In March 2005, after Dallas’ Only Daily Newspaper had to restate its circulation because it had been making up the numbers, its audited figure was 477,493. Today, according to the agency that tracks these things, The News’ daily circulation is 373,586 — a 21.8 percent decline in the past 2 1/2 years.

If The News keeps going at this rate, it truly will be irrelevant.

Some of that loss is intentional. The News has dropped high-cost subscribers outside of the immediate metro area. But it’s difficult to believe that not selling papers in Shreveport and Wichita Falls is going to account for losing that many readers.

And times are tough for the newspaper business. The report noted that the entire industry lost 2.6 percent of its circulation in the past six months, and there was some impressive bleeding — the New York Times, 4.51 percent, and the Boston Globe, 6.66 percent, among them. But of the 20 biggest papers in the country, only the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at 9.08 percent, suffered more than The News’ 7.68 percent decline.

The conventional wisdom says that these readers are moving to the Internet, and I suppose that there is some truth to that. After all, I’m writing this, and you’re reading it. But if anyone at The News thinks that the cyber ether is their sole problem, they’re kidding themselves. Those 104,000 readers did not, one day, decide to read the newspaper on their computer. They decided not to read that particular newspaper. Hopefully, someone at The News will figure that out before it’s too late.