The Washington Post's Paul Farhi asserts in the American Journalism Review that newspapers were harmed irrevocably by the Associated Press' decision to sell its content to such portals as AOL and Yahoo (then, presumably, to the newspapers' own sites).
He suggests that, if the genie were kept in the bottle and only the AP's family had access to the content, newspaper sites would not have found themselves competing against other information providers in the digital space so severely and rapidly. It would have bought time.
He dismisses the notion that Reuters or Agence France Presse would have been adequate substitutes.
Jeff Jarvis took him up on this argument and, while getting more than a little personal, suggested that it's AP's reluctance to link back to the original content that is most hurting the papers that own it.