obert Maynard, editor and publisher of the consolidated Oakland Tribune and East Bay Today, says he is involved in "brisk negotiations" to form a group to acquire the newspapers from the Gannett Co.

Last week, Gannett announced it would sell the papers as part of a package deal that included acquisition of San Francisco television station KROM, an NBC affiliate. Federal law prohibits a company that owns a newspaper from buying a TV station in the same market.

Interviewed here, Maynard said that Gannett President Allen H. Neuharth had promised to give his group a "head start" before the papers go on the open market. "Neuharth called me and said Gannett would do everything it could to help," said 45-year-old Maynard.

Maynard said he hadn't discussed getting financing from Gannett. He said there was "no way to tell yet" how much it would cost to acquire the newspapers.

Gannett's announcement came on the eve of a major reorganization by the Oakland papers. Starting this week, the 108-year-old Tribune, an afternoon daily, is being phased out. Surviving will be the three-year-old morning paper, East Bay Today.

Gannett acquired the Tribune in 1979 when Gannett merged with Combined Communications, which had owned the paper for two years.

Maynard, a former Washington Post reporter, editor and ombudsman, said the total circulation of the Oakland papers had risen from 150,000 in 1979 to 200,000. The competitive bay-area newspaper market includes 16 dailies, he said, and he claimed that the Oakland papers' circulation gains have included readers in the San Francisco market.

Maynard bristles when the Oakland papers are labeled "ailing," saying that Gannett understood it wouldn't get a quick return on its investment