September 09, 2003

Joint Obfuscating Agreement

Nasty stuff. That's what's happening in Seattle between the city's two newspapers - the Post-Intelligencer, owned by Hearst, and the Times, owned by the Blethen family and Knight Ridder - which are locked in a litigious death struggle over the joint operating agreement that binds them.

The latest round in the corporate divorce battle reveals the inherently mendacious nature of the JOA, formed in 1983 to purportedly preserve independent editorial voices in the community by allowing the two companies to merge business, production and distribution operations, effectively granting them a federally sanctioned publishing monopoly.

Both papers reported yesterday that a Blethen family memo written in 1985, and included in a new court filing, stated that two of the family's long-range goals were "move to a one-newspaper agency" and "no JOA."

In another filing, the Times claimed that in July 1997 Frank Bennack, then CEO of Hearst, said "there would be one Seattle newspaper within 10 years and 'the probability was at least 90 percent that The Seattle Times would be the surviving newspaper.'"

What we have here are powerful publishing executives hiding behind the fašade of editorial preservation while they are in fact plotting to kill off a newspaper in order to preserve profit.

Nasty stuff indeed.

Links
 Seattle Times Times document: P-I demise a goal since '85
 Seattle Post-Intelligencer Memo shows that for years, Blethens have tried to close P-I

Posted by Tim Porter at September 9, 2003 07:46 AM