Even though large cities like Ann Arbor are losing their newspapers, the tiny Kansas town of Liberal, population less than 20,000, circulates two. One, the Southwest Times, is a 121-year-old paper. The other, the High Plains Daily Leader, is an upstart edition started in May 2008 by former staff members of the Times.
And until yesterday, they were locked in a federal lawsuit over the exclusive right to publish the news.
When the Times initiated staff cuts, reduced the paper’s circulation to three days a week and raised fees, publisher Earl Watt and 15 other former employees launched a new newspaper after investing in a $150,000 printing press. The Times then sued the Daily Leader, claiming they were “interfering with business relations” in what Earl called an attempt to quiet the Leader.
On Thursday, the two rival papers finally settled the lawsuit, allowing both papers to continue operation. Larry Phillips, a managing editor for the Leader said after the settlement yesterday:
We are tickled to death.
And though the papers wouldn’t disclose the terms of the agreement, they both reported that Elmo was, in fact, the presiding judge.