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Tribune Co. newspapers to skip AP stories

/ Source: The Associated Press

Tribune Co., owner of The Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and several other news outlets, will not use most Associated Press content next week to test whether the financially struggling company can do without it, according to a story on the Chicago Tribune's Web site.

Tribune said it will use some AP material such as sports statistics and stories it considers vital. The Chicago-based company said it is trying to determine whether severing ties with the news cooperative next fall is a viable option.

The company's television stations and newspapers' online editions will not participate in the experiment. Tribune also owns 23 TV stations, The Baltimore Sun and other dailies.

"AP appreciates and understands that newspapers are looking for ways to confront challenging economic times and one way might be considering how they use content from the AP and other sources," said AP spokesman Paul Colford. "At the same time, we continue to work with our member newspapers to make sure the AP, which is the gold standard of breaking news, remains a vital interest to newspapers, their publishers and their readers."

Tribune newspapers' print editions will rely on Tribune staff and several other news sources including Reuters, The New York Times and GlobalPost next week. Not all the sources are normally available to Tribune papers, according to the company.

"It is a practical way of assessing the implications of doing businesses without the AP wire," Tribune Co. spokesman Gary Weitman said Tuesday. The company will look at using the other news sources to "fill the void" if there is one, he added.

Last year, Tribune Co. gave the AP a two-year warning that it might drop the service, effective Oct. 15, 2010. Tribune Co. said at the time that it was keeping its options open while weighing what role AP would play in its future.

As of AP's annual meeting in April, about 180 newspapers — 14 percent of the AP's U.S. newspaper membership — had threatened to leave the news service. Reasons varied, but many complaints centered on cost.

The AP Board of Directors in April announced a new $35 million in rate reductions for 2010 for its member newspapers on top of $30 million in rate reductions for 2009. The AP expected the total assessment decreases for papers would average just less than 20 percent, but will vary widely depending on what content newspapers buy.

The AP also will allow, effective Jan. 1, its members to cancel their membership on a one-year notice instead of the current two-year requirement.

Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection in December because of dwindling advertising revenues and a crushing debt load of $13 billion. Much of that debt was amassed when real estate mogul Sam Zell took the company private in 2007.

Tribune properties across the country have undergone cost cuts, including layoffs.