L.A. Times Plans To Start Edition In Inland Empire
By DARRELL SATZMAN
The Los Angeles Times plans to launch a new Inland Empire edition in the second quarter next year, taking on the entrenched Riverside Press-Enterprise and the San Bernardino County Sun.
Details are still being ironed out, but the new edition will appear at least Monday through Friday in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where The Times plans to open a new advertising and editorial office, said Martha Goldstein, spokeswoman for the newspaper.
The new regional edition, the Times’ fifth, is expected to be similar to the San Fernando Valley edition, which includes a sprinkling of local news along with regional and state stories inside the California section. The other regional editions are in Los Angeles and Orange and Ventura counties. The Times also publishes a national edition.
The move eastward would seem to contradict the Times’ decision two years ago to shut down 14 of its community newspapers, but Goldstein said the Times considers Riverside and San Bernardino to be part of its core coverage area. She pointed out that the Inland Valley Voice, a Times Community News newspaper that publishes six days a week and is delivered free to subscribers of the main newspaper, was the only new paper not to be cut in the Times community news purge.
“The exact footprint is still to be worked out,” she said. “Riverside and San Bernardino counties are the fastest growing area in the Times’ distribution area, and the only specific areas that are not served by a regional edition.”
Much of the Inland Empire growth has been fueled by Los Angeles area families moving east in search of affordable housing and many of those families had been taking the Times before they moved.
The Press Enterprise, which has been around for more than a century, grew its daily paid circulation by 6 percent between Sept. 30, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2002, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The smaller Sun grew by about 2 percent during the same period.
“They’re recognizing that they’ve had a real shortfall in this area,” said Bob Gray, publisher of the Sun, which is part of Dean Singleton’s Media News Group. “In our case they are going to be going up against a growing paper that recently added several new zones.”
The Times was said to have been interested in launching an Inland Empire edition several years ago, but the advertising slump put those plans on the shelf.
With forecasters predicting a 3-5 percent bump in newspaper advertising in 2003, the Times apparently believes the moment is right, said Dave Cornwall, chief executive and publisher of the Press-Enterprise Co., which is owned by Dallas-based A.H. Belo Corp.
“It’s a growing market and we’re not surprised they would want to establish a presence here,” Cornwall said. “(But) it’s going to take more than a relatively modest investment in local news to make a real impact.”
The Press-Enterprise has 180,000 daily subscribers and 185,000 Sunday subscribers, vs. 75,435 and 82,752 for the Sun.
“The Press-Enterprise is the 10,000-pound gorilla in the Inland Empire,” said Steve Churm, owner of Orange County-based Churm Publishing Group, whose slate of seven magazines includes Inland Empire Family Magazine. “Part of the challenge in the Inland Empire is that it is such a huge area from San Diego to Upland and the different areas are distinct demographically.”