Citing primarily cost, Alaska Dispatch News Executive Editor David Hulen said his company dropped its contract with the Associated Press on Thursday.
“There’s no bad blood, there’s no grudge. I’ve got absolutely nothing against AP. But as a service that we pay money for, it just didn’t pencil out for us,” Hulen said.
Going forward in the Dispatch’s print and online editions, readers will no longer find content from the AP. AP member radio stations, newspapers and TV stations will no longer be able to use the wire service to access Dispatch content. They’ll have to contact the paper and negotiate permission directly.
Andrew Jensen, managing editor of the weekly Alaska Journal of Commerce, said the loss of Dispatch News photos could cause him some trouble.
His Anchorage-based newspaper sometimes competes with the Dispatch for stories, but he occasionally relies on their photographers. The Journal of Commerce doesn’t have a staff photographer.
Actual losses to other statewide media are hard to quantify, and this is where the story gets a little complicated.
Up until 2014, the Alaska Dispatch was online only. Its employees ran a robust news website financed by Alice Rogoff, former chief financial officer of the U.S. News & World Report and the wife of billionaire David Rubenstein.
Then Rogoff struck a $38 million surprise deal with California-based McClatchy Company to buy the state’s largest newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News. That merger resulted in the Alaska Dispatch News.
Former Dispatch writer Craig Medred broke the story at craigmedred.news that Alaska Dispatch Publishing LLC had sued McClatchy Newspapers, Inc., over that deal. Part of that lawsuit involves the Anchorage Daily News’ contract with the AP.
The lawsuit alleges that McClatchy misrepresented a contract with the AP, leaving the Dispatch on the hook for more than $340,000, according to documents Medred posted.
It is unclear what the loss of that revenue will do to the AP’s coverage of the state. Currently, the AP operates a one-person Juneau bureau – where I just finished a stint covering the state legislature — and a three-person Anchorage bureau. Its journalists generate original stories in addition to aggregating and curating photos and stories from its member news organizations. It circulates that news to members in the state and around the world.
AP Director of Media Relations Paul Colford said it won’t change the way the company provides news in Alaska.
“We have every intention of continuing to provide a strong and vital news report in Alaska. Period,” Colford said.
At the Dispatch, Hulen said he doesn’t think readers or other AP members in the state will notice much of a difference.
“If you look at it closely, we were not using very much AP content and haven’t for some time. And I think it’s also, if you look closely, I’m not sure that much of our content was actually being used around the state, maybe kind of as filler. We have not used an enormous amount of AP content.”
What Dispatch journalists don’t generate, Hulen said often comes from other content-sharing services. He said the company recently added Reuters, which is a wire service that competes with the AP.
“We get a bunch of services,” Hulen said. “We get The New York Times, we get The Washington Post, Bloomberg, we get Tribune. We get The Christian Science Monitor and now we get Reuters, and so we’re not using AP but I’m not sure a normal reader would see much of a change.”
Hulen said he strongly supports the work that AP journalists do and that he supports the organization’s continued presence in the state. But, as newsroom budgets are reduced statewide, less content is produced, and the AP’s sharing service has become less valuable to the Dispatch.
“People are doing good work, they’re doing the best they can. But everybody is also doing it with much less horsepower than they may have had 5 years ago. Say if you’re in Ketchikan or Fairbanks or Kenai for that matter, right? Just as the things have, you know, as the media economics have evolved — but that’s not at all to disparage the good work … that people are doing on any given day.”
Hulen said the Dispatch has informal content-sharing agreements with several media organizations in Alaska and that those will continue.
Editor’s note: Rashah McChesney is a former Associated Press reporter who covered the Alaska legislature as a temporary employee earlier this year. Also, KTOO and Alaska Public Meida are AP members and, separately, KTOO and the Alaska Dispatch News occasionally share news content.