Court petition seeks to stop removal of papers from racks

TUSCUMBIA, Mo. — The Lake Today has filed a petition in Miller County Circuit Court against Gatehouse Media Missouri, the parent company of the Lake Sun Leader, for removing stacks of The Lake Today papers from distribution racks.

The petition was filed Tuesday by Central Missouri Newspapers Inc., which owns The Lake Today, as well as the Jefferson City News Tribune, Fulton Sun and California Democrat.

The petition, filed in Miller County Circuit Court in Tuscumbia, names GateHouse Media Missouri doing business as Lake Media as the defendant.

It seeks an injunction barring Gatehouse Media and its employees from continued removal of The Lake Today newspapers.

A private investigator hired by Central Missouri Newspapers saw a Gatehouse Media employee entering a store and removing The Lake Today newspapers. This has occurred several times since May, the petition says.

After being called by the private investigator who witnessed the incident the week before, Lake Ozark Police Department officer Bill Edburg began investigating. On the morning of June 22, Edburg waited outside an Osage Beach grocery store until he saw the suspect leave the grocery store with Lake Today newspapers, which he placed in a Lake Media van. He questioned the man, Lake Media employee Robert L. Moore, 43, who said he “had nothing to do with this, I’m just doing as I was told.”

Moore admitted to removing and throwing away The Lake Today papers, but said that he was asked to do so by another Lake Media employee, who said she had done the same thing. Moore said he previously told his boss that Lake Sun Leader employees shouldn’t be taking competitors’ papers.

No charges have been filed against Moore.

The Lake Today started its newspaper in November 2008, bringing weekly news and sports coverage to the Lake Area. The Lake Sun Leader is a daily paper that covers the Lake Area.

The Lake Today distributes an average of 12,000 newspapers per week, nearly a third of which are distributed in racks throughout area businesses.

The problem with the disappearance of The Lake Today papers isn’t new. While The Lake Today owns many racks, it also had sought and received approval to place its papers on racks in businesses such as the grocery store where the suspect was questioned.

Central Missouri Newspaper officials say they began noticing a pattern of The Lake Today newspapers being removed and Lake Media products being placed in the same spots where The Lake Today had been.

Mike Vivion, general manager of Central Missouri Newspapers, said the problem started escalating in recent weeks when The Lake Today started limiting home deliveries to households that requested the paper.

More than 7,800 households have asked to receive the free paper.

“Often our papers are gone, and our competitors’ papers are in the spots where we had put our Lake Today newspapers,” Vivion said. Because of that, he said, “We suspected Lake Media was behind the removal.”

“As a result, two Lake Today employees visited the publisher of Lake Media, requesting the practice to stop,” Vivion said. “Since the situation did not improve, we decided to hire a private investigator. Removal of rack newspapers causes less readership, resulting in less response for our advertisers. We had no choice but to pursue this issue on behalf of our advertisers.”

Central Missouri Newspapers is owned by Wehco Media, a family-owned company based in Arkansas.

GateHouse Media is a New York-based newspaper chain that formed in 2006.

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