Thursday, September 8, 2011

AP's uncertain future at the PR

In these tumultuous times in the newspaper business, some transitions happen seemingly overnight, while others take a little more time.

We’re about to embark on the latter. We think.

Nearly all of the national and world news you read in the Post Register comes from the Associated Press, a non-profit cooperative of member newspapers and the largest collection of fine journalists on the planet. Some AP articles originate with the association’s staff journalists, while many others come from member newspapers.

One of the jolting changes in the news business has been the availability of national and world news for free on the Internet and cable TV. Community newspapers like the Post Register, once the main sources of local, national and world news, have found that their role has changed. That change boils down to one word: local.

We are best in the world at providing news and advertising information about eastern Idaho. As a source for national and world news, we’re way down the list and dropping.

This focus on local shows itself on our front page, which is dominated nearly every day by local news generated by our reporters and photographers or from other newspapers in our region with whom we have a story-sharing agreement. News from the Associated Press is increasingly relegated to inside pages.

While the AP continues to be an impeccable source of journalism, we’re frustrated by its slow pace of change, particularly in how it charges for its services. With a little more than a year left on our current contract, we’re going to figure out whether we – and our readers – can live without the AP.

This doesn’t mean we’ll abandon national and world news and sports. There are other sources available to us, particularly the worldwide news company, Reuters. We’ll have to cobble together other sources for sports and some other types of information, but we think it can be done. We looked seriously at this option a couple of years ago and found that alternative sources to the AP were lacking. We think that has changed.

If we can do it, we’ll take the money we save and invest it in local newsgathering. That feels like a win-win deal to us.

 We’re also considering other changes, like moving all our local news content (except for sports, features and opinion) into the A section. Barring a major event outside our readership area, our front page would be entirely local every day, and the rest of the front section would contain local news.

We have a little more than a year to make a final decision, but we wanted you to know what we’re thinking. We’ll keep you posted.

        

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