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Judge Refuses to Let Detroit Papers Merge

December 30, 1987|United Press International

DETROIT — Executives of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press were told today that an administrative law judge has recommended against allowing the newspapers to form a joint operating agreement.

The final decision is now up to Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III. The newspapers will have 45 days to file their objections to the recommendation by the administrative law judge, Morton Needelman.

Detroit's two daily newspapers, citing millions of dollars in losses, asked the Justice Department for approval to form a joint operating agreement in April, 1986. Under such an agreement, the newspapers would combine their advertising and business operations while continuing to maintain separate news staffs.

Criteria Not Met

Needelman said the newspapers failed to meet the criteria necessary for a merger under the 1970 federal Newspaper Preservation Act. Newspaper staffers were informed of his recommendation at a meeting early this afternoon.

Neal Shine, senior managing editor of the Free Press, which was listed as a "failing newspaper" in the application, said the newspaper was disappointed by the recommendation.

"But we also understand it's certainly not the end of the scenario," Shine said. "There's one more step to be played out, and that's the attorney general of the United States."

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