DOJ, Gazette ask for another stay

by Steve Korris |
Nov. 19, 2009, 2:55am

CHARLESTON – Department of Justice antitrust lawyers and owners of the Charleston Gazette once again have asked for a little more time to settle civil charges that Gazette owners created an illegal monopoly when they bought the Daily Mail.

On Nov. 13, the government and the dailies moved to extend a stay of proceedings before U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver to Dec. 8.

"The parties represent that serious settlement discussions are continuing, and that a stay will permit the parties to determine whether those discussions can be brought to a successful conclusion," 10 lawyers attested.

They have attested to the same thing in motion after motion since March.

The government sued the dailies in 2007, claiming they violated the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act.

The suit named the Daily Gazette Company and Media News Group, former owner of the Daily Mail, as defendants.

The dailies moved to dismiss, and Copenhaver denied the motion.

In 1958, the dailies combined their printing, advertising, subscription and circulation operations in a joint committee as equal partners, splitting profits or losses equally.

In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a similar joint operation in Tucson, Arizona, violated the Sherman and Clayton acts.

In 1970, Congress passed the "Newspaper Preservation Act" exempting joint operations from antitrust law.

In 1998, the Gazette and Media News Group adopted an amendment allowing the Gazette to match any third party offer to buy the Daily Mail.

Media News Group received a $55 million offer, and in 2004 the Gazette matched it.

The Daily Mail quit publishing on Saturdays and didn't replace reporters who left.

All its promotions, discounts, and solicitations of new readers ended.

Daily delivery stopped for thousands of customers.

In less than a year, according to the government, Daily Mail circulation fell from 35,076 to 23,985.

As talks continue, no one knows whether the joint operating agreement exists.

The government insists it ended when the Gazette bought the Daily Mail, and the Gazette insists it didn't end.

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