At a Tuesday, July 1, press conference at Seattle Center, a recently formed group, the Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town, announced it was intervening in the ongoing dispute between Seattle's two daily newspapers. The group has filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court asking that the court bar the Seattle Times Company from terminating its joint operating agreement (JOA) with the Hearst Corporation, owner of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The ending of the JOA would likely lead to the shuttering of the Post-Intelligencer.

The lawsuit further claims that a central clause in the JOA--which requires that if either owner ceases publication of its paper it will receive 32 percent of the surviving paper's profits through 2083--constitutes an illegal restraint of trade. Attorney Dmitri Iglitzen, representing the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, a major player in the group, described the clause as a "flagrant violation," likening its terms to one where a gas-station owner agrees to pay the competitor across the street to shut down.

The U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly investigating whether the clause violates anti-trust laws.

The committee is co-chaired by attorney Anne Bremner, and Phil Talmadge, a former Washington State Supreme Court justice. The group's website is www.twonewspapertown.org.

Also appearing at the press conference were former Governor Mike Lowry and current U.S. Representative Jim McDermott.

"From time to time, both of [the dailies] I'd like to get rid of," McDermott joked, but then added that he considered it a "pipe dream" to believe that the public would hear a diversity of opinion if only one of the papers survived.

The Seattle Times Company did not immediately return a phone call.

sandeep@thestranger.com

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