The Justice Department Antitrust Division has recommended to Attorney General Griffin B. Bell that a hearing he held on an application for a joint newspaper operating arrangement between two daily newspapers in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Cincinnati Post, an afternoon paper, and the Cincinnati Enquirer, its morning rival, have sought the joint operating arrangement under the terms of the Newspaper Preservation Act, which provides a limited antitrust exemption with prior written consent of the attorney general. However, the attorney general must find that one of the publications is in probable danger of financial failure and that approval of the arrangement would preserve editorially and reportorially independent papers.

In a report to Bell, Assistant Attorney General John H. Shenefield suggested that the Cincinnati Post had failed to prove it is in danger of financial collapse. The paper's losses have decreased substantially since 1974, Shenefield's report suggests, and questions about the paper's actual operating results and the possibility of improvement in the future could not be determined from the application.

The hearing should explore whether the Post would collapse without approval of the proposed arrangement, the division report concluded. The division had the option of recommending either in favor or against a merger of urging that a hearing beheld.