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Chicago Sun-Times inflated its circulation

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Chicago Sun-Times created bogus sales accounts and inaccurately recorded thousands of unsold newspapers to inflate its circulation numbers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Circulation officials set up fake accounts at Sun-Times-owned delivery agencies to fraudulently boost its distribution figures in the Chicago area, the Journal reported Monday.

The officials would then tell the agencies to trash unsold newspapers, the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter. Each day as many as 30,000 unsold newspapers that were included as part of the Sun-Times’ circulation numbers were tossed.

The Sun-Times declined comment to The Associated Press on the Journal’s report Sunday night.

Hollinger International Inc., which owns the Sun-Times, said on June 15 that it had overstated the newspaper’s circulation figures for several years and that it was conducting an internal review to determine how the error occurred.

Hollinger International, which also owns London’s Daily Telegraph and The Jerusalem Post, did not say how much of the Sun-Times’ circulation was overstated.

Advertisers filed two lawsuits against the Sun-Times and Hollinger International last week in response to the company’s announcement. Advertising rates are commonly set according to a newspaper’s circulation.

The Audit Bureau of Circulation currently ranks the Sun-Times the nation’s 21st largest newspaper with a circulation of 486,936.

Another Chicago-based newspaper company also announced last week it overstated circulation numbers. The Tribune Co. said circulation numbers for its New York-based Newsday and Spanish-language Hoy publications — available Chicago, New York and Los Angeles — had been inflated.