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Deseret News responds to AG's inquiry in newspaper partnership

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) -- The Utah Attorney General's Office confirmed today that it will investigate the renegotiated operating agreement between Utah's top newspapers The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) -- The Deseret News has responded to a recent report that the Utah Attorney General's Office will investigate the renegotiated operating agreement between Utah's top newspapers The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News.

On Saturday, Attorney General Sean Reyes said state investigators from the office's Markets and Financial Fraud Division will look at "areas of concern" outside or concurrent to the U.S. Department of Justice's current investigation into whether the Joint Operating Agreement between the two papers violates federal anti-trust laws.

"I believe in the value of diverse editorial viewpoints and independent news-gathering for an informed citizentry, and I asked our antitrust lawyers to investigate the circumstances surrounding the change to the Joint Operating Agreement."

In September, the Tribune's owner Alden Global Capital and the Deseret News renegotiated a long-standing profit sharing agreement between the two papers that gave the News a 70 percent share of print-based advertising revenue, cutting the Tribune's majority share of 58 percent to 30 percent. The News reportedly paid an undisclosed amount of cash to the Tribune's owners in exchange for the new deal.

Former Tribune staffers who formed the group known as the Utah Newspaper Project have claimed that the new agreement will cause the paper to lose money, and they have filed a federal lawsuit asking the Justice Department to halt the agreement. The Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 gives the federal government the power to review and approve joint operating agreements between newspapers that share the same coverage area.

In response to Saturday's statement, Deseret News Editor Paul Edwards said the newspaper has not been contacted by the Attorney General's Office.

"It is unfortunate that so much misinformation and hyperbole have been shared about the amended joint operating agreement between the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune," Edwards said in a statement. "We are confident that as the attorney general examines the facts more closely, he will recognize that all parties entered into this agreement in good faith. The new agreement preserves our commitment to multiple editorial voices and expands protections for both papers."
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