This is an archived article that was published on in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Lawyers for Salt Lake City's two daily newspapers won't get added leeway in keeping documents confidential in a lawsuit probing their business dealings, a magistrate has ruled.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells turned down a request from attorneys for The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News to go beyond a standard set of rules on what they give to a group suing to undo the papers' latest partnership deal.

Wells' ruling, issued Thursday, will affect how nearly half a million pages of internal documents will be handled as the newspapers and Citizens for Two Voices prepare for litigation, court papers say.

The exchange of documents, known as discovery, is usually covered by a standard protective order. But newspaper lawyers wanted to go further, so entire documents could be kept confidential if only part of them were deemed sensitive. They argued public disclosure of confidential business affairs threatened serious harm to their interests.

Attorneys for Citizens for Two Voices countered that the request put the duty of combing through documents for sensitive items on them, creating a crippling burden on their low-budget effort — and a disservice to the public.

"Usually it is the news media stepping forward to challenge excessive secrecy in governmental proceedings," said Joan O'Brien, the group's leader and a former Tribune staffer. "In this case, Utah's dominant news media organizations are the ones seeking excessive secrecy."

Richard Burbidge, lead attorney for The Tribune's parent company, did not respond to a request for comment.

Citizens for Two Voices, made up of former Tribune employees and community members, wants to overturn an October 2013 rewriting of how The Tribune and the LDS Church-owned News run their joint operations. Those changes — including a halving of The Tribune's share of joint profits in favor of the News — threaten The Tribune's future, the group says.

It was unclear if newspaper attorneys would ask presiding U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups to review the ruling.

Twitter: @Tony_Semerad