How about the AP’s new partnerships with nonprofit news sites

Associated Press is expanding a new content sharing program to include nonprofit news sites. A partnership with The Texas Tribune was announced at the end of March. Five more locations were added Monday: CalMatters, a major statewide political and research organization, and other operations in Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana and Hawaii.

The idea is that the AP can distribute affiliate content to paying customers in their home state and, if there is interest, nationally. In turn, the organizations will have access to the wire service’s full range of election coverage, long a news and business mainstay of the AP, and other stories that meet their needs.

Although AP is a huge international company with several thousand journalists, it is technically a cooperative, which keeps the profits it earns as reserves rather than distributing them to shareholders.

In a press release Monday, Josh Hoffner, US news director, said: “As local coverage shrinks, content sharing agreements with other mission-driven news organizations in the US are more important than ever. … These agreements provide exciting opportunities for AP journalism to reach new audiences in an election year while amplifying AP news reporting from sometimes overlooked states.”

Gannett and McClatchy announced in March that they were ending AP membership. Monday’s announcement did not view the partnerships as partially a response. But I don’t think it would be a stretch to see this as a step in AP breaking away from its traditional newspaper roots, which date back to its founding in 1846.

I asked about it and received this email comment from senior vice president and editor-in-chief Julie Pace, referring to widespread newspaper staff reductions:

“We continue to deepen our commitment to local news and ensure we can focus on it, especially in parts of the US where there are news deserts. At a time when the local news industry is under so much pressure, our role as a news cooperative is to do everything we can to support local media with content and services that help them inform their audiences.”

The four other news partners are Honolulu Civil Beat, Montana Free Press, Nebraska Journalism Trust and South Dakota News Watch. All are in states only lightly covered by the remaining commercial newspapers and their sites.

Complicating the situation for the AP is that its board is still controlled by newspaper members. But since the turn of the century, newspapers have gradually become more important due to much greater broadcasting and international activities. If this first cohort is successful, I would bet on more and deeper partnerships with the digital nonprofit sector.

This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report, our daily newsletter for anyone who cares about the media. Subscribe to the Poynter Report here.

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