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American Press Institute merges with Newspaper Association of America Foundation

American Press Institute merges with Newspaper Association of America Foundation

The American Press Institute is ceasing independent operations today after 66 years as a centre for journalism training and career development, reports the Washington Post.

In a move first announced in January, the API is merging with the Newspaper Association of America Foundation, a tax-exempt unit of America’s largest trade organisation for the newspaper industry.

The interim executive director of API Carol Ann Riordan reassures readers on API’s website that, as the two groups merge, “training, leadership development and best practices will be key activities of the new organization.”

As part of the move, API’s iconic building is being sold and its eight full-time staff and one part-time employee have been laid off, writes The Washington Post.

An unnamed contributor to Jim Romenesko’s media blog notes that some API workers “are being brought back for temp/project work.” However he states that “otherwise, NAA is just taking all of API’s money and absorbing it into its foundation.”

Romenesko has also published a letter from former API president and executive director W. Lawrence Winter who takes the view “this is not a merger. This is a takeover.” Winter states that, “from the ashes of API may someday rise a new NAA training organization of some kind, featuring, probably, Internet-based learning activities. But whatever it is, it will not be API.”

The Washington Post links the demise of API with the widespread decline in the newspaper industry and the recent recession. The paper writes Caroline Little, the chief executive of NAA, has stated that the shrinking of the industry has led to newspapers cutting their contributions to the organisation and reducing the number of journalists on API programs.

Romenesko also quotes Little on his blog, as she states, “API was losing significant amounts of money over a period of years”. Little commented, “API and the NAA Foundation have a number of overlapping directors” and the boards of the two organizations had been contemplating the merger “for some time.”

API’s vice chairman Bob Weil, who is also an executive for McClatchy, told The Washington Post that although API had enough funds to survive for another five to 10 years “there was a clear sense we needed to do something different. The media landscape has changed significantly.” Weil told the Post, “API isn’t going away — it’s getting revitalized.”

Tom Silvestri, chair of the API Board of Directors, takes a similar view in the official press release: “by combining, NAAF and API create a unique industry opportunity to intensify a critical focus on extending the strengths of our print, digital and niche assets in a changing media landscape,” he stated in January, “The new organization will better serve the newspaper industry with inspiration and help in an era of transformation."

API staff themselves haven’t commented directly on the merger, as The Washington Post observes that they signed non-disclosure agreements as part of their redundancy packages.

When the merger was announced, the official press release stated that details of the new organisation would be decided through a “comprehensive review process,” which would be overseen by a board of governors, whose members would come both from the NAA Foundation Board of Trustees and from the API Board of Directors. Mark Newhouse, who is currently NAA Foundation Chairman, was announced as chairman of the new board.

The unnamed contributor to Romenesko’s blog states, “from what I understand, NAA’s board would like, long-term, to convert all of NAA into the 501(c)3 structure and that the merger was part of that.” The Newspaper Association of America defines itself as a non-profit, but only the separate section the NAA Foundation has 501(c)3 tax exempt status.

Sources: Washington Post, Jim Romenesko (1) (2), NAA, API (1) (2)


Hannah Vinter


2012-03-23 18:36

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