CNN Fires the Associated Press

cnnapCNN has announced that it will cease using all content from the Associated Press effective June 30, and from all appearances will take a run at becoming a credible wire service competitor.

Although it would be easy to dismiss this as the blind leaving the blind, this development seems like it has the potential to alter the news landscape and temper some of the worst excesses of press bias and ignorance.

Here are a few paragraphs from CNN's internal announcement, as carried at Media Bistro:

To: CNN Staff
From: Jim Walton

We are taking an important next step in the content-ownership process we began in 2007 to more fully leverage CNN's global newsgathering investments. Starting today, CNN newsgathering will be the primary source of all content for all of our platforms and services. We will no longer use AP materials or services. The content we offer will be distinctive, compelling and, I am proud to say, our own.

Beyond the obvious business reasons for this operating shift-the content we spend our money to create should be the content we present, and less reliance on outside sources will mean more to invest in our organization-there are other important motivations. CNN-exclusive content will further differentiate our platforms in the media marketplace. It will provide consumers with the unique news and information experience they expect from CNN. And it will make us more creative, resourceful and collaborative journalists and news professionals.

To support this new model, we are expanding the CNN Wires team and embedding positions with desks and bureaus to speed information to air. Among continuing infrastructure improvements to further our distinctive storytelling, we're launching CNN Share to aggregate editorial content and facilitate easy distribution and sharing across platforms; launching a new alert system for breaking news; creating newsgathering opportunities across all dayparts; and building tools to expand information gathering from social media and emerging sources. 

The AP is not pleased, as its official, insufferably arrogant press release indicates:

We have been unable to reach agreement with CNN on its license to use our content.

It is unfortunate that CNN's viewers will no longer have access to the breaking news and worldwide reporting resources of The Associated Press, the gold standard in journalism. We will continue to provide AP news to other TV networks and tens of thousands of additional broadcast and cable outlets, as well as newspapers, websites and portals around the world.

Paul Colford
AP Director of Media Relations

With all due respect, Paul, CNN's defection demonstrates that even those who share your journalists' leftist biases are getting tired of being fed self-evident untruths, half-truths, and blatant and sometimes seemingly deliberate oversights. CNN is figuring that at worst, if they blow as many stories as the Associated Press has, they can at least take consolation in the fact that they paid their own people to do it instead of throwing money at a motley crew of deluded ("Gold standard"? More like fool's gold), dysfunctional, ignorant know-it-alls.

Here is a small sample from a very long list of serious errors those who have relied on AP content have had to stand by helplessly and observe:

  • Last week, the AP wanted us to think that Ford, General/Government Motors, and Chrysler have all improved the quality of their vehicles during the past year. The truth (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog): Ford has, at a stellar level; GM has declined; and Chrysler, while improving, has merely started to climb out of a very deep basement.
  • In May, the AP lazily promoted the falsehood that call center jobs are disappearing in the U.S. in a report on New York Senator Charles Schumer's proposed call-center tax. The truth (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog): U.S.-based call center employment has grown, even as employment in the rest of the economy has declined.
  • An innumerate AP reporter wrote in April that "After losing 400,000 jobs in 2008, bailed-out automakers are rebounding." The truth (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog): Bailed-out GM's and Chrysler's combined U.S.-based headcount was far less than 400,000 in 2008.
  • In botching one of the most important stories of 2009 (BizzyBlog; BigJournalism), the AP initially asserted that the thwarted Detroit Christmas BVD bomber "claimed to have been instructed by al-Qaida to detonate the plane over U.S. soil." Inexplicably, over the next 48 hours, the A-Q connection disappeared from future related AP dispatches. But then, when it came time to do a recounting of events several weeks later, AP reasserted A-Q's involvement. The effect of all of this was to make it appear that -- shazam! -- Barack Obama's insistence on getting the facts had surfaced the A-Q connection that had been known from the very beginning.
  • A year ago, the AP swallowed whole claims by a Pew Research Center group that "clean energy jobs" grew much faster than jobs in the overall economy during the mid-2000s. It is indisputable (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog) that they instead grew more slowly.
CNN appears to be trying to position itself as an AP competitor, as this paragraph from a May Media Bistro post foreshadows:
The good news is that the company seems to be having success in driving new revenue streams. Digital advertising and sales (like the CNN iPhone app) account for about 10% of total revenue, the same as CNN U.S. primetime, and the company is looking to grow its wire service this year and next, selling CNN and CNN.com content to affiliates in need of content.

Here is why I think this development could end up being important to those of use who want original news content fed to us straight. When the Associated Press had a semblance of competition in the form of United Press International, its reportage, though on the biased side, was not as blatantly slanted as it generally is today. Having another entity out there with which readers could do side-by-side comparisons acted to prevent much of the potential excess. For all practical purposes, in original news reporting, there is currently no such check on the AP today, especially in national and business news. Maybe CNN, though biased itself, will provide it. Well, we can hope they will at least act as brakes on each other.

If neither service is up to the task of playing it sufficiently straight, those who are building workaround hard-news alternatives will begin to emerge and, if the market for fair and balanced news is what many of us believe it is, take both of them down.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.