Democrat-Gazette Limits Use of News by Little Rock AP Members


Media outlets in the Little Rock market are no longer allowed to publish Associated Press stories on their websites if the news came from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The D-G recently invoked its right under the AP bylaws "that allow AP members to restrict use of some content that the AP can pick up from them within their market," said Dale Leach, the AP bureau chief for Arkansas. "Generally, it would be enterprise material," he said, using an industry term for stories generated by reporters as opposed to those that come from news releases, press conferences or public meetings.

He said it would impact "a small number of stories that we pick up day in and day out." The Democrat-Gazette does have to share breaking news, though.

The move, however, has raised concerns of AP members in Little Rock.

"One of the main things we depend on the AP for is for stuff to put on the Web," said Ron Breeding, news and program director at KUAR-FM, 89.1, the National Public Radio affiliate in Little Rock. "So it's kind of got me thinking, 'Do we really need this?' ... And I'm not saying we're looking at dropping the contract.

"This is not something we're happy about for sure," he said.

Walter Hussman, owner and publisher of the D-G, said some newspapers across the country were looking at the policy because of the increased competition for revenue generated by websites.

"What's happened in the Internet age is every TV station has a website; every radio station has a website; every other print publication ... in this market has a website," Hussman said. "So once the newspaper generates most of the news in the community and gives it to the AP, everybody else puts it on their websites."

And television and radio stations are selling advertising on their websites.

"So now the newspapers are giving a lot of their content to their competitors to sell on the exact same medium," said Hussman, who gained national attention for his early insistence that news content on the D-G's website, ArkansasOnline.com, be locked behind a pay wall.

Hussman said he didn't want D-G stories picked up by the AP to appear anywhere on the Internet, but the AP said the D-G could restrict only its content in the Little Rock market.

Leach, with the AP, said the D-G's move wouldn't change any AP member's rates. He said broadcasters still could use the stories on the air.

"That's the main area of concern, [the] online posting," he said.

Leach said he didn't think the policy would be "terribly noticeable." He said that some other AP member newspapers had invoked the content rule, but there had not been "a groundswell of that kind of activity."

Jeff Hankins, president and publisher of Arkansas Business Publishing Group, said the move would impact ArkansasBusiness.com, which uses AP stories.

He said he was not planning on breaking AP's contract, though.

"There is a lot of value and benefit that we provide to our online readers by having access to Associated Press content both for [ArkansasBusiness.com] and for our sports website," Hankins said, referring to ArkansasSports360.com. He said ABPG would continue to monitor the situation.

Mark Rose, general manager of KATV-TV, Channel 7, said the new policy had prevented his station from posting a few stories on its website that had been used in its news broadcast. But, he said, readers will find a way to locate stories they are interested in.

"I don't think [the D-G is] helping themselves, and they're really not helping the viewers or the readers in Little Rock," Rose said.

Chuck Maulden, news director at KTHV-TV, Channel 11, said the D-G's rule "amounts to a small portion of stories that we would post on our website."

Hussman said he hadn't noticed any changes as a result of the paper's new policy, but he expects more papers to institute similar policies.

"The whole newspaper industry is getting concerned about misappropriation of content, and it probably relates to the economic downturn and difficulties many newspapers have had."