When newspaper ad revenues were in free fall in 2008, there was much angry complaining among editors about the high cost and inflexibility of the Associated Press service. At a gripe session in Washington, one editor compared the cooperative to the USSR’s politburo. Threats to quit were common.
In the end though, AP cut its rates, offered several levels of service and has retained the great majority of its newspaper members (who also own the cooperative and hold most its board seats).
But there was an exception.
Starting in 2009, Chicago Tribune editor Gerould Kern quietly began working with Reuters to build an acceptable substitute service. Kern told me the Chicago Tribune ran its last AP material in March 2012. With six other Tribune papers (but not the Los Angeles Times), it dropped AP entirely at the start of 2013.
Kern said in a phone interview that he cannot recall a single reader complaint about inferior wire coverage. At “a price that has saved us significant amount of money,” Kern said, the Tribune and others are getting “more than adequate” content from Reuters and can devote more resources to local investigations, arts and sports.
“We are not anti-AP,” Kern told me several times, “but we believe in competition and choice in the market place. That makes everyone better.”