Share and share alike

By: Mark Fitzgerald

New England papers join forces to cover more news
Cooperation is replacing competition among some prominent regional newspapers in Maine and New Hampshire.
When the Bangor Daily News and Lewiston’s Sun-Journal began sharing news stories and features this summer, the two Maine papers joined a movement that started slowly in New Hampshire during the early 1990s ? and has accelerated rapidly over the last year.
Readers in both states now increasingly see story bylines in their local paper that credit other newspapers and writers. In effect, the New Hampshire and Maine papers have created informal news services that bypass the traditional report of The Associated Press.
“We share mostly features, although occasionally we’ll share an in-cycle [news] story if someone calls and would rather have our story than ap’s,” says Marty Karlon, managing editor of The Telegraph in Nashua, N.H. “For us, it’s a way of strengthening our coverage of New Hampshire.”
In New Hampshire, stories are regularly swapped among The Telegraph, the Concord Monitor, The Keene Sentinel, and the Portsmouth Herald. Editors in both states say the sharing is a natural result not only of their own geographic situations, but also of changes in the media environment at large.
“Newspapers in Maine, we don’t compete with each other. We really don’t have a dominant, statewide paper,” says Sun-Journal executive editor Rex Rhoades. “But we do face competition from so many other directions, whether it’s magazines, broadcast, [or] the Internet.”
“We compete for people’s time,” adds Bangor Daily News editor A. Mark Woodward. “We don’t even compete with local tv. Right now, we’re doing a joint project with the local station on speeding.”
For the Daily News, free trade in journalism even crosses international borders. The paper occasionally shares stories with papers in New Brunswick, Canada. A recent package of Daily News articles about the proposed East-West highway in Maine was reprinted by the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal in Saint John.
Among the Maine and New Hampshire papers, the sharing arrangement is decidedly informal. “If someone on the desk gets sick that day, you might not get anything from the paper,” laughs Thomas Kearney, executive editor of The Keene Sentinel.
Indeed, the arrangement had a very rickety technological aspect when it began in the early 1990s.
“We used a bbs [electronic bulletin board service] to post the stories,” recalls The Telegraph’s Karlon. “The technology was really lousy. You had to go off your own network to use it. You had to know Unix [a computer operating system] to use it. It was a pain in the butt.”
“It was really glitchy, and half the time you lost the story,” says the Sentinel’s Kearney.
For the past year, however, the New Hampshire papers have used their Web sites to share stories and usage has increased significantly. The reasons for sharing remain the same as they were when the papers first approached each other, Kearney says.
“We all wanted a better sense of New Hampshire news than we could get from the ap Concord report,” Kearney says. “It helped, too, that we knew each other. We knew we shared similar values, and that accuracy and fairness were important.”
(Editor & Publisher [Caption]
(copyright: Editor & Publisher September 11, 1999) [Caption]

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