The disappearing AP bureaus
Two weeks after the Associated Press (AP) began the process of paring its editorial staff worldwide, the newsprint has settled. Several AP bureaus have seen their doors shut for good, while remaining editors and reporters face expanded coverage areas.
Correspondents in Roanoke, Va., Grand Rapids, Mich., Dayton, Ohio, and Jacksonville, Fla., were all axed in the layoffs, effectively eliminating each of the single-correspondent bureaus. The AP’s Berkeley correspondent was also let go, and the already-vacant Mobile, Ala. correspondent position eliminated.
It remains unclear how reporting coverage will be orchestrated in the regions formerly served by the shuttered bureaus. The phone number for the Jacksonville, Fla. office now rings in Miami, and a staffer there offered that “someone from Savannah” may be covering Jacksonville in the future. A recent article on Sarah Palin’s book tour in Grand Rapids, Mich., featured the byline of AP’s Lansing, Mich. correspondent.
Picking up the slack in Roanoke are reporters from other bureaus. In an article detailing the reorganization of news coverage in the Virginias, the AP stated it will “continue to cover news in that region using our members and reporters based in Charleston and Richmond.” In addition, there have been recent revisions to the organization’s news reporting structure. West Virginia news editor Brian Farkas added Virginia to his duties, a move that consolidates news editing and oversight duties for the two states. Five other AP news editors have also been given multi-state oversight assignments as well.
According to the News Media Guild, which represents AP employees, 71 guild members lost their jobs last week. Additionally, editorial staff members working overseas and U.S.-based managers were also let go when the AP laid off 90 newsroom workers as part of a bid to cut annual payroll costs by 10 percent. The layoffs represent a personnel cut of 2 percent at the not-for-profit newswire service.
The AP’s commitment to use their reduced workforce to cover the same geographic areas as before may prove too ambitious. While future news articles on Dayton and Grand Rapids will undoubtedly adhere to the AP’s stringent standards, one cannot help but wonder if someone from Savannah will provide the level of insight into Jacksonville’s news as someone from Jacksonville.
With national publications like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post also closing bureaus across the country, industry insiders have speculated on how the news reporting landscape will continue to evolve. Portfolio’s Matt Haber said in a blog post, “Who will cover national stories – and international ones – when bureaus disappear is no longer as simple as saying ‘Get me wire!’” Haber posits that national publications may come to rely on nonprofit news organizations for local news coverage, but warns that, “In place of news-breaking bureaus, papers like the Post might just be getting community bulletin boards.”
Perhaps a testament to the widespread importance of community bulletin boards and the new interactive nature of news, online news and gossip site Gawker was the go-to site for coverage of the layoffs, posting dozens of tips from across the news reporting world. And the AP’s New York office looks to fill several technology-slanted editorial positions.
— Marissa Maybee
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