This will be an interesting week for Chicago Tribune readers — the paper will run next-to-no Associated Press content. The “experiment” began Sunday.
Cost-cutting newspapers began turning their fire on AP in 2008. They complained that the wire service was too expensive, especially as papers were shrinking to focus on “unique” local news rather than national/international coverage available on thousands of web sites. AP received 180 cancellation notices, even though the wire service is jointly owned by the papers themselves.
One of the biggest potential quitters: the Star Tribune, which gave notice in summer ’08. Because AP has an oppressive two-year notice requirement, the Strib can’t pull the plug on what is probably a seven-figure expense until next summer.
But are they still planning to? Since the exit notices flooded in, AP has revised rates, and announced last week that 50 of the 180 papers have rescinded their cancellations. The wire service did not name most of the papers; a partial list included the big-city New York Daily News.
As it turns out, the Strib remains on the “going, going …” list, according to spokesman Ben Taylor. “We haven’t decided on AP; evaluating our options right now,” he says.
On some level, this makes sense. The Strib has a brand-new board of directors who haven’t hired a publisher; leaving a wire service that plumps out the paper, and often fills local holes, would be the new operating chief’s call, and there’s still more than six months to make it.
Still, I’m betting the Strib won’t bust a move. Why? Aside from the potential logistics, there’s something almost as important: relationships. One of paper’s four new board members, GateHouse Media CEO Michael E. Reed, is also on AP’s board. Of course, Reed has a fiduciary duty to the Strib, and may not participate should the matter come up. But if I’m an APer, I’m thinking this doesn’t hurt my chances.