NEW FRONT OPENS IN SALT LAKE NEWSPAPER WAR

By: Lucia Moses

This Time, ‘News’ Sues ‘Tribune’


In the latest battle in the Salt Lake City newspaper war, it’s The Deseret News’ turn to muster the legal troops. The News alleges in a lawsuit filed April 9 that its bigger rival and joint operating agreement (JOA) partner, The Salt Lake Tribune, for the past three years has frustrated its efforts to convert to morning publication and compete head-to-head with the Tribune.

The News wants a Utah court to declare that the Tribune’s managers have violated their obligations to the News by harming it financially through their influence over the business arm of the JOA and then order them to carry out their part of the 48-year-old agreement.

The News also seeks a ruling that it has veto power over any purchase of the Tribune, in response to the managers’ claim that they have a right to buy the paper in mid-2002.

The two dailies have been entangled in legal wrangling since the managers sued late last year to block the $200-million sale of the Tribune to Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc. by the AT&T Corp.

A long-held mutual distrust underlies the battle, with the Tribune positioning itself as an alternative to the Mormon Church-owned News and the News claiming that the Tribune wants to squash its smaller partner so it can dominate the market.

The News claims in the suit that Tribune Publisher Dominic Welch has said, “Ultimately, there will be only one newspaper, and it won’t be The Deseret News.” Welch has denied the claim.



Lucia Moses (lmoses@editorandpublisher.com) is an associate editor covering business for E&P.



Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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