Albuquerque Civic Group Looks To Start Newspaper

By: Mark Fitzgerald

A citizens group formed to prevent the closure of the Albuquerque Tribune is shifting its focus to launching its own print and Web newspaper.

Friends of the Albuquerque Tribune (FOAT) was created in the literal last days of the paper, which was shuttered by E.W. Scripps on Feb. 23. The paper had sought a buyer for the circulation-losing evening paper since August, and folded it when sales negotiations with two local businessmen fell apart.

FOAT President Ted Cloak, a retired computer analyst for the University of New Mexico, said the group is looking into the possibility of starting a weekly print paper that would be a “bridge” to a “24/7 Web newspaper.”

“We’re going to try to get it going because we think it’s important to keep people alert to what’s going on,” Cloak said in a telephone interview Monday. “We might do a survey find out what people really miss about the Tribune.”

FOAT’s first public meeting attracted “several dozen” members of the public, and Cloak said he believes there might be wide community support for a second paper. The problem, he adds, is that most people in Albuquerque aren’t aware of FOAT’s efforts.

The Tribune had been in a joint operating agreement (JOA) with the much bigger Albuquerque Journal that had an expiration date in 2022. When the Tribune was put up for sale, Scripps and Journal Publishing said the JOA would not be included in any deal for the paper, and that the agreement would cease with its sale or closure.

FOAT has protested that fact to the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. Scripps has said antitrust authorities indicated they had no objection to the closure of the Tribune.

“We feel they did do a dirty in abrogating that joint operating agreement when it had time to run,” FOAT’s Cloak said. “We’re just wondering just why did they offer the paper for sale without a JOA? Did they actually have the real right to do that?”

Cloak himself said he misses the Tribune, which had sunk in circulation from about 40,000 two decades ago to about 9,900 when it was folded.

The Tribune didn’t go out of business “because it wasn’t a good paper,” he said. “It was a fine paper. They had a hard-working and dedicated staff. I certainly feel they met the highest standards of journalism. I won’t make any invidious comparisons with other papers.”

FOAT is holding another public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the University of New Mexico’s Law School in Albuquerque.

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