Belmont Club

The co-op

Ken McIntyre argues that the Associated Press “experimental” outsourcing of content to Leftist nonprofits is a bad idea. The wire service recently said that it would distribute material produced by “outside groups”.

Earlier this month, the 163-year-old news cooperative announced it would distribute “watchdog and investigative journalism” penned not by its own staff or that of member papers, but by four outside groups: the Center for Investigative Reporting in Barkeley, Calif.; New York-based ProPublica; and two D.C. outfits, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University. …

AP, itself a not-for-profit enterprise, identified the four organizations as “civic-minded” nonprofits. They also all have decidedly liberal sponsors. A cursory glance at the “independent” news shops reveals their reliance on left-tilting patrons such as the Knight Foundation and leftist donors such as financier Herbert Sandler and currency speculator George Soros.

Sandler and his wife, Marion, founders of ProPublica, are generous givers to Democratic candidates and left-wing causes including the Center for American Progress and ACORN, the ethically-challenged radical action group. Soros, an early backer of CPI as well as the radical MoveOn.org, poured tens of millions into attacks on President George W. Bush. AP calls the exercise an experiment.

That might have the unintended effect of giving the material produced by those “watchdogs” the kiss of death.  Since the AP has recently prohibited anyone from quoting more than five words from their dispatches, then anyone who wants to repeat the pearls of wisdom generated by the “nonprofits” will have to ante up. Digiday explains the situation:

The Associated Press has been drawing a lot of lines in the sand lately. Its stiff stance in regards to content re-use and linking has been the source of much debate and in some circles, derision. Then, as Mashable’s Pete Cashmore notes, the AP upped the ante last week– announcing “a plan to charge $12.50 for quoting 5 words of an AP story.” Under the plan, a writer or blogger excerpting more than 5 words of an AP story would be billed $2.50 a word for that privilege.

It’s nice to know where the “news” comes from, even if you can’t quote it. It will be even better when someone invents a business model that will sustain an alternative to the AP. Their decision to carry the “watchdog” articles as an experiment is a fortuitous one. In some respects democracy is far healthier today than it has ever been. Sometimes you have to leave the Fool’s Paradise in order to grow into maturity. It’s almost like the chapter in Huckleberry Finn, when upon reflection the boys realize that historical kings and dukes were for the most part rascals. The world didn’t come to an end with that revelation, but it made the river and the stars look a whole lot better.


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