Two new alternative newspapers are about to be launched in New York and Cleveland. But here’s the kicker: Both are being launched by companies that don’t want to launch them.

New Times Media and Village Voice Media signed a consent decree last weekend with the U.S. Justice Department connected to their suspicious dealings in L.A. and Cleveland.

The government had accused them of trying to control markets by closing competing papers last fall. Under the decree, which carries no admission of guilt, the two entities will have to pay fines and help start new rival papers.

It is the right call, albeit surprising, given the generally lax stance on media consolidation by the Bushies.

After this about-face, what’s next for the weeklies, Feiffer cartoons being replaced by Family Circus?

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