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'Columbus Commercial Dispatch' to 'Clarion-Ledger': We're Not a Shopper!

The calls started coming into Birney Imes III at The Commercial Dispatch in Columbus, Miss., on Tuesday. Subscribers wanted to know when it was the 14,000-circulation daily had decided to become a weekly shopper.

There were no such plans. But that's what residents in its core Columbus market were told in a letter from The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson soliciting subscriptions.

"I was sorry to hear your local newspaper in Columbus has changed its format to that of a weekly advertiser," said the letter over the signature of Sharon Heckler, the Clarion-Ledger's manager of circulation operations. "I know how important it is to receive your daily news and I know it is a valued part of many people's morning. We would like the opportunity to service that need."

The misinformation from the Gannett Co.-owned Clarion-Ledger apparently arose from the Commercial Dispatch's launch last month in Starkville, a town about 20 miles away, called The Starkville Dispatch. According to Imes, Heckler said someone in Starkville had concluded the Commercial Dispatch was no longer circulating there, and the Clarion-Ledger acted on that tip.

"We were shocked," Imes said. "We were shocked they would launch a direct mail campaign on such flimsy information." Heckler did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.

But Imes said Heckler told him the paper would send out a letter correcting the first solicitation. A draft of the letter was published by the alternative weekly Jackson Free Press on its Web site Thursday. In it, Heckler apologizes for the misinformation - and repeats the subscription offer.

"In their follow-up letter, they're renewing their solicitation -- which seems a little heavy if you're trying to make amends," Imes said.

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Title Annotation:Commercial Dispatch circulation
Author:Fitzgerald, Mark
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Jul 24, 2009
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