A reader asked how I calculated the number of local news stories in The San Diego Union-Tribune for my story last week about the newspaper’s decline. For those of you scoring at home, here’s some clarification and a few more numbers.

I counted stories written by U-T staffers that appeared in the A and B sections of the city edition from Jan. 24-30 in both 2006 and 2009. For 2009, I also counted stories in the twice-weekly “Our San Diego” section.

The counted articles had to have bylines that credited the reporters at the top of the stories. (In other words, I didn’t count the short articles known as “briefs.”) And as I noted in the story, I didn’t count obituaries or columns.

My goal was to calculate how the physical paper received by the typical U-T reader had changed, so I only looked at one edition — the one distributed in central San Diego.

Looking back, I should at least have included numbers about business and sports stories. Here they are, plus a look at U-T photography. (All these numbers below compare Jan. 24-30 in 2009 to the same period in 2006. The averages are rounded.)

  • Business: In 2006, the U-T business section ran an average of three bylined, staff-written stories a day. In 2009, the average was two.
  • Sports: In 2006, the paper averaged eight bylined, staff-written stories a day. (In order to avoid making the 2006 story count higher than for a normal week, I didn’t count stories in special sections about the Buick Invitational golf tournament.)

In 2009, the average story count in the sports section was five.

  • The U-T ran a daily average of 20 photos credited to staff photographers in the 2006 period. (This number doesn’t include photos in the golf tournament special sections.)

Three years later, the average was 11.

Comparing issues of the newspaper over time is an inexact science. One edition of a newspaper with 60 pages and 30 articles may be very different from another; the numbers don’t reflect the quality of journalism, for example.

For that reason, the statistics in my story about the changing number of pages and stories in the paper should be viewed as a rough guide to how the U-T’s printed edition has changed.


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