Saturday, December 6, 2008

CNN - AP = X

So there's this. CNN is in the process of setting up a wire service to compete with AP and is currently courting newspapers to sign on.

Interesting on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that, for those papers that are successfully wooed, CNN would morph from competitor to partner. What's more, CNN would be a cheaper alternative to AP, which can cost midsize newspapers up to a million a year to receive everything that's on the AP wire.

In a piece in Saturday's SF Chronicle, Joe Garofoli suggests the fact that several newspapers attended a meet-and-greet in Atlanta this week to consider switching to CNN's service once it is up and running is yet another sign of the deepening financial crisis that is hastening the death of newspaper journalism across the country.

(According to Editor and Publisher, Fitch ratings, a Chicago based credit-rating firm, reports that several cities could have no daily newspaper by 2010.)

From Garofoli's piece:

While the Atlanta gathering was largely a low-key, get-to-know-you affair according to some who attended, it illustrates how dwindling revenues - and shrinking staffs - are forcing many newspapers to forget longtime allegiances and competitors as they confront their own limits.

"Readers should be concerned about the deterioration of the American newspaper," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Most of what they read - be it on blogs or aggregators or elsewhere - comes from newspaper or newspaper wire services.

"There is no way that citizen media, online media or TV can compensate for those losses. If the number of reporters continues to shrink, it would add to the lengthening shadow that falls over American culture," he said. "What is not covered is not known."

Like AP, CNN's service will offer wire access to national and international reports, something fewer and fewer newspapers can sport on their own. And because CNN's service will cost less than AP's, the switch might free up more resources for local reporting.

But there's also this: As more and more dailies give up reporting outside their city limits, you have to wonder if those folks who don't have the time to troll the web each day for alternate, and sometimes obscure, sources of information will be left with the sights from a single watchdog when it comes to national and international affairs. Scary stuff, especially if Fido gets it wrong. bk

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