Friday, June 13, 2008

Debating the AP's Role in the Digital Age

I talked to a reporter this week about the embattled Associated Press and said three times that I didn’t want it to die. I might take that back.

-Jeff Jarvis, Journalism professor and BuzzMachine blogger

In Jeff Jarvis, "FU AP," BuzzMachine, June 12, 2006

In a bad economy and losing print readership and advertisers to the web, many revenue-challenged newspapers are unhappy about spending large amounts of money for membership in the Associated Press, the legendary non-profit news gathering and distribution service. Some, like a group of Ohio papers, are starting regional consortia to share news and sports. In this difficult environment, AP executives have become exasperated that blogger websites are excerpting its stories without payments. The company has gone after websites it believes are violating the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) by reproducing portions of its stories that go beyond "fair use." Most recently, the AP filed a DMCA take-down notice against The Drudge Retort blog on the belief that Retort's use of AP material doesn't fit the definition of fair use.

Jeff Jarvis argues that "the AP is flouting fair use and fair comment. It is ignoring the essential structure of the link architecture of the web. It is declaring war on blogs and commenters." Moreover, argues Jarvis (as he has for a while), the Associated Press has been no real friend of original journalism from even its member news organizations. Its own stories often rewrite pieces by member newspapers without giving credit to the source of the journalism and without linking to the original source. The real problem, Jarvis states, is that "the AP is hurting original reporting by not crediting and linking to the journalism at its source. We should be operating under an ethic of the link to original reporting; this is an ethic that the AP systematically violates."

Clearly, this is a major issue in journalism that started before the web but has been foregrounded because the impact of the economy, the move to the internet, and the possibilities of the hyperlink. All have put local newspapers and their journalists under a lot of pressure. Jarvis is trying to find ways to use the hyperlink to help local and regional news survive.

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