Helen Copley can’t be much of a happy camper these days. During the first half of the year, Copley’s flagship newspaper, the Union-Tribune, lost 3 percent of its average daily circulation, down to about 372,000; Sunday’s rate dropped by 1 percent, to about 450,000. Even more painful is the knowledge that other papers in the region had a surprisingly successful first half. In North County, where the U-T had hoped for big gains, daily and Sunday circulation at the competitor Blade-Citizen climbed 7 percent. The Orange County Register, meanwhile, reported a 2 percent jump in daily circulation, and an impressive 3 percent on Sundays. Copley press editor in chief Herb Klein insists the first-half numbers, from the National Audit Bureau of Circulation, were merely an aberration, and that recent, unaudited counts show circulation climbing "above what it was last year." On the Friday before election day, he reports, the paper sold 381,344 copies, "close to what we're doing each weekday."