April 24, 2014

Please, Not a CNN Wire Service

Unhappily, I read a story today on the New York Times website reporting that the venerable Associated Press is taking another hit – not from its member news organizations – but from CNN.  CNN wants to start a wire service.  Yikes.  I mean if you care about information over infotainment, yikes.

Fifteen or 20 years ago a CNN wire service wouldn’t have seemed so horrific.  Back then, they were full time in the news business.  Today, they’re in the Rick Dirty Sanchez Twitter My No Bull Keepin’ Em Honest flailing catch phrase business.  Of the major three cable networks, CNN airs more news programming on a daily basis, but there are still too many gimmicks and not enough 24-hour news.

CNN wants to leverage its relationships with TV stations around the country and the world to provide copy for the new wire service.  Double Yikes.  The average local TV news reporter or news director is newstarded.   In years of dealing with the media, give me a thoughtful print reporter or someone from the local NPR affiliate any day.

The problem with the Associated Press is that they are not adapting to the changing needs of their newspaper members.  Some of their recent policies, such as instructing bureaus to provide more enterprise reporting and less spot news, has them in hot water with the local papers.  See this post for more.

Finally, we have the newspaper editors.  There are quite a few major U.S. dailies who are now threatening or have already pulled the plug on their AP contracts.  Ben Marrison of the Columbus Dispatch is one of them and has been vocal in the pages of his own paper and now the New York Times.  Marrison is rightly indignant on behalf of his reporters who have had their enterprise stories thrown on the wire as if they are the work of AP staff.  He also has a legitimate negotiating point in the fees the AP charges its membership.

What I’d like to see from editors like Marrison is for them to fix their cooperative.  The AP is a cooperative after all.  Isn’t there a mechanism in the bylaws for a group of members to petition for change?  Is there not a mechanism – other than destroying the purest news organization we have – to hold the management of the cooperative accountable to its members?  I think part of the problem is that too many editors have become business managers first and newspersons second.

Marrison was in Atlanta to take a look at CNN’s wares.  Hopefully what he and other editors saw left them thinking more about reforming the AP and less about adopting the vacuousness and lax journalistic standards of TV news.


  1. james o. clifford says:

    AP has had a virtual news monopoly since UPI hit the iceberg decades ago. The return of competition is welcome. Will we see the likes of the days when seconds could make the difference in “winning the play”? I doubt it. Not enough news outlets to support the number of bureaus and staff needed. More newspapers have been ruined by bad management than poor reporting, yes. But the important part of newspaper is NEWS, not PAPER. So why do owners keep laying off staff instead of moving them online. Beats me. We are headed for the day when we will live off government handouts for news. The advances in news technology have been impressive, but there has been a downside: Editors forgot that the pen is still mightier than the mouse.

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