Angeles County's second-largest newspaper, the San Fernando Valley-based Daily News, reported a daily circulation of 178,207, an increase of a fraction of 1 percent from the previous year. The third-largest daily newspaper, Spanish-language La Opinion, reported a daily circulation of 123,614, a decrease of about 2.4 percent.


The Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Illinois-based company that tracks the circulation of newspapers, magazines and other publications, released its twice-annual numbers on Monday. The circulations were reported by individual publishers; they have not been audited.


Executives of Tribune Co., the Chicago-based owner of the Los Angeles Times, had warned that Times circulation was expected to decline sharply from prior-year levels.


The paper has been hit especially hard by the national "Do Not Call" law restricting telemarketing. In addition, the Times has deliberately reduced circulation by dropping unprofitable circulation, such as a now-disbanded deal with La Opinion to jointly deliver the papers, But it also has taken steps to slow or reverse the circulation decline, such as a $10 million marketing and circulation campaign it started this year.


"The reality is that it takes two six-month reporting statements to cycle through these changes," Jeffrey M. Johnson, the incoming Times publisher, said in a written statement.


Also Monday, a purported securities class action lawsuit was filed against the Tribune Co. related to its June 2004 admission that it overstated circulation figures of Newsday and its Spanish language publication, Hoy. The company's stock price has dropped below $40 a share since topping $50 a share early last year.

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