NEW YORK -- Two rival publishers are battling beak-and-talon for the right to revive the vaunted Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, and the feathers are flying.
In one corner Brooklyn native Ed Weintrob, a scrappy newspaperman obsessed with reviving the paper he revered as a newsboy. In the other Dozier Hasty, a smooth, Atlanta-born publisher of several free weeklies.
At stake is the trademark name of a newspaper legend that has lain dormant for more than three decades.
The original Eagle was a New York City daily founded in 1841. Its first editor was Walt Whitman and by the Civil War it was the nation's most widely read afternoon paper, according to The Encyclopedia of New York City.
It won four Pulitzer Prizes before its demise in 1955. Two revivals in the 1960s were short-lived.
Then, on Aug. 21, Mr. Hasty's daily Brooklyn Eagle hit downtown. Two days later, Mr. Weintrob's weekly came out with an editorial headline that trumpeted, "The Eagle Lands in Brooklyn, NY."
"Names are cheap," the editorial said. "It is the reputation associated with a name that earns it respect."
In this case, the name is proving very expensive. Lawyers' fees are piling up as both sides claim rights to the Eagle trademark in the borough's U.S. District Court.
Mr. Weintrob began soliciting ads and staff in 1995 and registered for the Brooklyn Eagle trademark in March, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said the judge must decide whether Mr. Hasty's prior use outweighs his claim.
Both papers claim a circulation of 4,000 to 6,000 and are distributed free for now in neighborhood establishments.
Mr. Weintrob, 46, with his wool cap and chipmunk-like intensity, and his enthusiastic wife, Celia, 33, are reminiscent of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in "Let's put on a show" mode. Their young tabloid, now a daily using the 1950s Eagle logo, has solid reporting but is 16 pages thin, reflecting its bare-bones staff and low funds.
Mr. Weintrob has been obsessed with the Eagle since 1962, when he signed up to be a delivery boy during its last attempted reincarnation, only to see the paper fold.
A student journalist in high school and college, he started the Brooklyn Paper, an advertising-supported bi-weekly for office workers, in 1977. It grew into a chain of free weeklies for Brooklyn communities.
Mr. Hasty, 50, moved to Brooklyn in 1967 to teach science. He was "drawn to publishing in college," he said, and in 1971 bought a free newspaper in Brooklyn. Over the years he has expanded to a number of niche newspapers.
His editor is Frederick Halla, a retired teacher, anthropologist and literature buff who moved to Brooklyn in 1967.
Their version of the Eagle, a 12- to 14-page broadsheet, often uses content from other Hasty papers, or fills space with Mr. Halla's reminiscences or huge photos.
Mr. Weintrob says that's because there was no advance planning. "We believe Dozier was aware of our plans and wanted to beat us," he said.
Mr. Hasty said he gave his new daily the name out of principle.
"We feel that we have the stronger trademark," Mr. Hasty said, rejecting Mr. Weintrob's claim to the name.
"How anyone has the gall to say because he's been dreaming about it since he was a delivery boy it's his right ... ," he wondered.
But for Mr. Weintrob, it's personal.
"These are not people from Brooklyn. The meaning of the name to them is not what it is to me," he said. "They'll waste the heritage is what it amounts to!"
Photo by The Associated Press —
Celia Weintrob, publisher of Brooklyn Paper Publications, and her husband, Ed, the president of Brooklyn Paper Publications, pose next to a computer displaying their newspaper, the Brooklyn Eagle.