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Newspaper Circulation Falls
Almost 10 Percent

The two-decade erosion in newspaper circulation is looking more like an avalanche, with figures released Monday showing sales down about 10 percent since last year, depressed by rising Internet readership, price increases, recession and papers intentionally shedding unprofitable circulation.

In the six months ended Sept. 30, for several hundred papers that had reported to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, weekday sales were down 10.6 percent compared to the same period last year, and Sundays were down 7.5 percent, the bureau said. That means that the industry sold about 44 million copies a day — fewer than at any time since the 1940s.

The figures join a list of indicators of the industry’s health — like advertising and newsroom headcounts — that, after years of slipping, have accelerated sharply downward, as newspapers face the greatest threat to their survival since the Depression. Through the 1990s and into this decade, newspaper circulation was sliding, but by less than 1 percent per year. Then the rate of topped 2 percent in 2005, 3 percent in 2007 and 4 percent in 2008.

Ex-Guerrilla Emerges as Leader in Presidential Vote in Uruguay

A Socialist former guerrilla fighter known for speaking his mind emerged the clear winner of Sunday’s election for president of Uruguay but did not muster enough votes to avoid a November runoff, in what analysts said was a referendum on the current leftist government.

Jose Mujica, a Socialist senator who spent 14 years in prison for waging an urban guerilla war against the military dictatorship here, was the candidate of the governing Broad Front coalition, whose tenure has improved economic conditions here. The Broad Front’s incumbent president, Tabare Vazquez, remains popular and Mujica was considered the front-runner.

Mujica’s top challenger was Luis Alberto Lacalle, a conservative former president and the candidate of the National Party.

With 99 percent of the votes counted, the Broad Front had 47.5 percent of the votes; the National Party was trailing with 28.6 percent and the Colorado Party had 16.7 percent, according to the Electoral Court of Uruguay.

Mujica needed more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election on Nov. 29. Voters on Sunday also rejected a much-discussed initiative to remove amnesty for human rights abuses under the 1973-85 dictatorship.

CNN Last in TV News on Cable

CNN, which created the all-news cable network almost 30 years ago, hit a new competitive low with its prime-time programs in October, with three of its four programs between 7 and 11 p.m. finishing fourth and last among the cable news networks, according to Nielsen Media Research.

It was the first time that the programs had ever performed that poorly against their news network competitors. October was also the third month in the last year that CNN as a network finished fourth behind the three other cable news networks in prime time with the audience that the networks rely on for advertising sales.

In an era when the relationship between the White House and Fox News is making headlines, and when the ideological rivalry between MSNBC on the left and Fox News on the right is commanding the spotlight, CNN has little from a news angle to stir consistent interest from viewers.

CNN’s position in prime-time programming, the most profitable area of the cable news business, has been undermined by the strength of competing channels that focus largely on opinion-based programs during those hours.

CNN itself is responsible for one of those competitors, having installed some popular opinionated hosts at its sister network HLN, formerly Headline News, which has emerged in recent months as a stronger performer in prime time than CNN itself.

Colleges Are Pushed to
Convert Loan System

Congress has not given final approval to legislation ending federal subsidies for private student loans for college. But Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter Monday to thousands of colleges and universities urging them to get ready to use the government’s Direct Loan Program in the 2010-11 school year.

The House of Representatives last month passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, expanding the government’s direct lending and ending the current program of government subsidies and loan guarantees for private lenders. Under that law, all colleges would be required to convert to the federal Direct Loan Program by July 1.

But the Senate has yet to take action on the legislation.

Meanwhile, most of the nation’s 5,000 colleges and universities have not taken the necessary steps to convert to direct federal lending. The letter, sent to some 3,000 campuses that have never used direct lending, was an effort to prod them into action.

“Some campuses are thinking they’ll wait until Congress acts, but to wait is to endanger loan access for students,” said Robert Shireman, the deputy undersecretary of education.

In the past year, Shireman said, about 500 institutions have switched from the subsidized program, the Federal Family Education Loan program, into direct federal lending.

A year and a half ago, when uncertainty in the financial markets threatened the availability of private loans, Congress passed a stopgap law to ensure that families with financial need could get student loans, even if their college was not in the federal direct loan program.