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Goddard drops anti-trust case, saying it won't save Citizen

Attorney General Terry Goddard on May 26 stopped pursuing a federal lawsuit to stop the closure of the Tucson Citizen, the state's oldest continuously published newspaper.

Goddard challenged the newspaper's closing in legal briefs filed on May 15, arguing that an agreement between Gannett, owner of the Citizen, and Lee Enterprises, publisher of the Arizona Daily Star, violated anti-trust laws.

The two publishers agreed in January to shut down the Citizen and to split the future profits of the Daily Star, which would emerge as the southern Arizona city's only daily newspaper.

That pact violated federal anti-trust laws by reducing the content and quality of news available to the general public, Goddard argued. It also would increase the price of advertising and subscriptions, he argued.

On May 19, U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins rejected a plea from Goddard to halt the shutdown of the Citizen while the merits of the lawsuit were decided in court, finding the attorney general did not show he had a strong likelihood that he could prevail on the merits of his case.

Collins noted the Citizen was shut down only after the U.S. Department of Justice conducted a seven-month investigation while Gannett shopped for potential buyers, and that no evidence suggested there were any "fair and reasonable" bids for the value of the newspaper's assets.

Goddard spokeswoman Anne Hilby said the decision to drop the lawsuit was made after it was determined that the legal challenge would not rescue the paper.

"At this point, it was highly unlikely that any outcome of the litigation could lead to the reopening of the Tucson Citizen, elimination of anti-competitive activity or a reestablishment of competitive voices in the Tucson newspaper market," Hilby noted in a prepared statement.

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