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Business & Economy

Judge Won't Dismiss Lawsuit That Challenges Newspaper Operating Agreement

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A federal judge has decided Monday not to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to dismantle a joint operating agreement between the Deseret News and the parent company of the Salt Lake Tribune. 

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups ruled on Monday that the grass roots group Citizens for Two Voices can move forward with a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the current joint operating agreement between The Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune. Lawyers representing Digital First Media and the Deseret News had filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed.  Joan O’Brien is a former Salt Lake Tribune reporter and a co-founder of the group that filed the lawsuit.  She maintains that the current JOA, revised just last year, will ultimately put the newspaper out of business.  Among other provisions, it has cut the print profits of the Tribune in half and gives a small group of people veto power over who could purchase the paper.  O’Brien says her group is trying keep the Tribune from closing its doors.

“Our organization is comprised of readers, subscribers, a lot of former reporters.  We’re exactly the kinds of people who are qualified under the law – under anti-trust law to bring these kinds of cases.  Anti-trust law protects consumers.  It doesn’t protect any old business deal that two entities can enter into," says O'Brien.

O’Brien says the lawsuit will now enter the discovery phase.  The U.S. Justice Department and the Utah Attorney General’s office are conducting their own anti-trust investigations into the joint operating agreement.

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