Ohio newspapers form story-sharing partnership

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Columbus Dispatch, the Toledo Blade, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Akron Beacon Journal have formed a very interesting new partnership, in which each of the papers share stories with the others on their websites.

Ted Diadium, the Plain Dealer’s Reader Rep, says:

What’s going on here? Did all the newspapers in Ohio suddenly stop competing and become one big happy family?

Well, no. But, in a way, yes.

Competition for news is alive and well, but the eight largest papers in Ohio have finally come to an accommodation that, for my money, was long overdue.

It’s called “OHNO,” an unfortunate pronunciation for an acronym that means “Ohio News Organization.”

However, there’s nothing unfortunate about the agreement that it represents: a system through which newspapers in Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown share their good stories with each other – and, of course, with each other’s readers – every day.

So the ultimate winner is you because, under this system, you will be able to see the best work written by the best reporters in Ohio’s largest cities in The Plain Dealer or on Cleveland.com. And you’ll be getting it at the same time as the folks in those cities do.

It took a bit of doing because the competitive instinct is in every good journalist’s DNA, and most of us would swallow our notebooks before we’d share what’s in them with another reporter. We’ve spent our professional lives trying to keep other newspapers from getting our good stories. Now, we’re giving them away.

Here’s why:

The way that news from The Plain Dealer and other big papers used to find its way around the state was this: We would report and write our stories, wait until late in the day, and then turn them over to the Associated Press. The AP would then either rewrite them into wire service story format for general consumption; report and write its own stories later; or decide that the news was not of statewide interest and do nothing. If we had a breaking-news story all to ourselves, we would try to keep it away from the wire until the following day. So did everyone else.

That’s not good enough anymore. In fact, I’m not sure it ever was. Competition is a wonderful thing. It keeps everyone sharp. But we don’t compete for readers with the newspapers in Cincinnati or Columbus, except in the most tangential way, and never did.

We almost always break our stories online now as soon as they happen, so they’re not exactly a secret from the other newspapers anyway. So why not give readers all over Ohio the benefit of the best work from each corner of the state?

In today’s world, breaking news is measured in minutes, not days. It’s important that we provide our readers with the best news report we can, as soon as we can, on our Web site and in the best and most current newspaper possible each day.

With the OHNO plan, each afternoon we and the other members post the stories our reporters have written on a common Web site that’s accessible only in the eight newsrooms. From there, editors at each paper select which stories they want to run. So the Cincinnati Enquirer was able to give its readers our coverage on the National City bank problems, and our editors were able to pick off the Enquirer’s coverage of Fifth Third Bank, which is based in Cincinnati.

That doesn’t mean we’re not competing. For example, both The Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch have reporters working hard to break news about the sexual-harassment charges besetting Attorney General Marc Dann’s office. The difference now is that when we get to a good story first, not only our readers get to see it, but so do readers of the Dispatch and the other papers.