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Newspapers: Disputed deal saving Salt Lake Tribune

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 1, 2014 at 4:27 pm •  Published: July 1, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Executives of Salt Lake City's two daily newspapers say in new court filings that changes to terms of a joint operating agreement between The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News aren't intended to put the Tribune out of business.

The agreement is designed to save the paper, not lead to its demise, John Paton, CEO of Tribune owner Digital First Media, wrote in response to a lawsuit filed last month by a group of former Tribune employees. They argue the deal's terms violate federal antitrust laws and undermine the newspaper's role as an independent voice.

"There are no plans to cease publication of the Tribune today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or ever," Paton said in filings Monday.

The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the changes made in October to the six-decade-old agreement, and the newspapers' parent companies say they are cooperating with federal officials, though the investigation and lawsuit are delaying talks with possible Tribune buyers.

Deseret News CEO Clark Gilbert said going back to the old terms of the deal would not be "commercially practicable nor reasonably possible." The new agreement preserves both newspapers and was entered into in good faith, he said.

It shouldn't be scrapped because of groups "who do not understand the financial and managerial challenges of print and digital publishing in today's Salt Lake City environment," Gilbert wrote.

The group bringing the lawsuit, Utah Newspaper Project, argued that the revised agreement 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.

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