Sunday, July 19, 2015 – 10:00 a.m.

We routinely check-in on local newspaper circulation numbers to get a flavor for the financial health and continued viability of the various publications.

What we found was alarming.

The Los Angeles Newspaper Group (LANG), which consists of nine newspapers including The Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and Redlands Daily Facts, has some startling numbers on its own website.

The groups nine newspapers combined print and digital circulation has dropped to 330,490 daily and 410,661 Sunday subscriptions.

That’s the combined circulation number of nine Southern California newspapers, not one. Keep in mind this number includes the LANG flagship Los Angeles Daily News.

LANG’s website used to disclose its circulation numbers by individual newspaper. But that practice of disclosure has apparently stopped.

When our country was founded, newspapers were meant to be the watchdogs of government. That’s all changed, at least in the Inland Empire.

Based on what we’ve experienced in the Inland Empire, newspapers pick favorites and routinely trash stories of public interest. The decisions are based on protecting favorites, a storyline or narrative.

The lack of scruples is glaring. One has to admit it’s embarrassing when newspapers pick up news story tips from multiple local blogs.

LANG parent, Digital First Media (DFM), was up for sale earlier this year. DFM was hoping for a bid of around $6 billion. Published sources say the number ended up near $4 billion.

That potential sale fell through and DFM removed itself off the market.

Any buyer, especially an investment fund like Apollo Global Management, would have likely broken up the company. A scenario of the pieces being worth more than the whole.

The Press-Enterprise, a property of Freedom Communications, owner of the financially-troubled Orange County Register, has all but dropped coverage of San Bernardino County, with the exception of the battle for local control of Ontario International Airport, and a few filler stories on bankrupt San Bernardino.

While I have disdain for how Inland newspapers regularly slant and distort real news, the local communities need a strong print media. A concept that hasn’t been around here in some time.

The situation isn’t good. No matter how you slice it.