Las Vegas CBS KXNT — The valley’s two newspapers clashed in federal court on Friday over the joint operating agreement that requires one to subsidize the other.

Judge James Mahan said he won’t stop Review Journal publisher Stephens Media from trying to untie the cord that binds it to the Las Vegas Sun. Under the JOA, the Review Journal prints and distributes the Sun, and shares advertising revenue.

A proposal to buy out the JOA from the Sun’s owners prompted the legal action from the family member who serves as the paper’s publisher. Brian Greenspun went to court with anti-trust accusations and an injunction request, although his family wants to accept the offer from Stephens.

The court ruled that Greenspun’s challenge is premature, since no contract is in place yet; and that anti-trust principles don’t apply to a deal that’s not yet formalized.

Greenspun says Las Vegas needs the Sun. His case cites the federal Newspaper Protection Act, a decades-old law designed to preserve editorial diversity in markets where more than one newspaper exist, and one of them is financially distressed.

Lawyers for the Review Journal say the news business is shifting to the internet, and there’s nothing to prevent the Sun from continuing to publish there. But Greenspun waved off that suggestion, saying it won’t be financially feasible.

Greenspun said outside the courtroom that there are no profitable newspaper websites in the nation (with the possible exception of the New York Times).

Greenspun vowed to keep fighting, returning to court if a contract materializes, or to appeal the Friday ruling.

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