The Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town is a coalition of community, political and labor leaders and activists.
Co-chairs are Phil Talmadge and Anne Bremner.
The committee said today it was taking the action in the lawsuit filed by the Hearst Corporation, owners of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, against the Seattle Times Company on April 28, because it was the best way to make sure Seattle’s citizens have a voice in the matter. Intervening in the suit means Hearst and the Times would have to include the CTNT in any potential settlement.
Hearst filed the suit in an effort to prevent the Times from dissolving the Joint Operating Agreement between the two papers and shuttering the P-I. The Times countered April 29 by saying it had lost money for three years and needed to close the P-I to return to profitability.
The Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town is a coalition of community
The CTNT intervention is based on Washington state common law and the state constitution. The group is asking the court to declare that provisions of the JOA that would pay Hearst 32 percent of the Times’ profits for 80 years if it closes the P-I are illegal because it would amount to paying Hearst to not operate a paper in Seattle.
The group contends that such a closure provision may be a restraint of trade. They also maintain that the Times has breached the JOA contract by asserting it has had three-years worth of losses. All would be illegal under state law, the group believes.
The CTNT is asking the court to stop the countdown provision of the JOA that would lead to the dissolution of the agreement – and possibly the closure of the P-I – in 18 months.
The April developments relating to the JOA have put Seattle’s future as a two-paper city in doubt. Under terms of the JOA, the Times handles business and distribution duties for itself and the P-I (see attached release for JOA details). If the JOA were dissolved it would leave the P-I without a printing press, business staff or delivery personnel, effectively putting it out of business.
Talmadge said the group expects to talk to officials from the Justice Department who are investigating the JOA situation here.
“ We’ll be letting them know that the people of Seattle want two vibrant, dynamic papers covering the city,” he said. “We deserve and expect no less.”
Bremner said two papers allow a more complete debate on the issues facing Seattle.
“ This city speaks with many voices,” she said. “Two papers offer more chances for different opinions to be heard. That’s not only necessary it’s vital, especially on issues that affect everyone, like the Monorail or elections.”
Talmadge noted that competition makes for better news reporting.
“ Reporters work harder when they think someone else might be chasing the same story,” he said. “We see examples of that every morning when we pick up the paper. Lose a paper and you lose that edge.”
The co-chairs also called into question a provision of the JOA that would let Hearst close the P-I but continue to take 32% of the profit from the Times for the next 80 years. They called that part of the deal “anti-competitive.”