It's a long-running (gallows humor) joke around here when we talk about the continuing job cuts at the Akron Beacon Journal, one of thousands of newspapers nationwide getting squeezed between the current financial crisis and the diminishing number of readers: "We hope they keep their Associated Press wire bill current."
As it turns out, a small, but growing number of newspapers are deciding to send the venerable AP wire packing.
The most recent to give the wire service the required two-year notice to leave the wire cooperative is right here in Ohio - the locally-owned Columbus Dispatch.
The New York Times reports that the AP membership costs the Dispatch around $800,000 a year. For the Dispatch, it's not just the wire's cost - which the mighty Tribune chain cited when it said last week it would drop AP at its big city newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.
The Dispatch and other papers aren't happy with AP on two fronts - saying, quoting the New York Times article:
(The newspapers are saying the AP) charges more than they can afford, delivers too little of what they need and — particularly galling to them — is sometimes acting as their competitor on the Internet.
“They seem to have forgotten that they are there to serve us,” said Benjamin J. Marrison, editor of The Dispatch.
Significantly for this report, the New York Times article confirms what we'd already guessed - eight Ohio newspapers are sending each other news stories, bypassing AP to get local news to each other around the state.
OMW has previously noted that all three newspapers in Northeast Ohio's largest cities - the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Akron Beacon Journal and Youngstown Vindicator -have published bylined stories from each others' papers in recent months. We're pretty sure the Dispatch is in that cooperative as well.
The Dispatch's Benjamin Marrison tells the Times that the Columbus paper, like others, has had to redeploy local resources to cover breaking news items traditionally made available via the AP wire (presumably regionally) - and then watches those items being rewritten and sent out by AP.
If they do indeed leave the Associated Press, the papers will probably turn to other wire services for national stories, like Reuters, or use wires provided by other newspaper groups. We're pretty sure the Beacon Journal, for example, is still signed up for the Knight-Ridder/Tribune wire, long after it stopped being owned by Knight-Ridder itself.
Of course, if those local papers continue to depend on each others' local newsrooms for news stories to share, let's hope there are enough reporters to cover the actual news.
No matter what, you'll still see Associated Press stories in the Dispatch, and on the paper's web site, for the next two years...since as noted, the wire service requires newspapers give a two-year notice to sever connections. And AP holds out the hope that the newspapers may just be making these notices as a negotiating tool, to lower the cost of the service...