For me, one of the coolest things as a tv news anchor was when a producer rushed into the studio with fresh wire-copy. Our teletype machine had warning sounds when there was a weather alert, or news alert. When something big happened on the national or state level, we’d all read the words as they were printed on the paper by The Associated Press.
Now some major newspapers are going to see if they even need the AP.
Next week The Chicago Tribune, LA Times and other news outlets are going to cover the news without using any content from the Associated Press. According to a story by the AP, 180 newspapers have threatened to drop the service.
Cost is obviously the biggest factor. Newspapers have relied on the AP for nearly all of the national and international stories included in each edition. TV stations subscribe too but the dependency on AP content is not what it used to be.
In the last 15 years or so, news departments where I have worked would not report certain national breaking news stories until The Associated Press ran the story. Gradually, instead of tv stations waiting to say “According to the Associated Press”, we started hearing “CNN is reporting….”. With social media and the up-to-the-second live pictures of breaking news, I imagine news departments looking to cut costs are wondering “do we really need the AP?”
The Associated Press has reduced the rates it charges for member newspapers in 2009 and 2010. At the same time, the AP sent warning that it would seek payment from any blogger using its material without permission.
Many working reporters aren’t old enough to remember another wire service that used to be as big, or at least as visible as the AP. UPI (United Press International) has been around 102 years now. It started to hurt when afternoon newspapers began disappearing.
One of the tv stations I worked for (WOWL-TV15) in Florence, Alabama didn’t have an AP ticker but used the less expensive UPI when I anchored there in 1989. But, the station manager banned the news department from using UPI material unless WE confirmed it on our own with local sources.
Had the governor been shot while I was there or any other big breaking news coming out of the capitol, we would have been the last to report it for sure. But he wanted us to focus on local news. Hyper-local news right down to the street crossings.
I believe the tv station dropped UPI in an effort to save money, getting those breaking news story tips instead from CNN.
Will newspapers and tv stations find out they do not need The Associated Press as much as they think they need it? I don’t doubt it.
I did learn of Michael Jackson’s death from AP but probably because I was looking at the AP wire at the time instead of CNN.
Right now I subscribe to the UPI twitter feed for all of its news. Associated Press offers limited tweets. Plus I get alerts from CNN, ESPN and the local channels right on my iPhone. Who has to wait?