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Tilting at Windmills

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December 1, 2008

WHY CNN IS HOSTING A 'NEWSPAPER SUMMIT'.... This should be interesting.

CNN, in the afterglow of an election season of record ratings for cable news, is elbowing in on a new line of business: catering to financially strained newspapers looking for an alternative to The Associated Press.

For nearly a month, a trial version of CNN's wire service has been on display in some newspapers. But this week editors from about 30 papers will visit Atlanta to hear CNN's plans to broaden a service to provide coverage of big national and international events -- and maybe local ones -- on a smaller scale and at a lower cost than The A.P.

"The reality is we don't have a lot of relationships with newspapers," said Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide. "We have relationships with TV stations around the world." Mr. Walton said the meeting this week, which CNN has billed the "CNN Newspaper Summit," is "kind of a get-to-know-you."

There's an opportunity for the network here. Subscribing to the A.P. is expensive, and newspaper publishers have to be more than a little cost-conscious right now. Indeed, some newspapers have already announced their intention to drop the A.P., which seemed largely unthinkable as recently as a few years ago.

Given this, CNN sees an opening it hopes to exploit, and with a massive international team of journalists and considerable resources after a successful year, the cable network might even be able to pull it off.

Tom Curley, the president and chief executive of the A.P., said the CNN Wire, "if you look at it truly is still, and remarkably, abysmally written." That's probably a little strong, but the criticism is not without merit. But here's the thing: if CNN is serious about becoming a credible A.P. rival, it can hire decent writers. It is, on other words, a problem that's relatively easy to fix.

Something to keep an eye on.

Steve Benen 10:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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The AP knocks the writing of their new rival? Go figure. I'll bet it's at least as good as the junk I read from Nedra Pickler in the AP, and CNN is just getting started.
CNN's international bureaus are a huge resource.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 1, 2008 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

As a copy editor at a small daily, I hope this endeavor works -- not because I want to weaken the AP, but because this business needs all the help it can get. With the decline of UPI over the past few decades, the AP has become complacent, although I'm not all that keen on some of its recent decisions. (For example, its entertainment coverage is becoming less serious; there is more emphasis on celebrity news, and I understand its film reviews are now being limited to 500 words.)

Posted by: Vincent on December 1, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Part of this is the reality that the AP has gone hard right, the country is not in the mood for hard right. The AP needs to change. Absent any indication that they are going to change there is a market for CNN's service. I would suggest the AP look at it's own policies and personnel. It should ditch the hard right ideologues on its staff and hire people who just want to report the story.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 1, 2008 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

I dont find entertainment or celebrities 'news'

Posted by: Jet on December 1, 2008 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking as a newspaper editor who has worked primarily non-dailies, but started at a daily:

1. AP's grammatical quality has strongly deteriorated the past few years. Things such as "its" vs. "it's" mistakes become more common by the month.

2. AP's new price/services package, set to roll out in 2010, show that it's determined to ram stuff down member papers' throats and dump its specific problems, plus problems of the industry, back on them.

3. Per Vincent, maybe there's other alternatives, such as Reuters or AFP making a run at more American business.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 1, 2008 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

The AP thinks CNN's new wire services is abysmally written.

In equally shocking news, Fox News called MSNBC third-rate partisan hacks disguised as a news organization.

Consider the sources. Then laugh. Ot cry. Either response, in its own way, is appropriate.

Posted by: slappy magoo on December 1, 2008 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Tom Curley - maybe we might see something a little less right wing...ya think?

Posted by: John R on December 1, 2008 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Comcast picks up the AP wire - Heavily slanted toward McCain, during the election.

However, as reporters and newsreaders concentrate on learning the difference between "it's" and "its", could President-elect Obama and Rachael Maddow work on dropping the words "got" and "gotten" from their useage. Even a newsreader at MSNBC said, recently, "We have gotten...." Perhaps she had not received the memo telling her, "received" is acceptable, in some circles. But, then some lady, who is a Repubilcan advisor, spoke about something being "the goodest" of the lot.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 1, 2008 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

That comment bodes so very badly for the AP. Don't say anything about the strength of your reporting, or your cooperative newsgathering model, or the quality of your analysis (well, yeah, that would be pretty funny). Just concentrate on the one thing it will take the least work for your competitor to change.

In short, AP is acting exactly like a newspaper fretting about losing readers to TV or web sites.

Posted by: paul on December 1, 2008 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

An alternative to the AP is welcome, if only because the appalling right wing bias of its political reporting -- glaringly apparent this last year but I suspect percolating for some time -- is so ruinous in a free society that depends on good reporting to make up its collective democratic mind. Whether a TV-based news source, historically and dismally and dumbed down to begin with, or CNN which has lost much of its early news luster, can fill the bill is unclear. Still: competition can improve products. At least we're not -- yet -- outsourcing major campaign and political news stories to part-time reporters on other continents like the Pasadena paper Dowd wrote about.

