Two Words: 'Beat Sharing'

I wrote recently about the plan among the major three dailies (somehow "major" just doesn't seem like the right word anymore) to share beat writers in the sports department. Well, the idea may be spreading to other departments. This just came across the Pulp's transom: "Hey, a heads up -- you ought to be looking at beat sharing agreements between the three papers. We're hearing that something is supposed to come out in the next week or so."

This is bad not only for local journalists -- more sharing means fewer jobs, of course -- but also for the newspapers themselves. They're already sharing content, which I think is a huge mistake and amounts to beat sharing. Here's an apropos note sent to me by former Sun-Sentinel copyeditor Allen Cone, who was laid off due to staff cuts: 

     The Palm Beach Post was scooped by the Sun-Sentinel for its own story.
On Saturday, the Sun-Sentinel ran a story written by the Post's Jane Musgrave about fake driver's licenses sold via DMV workers in Del Ray Beach. The story ran on the top of  local cover in the Palm edition.
On Monday, the Post ran the same story on 1A.
I think what happened is that the story appeared on the Post's Web site Friday even though it wasn't to run until Monday. I know the Sun-Sentinel lately is putting some of its weekend copy on the site on Friday.

It's clear now that the massively indebted dead-men-walking companies want to strip down the newspapers to shells while hoping to survive the financial downturn. They're ruining newspapers and a lot of journalists' lives in the process. I'll say it yet again: Tribune and McClatchy need to accept reality, disband, and sell all of their newspapers. It's the right thing to do, and it's just good business: These papers are losing value at a massive rate and will continue doing so as they go deeper into doomed strategies like content and beat sharing. Might as well get out now, cut their losses, and let new owners try to salvage what's left.

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