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Feb. 18, 2020, 10:56 a.m.

Share and share alike: A new tool from AP is helping New York’s local news outlets spread their stories more widely

“On most days of the week, I’m competing with them.” But when the situation’s right, local news outlets are using one another to augment their own resources.

A few years ago, during some routine staff turnover, the Associated Press Albany bureau wasn’t producing as many stories as usual. That meant that, according to Cortland Standard managing editor Todd McAdam, most of the state wire stories that his Finger Lakes newspaper was seeing from the AP were about New York City, 200 miles away. While stories about Penn Station renovations and subway issues are important, they’re mostly irrelevant to Cortland-based readers.

“A bomb could have dropped and nobody outside of that city would have known about it,” said McAdam, whose 152-year-old paper is the only daily in its county.

But now a new initiative from the AP is allowing the state’s newsrooms to better share their stories with one another directly — without someone in an AP bureau having to be serve as an intermediate step. With the tool, called StoryShare, more than two dozen newsrooms in New York state can now republish each other’s stories and photos and bring in out-of-town coverage that’s closer to home for their readers.

The AP first announced StoryShare, which has been funded by the Google News Initiative, back in June. Since a pilot program launched last month, 25 outlets have shared around 200 stories. Newsrooms can upload their stories to the StoryShare site (listing restrictions like an embargo time if necessary) and find others they might want to run.

Per AP: “Stories have ranged from accountability journalism that revealed how New York’s top government transparency official was hired in darkness to policy-driven reporting, like the impact of new state laws for farm workers, to a takeout on the proposed doubling of the tax on beer to help fund public education, and human interest pieces, such as the role of Otsego County in the filming of a new World War II-era movie.”

For McAdam, StoryShare came in handy a few weeks ago where the Standard’s coverage areas overlapped with the Auburn Citizen.

“On most days of the week, I’m competing with them,” McAdam said. “On that particular day, a [state assembly] candidate had told the Auburn Citizen that he was running, but he hadn’t contacted us yet. I was out of people, so we ran their story. It was great — it saved me resources from chasing down something.”

And the giving goes both ways: Cortland Standard stories have run in the Oneonta Daily Star, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, the Glens Falls Post-Star, and back in the Auburn Citizen.

Noreen Gillespie, the AP’s deputy managing editor for U.S. news, said the idea came from talking to AP members who said they were just emailing their stories back and forth to each other. That gave the AP the idea to facilitate the collaboration between newsrooms.

“Overall, we really just wanted to see if this platform, which is a mix of human capability and technology, could increase the availability of state news,” We believe that if we can help publications provide a higher quality of state news, that’s something that can help them build audience.”

Gillespie said that one of the encouraging developments through the StoryShare tool has been spot collaborations. When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his budget address, seven stories uploaded to the StoryShare platform on seven different topics stemming from the budget.

Last month, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise explained to its readers in an editorial about how the StoryShare tool benefits newsrooms and readers:

For instance, we ran on page A1 last week a story the Albany Times Union had broken, and then shared, about how the state’s new open government director was hired in secret, declined to be interviewed, and had a track record in her former state job of letting her agency keep documents secret and refusing newspapers’ disclosure requests. That’s just one of at least seven articles we’ve run so far through this service.

Meanwhile, stories we have shared include an earthquake, a beer tax proposal, an icy 46er trek, Saranac Lake’s Ice Palace, Lake Placid Olympic venue upgrades and e-sports at Paul Smith’s College. We know at least some of those have been picked up by other members.

It gives every newsroom in New York more high-quality options on what to present to their audience, beyond what their own staffs produce. It lets us offer you in-depth reporting on a topic that we can’t spare a reporter for, but some newsroom somewhere can.

Formalized sharing between same-state newsrooms are not new. Nearly 11 years ago, we wrote about the Ohio News Organization, a collaboration of that state’s biggest newspapers to share their stories directly among themselves. At the time, a major motivation was to figure out a way to leave the Associated Press, which many papers were criticizing in the depths of the Great Recession for charging too much for its member services. Sharing stories with one another, the Ohio newspapers reasoned, might make it possible to drop AP and its state wire.

“If The Akron Beacon Journal writes a story out of Akron, the AP would pick up that story and would do what it does with it and send it out on the wire,” said Ron Royhab, then executive editor of The Toledo Blade, told us back then. “So why not get it directly from The Akron Beacon Journal?” But now, instead of an AP workaround, direct sharing between newsrooms is an AP initiative.

Since StoryShare is still new, the AP is only working with New York members, at no extra cost to them. But it’s already sparked interest from other states and brought up the idea of topic-based collaborations.

“Our real goal is to understand what facilitates good sharing and build that into whatever we design in the future,” Gillespie said.

Illustration by Joey Guidone used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Feb. 18, 2020, 10:56 a.m.
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