The Chronicle attempted to set the record straight this morning on whether its parent company, Hearst Corp., and future Mercury News owner Media News will cooperate with one another in the Bay Area, or fight as “enemies.” The answer, according to a story by Carolyn Said, is that they will cooperate when it is legal to do so — such as possibly combining their circulation work force — but will compete when it comes to scooping one another with news.

Sounds like we’re back to the days of the Examiner-Chronicle JOA (Joint Operating Agreement), when one company ran the business, production and sales operations of the two papers but they each had separate, competitive newsrooms. This time around, Hearst and MediaNews will keep their sales operations separate. Like the JOA, which existed from 1965 to 1999, this arrangement requires the approval of antitrust regulators.

Said’s story appears to clarify the conflict created Thursday when the Chron and Merc came out with different explanations of how the relationship between the two companies would work, now that MediaNews is acquiring the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times thanks in part to an assist from the Hearst Corp. Hearst is buying two other Knight Ridder papers (the Monterey Herald and St. Paul Pioneer Press) and then giving those papers to MediaNews in return for stock in MediaNews’ operations outside the Bay Area. In Thursday’s Merc, MediaNews chairman Dean Singleton was quoted as saying he wanted the Merc and CCTimes to treat the Chronicle like an “enemy,” while the Chron said on its front page that the deal would usher in a new era of cooperation between the two companies. [Merc: In the clubby world of media companies, joint ventures between rivals are more common]

SF Press Club News

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