Wednesday, October 5

A Sold-Out Newspaper in 2011: Always a good thing?

                                                       (Photo Credit: Melanie Drozd)

"We always try to keep one paper available in the racks’, says Troy Gustavson, parent company owner of the Suffolk Times/River Head News-Review newspapers. However, on September 12th , not one newspaper could be found in gas stations and 7-11’s across the counties. A mysterious team of people with an (as of yet) undiscovered motive had purchased every copy. “I have been in this business 50 years and never have I experienced what we experienced this past week”, Troy Gustavson wrote in a September 29th OP-Ed for the Suffolk Times.

            The incident began around 9:30 A.M, September 22nd when a woman called to inquire about finding a copy of the newspapers delivery manifest.  Over the course of the day, and even into Friday,  Times/Review circulation manager Laura Huber estimates that at least two women and two men traveled around purchasing every copy of the Times.
            Stories that appeared in both newspapers of the day are robustly contrast: A county accused of wrongfully diverting money from a preservation fund, Feds arresting a riverhead doc, and a Charles Barkley sighting. “My first response (when hearing the news that every copy had been bought) was inquisitiveness”, Gustavson said. “People are curious. My wife was out running and she’s getting stopped with questions: ‘What’s the latest?”
            In the latest posting about the story, the Suffolk Times ran a piece about a woman (wearing a marine blue sweatshirt and jeans) seen on a 7-11 surveillance cam. She is seen with a bundle of the newspapers propped up on the cash register. According to the article, the woman asserted that her mass purchase was in aid of a move, despite the cost of both the Suffolk Times/River Head News being higher than the other newspapers available in store (Newsday, at 75 cents. Southampton Press, at $1). The woman has not been identified, but Gustavon claims a reader contacted him and had been in the very same store as the woman in the surveillance video. The reader offered a different narrative of events, claiming that the woman stated her boss asked to pick up as many papers as possible; and that she (the purchaser) thought it was a stupid idea.  
            Some commenter’s on the Suffolk Times website have questioned the printing of the surveillance article, but Gustavon maintains a policy of practical business concern and inquisitive impartiality: ‘In some ways, it can be seen as a restrain of trade. It is unfair to our advertisers. It is a legitimate concern’. Gustavson stresses that the Suffolk Times/Riverhead Review are not accusing anyone of anything. ‘We checked with our attorneys and checked all the legalities of publishing the article. We are operating primarily out of curiosity’, Gustavon said.
            The cost of purchasing each and every newspaper runs into the thousands of dollars. The cost of curiosity is incalculable. The great effort made by the buyers to possibly remove the newspaper and its contents from visibility has led the story to be covered in the NYtimes, NY1, and even, Gustavon states, Boston television. Gustavon pinpoints the ultimate amusement of the deed: “One of the greatest ironies is that if the people were intending to silence the story, they ended up doing the opposite”. 


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