AP Hits Back at Critical Baltimore ‘Sun’ Column

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By: E&P Staff

In a Sunday business column in The Sun of Baltimore, Jay Hancock asked, “Why do newspapers pay the Associated Press to distribute their expensive, hard-won stories to radio, TV, Yahoo and other enemies of newspapers? Newspapers run AP as a collective, but the interests of AP and its members have never been further apart. The No. 1 problem for all media is promiscuous content distribution with low or no compensation.

“AP makes this worse, striking its own deals and enabling newspapers in their role as content floozies. Papers must regain control of their stories, hoard them under their banners and Web sites and stitch them to their subscribers and advertisers. If you want Yahoo viewers to read your stories, deal with Yahoo directly, as McClatchy newspapers agreed to last week. Quit AP or revamp it.”

It was just one small section in a much longer piece, but it obviously got the AP’s attention. Jack Stokes from Corporate Communications has penned the following letter to The Sun.
*

I bring your attention to an inaccuracy — and a continuing
misperception — about The Associated Press and commercial Web sites and aggregators, contained in the recent April 8 Baltimore Sun column by Jay Hancock. The column leaves the erroneous impression that much of the content AP sells to commercial Web sites comes from member newspapers.

In fact, a very small fraction of this content — less than 4 percent —
is contributed from AP-member newspapers. The overwhelming majority of content sold to commercial, nonmember Web sites is original content produced by AP staff. To say that the newspapers are paying AP to distribute their content to “other enemies of newspapers” is a gross distortion, at best.

It is important to remember that in 1999 the AP Board of Directors voted to allow AP to sell a slice of its international and national content to commercial Web sites in order to support the growing costs of
newsgathering and help keep member costs low. In 2006, in fact, there was no general assessment increase for AP members.

Likewise, it is facile to claim that the interests of AP and its members
“have never been further apart.” Nothing could be further from the
truth. AP has stood as firmly for protection of intellectual property
rights of news providers as it has for freedom of information. AP’s
licensing arrangements with commercial internet distributors are clear
evidence of that commitment. What’s more, AP is working with its
membership today on groundbreaking initiatives in every aspect of
digital convergence, focusing on enhancing the position of member news providers as the audience for news moves online and new channels of distribution join the expanding mix of media beyond the printed page.

Not least, it is worth noting that Mr. Hancock failed to practice the
cardinal rule of journalism before writing his column: He did not check
his facts before publishing them. AP never received a call from Mr.
Hancock asking about the issue.

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