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Newsroom smart alecks called it Vietnam. That's how swampy the battle had grown in California's Orange County for the Los Angeles Times. Lured by the county's growth and a median family income that this year may top $56,000, the Times tried to gain on The Orange County Register. Yet from 1979 to 1989, as the Register's daily circulation in the county soared 56%, the Times's grew 3%. By 1989, the Register was selling more than 135,000 more Sunday papers than a decade earlier; the Times, just 909 more.

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