South Florida Daily Newspapers To Unite?

In a move that would have seemed utterly shocking a year ago, the South Florida's three major daily newspapers are set to announce a content-sharing agreement later today, according to sources.

While details of the plan are sketchy, the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, and Palm Beach Post have reached an agreement to share certain "non-competitive" information -- perhaps things like prep scores, entertainment listings, reviews, etc. The idea, apparently, is that the deal will free up more time and money for substantive (and exclusive) news and enterprise reporting by all three newspapers.

Hope to flesh this out as the day goes on, but one thing is certain: This is yet another sign of the desperation hitting the newspaper industry.

[Update: They've got details up on their websites, as you may know. Here's the Miami Herald version:

The Miami Herald, the Sun-Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post announced content sharing plans Friday that the editors said will involve exchanging basic news stories at the same time South Florida's major newspapers compete against one another.

The experiment, which will begin Monday and run for a three-month trial period, will enable the papers to trade coverage of routine events and feature reviews.

Editors of the three papers said they will preserve the competition that has been a hallmark of South Florida's newspaper business for decades by limiting the sharing to routine news. Broader stories, investigative pieces, columns and feature stories will not be part of the exchange, they said. El Nuevo Herald, El Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and La Palma in West Palm Beach also will be a part of the exchange.

''Our goal is to better serve our South Florida audiences while protecting the individual brands and identities of our respective newspapers,'' a statement from the editors said.

Miami Herald Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal said that the move was part of many innovations the paper is launching in the midst of the changing media landscape. He said the papers need to begin working together to enhance and extend the newspaper style of journalism in an era of intense competition.

``This is a time to try things, to see what new ideas make our papers and websites better, to break with traditions in the name of providing new and stronger coverage for newspaper readers and websites.''

The papers said they would assess how the exchange is working after three months and decide whether to continue.

This is more radical than I expected and for those who care about the newspaper business (and the people in it) there is only one way to look at this -- it sucks bollocks. It will, contrary to what these "top editors" say, hurt the competitive spirit of the newspapers and, worse, it will allow management at all three newspapers to keep laying people off while keeping content steady on the Web. Unbelievable.]

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