It’s an oddity of the newspaper business that whenever a paper’s circulation goes into a free fall, it’s the editor’s neck that most often goes on the chopping block.

Yet when the actual content (remember content?) of the news and features columns deteriorates, no one blames the guy who heads the circulation department.

The logic seems to be that the editor is responsible for maintaining both editorial quality and the logistics of circulation — whereas the circulation czar is responsible for neither. (Confession: Your humble scribe has been in this business for 40 years, both as a reporter and as an editor, but he has yet to figure out how you get one of those jobs where nothing that happens is your fault.)

What brought this to mind is the news that the editors and editorial writers of the Philadelphia Inquirer are busy these days calling former subscribers of the paper who stopped their subscriptions last fall, some because they were unhappy with the newspaper’s 21-part endorsement of John Kerry, others because they took issue with the reporting of Dick Polman, one of the better reporters on the campaign trail.

The task of those hapless editorial writers assigned to circulation duty? Sweet-talk those incensed former readers into re-upping.

Which raises this question: If the editors are doing that, what the hell are the solicitors in the circulation department doing?

Maybe writing editorials and running the newsroom?

Steve Lovelady

If you'd like to help CJR and win a chance at one of 10 free print subscriptions, take a brief survey for us here.

Steve Lovelady was editor of CJR Daily.