The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

The news out of Seattle looks bad in terms of newspaper options. The Seattle Times is getting ready to dissolve the joint operating agreement it shares with its junior partner, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Killing off the JOA pretty much means the Post-Intelligencer will get shut down, as it's not selling enough copies to account for the added expenses it would incur by not sharing resources with the Times.

Joint operating agreements are odd ducks. They were devised about 25 years ago as transitionary vehicles in the newspaper industry, at a time when most U.S. cities were seeing their dailies folding up left and right (New York City, which today has three major dailies, once had as many as 12 scrapping it out in the five boroughs). JOAs were seen as the best of all possible worlds: For the media companies, it saved them from facing anti-trust and regulatory headaches while saving some costs; for the public, it was a way of having some diversity in the media landscape (allegedly). I don't think anyone expected the half-measure that JOAs represented to last this long; it certainly seems like their days are numbered.