Editor & Publisher magazine surveyed the nation's top 25 Sunday newspapers and found that over the last six months, the combined Chronicle/Examiner experienced the largest drop in circulation -- both in total numbers (31,588 people unsubscribed themselves) and in percentage points (that was 5.3 percent of the paper's distribution) -- of any of them.
Oh well. Dog Bites would be happy to suggest a number of ways to reverse this distressing trend, but since our real ambition is to set ourselves up in a lucrative consulting career in which we never have to write again, except when we're endorsing checks, we'll only give the Chronicle and Hearst corporations a few pointers, and the reminder that we can be contacted any time, day or night, at the e-mail address at the end of this column.
* Take a tip from England's tabloid press and run a photo of a near-naked woman on Page 3. If the circulation crunch has left you short on cash, you can probably just download something from the Esther Hwang Web site.
* Give Architecture and Design Editor Zahid Sardar his own section, "My Aesthetic Is Better Than Your Aesthetic," and let him focus exclusively on homes featuring steel catwalks and Herman Miller furniture. Oh, wait ...
* Reprint Jon Carroll's Business 2.0 columns every Sunday, so his loyal readers can see what happens when their idol is allowed to select a vague topic and publish his stream-of-semiconsciousness ruminations on same. Oh, wait ...
* Publish more sensitive personal essays by Millbrae free-lance writers reflecting on some minute, yet painful, turning point in their childhood relationships with their parents. Readers love that kind of thing.
* Make the most of what you've got: Move Marilyn Vos Savant's column out of Parade and onto the editorial page, where she can stop wasting time answering dumb math questions and instead expound on her political theories, thus showing up Ayn Rand as the wishy-washy liberal she was.
Hope that helps!
Would: Beach Blanket Ken Bashing
Official Dog Bites contractor John Would is in Key West, although he hasn't explained why this is, and we certain-ly don't recall signing his vacation re-quest form.
Before leaving, however, Would sent us his summary of Ken Garcia's latest output, which has suddenly -- and dramatically -- dropped. "Plus, the columns he does write seem to lack some of his earlier, um, self-confidence," observes Would. "I mean, a couple weeks ago he took Saturday off, then this week he takes Tuesday off, passing up what could have been the best Garcia column ever: the pie attack on Willie Brown. What do you imagine Ken thought of that whole affair? It's really not fair of him to keep it to himself. Especially when this steady diet of Garcia summaries has Dog Bites' disgruntlement raging with all the intensity of a billion burning suns. (I was particularly impressed with the line 'acquisitive-faced thirtysomething men in nubuck shoes and Dockers.')"
Thanks for noticing, John -- it was a real moment for us, too.
Would couldn't decide whether he's to blame for Garcia's apparent loss of motivation, and, guilt-ridden, offers two possible summaries for Garcia's most recent column:
"(1)Saturday, Nov. 7: Dear Planning Commission: You should be able to do whatever you like, regardless of all that legal mumbo jumbo. Provided, of course, that your decisions meet with my approval, or else you will roast in hell.
"(2)Saturday, Nov. 7: Dear John: Why must you torture me so, strange man? I don't like chain stores. That makes me an okay guy, right? I mean, I'm just trying to write this column, which was really a big break for me, and then you come along and ruin it."
Note to Ken: We're considering letting Would cover some other beats, though obviously we can't discuss this with him until he comes back to work, in which case you may be off the hook well before a year is up.
Dog Bites would like to apologize to those of our correspondents we have failed to acknowledge in the past couple of weeks. We have several excuses available, most of which boil down to a certain lack of organization following a move to a different office. In our own defense we will say only that since we don't take change well, this has been a trying time for us. And anyway, we hardly heard from anyone.
Except for Eric S. Roberts, who encloses several pictures he's taken of the interior of the K Ingleside Muni line (one of which we reproduce here) and graciously signs himself, "Another satisfied reader."
He also writes, "Ever since you started calling out Jon Carroll, I've become a big fan of Dog Bites. Rather than your recent backing off, I think you should get even more vicious with the guy. But hey, I ain't no journalist."
Never mind, Eric -- neither are we.
Leah Reich: Please, Please, Please Call
Several weeks ago we ran a contest in which readers were invited to select the actual Chronicle Books from a list containing both real and invented titles. Leah guessed correctly on every single one, and hence we have been holding for her a copy of Big Sur to Big Basin: California's Dramatic Central Coast.
But there is a problem: Leah doesn't seem to want the book, and has not contacted us at all, let alone sent us her address. It's making us feel pretty rejected, and anyway we have too damn much stuff around here already.
So please, if you are Leah or just know her, call or write Dog Bites and let us know if you want the book. We'll be here.
As told to Laurel Wellman
Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.