Newhouse shuts door on wire service

July 29, 2008

The Newhouse News Service, which serves news from the nation’s capital to newspapers in the Newhouse chain, will close down after the U.S. presidential election in November, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. Why? Its member papers can’t afford to pay for it anymore.

Here’s what the AP reported:

“The decision to close followed the direction of our clients, the editors of our papers,” said Linda Fibich, editor and Washington bureau chief. “They felt they could not afford to pay for a central Washington bureau at a time when they were steering all available resources to local coverage back at home.”

I spoke briefly to David Starr, senior editor for the Newhouse papers, who confirmed the story. “Like all the other papers in America, they’re cutting staff here and there and they felt they couldn’t support the central Washington operation at the expense of their local coverage.”

A short note about newspaper wire services:

Newhouse was one of a goodly number of wire services run among local U.S. newspaper chains. When I worked on Capitol Hill, I remember running in to reporters all the time working for similar operations run by Gannett, McClatchy, Copley and Scripps-Howard. Services like these provide valuable local angle for their papers in the reporting that they produce from Washington, D.C., and ones like McClatchy also have brought home some remarkable stories from Baghdad. These services are among the offerings that newspaper publishers are turning to as a possible place to cut costs, of course.

On a side note, Starr, who turns 86 this week, is a man with some real long-term perspective on newspapers. He started working for Newhouse’s Long Island Press (now defunct) in 1939 as a part-time copyboy and joined the company on a full-time basis as a reporter in 1942. As he observed: “I’ve been with Newhouse for a lot longer than you’ve been alive.”

(Photo: Reuters)

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