SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Mayor Willie Brown are asking the U.S. Justice Department to get community input as it considers antitrust issues raised by the sale of the San Francisco Chronicle.

City officials say the sale could deprive the city of newspaper competition.

The Hearst Corp. is trying to sell its newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, to a qualified buyer. If no buyer is found, the afternoon Examiner would be merged into the morning Chronicle.

In an Aug. 20 letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, Brown offered the city's help in finding potential reasons to block the sale.

``I offer the city's full cooperation and assistance in your department's investigation of the potential anti-competitive effects caused by the proposed merger,'' wrote Brown.

The Board of Supervisors asked the Justice Department to hold public hearings on the proposed sale.

Although Hearst promised not to lay off employees, the supervisors passed a resolution Monday asking the Justice Department to legally block any job cuts.

The Justice Department had no comment on the city officials' request. No public hearings are scheduled.

``I think they're basically asking the attorney general to do her job, and I have every confidence she will,'' Examiner Publisher Timothy White said.

The Justice Department can block a merger of the papers, which would end a government-approved joint operating agreement under which the Chronicle and Examiner share some business and production departments.