AKRON (TDB) -- Editors at the state's seven largest newspapers have been pushing The Associated Press for speedier and more comprehensive statewide coverage. The editors also pressed the wire service for a rate schedule that doesn't sock them with excessive fees. And they've been perplexed -- Why is it that AP distributes Ohio news (often culled from an Ohio newspaper) to Google or Yahoo quicker than we can get it to our readers? The editors have seen how blogs grab their news from Google and Yahoo, redistributing it for free. Now, the state's seven biggest papers have agreed to create their own content-sharing program, which is scheduled for launch on Monday. Stories from Cleveland's Plain Dealer and Toledo's Blade should soon turn up in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Editor & Publisher, a journalism trade publication and Web site, broke the news about the content-sharing arrangement.
My own supposition is that this is more about the Web and getting news material online rather than in print. Newsholes are shrunken -- with fewer pages and smaller page sizes -- and space for large numbers of stories is not available in the ad-thin print newspapers of today. Meanwhile, staffs are smaller because of downsizing, buyouts and hiring freezes. So there are fewer reporters around Ohio producing news stories. The editors are trying to adjust by picking up content from other newsroom staffs to cover what they cannot get to. The editors also want readers to recognize that the work was produced by a journalist on the payroll of a newspaper. This is a sea change, because it signals an effort, at the highest levels, to downplay and partially bury journalism-rooted jealousies and rivalries in existence for generations, the ethos of the scoop. The Plain Dealer staff has always taken great joy in kicking the ass of the Columbus Dispatch on a big story, and vice versa. But soon Dispatch news will be appearing under The Plain Dealer nameplate. Unthinkable just a few years ago.
Akron Beacon Journal editor Bruce Winges noted in an internal staff memo that Cleveland and Canton content initially will not show up in Akron. The three newspapers are competitors in the NEO market. But stories from other corners of the state will be fully credited "with byline and dateline. The other papers will do the same with our content."
"I am sure there will be bumps along the way as we get this exchange going. We will get through them. This idea of content sharing is not about cutting back what we do. It is about sharing our content with the other large Ohio newspapers and getting their content in return. The goal is to have stories that benefit the readers of all of our newspapers. A secondary benefit is that readers will know how much is produced by our newsrooms."