The Record and the Star-Ledger: And Now They’re Frenemies

In some ways, it’s innovative; in others, it’s a tale as old as time. Former Sworn Enemies—in this case, the New Jersey papers the Newark Star-Ledger and the Bergen County Record—have joined three other outlets in a content-sharing consortium. “The papers say they will share most of their original content,” The New York Times reports, “though they may withhold material like investigative articles and the work of columnists. They are still developing a computer system to make sharing quick and simple.”

While the consortium also includes the New York Daily News, the Albany Times Union, and the Buffalo News, the most dramatic aspect of the newest team of rivals is the fact that two of its members have, in the past, been way more than rivals. They’ve been staunch competitors, particularly when it comes to breaking news about New Jersey’s notoriously, um, news-rich government. As in, the Red Sox and Yankees of Garden State newsgathering are now playing for the same team.

Well, ostensibly. Whether journalism’s newest frenemies (similar content-sharing consortiums have already been established among papers in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas) will be able to bury the hatchet remains to be seen. And it remains to be seen in a big way: market competition, in journalism as in everything else, spurs quality. Whether removing some of that competition will compromise the journalism allied papers produce is a big question, and very much an open one.

Perhaps, though, the New York/New Jersey papers’ alliance—and the work they produce within it—will be fueled in its quality by a mutual foe: The Associated Press, whose rates have been, pretty much since its 1846 founding, the bane of individual newspapers’ editors and publishers. “This is not an anti-A.P. initiative,” Star-Ledger editor James Willse told the Times. But, you know, riiiiiiight….

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.