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Why watch “American Idol” tonight? As an alternative, I recommend that you download the lawsuit filed by MediaNews Group against Par Ridder, the former publisher of St. Paul’s Pioneer Press, and son of Tony Ridder, who bolted across the river to become publisher of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

The way the lawsuit characterizes it, Ridder’s actions in abandoning the newspaper that had been controlled by his family for 75 years are right out of J.R. Ewing in Dallas, or somebody like that. “Despite having signed an agreement not to work for a Pioneer Press competitor, despite having agreed not to use the Pioneer Press’ confidential information for his own or The Star Tribune’s advantage, and despite having pledged not to take Pioneer Press employees with him, Ridder did all those things,” says the lawsuit.

The newspaper’s Internet strategy hardly figures in the lawsuit. It doesn’t seem to matter at all. That’s interesting, in a sad way. But it is noted, in some detail, how Ridder sat in on confidential MediaNews meetings as the company set its strategic move into targeted publishing (interesting!) while having already composed a resignation letter.

It also accuses Ridder of having stolen Pioneer Press budgets, company P&L data and advertiser lists, and even his own non-compete agreement  along with the non-competes of three executives’ who accompanied him to The Tribune. The lawsuit contends that the most damaging file, however, was that of the Pioneer Press’ small advertisers, because the advertisers are “less known to the Star Tribune and are a key growth area for the Pioneer Press.”

It is possible, of course, that the details in the lawsuit are hyped up, untrue or both. These things happen. But what a story.

Thanks to onetime Minnesotan Ken Doctor for the link, and to Brian Lambert for providing the PDF.

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