Broward News

Sun Sentinel Drops Associated Press; Print Media's Death March Bangs On

Most people won't notice a difference. Really, who would? The bylines hide between the headlines and the article, and besides, the entire intent of journalism isn't the writers but the stories.

So, maybe, people won't notice. But they should. In the wake of Newsweek's last issue and the Miami Herald's impending move to Doral, the Tribune Co. -- the Sun Sentinel's parent overlord -- just dropped the Associated Press, dealing yet another body blow to one of Florida's finest and storied newspapers.

For more than a decade, most newspapers have tried to hide the fact that they're doing substantially more with substantially fewer people. On a daily basis, the actual content hasn't changed all that much from two decades ago, though investigations and true pieces of writing have become far fewer.

And entangled as we are in this internet frenzy, the demand on journalists to produce more and more copy has, in some ways, supplanted the call to produce compelling stories that tell us more about who we are as people.

The Associated Press was something that, until now, has freed enough resources to allow local papers to focus on that.

The wire service has long offered a salve for struggling, cash-strapped newspapers, letting them shutter foreign and domestic bureaus and still deliver essential international news. For a long time, the AP actually enabled newspapers to cut costs -- but now, even its expense has gotten to be too much.

The Tribune Co., with the glaring exception being the Los Angeles Times, will still employ wire copy from Reuters America. It's less expensive. But the departure from the AP signals something much more profound and sad at the Sentinel. It's dying.

Just like all print media.

In 2004, the Sentinel had a daily circulation of 270,000. Today, that number has plunged to 170,000.

We've known about this trend for more than a decade, but the visceral reality of it is still striking.

And yes, we like to poke fun at the Sun Sentinel sometimes. They're just so hokey, as are most daily, family-oriented outfits. We're confident they like to rib us too, but the ethos behind the jibes isn't acrimoniousness but competitive. Because here's the truth of the matter: No reporter feels schadenfreude over this.

For in the chains tightening around the Sentinel, we see our own.

Follow the writer @terrence_mccoy

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Terrence McCoy