Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Most records in antitrust case kept secret

An attempt by the Bay Guardian and a First Amendment advocacy group to unseal documents in Clint Reilly's antitrust suit against Hearst Corp. and MediaNews Group didn't get very far. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston (pictured) ruled today (Jan. 24) that she will keep sealed 17 of the 19 documents in question and will allow redacted versions of the two remaining documents to be released. Read the ruling.
    AP and the Guardian saw the ruling differently.

    AP's lead: "A media advocacy group and an alternative weekly newspaper on Wednesday failed to convince a judge to open key documents in a deal between the San Francisco Chronicle and the owner of about a dozen Bay Area daily newspapers."

    Guardian's lede: "In a victory for sunshine in the federal courts, a judge ruled Jan 24th that many of the documents in a groundbreaking lawsuit over media concentration in the Bay Area will be released to the public."

The motion by the Guardian and the Media Alliance to unseal the records forced MediaNews and Hearst into the unusual position of aruging for secrecy. Hearst and MediaNews have gone to court many times in the past and argued exactly the opposite -- that court records sought by reporters should be made public.

Judge Illston said that if the 17 documents were to be released, Hearst and MediaNews would be harmed:

"Revenue information and projections might allow competitors to anticipate and react to actions taken by defendants in the future," the judge wrote. "... Such information might also help the bargaining position of companies that negotiate with defendants in the future.

"Furthermore, the future projection information might expose defendants to liability to investors who rely on such projections, and might force defendants to make further disclosures to satisfy the reporting requirements of the SEC," Illston said.

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