In our society, with our system of government, having an informed citizenry is critical. The public must be knowledgeable if they are to make reasonable and sound decisions on matters affecting their lives every day.
The most visible "news" people these days are the talking heads on television screens. Certainly, some of them have been good, solid reporters, but many in this fraternity merely read news that has been reported and written by others. There are not many in the print media who are household names known by the American public.
Many news outlets would have the public believe they have done the footwork, the digging for information, and have created the news report by themselves, when the fact is the majority of news reported around the world is provided by reporters and photographers of The Associated Press, the world's oldest and largest news organization. Other news outlets may put a local angle on an AP news report or use the AP report as a tip service to develop a story they overlooked.
This is true worldwide. The AP is an essential news service, the backbone of news reports generated around the globe.
As an aside, the availability of straightforward, accurate, timely and unbiased news reporting is critical, but if people can't read, it doesn't matter how good the news report may be. This is why it is so wrong, so embarrassing and so harmful that such a large percentage of American adults cannot read above the eighth-grade level.
On June 1, Tom Curley will assume the presidency of the AP. Lou Boccardi has held this critically important job for the past 18 years and will be wrapping up a 36-year career with the AP.
Boccardi has done a superb job overseeing a significant expansion of the AP news and photo reports. The AP has grown in excellence and has added new services to meet the needs of members and speed of technology.
There are about 6,000 AP staffers around the world serving 1,700 newspapers and about 5,000 radio and television stations in the United States. Worldwide, the AP provides information to another 8,500 news outlets.
It is an extremely challenging assignment covering every imaginable type of news event. There is no letup, whether it is a natural disaster in some remote part of the world, elections here or abroad, coverage of the U.S. Congress, statehouses across the nation, wars, epidemics, the environment, NATO and the European Common Market, nuclear dangers in North Korea, stock market results or sports events around the globe. There really isn't any limit as to what the AP covers and the accompanying necessity to have top-flight, able, honest men and women reporting the news.
All of this, plus a lot more, is the responsibility of the AP president.
Tom Curley has an excellent record as a reporter, sound businessman, executive and as publisher of USA Today. When he was 31 years old, he was selected to be a part of a small team to design and give birth to USA Today, which today is the largest newspaper in the nation.
He is held in high regard by those in the news business, and there is every reason to believe he will do a superior job in leading the AP to even greater success in providing an excellent, timely, honest news report.
As noted above, the "talking heads" on television are the most recognizable names in the news business. But the fact is Lou Boccardi and his organization have supplied the vast majority of news reports used by TV personalities. This is not to take away anything from these individuals who can read the news in such a convincing manner but rather to note the behind-the-scenes role Boccardi and his reporters, photographers and technical staff play in providing the world the most complete, dependable, accurate news report.
The pressures are great, from demands by AP members constantly asking for better, more complete and broader news coverage, as well as the pressures of making sure those doing the basic reporting are properly trained, equipped and motivated, and not exposed to undue dangers from terrorists or war.
Tom Curley will not become a household name. But he will be playing a critical role in the domestic and international news reaching most households in the United States as well as a sizable percentage of households around the world, whether delivered in print, on television, radio or by other electronic means. He will be tireless in his efforts to build the AP into an even greater news service in the months and years to come.
The public here and abroad will benefit by his efforts and the performance of AP staffers around the world. The complexity of the news, explaining the significance of the news and the reaction of those reading, listening to or watching the news all combine to make the AP's role even more challenging than ever.