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Newspaper execs treading carefully on antitrust laws

The Newspaper Association of America just confirmed to me that it organized a meeting of top newspaper executives in Chicago today “to discuss how best to support and preserve the traditions of newsgathering that will serve the American public.” That’s from a carefully worded statement by NAA president John F. Sturm, who also noted that “antitrust counsel” was present at the meeting. He said participants “listened” and “shared” but clearly intended to preclude the possibility that they collaborated in any way.

Why so cautious? Well, surely the executives discussed ways to charge for content online, but they can’t appear to be coordinating a move to erect pay walls around their sites. That’s illegal. The industry would like an antitrust exemption, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports the idea, but the Obama administration is opposed.

Today’s meeting was first reported by The Atlantic’s James Warren. The NAA wouldn’t initially confirm its involvement when I asked this afternoon. Sturm’s full statement is after the jump.

Newspaper industry executives met in Chicago today under the auspices of the Newspaper Association of America to discuss how best to support and preserve the traditions of newsgathering that will serve the American public.

Following hearings in committees of both the House and Senate, the group discussed business topics such as protection of intellectual property rights and approaches to the Congress and Administration to address these and other issues.

With antitrust counsel present, the group listened to executives from companies representing various new models for obtaining value from newspaper content online. The participants also shared success stories in driving new revenue to their newspapers products.

UPDATE, 6:26 p.m.: The AP reports, “Thursday’s meeting was called ‘Models to Lawfully Monetize Content,’ according to an agenda obtained by The Associated Press.”

                                   
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