The Associated Press in the Internet era

Five years ago today, I quit my job at The Associated Press. After 23 years of assignments from California to New York, I turned in the keys to my company car, said farewell to my staff and walked to the train station in Trenton for a long ride home. Over the next few days, nearly 100 of my former AP colleagues will be walking out of bureaus for the last time as they take early retirement. I write this post in their honor, for they are some of the finest — and certainly some of the most unheralded — journalists in the world.

Among them are people like Brendan Riley, who for the past 37 years has served the people of Nevada faithfully and fairly as correspondent at the capitol in Carson City. And there’s Andy Lippman, who as chief of bureau in Los Angeles directed some of the biggest stories of modern times. They and scores of others depart the AP as it and many other old-line news organizations struggle to find their way in the Internet era.

While well known in regional or occasionally in some national journalism circles, AP reporters and editors generally don’t get the wide recognition that  TV anchors or big-time newspaper columnists receive. While the AP news report remains one of the foundations of the daily efforts of most American news organizations, few people outside the AP give its employees much credit. I still remember a left-hand compliment one of my sports writers received from a newspaper columnist, who said she was impressed with his writing “for a wire service guy.”

The AP over the past few years has not endeared itself to bloggers and other advocates of Everything Should Be Free on the Internet. I wrestled with some of those issues myself as San Francisco bureau chief during the dot-com boom of the 90s and at corporate headquarters in New York early in this decade. I won’t judge recent policies, but I marvel at the cheek of some of AP’s critics who ignore the news service’s staggering contributions to the daily flow of news and information around the world. They care not a whit about the cost – financial or personal – incurred in gathering it. Over the years, it seemed to me that AP’s harshest critics were often those who flunked the AP writing test or otherwise didn’t get hired.

But this post is a tribute, not a rant. Above is a photo of my lone remaining AP ball cap. It sits atop the shell of an AP teletype machine that once delivered the sports wire to the Racine (Wis.) Journal-Times at 66 words a minute. The cap and teletype are artifacts from earlier times in journalism and my career. To me they represent the best of what AP stands for: fast, accurate, unbiased reporting of the news of the day.

To all my ex-colleagues departing the AP, I tip my cap to you.

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20 responses to “The Associated Press in the Internet era

  1. Brendan Riley? Andy Lippman? Do you have a list of all the folks who are leaving?

    I’m so sad that experience and institutional memory don’t mean a whole lot to the A&P.

    Thanks for hiring me, though, all those years ago!

  2. Peter Mattiace

    Well said. You ought to do journalism for a living.

  3. Nice piece, Dan, and well put.

  4. Nice, Dan. Cheers, Tim

  5. Well said. The AP writers and photographers and editors set the standards, and the pace, for quality journalism for most of my 42 years in the field. They provided history, on the run, and did it well all over the world. I always wondered what would have happened if the phone call I got from the Atlanta bureau in 1965 had come one week before I accepted a job at the Herald.

  6. Beautiful piece Dan.

  7. Than ks for the tip of the cap, Dan. I wore a vintage AP cap out the door last Monday on my last day. I’ll sure miss that place.

  8. Nice post, Dan. A lot of people I miss, from Ruth the receptionist at HQ to … well, a whole bunch of folks.

    Kim and anyone else interested, I have posted a list of all 2009 AP departures at my posterous:

    http://mikemokr.posterous.com/associated-press-departures-2009

  9. David Briscoe

    A great tribute from a great AP friend. Let’s just hope the foundation can hold for another 160 years or so.

  10. Mike: Who is Ruth????????

  11. Susan — I’m sorry, I’m confusing four-letter names starting with R … I meant Rita, a very sweet person who worked at 50 Rock for a number of years. I’m not remembering now if she passed away before or after the HQ move.

  12. Andrew Lippman, Los Angeles Administration

    Ann E Levin, New York City News
    Here is the list:

