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Biggest Dailies Getting Bigger

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Weekday newspapers sales inched up in some of the nation's biggest markets, according to figures released this weekend in the Audit Bureau of Circulations FAS-FAX report for the six months ended March 31.

The daily gains were paced by the three nationally circulated papers. USA Today, measured on a five-day average, was again the largest daily in America, gaining 26,144 copies over the same period last year for a weekday average circulation of 1,852,592. The Wall Street Journal gained 3,907 copies over the year for a circulation of 1,819,528. The New York Times gained just under 1% in circulation for a weekday average of 1,159,954.

Leaving its joint operating agency partner proved a circulation tonic for the San Francisco Chronicle. Its circulation soared 13.4% or more than 62,000 copies, to 527,466. The San Francisco Examiner, which was sold to the Fang family last year, did not report results because it is under a "voluntary temporary suspension of service," the FAS-FAX report said. The tabloid New York Post was another big winner this reporting period, with an 11.6% year- to-year gain for a circulation of 487,219.

Its tabloid competitors had mixed success, with Newsday gaining two- tenths of one percentage point and the New York Daily News declining by 2% to 716,095.

Among the other metro gainers were The Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, and The Star-Ledger in Newark.

The big loser among America's biggest papers was the Los Angeles Times, which declined 53,290 copies, or 4.8%, to 1,058,494. Also off significantly were The Philadelphia Inquirer (down 3% to 392,728) and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland (down 4% to 363,693).