Posted by: SF on December 1, 2008 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Comcast picks up the AP wire - Heavily slanted toward McCain, during the election.
Posted by: berttheclock
-----------------
And their video is mostly Fox News Clips. They are sharing the same fate as republicans, no one wants the crap they sell.

Am I in the Twilight Zone because the AP is about as politically skewed as CNN. I can't even watch it anymore without think that is has become Fox News Lite. I could care less about grammar, give me a network not run by wanna be partisan hacks.

Posted by: ScottW on December 1, 2008 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Liz Sidoti of the AP wrote a cheerleading piece about St Sarah d'Arc's saying "Obama was palling around with terrorists". This was not a wire service lede; it was editorial opinion by Sidoti.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 1, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Judging by the article on Bloomberg in the latest Vanity Fair, it sounds like Bloomberg is the way to go. And let's not forget that McClatchy does actual reporting, instead of AP-style stenography and librul-bashing.

Anything that gets rid of the faux-journalist pigs at the AP is great.

Posted by: Anon on December 1, 2008 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

The AP sucks for many reasons, not least its threats against bloggers who repost more than four of its precious little words.

But replacing the AP with CNN is like curing your lung cancer by contracting AIDs.

It may buy you a little time, but you're still gonna die ugly.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on December 1, 2008 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK
That's probably a little strong, but the criticism is not without merit. But here's the thing: if CNN is serious about becoming a credible A.P. rival, it can hire decent writers. It is, on other words, a problem that's relatively easy to fix.

Really? My guess is that if it is going to compete on price, which seems to be the main, and perhaps the only, selling point, it won't make much effort to attract decent writers specifically, since that would add costs.

If CNN's wire service is successful, there just won't be the pay in the wire service world to support decent writers as anything other than an occasional oddity. They'll find work outside of the news wire business, either working directly for the few newspapers that care, outside of news entirely, or they'll just disappear as the market no longer provides the rewards that would provide an incentive for developing those skills.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 1, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

As someone who has also worked in a newsroom and had to deal with the AP, this is good news.

The AP is like a cabal that tells everyone else how to do their job. From their idiotic stylistic guidelines (many of which are obsolete thanks to modern word processing and distribution), to pathetic editorial staff, to deciding on breadth rather than depth, it's become a behemoth whose time is about over.

That's not to say CNN will do any better. Those clowns have shown themselves to be second-rate hack. But a little competition might help the AP become decent again.

Posted by: Mark D on December 1, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

That's not to say CNN will do any better. Those clowns have shown themselves to be second-rate hack. But a little competition might help the AP become decent again.

If there was a market for quality and CNN was competing on quality, that might be the case. With the newspapers looking to cut costs and CNN clearly looking to compete on price, all that that competition is going to do is drive AP to cut costs and quality.

Its no more going to improve quality in the news market than Wal*Mart does in the markets it competes in.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 1, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Agree with the above comments, and will add on - as an epidemiologist, AP's medical reporting is sensationalist and inaccurate. I've tried a couple times to inform their medical reporters that Ebola is not "highly contagious", but they persist in that as well as other similar errors, which I suppose sell more papers.

Posted by: Snow on December 1, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

CMD is right on the quality level that will happen.

And, Mark D, amen, let's burn the AP Stylebook.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 1, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

The reason the AP is expensive is because it costs a lot of money to put bureaus in every metropolitan area and in dozens of overseas postings as well. CNN can lowball AP, but I guarantee that CNN's wire will be embarrassingly light on statewide coverage, unless the state is Georgia.

This may not be a problem for big metro dailies, but medium size to small newspapers are not staffed to cover the statehouse, let alone major disasters two counties away from their coverage area. And in an atmosphere where staffs are shedding writers and editors, this is an even bigger consideration.

As for Bloomberg, that's a premium service focused on business news. You don't see Bloomberg reporters covering weather disasters or other non-financial breaking news.

Posted by: Sal Hepatica on December 1, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

It's not like the AP is raising the bar any in the realm of quality. They really shouldn't talk about poorly written articles!

Posted by: Crissa on December 1, 2008 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't think that CNN (Fox, jr.) is a whole lot better than AP. But then, it couldn't be much worse either and a little competition never hurt anyone.

Having talked about CNN and AP, why was there no mention of McClatchy? They have an excellent record of getting things right since when they were Knight Ridder, and they seem to be going along the same road now. Given their record, I think that more of the major newspapers ought to pick them up, especially the NY Times and WaPo who have had pretty sorry records of getting things straight for a while now.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on December 1, 2008 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, anyone who writes "if you look at it truly is still, and remarkably, abysmally written" is borderline illiterate.

CNN can only be an improvement.

Posted by: Paul Camp on December 1, 2008 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, it's been close to six months since CNN showed it's one hour of international news in it's regular Noon-1 PM slot.

Posted by: jhm on December 2, 2008 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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