Who didn’t see this coming?
According to a front page editorial in the Las Vegas newspaper, the paper has filed litigation seeking to terminate the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) under which the Las Vegas Sun is printed as a separate 6- to 10-page section in the morning newspaper.
The editorial says the contract — which when first signed in 1989 had the Sun printed by the Review-Journal as an afternoon newspaper but was revised in 2005 to make the Sun an insert — obligates the two newspapers to “preserve the high standards of newspaper quality … consistent with United States metropolitan daily newspapers.” Instead, the editorial correctly describes the Sun’s print edition as a “stale combination of dated wire service stories and columns packaged around a couple of staff reports and photos that are sometimes a week old.”
The current JOA doesn’t expire for 20 years.
The problem is not so much quality as cost. Newsprint is not cheap and recent tariffs have made it more costly.
Back in 2013 the Sun’s putative editor Brian Greenspun filed an affidavit in court saying that in 2008, when the recession hit, the Sun’s share of profits from the R-J fell 90 percent to a meager $1.3 million a year.
In January 2018 Greenspun posted an online note telling readers they would start being charged for website usage because profits from the R-J had dried up. “The current management of the Review-Journal plunged the newspaper into a loss immediately after purchasing the newspaper in 2015. To date, the Review-Journal’s management continues to run a money-losing newspaper,” he wrote.
The R-J editorial accuses the Sun of neglecting its responsibility to produce a quality newspaper section. The Sun has been phoning it in for years.
The Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 reads in part:
In the public interest of maintaining a newspaper press editorially and reportorially independent and competitive in all parts of the United States, it is hereby declared to be the public policy of the United States to preserve the publication of newspapers in any city, community, or metropolitan area where a joint operating arrangement has been heretofore entered into because of economic distress or is hereafter effected in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
One question though: Where is the news story about the litigation?