SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A group of former employees of The Salt Lake Tribune has filed a lawsuit to suspend and repeal the latest changes to the newspaper's joint operating agreement with the Deseret News, arguing the terms violate federal antitrust laws and undermine the Tribune's role as an independent voice.
In the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Utah, the group called the Utah Newspaper Project argues the recently revised agreement between Salt Lake City's two daily newspapers gives too much control to the Deseret News, which is owned by a for-profit arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The six-decade-old agreement was changed in October.
Under the new terms, the Deseret News purchased the Tribune's share of a printing plant and gets 70 percent of the profits from the newspapers' joint print advertising and circulation businesses. The money from the sale of the printing plant was used to pay off debt for the Tribune's parent company.
The old profit split was 58 percent for the Tribune and 42 percent for the Deseret News.
The terms leave the Tribune "in imminent danger of ceasing publication," according to the lawsuit.
The group argues the agreement gives the Tribune too little revenue to publish its print edition long-term and also jeopardizes its website, which relies on print revenues.
The deal also threatens the newspaper's independence by giving the Deseret News veto power over any potential purchaser of the Tribune, the group said.
"The identity of a newspaper's owner is directly related and integral to, and to a significant degree controlling of, a newspaper's editorial policies and priorities," the lawsuit states.
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