CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal judge has refused to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit against the owners of Charleston's two daily newspapers, saying that he needs to hear more from both sides in the dispute.

U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr.'s ruling stems from the Daily Gazette Co.'s and Denver-based MediaNews Group's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ's lawsuit claims that the May 2004 purchase of the MediaNews-owned Charleston Daily Mail by the Daily Gazette Co. for $55 million violated antitrust laws. The Daily Gazette Co. owns the city's morning newspaper, The Charleston Gazette. MediaNews also owns The Salt Lake Tribune.

The lawsuit claimed the Daily Gazette Co. purchased the afternoon newspaper with the intent to close it. Both newspapers had been operating under a joint operating agreement since 1958, and Under the terms of the sale, MediaNews would be paid a set fee to operate the Daily Mail In seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, both companies argued it harmed First Amendment principles and that the sale was protected by the Newspaper Preservation Act and exemptions to antitrust laws.

Copenhaver rejected those arguments in a 30-page ruling issued Thursday.

"The importance of a fully developed record is also particularly significant here in view of the distinctive media combination involved," Copenhaver wrote.

Daily Gazette President Elizabeth E. Chilton said Friday that the company appreciated Copenhaver's "careful consideration" of the case.

"The Daily Gazette Co. expects to prevail based on the factual record the judge said should be developed prior to a final decision," Chilton said in a prepared statement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Barnett said the DOJ is pleased with Copenhaver's decision.

"The Antitrust Division's lawsuit seeks to protect consumers, remedy the competitive damaged already done in Charleston, and ensure that the long-standing competition between The Charleston Gazette and the Daily Mail is restored," Barnett said in a statement released Friday.