Seattle Group Fights for 2 Newspapers

By: Mark Bryant, Associated Press Writer

(AP) A newly formed organization hopes to keep Seattle a two-newspaper town by intervening in a legal dispute between The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town filed papers Tuesday in King County Superior Court that seek a voice for the community in a lawsuit filed by the Post-Intelligencer‘s owner against The Seattle Times Co.

If the committee gets its way, the two newspapers would have to address its concerns in any potential settlement.

At a news conference, committee members stressed the benefits of two newspapers’ diverse views. The two papers took different editorial stances on the Iraq war and expanding the local monorail system, and endorsed different candidates in the last presidential election.

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., is a committee member.

The Times has moved to sever the joint operating agreement under which it has handled distribution, marketing, and printing for both newspapers for 20 years in exchange for 60% of the profits. The Times contends that its three years of financial losses and circulation declines at the P-I are evidence that the Seattle market can support only one daily paper.

New York-based Hearst Corp., which owns the P-I, has sued the Times in Superior Court, seeking to block dissolution of the pact.

Times spokeswoman Kerry Coughlin says it is inevitable that Seattle will become a one-newspaper town. “It’s our view that that’s the way the market is going,” she said. “The JOA is now a failed business model.”

In an interview from New York, Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer said his company had not seen the committee complaint and declines comment.

The operating agreement was initiated in 1981 and modified in 1999 to allow morning publication of the Times, previously an afternoon newspaper.

The agreement, which required federal approval because of antitrust laws, is one of 12 in effect around the country.

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