As more newspapers drop the AP, we'll all get more stupid


The New York Times today reported that growing number of big newspapers have decided to get rid of their subscriptions with the Associated Press. That could be quite a savings for troubled papers, which reportedly pay more than $800,000 a year to supplement its own articles and photographs with stuff created by the AP.

Among the publications that want out are the Columbus Dispatch, Minneapolis' Star Tribune, and all the outlets by one of America's most widespread paper publishers, the Tribune Company. That means by 2010, papers like the Chicago Tribune, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and the Los Angeles Times would be free of AP stories.

If newspapers jettison their wire copy, it presents a dire coverage problem, because papers already rely too heavily on AP stories. For the past decade, as ad sales dwindle and sections are made smaller, teams of career experts have been dismissed in favor of simply running off-the-shelf stories retrieved off the AP. If the AP goes, what's left?

Not that the AP is perfect. Newspapers' recent reliance on wire copy has already decimated good journalism. Persistent staff cuts have nibbled away at newspapers' original international reporting, arts reviews and features, financial reporting, and travel, and in its place, you get generic AP articles that appeal to mass culture, but not specifically to you or your city. AP stories are often published as-is, and in that way, millions of people end up reading the same story with the same angle and the same faults, with very few alternative perspectives.