E-Mail Forum
Predicted Demise Of West County Times Premature
June 24, 2001


Based on information received from John Armstrong, Editor and Vice President of Contra Costa Newspapers, the reports I received that the West County Times would be reduced to weekly publication are apparently erroneous. He tells me that they plan to actually increase West County coverage, including adding a weekly publication. See attached .PDF file for Mr. Armstrong’s letter.

I replied to Mr. Armstrong, expressing my support for the proposed increase in West County coverage, including, I hope, the City of Richmond. It is also attached as a .DOC (WORD)file.


235 East Scenic Avenue

Richmond, CA 94801

510/236-7435   510/237-2084   fax 510/232-5325   tom.butt@intres.com


June 24, 2001


John Armstrong, Editor and Vice President/News

Contra Costa Newspapers

2640 Shadelands Drive

Walnut Creek, CA 94598


Dear Mr. Armstrong:


Thank you for your letter of June 12, 2001, regarding the TOM BUTT E-FORUM of June 15, 2001, entitled “Rumored Demise of the West County Times?”

It has never been my intent to deliberately disseminate false information, and if recounting what I characterized as “word on the street”  and “unconfirmed rumors” is, in fact, misleading and has caused you or your organization any trouble or inconvenience, I apologize for so doing. The information you have now provided has certainly turned disappointment into optimism. As noted in the preface of each E-FORUM, “comments, arguments and corrections are welcome,” and I appreciate your taking me up on my offer. 

I would like to respond to each of the concerns you raised.

·         The news regarding the Times cutting 87 positions (7% of its work force) appeared on page C11 of the Contra Costa Times business section on May 19, 2001, so this item was apparently accurate.

·         Apparently former Editor Kathy Edwards was gone, so that was accurate. I am glad to know that she will be replaced.

·         The information about downsizing the West County Times came from what I believed to be reliable sources. I am sure, as a journalist, you know that sometimes even reliable sources are wrong. Even so, I tried to give the information the veracity it deserved, characterizing it as “rumor” rather than fact. Although I am not in the newspaper publishing business, I will follow the same policy you do and “correct all factual errors that come to the editor’s attention.” Based on what you have related to me in your letter, it appears that the Contra Costa Newspapers will be increasing, rather than decreasing, its commitment to West County coverage, including the addition of a weekly newspaper.

·         I do not sell subscriptions to my web site or to the email TOM BUTT E-FORUM. It’s free.


The TOM BUTT E-FORUM was meant to be provocative and perhaps to go a little beyond where conventional local newspaper journalism goes. It was also meant to fill in gaps in coverage by the local media, including the West County Times. Richmond is a city of nearly 100,000, and yet the magnitude of local newspaper coverage of Richmond has been disappointing. In spite of its name, the West County Times seldom carries Richmond, or even West County news on the front page. When it does, it is usually related to violence or mayhem. For example, in today’s (June 24) edition of the West Contra Costa Sunday Times, there are 32 column inches beginning on the front page of Section A, “Residents Say Pit Bulls Are Prevalent,” but in the “West County and the Bay Area” section, beginning with page A27, where one would expect to find any Richmond news, there are only 7 column inches with Richmond stories, including “Monument Dedicated to ‘True Leader’ of Community,” and “2 New Hours Set for Richmond Museum.” However, the rest of the 11-page section is filled with stories about events or news in Berkeley, Rodeo, Pleasanton, Concord, Pittsburg, Albany, El Cerrito, Martinez, Danville, Oakland, San Leandro, Livermore, San Francisco and San Jose.

In a cursory review of recent past editions of the West County Times that I happen to still have, I counted typical daily Richmond stories ranging from one to four, using a total of about 20 to 50 column inches. This was not intended to be an exhaustive survey with pinpoint accuracy, but it should give a general indication. The recent dog mauling spiked the column inch count to 68. Although I appreciate the economic constraints under which you have to run a newspaper, we Richmond residents are disappointed that so little of the content of the West County Times is dedicated to our city. Needless to say, I am ecstatic to hear that you intend to substantially increase coverage.

Date           Richmond Stories    Column Inches

5/19/01 1          20

5/27/01(Sunday Times)   3          20

6/3/01   2          22

6/3/01 (Sunday Times)   4          40

6/5/01   2          33

6/8/01   3          54

6/9/01   4          34

6/1/0     2          14

6/12/01 2          24

6/14/01 1          6

6/15/01 2          29

6/16/01 3          50

6/18/01 2          47

6/19/01 1          3

6/22/01 3          68 (Dog Mauling)

6/21/01 1          26

In my travels, I see many newspapers in cities much smaller than Richmond with many times the local news coverage. One example is the local paper, the Northwest Arkansas Times, from Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I grew up. You can check their website at http://www.nwarktimes.com/times/.

Regarding your previous endorsement of my candidacy, I hope that you will find my retraction is consistent with the “tenets of accuracy and fairness” that you expect and that my advocacy for increased local newspaper coverage is consistent with your previous editorial characterization of me as a “leader and man of action.” If nothing else, I continue to be passionate about what I believe is best for the citizens of Richmond.

I will say that the West County Times and its staff have always been fair to me and have, for the most, part reported my activities and used my quotes accurately, and I appreciate that.

Finally, I will send this correction out on today’s E-FORUM, which, I am glad to say increases in circulation daily. Would you like me to add your name to the E-FORUM distribution list.


Thomas K. Butt