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Is the AP looking frayed? More newspapers leaving

Is the AP looking frayed?

Is the AP looking frayed?

That sturdy quilt made by Grandma might be a little frayed at the edges, but it still keeps you warm. Yet even the best quilt unravels when its patchwork is pulled apart. It’s too early to conclude the Associated Press is unraveling, but more key media organizations in important sections of the country are exploring life with less AP.

This spring, five New York and New Jersey newspapers with a combined circulation of 1.3 million will begin sharing most of their news, sports, features and photographs. The newspapers are the New York Daily News, Buffalo News, The Times Union in Albany and, in New Jersey, Star Ledger in Newark and The Record in Hackensack. Similar agreements are now in place among competing groups of newspapers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas. Even the great Washington Post and Baltimore Sun now share stories.

For the most part, the content-sharing newspapers say it’s all about cost cutting during the recession; they don’t intend to spit in the AP’s face. But that may as well be the end result. With newspapers directly sharing each other’s stories, there will be less room for AP copy, and with less AP copy being printed, the need will wither away.

The world’s oldest news service didn’t help its cause when changed its pricing structure for 2009: to obtain AP stories other than breaking news, newspapers must now purchase a premium general news and analysis package.

The largest newspaper chain in the country announced late last year it was leaving the AP in 2010.  The Tribune Company owns 14 leading newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Baltimore Sun, Newsday and Orlando Sentinel. Some regional papers are doing the same, including The Star Tribune in Minneapolis; Bakersfield Californian; Post Register in Idaho Falls; Yakima Herald-Republic; and Wenatchee World.

Connect with the right desk in the AP, and it’s an excellent central point to pitch because their stories are sent everywhere. But if the AP greatly dwindles, that convenience could become a memory as quaint as the old AP wire machines clicking away in the background of newsrooms across the country.

–Michael Blankenheim

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