New daily paper starts tomorrow


A decade after the demise of The Evening Sun, the city's last afternoon publication, Baltimore will again be a two-newspaper town with tomorrow's launch of The Examiner, a free tabloid aimed primarily at the region's most affluent residents.

Touted on billboards as providing "a second opinion," the new paper will be published Monday through Saturday. It is the third in a chain of newspapers that Denver-based Clarity Media Group Inc. - owned by conservative billionaire Philip F. Anschutz - hopes to expand into as many as 60 cities.

The Baltimore paper is the first that Anschutz has started from the ground up; both its predecessors, the Washington Examiner and the San Francisco Examiner, evolved from purchases of papers that already existed.

"It's getting tense here! " Frank Keegan, the editor of The Examiner, said Friday. "I'm trying to put a paper together from scratch!"

Keegan declined to be interviewed further, but he promised the first edition would be "beautiful."

"You'll see what we got Wednesday," he said.

In Baltimore, Clarity Media plans to deliver most of its papers to affluent neighborhoods such as Roland Park, Guilford, Mount Washington and Homeland, as well as to Baltimore County to the north and selected addresses in Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard and Harford counties.

The newspaper, working with a small staff from an office building overlooking Baltimore's Inner Harbor, also has purchased almost 2,000 bright-red newspaper racks and placed them around town and in the various counties.

The new publication faces several challenges. It is being launched at a time when newspapers nationwide have been beset by losses in circulation, advertising and staff.

The trade publication Editor and Publisher estimated that newspapers shed about 2,100 jobs last year.

Conventional industry wisdom holds that it is unlikely that a new paper will succeed in a market already dominated by another publication, said John Morton, president of Morton Research Inc., a media consulting company in Silver Spring.

But, he said, The Examiner, with its free delivery and focus on single-family homes with a median income of about $73,000, "is a kind of special animal."

"This isn't a paid daily," he said. "It's the new model for a startup newspaper."

The Examiner, Morton said, might be "appealing to people who aren't satisfied with the news they're getting from their television stations but don't want the heavy lifting of reading the daily newspaper."

The number of people who read each newspaper matters more to advertisers than how many papers are delivered, said Timothy J. Thomas, vice president for marketing at The Sun. "They're trying to sell ads on the basis of circulation. That ceases to be a valid measure when one paper is free and one is paid."

For more than a year, the Examiner has been delivering about the same number of copies in the Washington market as it plans to distribute in Baltimore, roughly 250,000 papers a day. But a recent survey by Scarborough Research showed that more than 100,000 people actually read the Washington Examiner.

"If the Baltimore Examiner has a similar record here, it means that the paper will be read by about 100,000 people in the Baltimore area," Thomas said. "If you compare that to The Sun, we deliver more than 600,000 readers each weekday, more than a million readers each Sunday and 1.2 million readers over the course of an average week."

On Saturday, residents of the Baltimore neighborhoods targeted by The Examiner received on their doorsteps and lawns a preview of the paper in a promotional issue that boasted of its devotion to brevity: It said the paper would be housed "in a convenient package you can read in less than 20 minutes."

It said also that The Examiner will include columns by Morton Kondracke, a regular contributor to the Fox News Channel, and former longtime Sun columnist Jules Witcover.

In last Thursday's 48-page edition of the Washington Examiner, most of the paper's local and sports stories were written by staff reporters, but its foreign, national and business pages were filled almost entirely with Associated Press dispatches.

Still, the news that The Sun would have a rival added fuel to the larger paper's competitive fires.

"I welcome the competition," said Timothy A. Franklin, The Sun's editor. "It makes you sharper and better. I don't take any reader for granted."

Franklin acknowledged that, partly in response to the Examiner's arrival, he had increased the news content of The Sun's Maryland section by 30 percent and also added space to the Howard and Anne Arundel county sections.

"What we have going for us ... is the depth and breadth of our local news report," he said, estimating that of The Sun's approximately 350 reporters, editors and other news department staff members, more than 100 work on the metro desk.

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