Daily Biz Disappears

For all practical purposes, the excellent journalism done by the American Lawyer Media's 39 publications -- including the newsbreaking Daily Business Review in South Florida -- is gone.

Kaput. Swallowed. Absent. The opposite of "there."

However you want to put it, the vast majority of journalists around the country won't have access to ALM's stories, including to its flagship The American Lawyer magazine. The company signed a licensing agreement with Westlaw, a major legal information provider, to be the exclusive holder of the ALM's content. It went into effect on May 1, according to this Westlaw press release on the agreement.

Part of the deal: ALM didn't renew its contract with LexisNexis, which is where journalists found their often excellent articles on business, health, legal, and real estate issues and often cited the work to readers far outside the relatively small and specialized ALM circulation.

"Westlaw is generally used only by attorneys," says Westlaw spokesman John Shaugnessy, who wasn't aware of a single newspaper in America that subscribed to the site. "We aggregate content from all sorts of different sources and for us, lawyers are the sweet spot. And we are best served by mainting that focus."

Locally, that means award-winning columnist Dan Christensen's work for the newspaper over many years is nowhere else to be found, including the article that first revealed Sheriff Ken Jenne's moonlighting activities that eventually ballooned into a federal investigation.

Reporter Julie Kay's groundbreaking government and court reporting? Gone. The excellent coverage the newspaper has done on medical malpractice and other issues over the years? Bye-bye.

Needless to say, ALM reporters are upset that their work is now confined largely to lawyers -- and for their own loss of the crucial Nexis database.

"It's sad that our stories aren't available to other media," says one DBR reporter. "People won't be aware of stories we have broken. And I use Nexis quite a bit and I'm afraid I won't have the information I need for my stories."

The company's corporate leaders are aware of the rancor in the rank-and-file.

"It has been an issue that some reporters have raised both internally and externally," says Ellen Siegel, ALM's vice president of license and business development.

"We made a business decision," adds ALM spokesman Lee Feldman. "In general, we are aware of the issues for reporters. Westlaw is primarily used by the legal community and LexisNexis is primarily used by the journalism community. We are trying to fill that gap. But what you must understand is that our primary customers -- and I'm not saying the newspaper people aren't important to us -- are users within law firms. "

He says that any reporter who is looking for specific ALM stories can contact him and he'll help provide the article (Feldman can be reached at 802-366-9001). He also says that temporary passes to Westlaw might be given under some circumstances.

The fact is, though, that ALM's tremendous breadth of work will be all but lost to the population at large. And that is sad, indeed.

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