Bad vibes to report, on the street and in the air. Let's start with the metro dailies. The Audit Bureau of Circulations has released the averages for the six months ending March 31, and it ain't good. Weekday Seattle Times: 233,268, down 1.7 percent. Weekday Seattle Post-Intelligencer: 144,836, down 4 percent. SundayTimes-P-I: 457,010, down 1.9 percent. Monday-through-Saturday News Tribune of Tacoma: 128,937, up (!) 0.1 percent. The Herald of Everett: 50,775, down 0.4 percent. King County Journal: 44,592, down 4.9 percent. Who cares? Anyone who understands that, for better or worse, daily newspapers cover stuff no one else does—often, maybe even usually, better than other media. Their demise is that of civilization. The good news, writes P-I reporter Dan Richman: "Local declines were modest compared with those of the nation's three biggest papers. Circulation dropped more than 6 percent at the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle. Among the top 20 papers, 12 others posted declines of at least 1.5 percent, and only four showed meager increases."
Meantime, another local media giant is stumbling. The winter Arbitron radio ratings are out, and KIRO-AM, which once was the blowtorch of all news-talk-sports stations in the Northwest, is reportedly fading in the key 25-to-54-year-old demographic and during crucial time slots—though it still is No. 1 in talk among all age groups, all day, and is sixth among all stations. Says Blatherwatch blogger Michael Hood (blatherwatch.blogs.com), who has been leaked breakdowns by age and time of day: "Ratings are in a free fall and no one knows where the bottom will be. When they stabilize, look for some of the help being frog-walked across the street to the Azteca for a good-bye single malt." Here's the overall news-talk picture. These are average percentages of the audience: 1. KIRO-AM (710, home of Dave Ross) with 4.2 percent. 2. (tie) KOMO-AM (1000, Mariners) and KTTH-AM (770, Rush Limbaugh), 3.0 percent. 4. KVI-AM (570, John Carlson), 2.9 percent. 5. KQBZ-FM (100.7, Tom Leykis), 2.5 percent. 6. KPTK-AM (1090, home of Al Franken), 1.5 percent. CHUCK TAYLOR
University of Washington
That internal review panel appointed to investigate UW medical billing practices and make corrective recommendations is heading into its 10th month, and some who have been interviewed say they're somewhat impressed. "I believe that the panel is intent on conducting a fair investigation," says one participant, "but is limited in what actions it can take and how they would be enacted." The panel was formed after UW was rocked by a Medicare/Medicaid overbilling scandal that last year cost the medical school and its affiliate UW Physicians a record $35 million to settle and $25 million in legal fees. Many saw the panel, set up by university Vice President for Medical Affairs Paul Ramsey, as a public relations response. But the reviewers are said to be conducting a far-reaching probe, though it might not penetrate Ramsey's own lack of oversight. Among tidbits given to the panel: Some of those responsible for the false billings were "fired" by UW Physicians but then moved into jobs at the medical school. They got severance packages or salary guarantees and other payments in exchange for confidentiality. The panel reportedly is running into document disclosure problems, however, because UW Physicians is a private corporation. RICK ANDERSON