By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 1, 2009
One of the oldest corporate marriages in the newspaper business ended in divorce Wednesday.
The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service, a syndicate with more than 600 clients around the world, is being dissolved with the agreement of both sides. The two newspapers, which each owned 50 percent of the venture, will now compete to provide their articles to subscribers to the joint service.
Executives at the Times and Post were tight-lipped about the split, but it clearly had its roots in Tribune Co.'s 2000 takeover of the Los Angeles paper's parent company. That takeover included the Baltimore Sun, Newsday and the Hartford Courant, whose articles were also offered by the news service.
But Tribune, now owned by Chicago businessman Sam Zell, is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. And a separate news alliance, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, has emerged as a competitor to the Times-Post venture.
During the same period, cutbacks at the Times, whose Washington bureau was merged with those of other Tribune papers, reduced its contributions on national and international news. The Post, while also shrinking through four rounds of early-retirement buyouts, has largely maintained its national focus. The Post could market itself as a stand-alone news service or seek another partner. Bizjournals.com has estimated the Times-Post service's annual revenue at $1.4 million.
In a joint letter to subscribers, the two companies praised each other but offered no specific reason for the breakup. Post Co. Vice Chairman Boisfeuillet Jones Jr. said: "As the news business and our newsrooms have evolved, the ways in which the organizations cover and distribute the news have changed. We felt that at this time it made sense for us to proceed separately." In the same letter, Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein said that "after enjoying many years of great success together, we've agreed the time has come to move in separate directions."
The news service was launched in 1962 by two storied publishers, Philip L. Graham of The Post and Otis Chandler of the Times.