Associated Mess

Last month, a report issued by the Audit Bureau of Circulations confirmed the obvious: Newspaper circulation is not only declining but, unlike the economy, is accelerating in its decline. The results are some unpleasant trend lines that look remarkably like the steep cliffs on which the industry teeters.

One of the most precariously positioned papers, the Los Angeles Times, under the aegis of its parent company Tribune Co., has resorted to an “experimental week” in its search for a way to increase its drag in the midst of the free fall. Starting today, the LA Times and other Tribune-owned news outlets will run “as little content from the Associated Press as practical” for a week, according to a blog post on the Chicago Tribune’s Web site.

But don’t think that means staffers of Tribune-owned papers will be working any harder. In addition to running AP sports statistics and news exclusives this week, the Tribune will have special access to content from the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, GlobalPost and Bloomberg, among others — including the AP of the UK, Reuters.

How this “experiment” is supposed to teach anyone anything about sustainable business practice remains a mystery, so it’s no surprise an AP spokesperson didn’t sound too worried in the AP’s own writeup of the week, which of course won’t be read in Los Angeles or Chicago. Unless every major newspaper in America plans to band together and form a news cartel, it’s unlikely this experiment can last very long.

However, while LedeObserver isn’t prone to proffering evidence for conspiracy theories, it is hard to resist extrapolating some grander plan from the Tribune’s own list of core values: “Cooperate with competitors to improve our industry.”


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