Dec 2, 2008

Business - CNN pitches newspaper wire to US editors

Sahil Nagpal

Los Angeles - Coming off an election season that was a financial and ratings success, cable news pioneer CNN convened a meeting of top newspaper editors Monday to outline plans for a news wire to serve US newspapers and their websites.

The meeting of editors from more than 30 major newspapers marks the first publicly released details about the plan, which could represent a major challenge to the Associated Press (AP). According to the trade magazine Editor & Publisher, CNN was footing the entire cost of the editors' visits.

AP, the dominant newswire in the US, is facing severe pressure to cut prices from the 1,400 newspapers that own it, to help them deal with the twin challenges posed by the internet and the current recession.

Several major newspaper chains in the US, including the Tribune Group, which owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, have already announced their intention to drop the AP at the end of a required two-year notification period. In response, the AP has reduced its rates, in a move it claims will save its member companies more than 30 million dollars a year.

CNN's plan envisages coverage of international events, as well as national and regional developments at a far lower cost to papers than AP.

CNN's move into the news wire business had been largely expected since it dropped Reuters' news service last year, saving the network more than 3 million dollars a year, according to The New York Times, and signaling its decision to generate more of its news independently.

The New York Times reported that CNN will drop AP for its website in January, though it will still maintain its use for its television network.

The AP is the world's largest news gathering operation, employing more than 3,000 journalists in more than 100 countries. CNN says it has a staff of 3,800 people, 22 international bureaus and 15 US bureaus.

CNN already has deals with hundreds of local television stations, to which it distributes broadcast clips from its own teams and from stations across the country. The company also runs an internal wire service for its own staff.

"The reality is we don't have a lot of relationships with newspapers," Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide told The New York Times. "We have relationships with TV stations around the world."

Walton said that this week's meeting, which the network has billed as the CNN Newspaper Summit, is "kind of a get-to-know-you." (dpa)

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