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Australian Associated Press closing after 85 years

CANBERRA, Australia — National news agency Australian Associated Press said Tuesday it was closing after 85 years, blaming a decline in subscribers and free distribution of news content on digital platforms.

CANBERRA, Australia — National news agency Australian Associated Press said Tuesday it was closing after 85 years, blaming a decline in subscribers and free distribution of news content on digital platforms.

"The saddest day: AAP closes after 85 years of excellence in journalism. The AAP family will be sorely missed,” AAP Editor-in-Chief Tony Gillies said in a tweet.

AAP's more than 170 journalists will cease operations by June 26. Its Pagemasters editorial production service will also close at the end of August, the company said.

“The unprecedented impact of the digital platforms that take other people's content and distribute it for free has led to too many companies choosing to no longer use AAP's professional service,” the company said in a statement. “We have reached the point where it is no longer viable to continue.”

Sydney-based AAP is renowned for its fair and impartial reporting as well as its extraordinary reach across rural and urban Australia.

The Australian Parliament applauded AAP for its contributions an hour after its demise was made public .

“When you have such an important institution such as AAP coming to an end, ... that is a matter of real concern,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said, “Today is a tragedy for our democracy.”

“You will leave a massive void in terms of information coverage,” he added.

AAP Chairman Campbell Reid said the organization had been for generations “journalism's first responder.”

“It is a great loss that professional and researched information provided by AAP is being substituted with the un-researched and often inaccurate information that masquerades as real news on the digital platforms,” Reid said.

AAP's domestic nationwide news coverage with bureaus in every state and territory is complemented by alliances with major international news agencies including The Associated Press.

The AP licenses its news text and photo services to AAP for redistribution into the Australian media market and its customers. AP is also contracted to use AAP text and photos.

AAP was started in 1935 by newspaper publisher Keith Murdoch, father of News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch.

AAP is owned by Australian news organizations News Corp. Australia, Nine Entertainment Co., Seven West Media and Australian Community Media.

The first inkling that most AAP staff had that their jobs were in danger came on Monday with a Nine newspapers' report that noted the weakest advertising market since the global financial crisis in 2008.

AAP made a modest 929,000 Australian dollar ($608,000) profit last year on AU$65,674,000 ($43 million) revenue.

AAP management broke the news of the closure to staff on Tuesday afternoon.

“We are obviously devastated by the news,” AAP Canberra Bureau Chief Paul Osborne said.

“But we are proud of AAP’s achievements over 85 years and know that everyone who worked on the wire gave it their all, in the name of fair, balanced and accurate reporting, " the 20-year AAP veteran said.

AAP Melbourne reporter Benita Kolovos described as “heartwarming” the sight of #saveAAP trending on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.

“I work with the best women and men and hope I will continue to be able to,” Kolovos tweeted. “Impartial journalism is vital to our democracy. Without it, the public will be worse off.”

Her Melbourne colleague Karen Sweeney noted that AAP's top 10 sports stories on Monday were published 1,595 times and top 10 news stories were published 2,514 times.

“That's 4109 blank spaces on websites and newspapers, dead air on radio that would need to be filled without us,” Sweeney tweeted.

AAP Brisbane reporter Christine Flatley described her workplace since 2006 as “hands down the best news organization I have worked for.”

Australian media organizations are under mounting financial pressure with global digital giants Google and Facebook taking a growing chunk of advertising revenue.

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the journalists’ union, described the decision to shut down AAP as a “gross abandonment of responsibility by its shareholders -- Australia’s major media outlets.”

“Bean-counters at the top of media organizations might think they can soldier on without AAP, but the reality is it will leave a huge hole in news coverage,” the union’s federal president, Marcus Strom, said in a statement.

“Filling those holes will fall to already overburdened newsroom journalists. Or coverage will simply cease to occur,” he said.

Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press

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