The Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post have jointly announced that they will begin sharing content on January 1, 2009, allowing each paper to benefit from the other's expertise and reporting.
It's a great move for the Sun, which could certainly use the depth in national and international reporting that the Post could offer, and I can imagine that the Post would benefit particularly from leveraging the Sun's sports and metro reporters (though, as part of the deal, they will not share coverage of Maryland state government or University of Maryland athletics, since the papers are considered competitors in those areas). The downside, of course, is that both newspapers will likely shed more staffers, deemed redundant by the cooperation.
But as newspapers fight for their lives in this digital age, I think cooperation like this will be an important tool. Leaner, more specialized newspapers are likely to be the only ones that will have value as more people get their news from TV and the Internet.
It calls to mind the idea, often floated in media circles, that newspapers in each city will eventually become local correspondents for every newspaper around the country. For example, the Baltimore Sun will report on Baltimore and share its coverage with every local newspaper in America, essentially becoming every paper's Baltimore correspondent. The Washington Post becomes America's Washington correspondent, etc. This would allow papers to drastically reduce staff and expenses, while still providing the kind of local coverage, analysis, and commentary that only a local newspaper can provide.
It's a harsh reality, but it is reality in the changing media landscape. The Sun's latest move, troubling though it may be for Sun staffers, demonstrates an attempt to adapt to that landscape.