In an Examiner exclusive, it has been revealed that a lawsuit was filed on December 30 in Oakland County Circuit Court by the former Detroit Daily Press newspaper publishers, Mark and Gary Stern, against five DDP distributors who are alleged to have worked against the paper behind the scenes, causing it to fail.
The distributors, claims the suit, were closely aligned with DDP competition, and never actually left their jobs with the Detroit Media Partnership, which manages the shared joint business functions of main city newspapers, The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News. CrainsDetroit.com identifies that shared business function “over the years” as Detroit newspaper owners, Gannett Co. Inc., MediaNews Inc. and Knight-Ridder Inc.
The suit names distributors James (Jim) Lingemann, Jean Ketterer, and Howard Lyons, as well as several sub-distributor associates. A 2009 CrainsDetroit.com article by Bill Shea identifies Lingemann as circulation director and a 31-year employee of the partnership.
“Our legal action will show that our distributors intentionally set out to make sure the Detroit Daily Press went out of business,” said Mark Stern by phone on Friday. “We had the right ideas and business plan, and the best business model. We didn’t do anything wrong; there were just forces against us.”
Mark Stern, 65 and currently a Florida resident, says that the nine-count suit will reveal the details of why the Royal Oak-based Detroit Daily Press suspended operations during the Thanksgiving weekend of 2009. The Sterns placed the newspaper on suspension until early January of 2010, when they had hoped to resume operations beyond its 5-issue publication that ended abruptly on Friday, November 27.
But, as January came and went, hopes dimmed for both employees and management, as well as the public, who had optimistically embraced the idea of a daily newspaper delivery in the metro-Detroit area.
When the initial suspension occurred, assorted reporters covering stories were not present for the publishers’ newsroom announcement and were shocked by the news. Numerous seasoned journalists and photographers had left out-of-state jobs to come to the DDP or had signed on after having worked with various newspapers across the state.
Mark Stern returned from Ft. Lauderdale and his brother, Gary, from Atlanta to manage operations at the Royal Oak offices at 210 E. Third Street.
Many were optimistic that it would survive, given the 3-day a week Free Press and News home-delivery subscriptions that began the previous March. Readers had been told they could “follow the news online” the rest of the time, which left substantial members of the public angry and resentful that they were treated so cavalierly by what many consider a monopoly in newspaper coverage as it is.
DDP leadership and employees had also hoped to capitalize on that public anger that the “only games in town” so blatantly refused to accommodate the public’s print news needs. To date, the DDP Facebook page still lists 976 friends.
“I have been bombarded by emails, then phone calls, from the general public, begging us to come back,” said Mark Stern. “They still want to see the DDP succeed in the Detroit area.”
Ironically, in yet another example of precision timing, the Free Press now offers its daily dollar newspaper, which debuted soon after the DDP’s permanent suspension. Although not offered as part of the daily subscription plan, the daily paper can be found at assorted retailers and newspaper boxes throughout the metro-Detroit area.
Native Detroiters, the Sterns had previously published daily newspapers when operations of regular area papers were interrupted by strikes in Detroit during 1964 and 1967, New York in 1978 and Minneapolis in 1980.
Referring to the past 13 to 14 months as a “miserable time,” Stern says “we need this paper here.”
The attorney retained by the Sterns is Bill Dobreff. Lingemann could not be reached for comment.
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