“The rationale for the Newspaper Preservation Act was maintaining two distinct editorial voices,” with the idea that was a public benefit, said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a journalism training center in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Over the years there have been 28 joint operating agreements around the country, but now, according to the Newspaper Association of America, there are fewer than 10.
“J.O.A.’s have not worked very well,” Mr. Edmonds said. “I think one of the things that often goes wrong on a J.O.A. is when there is a stronger paper and a weaker paper, you usually get to the point where the stronger paper is not supporting the weaker paper in terms of circulation and advertising.”
Working together on the business side would present a stark cultural shift for the papers’ news staffs, each accustomed to seeing the other side as the enemy. Rumors that the two rivals might be in business together have already set off whispering in the Post newsroom and cocktail chatter in Mr. Zuckerman’s and Mr. Murdoch’s media mogul circles — it was one point of gossip during the recent Allen & Company conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Their rivalry goes beyond competing for scoops and the best photographs of New York City’s crime scenes.
Each paper gleefully, and often, reports with verve about the other’s internal gossip and the foibles of its prominent owner. The Post refers to its rival in print as the “Daily Snooze,” and in 2004 it published a nearly 4,000-word article that accused The Daily News of inflating its circulation figures. (The Daily News later accused The Post of dumping thousands of papers at recycling facilities in Brooklyn.)
In 2006, when a contributor to The Post’s Page Six gossip column was accused of trying to use extortion against the investor Ronald W. Burkle, The Daily News named the scandal “Page Sick” and “Page Fix.”
On the circulation front, The Post briefly zoomed ahead of The Daily News in 2006, in part because The Post cut its newsstand price to 25 cents. When The Post surpassed its rival, its front page blared, “Post Makes History: Beats News.” (The Post recently raised its price to 50 cents on weekdays.)
The most recent circulation figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, released in April, show the papers roughly equal on weekdays: The Daily News comes in at 703,137, while The Post is at 702,488. On Sunday The Daily News has a substantial lead: 704,157 compared with 401,315 for The Post.