Newsday fires VP over inflated circulation

Brennan dismissal follows publisher's retirement

July 24, 2004|By James T. Madore | James T. Madore,NEWSDAY

Newsday has fired its circulation vice president, Robert Brennan, the only person to be blamed publicly so far by the newspaper for inflating circulation figures in the past few years.

The news came yesterday in a letter to Newsday employees from incoming publisher Timothy P. Knight.

He also said the paper plans to inform advertisers next week of an "action plan" designed to remedy overcharges stemming from the false circulation numbers.

Brennan's dismissal came four days after two superiors, Newsday Publisher Raymond A. Jansen and Hoy Publisher Louis Sito announced their retirements.

Brennan, 52, was placed on administrative leave about five weeks ago. He did not return a telephone call yesterday.

Jansen said he was moving up his retirement to Aug. 15. Sito said he was retiring immediately. Before being promoted by Tribune Co., the parent of both papers, Sito was the No. 2 business executive at Newsday and directly supervised Brennan.

The paper's spokesman, Stu Vincent, declined yesterday to elaborate on the circumstances surrounding Brennan's ouster except to say, "We felt we had enough information to constitute grounds for termination."

Under questioning, Brennan admitted that circulation was inflated, according to a statement last month from Jack Fuller, Tribune's publishing chief.

Tribune has since announced that Newsday's circulation for the 12 months that ended last September and the six months that ended in March will have to be reduced by more than 40,000 copies per day for the weekday paper and more than 60,000 copies for the Sunday editions.

Tribune also has said Newsday's circulation problems extend back to 2001, causing the media giant to set aside $35 million to pay settlements.

Knight said the "action plan" has "solutions outlined in it," and "we believe our advertisers can move forward to continue to build their businesses."

Dennis J. FitzSimons, Tribune's chairman, president and chief executive, said last week that, as a result of the Newsday and Hoy problems, the company has instituted new internal controls at its newspapers.

Every Tribune publisher, chief financial officer and circulation vice president must now certify the accuracy of reported figures and that the rules of the Audit Bureau of Circulations have been followed.

False reports could cost the managers their bonuses and stock options.

Tribune is the parent of The Sun, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and nine other daily newspapers.

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