Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sharing content, including high-profile stories, due to budget cuts

NEW YORK , February 13, 2009 () – The Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have been quietly sharing content for nearly two weeks, exchanging daily budgets and trading even the most high-profile stories.

Inquirer Editor William Marimow and Post-Gazette Editor David Shribman confirmed that they have been swapping daily budgets since Jan. 29, the latest example of the ever-growing trend of newspapers with no common ownership or JOA trading news.

"We exchange budgets and except for the most highly-competitive stories, we will be sharing," said Marimow. "You will see more Pittsburgh Post-Gazette bylines and photos in the Inquirer."

Shribman said the sharing of content is not a major competitive issue because the papers are so far apart, about 300 miles from each other. The Post-Gazette, owned by Block Communications of Toledo, Ohio, and the Inquirer, owned by Philadelphia Media Holdings, are also the state's largest daily papers.

"I really feel the only person in the United States who reads both is me," Shribman joked. "I won't feel offended if I see duplication in both papers."

The sharing actually began before the budget trading when the Post-Gazette ran the Inquirer's lengthy obituary of artist Andrew Wyeth on Jan. 17. More recently, both papers published the same double-bylined story on Feb. 7 about high-paid state legislative staffers.

That story included the bylines of Post-Gazette reporter Tracie Mauriello and Inquirer scribe Mario F. Cattabiani.

"We are in the same state, yet we have different states of mind," Shribman said about the coupling. "The two papers don’t really compete."

The Keystone State dailies are the latest in a string of unconnected papers sharing content, ranging from Texas to Maine.

"A far as I am concerned, the benefits are we will have breaking and deep coverage of the state," Marimow said. "It also sends a message to the AP that they need to be acutely aware of the rates they are charging."

Marimow referred to the ongoing dispute between AP and some editors who have claimed a new AP rate structure is unfair. Others have claimed they are not getting enough coverage from AP to justify the payments, with numerous dailies giving notice they plan to drop the AP service.

Both Shribman and Marimow were among a group of top newspaper editors who wrote a letter a year ago to AP complaining. So far, neither of them has given notice to cancel their AP service.

Shribman said the clear cause for the sharing is budget cuts, sparking a need to look at other areas, beyond staff reductions, to stem spending. "These are two papers with growing ambitions and shrinking staffs," he said.

Both editors saw no limits to the use of the combined coverage, with each noting that if the Philadelphia Eagles had made it to the Super Bowl and played the Pittsburgh Steelers, the sharing would have been over the top. "We could really have gone wild on this," Shribman said. Well, there's always next year.

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