Magazine article Editor & Publisher

It Might Get Grungy in Seattle

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

It Might Get Grungy in Seattle

Article excerpt

RIP for the JOA?

As The Seattle Times ponders whether to seek an end to its joint operating agreement (JOA) with the rival Seattle Post-Intelligencer -- and possibly leave the city with only one daily newspaper -- those close to the situation are gearing up for what could be a messy divorce.

Although Times CEO and Publisher Frank A. Blethen and executives at the Hearst Corp., parent of the P-I, remain mum on what may happen if the Times seeks to invoke a provision in the 19-year-old JOA to end the agreement prematurely, initial opposition from Hearst indicates a tough fight is expected.

"Hearst is not going to be chased out of Seattle," said one Hearst source who requested anonymity. "I think there could be a prolonged struggle if there is an effort to dissolve the JOA." Liz Brown, an administrative officer for the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild/CWA Local 37082, which represents 875 employees at the two papers, agreed. "I think opposition is going to come from the community," she told E&P. "Both of these employers may be surprised by that."

The Seattle JOA has sparked new interest since Times executives announced several weeks ago that the newspaper failed to make a profit in 2002, marking its third straight money-losing year. The JOA, set to end in 2083, stipulates that either side may seek to dissolve the agreement if its newspaper is profitless for three years.

Blethen, who has said in recent months that he would like to end the JOA, claimed he has not made a decision yet. …

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