Friday, December 5, 2008

1970 newspaper preservation law has shown mixed results

E.W. Scripps Co.'s decision to put the Rocky Mountain News up for sale underscores that a 1970s federal law to "preserve" newspapers' survival hasn't always succeeded.

For nearly eight years, the Rocky has been operating under a joint business agreement with The Denver Post, thanks to a deal born under the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970.

The U.S. Justice Department approved the so-called Joint Operating Agreement, or JOA, in January 2001.

The Rocky's future is uncertain, experts agreed. They added that it ultimately may be closed if no buyer is found, enabling Scripps to exit the JOA.

"It just shows you the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 does not preserve newspapers," said Mark Fitzgerald, editor at large for Editor & Publisher magazine. "If they're going to go, they're going to go."

Twenty-seven JOAs have been created over time. Sixteen have collapsed since 1970 - usually resulting in the closure of one of the papers, according to Fitzgerald.

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