    Anthony Beyrouty, Billing

    Arlene Sposato, Telecommunications

    Arthur H Rotstein, Tucson News

    Audrey Woods, Europ/Africa Desk

    Brendan P Riley, Carson City News

    Brian Horton, Sports Multimedia

    Brian O’Hanlon, National Desk

    Bruce A Desilva, Global Training

    Cameron R Bloch, Headquarters Photo Desk

    Carl H Niederman, International Desk – News

    Carl L Manning, Topeka News

    Daniel H Beegan, Boston News

    David Briscoe, Honolulu News

    David E Tirrell-Wysocki, Concord News

    David M Goldberg, Sports

    David Miessler, Cranbury Global Network Operations Ctr

    Dennis Neysmith, Payroll

    Don Deibler, Assessments

    Donald Evans, Raleigh Technology

    Estes Thompson, Raleigh News

    Francis Limbach, Broadcast On Air

    Francis Quinn, Augusta News

    Garry Mitchell, Mobile News

    Gary Clark, Atlanta Administration

    Gary Koehler, Mail Room

    Gerald Labelle, International Desk – Enterprise

    Gonzalo Pineiro, Photos

    Gordon Mcfarland, Omaha Technology

    Hernan Eduardo Gallardo, Santiago News

    Ivan Coston, Technology Operations

    Jagadish Ghanta, Financial Applications

    James Faulkner, Cranbury Global Network Operations Ctr

    James Carlson, Milwaukee News

    James Cour, Seattle News

    James Gaines, Market Tables

    Jerome Harkavy, Portland (ME) News

    John Crowley, Sales Division One

    John Lumpkin, Newspapers & Community Marketing

    John Shurr, Columbia (SC) Administration

    John A Gibbons, Asset Control

    Joseph Frazier, Portland (OR) News

    Joseph Magruder, Concord News

    Kenneth Mellgren, Americas Marketing Communications

    Larry Heinzerling, International Desk – N America Dsk & Adm

    Lawrence Brown, Broadcast News Wires

    Leonard Iwanski, Helena News

    Linda Sargent (Franklin), Dallas News

    Lindel Hutson, Oklahoma City Administration

    Madge Stager, Domestic Photo Administration

    Malcolm Johnson, Lansing News

    Mario Szichman, World Spanish Desk – New York

    Marvin Kropko, Cleveland News

    Marvin Weydert, News Production

    Michael Derer, Newark Photos

    Michael Harris, Sports

    Nestor Ikeda, Washington News – Spanish

    Norman Van Anden, Washington Broadcast

    Paul Stevens, Central Bureau

    Pradeep Mody, Warehouse

    Rachel Ambrose, Los Angeles News

    Richard Lawyer, Philadelphia News

    Richard Pyle, New York City News

    Robert A Feldman, TV Station Sales

    Robert Child, Hartford Photos

    Robert Hopper, Broadcast News Wires

    Roger Petterson, National Desk

    Roger Wallace, Denver Technology

    Ronald Jenkins, Oklahoma City News

    Ronald A Harrist, Jackson News

    Rose Gangemi, Switchboard

    Sam Heiman, Headquarters Photo Desk

    Samuel Maull, New York City News

    Stephen Feica, Hartford News

    Stephen Hattley, Phoenix News

    Steven Herman, Indianapolis News

    Susan Johnson, Raleigh Administration

    Susan Gallagher, Helena News

    Suzanne Vlamis, Images Historical Research

    Terry Stover, Kansas City News

    Thomas Jory, Election Systems

    Thomas Watson, Louisville News

    Vladimir Kremerov, Shared Applications

    Walter Putnam, Atlanta News

    Walter Mosby, Images Indexing

    Wilfred Kolin, Images Scanning

    William Bergstrom, Philadelphia News

    William Haber, New Orleans Photos

    William Sautter, Broadcast News Wires

    William Vander Haar, Washington Technology

    Woodrow Baird, Memphis News

  13. Nice piece, Dan…And I like your site. Stirs up memories and a lot of familiar names…

  14. A lovely piece, Dan. It’s hard for me to imagine the AP without Lippman, Stevens, Horton, Lumpkin, Pyle, Jory and so many others.

  15. Dan
    Just caught up with yr blog. Well said, sir, and some of the comments are pretty good, too. Its nice to know some people actually get it.
    Richard

  16. I was one of the 100 who left AP on 7/27/2009. Now doing my personal photography projects. I was invited to do a one-woman photography exhibit by Roosevelt Island Historical Society on my early B/W New York photos of former Welfare Island. Debuts as “Welfare Island – A Spirit of Place Past” Dec.19th to Jan. 2010. Come.

  17. Suzanne, I grew up in Queens and as a teenager once rode out to Roosevelt Island on my bicycle, over that little bridge from Long Island City. It was Memorial Day and two things stand out in my memory: I caught my first striped bass ever, casting into the East River; and I watched the locals play their annual holiday softball game in the middle of the island’s Main Street.

    Would love to catch that show if I’m in NYC. Where?

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