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Justice Department gives Denver Post approval for free publication

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Dec. 9--The Denver Post got the go-ahead Thursday from the Department of Justice to launch a free daily edition, but it's unlikely the publication will hit newsstands any time soon.

The department, in what's called a business-review letter, said The Post's interest in creating a free print edition would not violate federal antitrust laws.

Denver's MediaNews Group, which owns The Post, on April 29 quietly filed a request with the Department of Justice seeking clarification on the issue. It did so along with E.W. Scripps Co., the Cincinnati-based publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, and the Denver Newspaper Agency, which handles business operations for both papers.

The three companies wanted to ensure that the creation of a free Post would not violate the Newspaper Preservation Act, a four-decade-old law that grants limited antitrust immunity to newspapers, including The Post and the News, that operate under joint agreements to preserve newspaper competition.

Thursday's announcement put to rest those concerns.

"The creation of a new edition of The Denver Post likely will -- provide greater choice for both readers and advertisers in the Denver metropolitan area," Thomas Barnett, acting assistant attorney general for the antitrust division, said in the review letter.

A free edition of The Post is being considered, but no definitive plans have been made, said William Dean Singleton, vice chairman and chief executive of MediaNews, which owns 40 newspapers throughout the U.S.

"We wanted to get the ball rolling," he said.

Large newspapers in other markets -- including Dallas, Chicago and Washington, D.C. -- have successfully launched free daily publications.

But, unlike those papers, The Post operates under a joint operating agreement, so gaining a regulatory opinion was the first step, Singleton said.

John Temple, editor, president and publisher of the News, said his paper has no plans to launch a similar daily. However, he supported the possible free daily and said newspapers will increasingly "provide a whole range of publications for their audiences." Three weeks before the April filing, the Denver Newspaper Agency launched a community website project,, that is operated by the News.

Denver already has one free daily newspaper, the Denver Daily News, begun by Vail businessman Jim Pavelich.

Another Denver company, Clarity Media, owned by financier Philip Anschutz, publishes free daily newspapers in Baltimore, San Francisco and Washington. It has registered the "Examiner" trademark in many U.S. cities, including Denver.

The Post's proposed free edition would better attract young readers compared with the traditional Post, according to the filing.

"The world is changing," said Joseph Lodovic, MediaNews president. "We are exploring ways to reach more readers and advertisers." In the filing, the companies said, "Many potential younger readers between 18 and 34 resist purchasing paid distribution dailies because they are accustomed to getting their news free from the Internet and television."

By starting a free daily, The Post could leverage its existing reporters and editors to produce the new publication.

"I would expect (the new paper) would be handled in the current newsroom," Singleton said.

The Post's free edition would represent a strong competitor to established free publications, Denver Daily News founder Pavelich said.

"They are the big paper in town," Pavelich said. "It's a competitive market, so one more paper in the fray would be one more competitor." The Denver Daily News has a circulation of about 10,000. The Post reported daily circulation of 264,301 for the six-month period ended Sept. 30.


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Copyright (c) 2005, The Denver Post

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