Associated Press Executive Editor touts value of ‘good old-fashioned facts’ at KU awards ceremony

photo by: Mike Yoder

Associated Press Executive Editor Sally Buzbee, a 1988 graduate of the University of Kansas journalism school, speaks Thursday, April 11, 2019, at KU while accepting a national citation from the William Allen White Foundation.

Associated Press Executive Editor Sally Buzbee remembers how her fellow journalists at the AP were being labeled as unpatriotic in the mid-2000s when they reported the war in Iraq was going poorly for the U.S.

“I thought the U.S. was over that sort of thing,” said Buzbee, who was the AP’s Middle East regional editor at the time. “Hadn’t Vietnam taught us to listen to those on the ground?”

Buzbee was awarded a national citation from the William Allen White Foundation for her commitment to upholding the ideals of the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Emporia Gazette. Buzbee told a crowd at an awards ceremony at the Kansas Union that the bedrock of those ideals was still an unwavering commitment to “good old-fashioned facts.”

“What makes us valuable is we tell people what is going on,” Buzbee said.

Buzbee said she didn’t buy the idea that people don’t care about facts anymore. She said reporting the facts of how the war in Iraq was progressing was critical to the country, even if the facts weren’t always popular. The AP’s reporting, Buzbee believes, helped the government and the public rethink strategy in Iraq.

Buzbee, though, said the need for accurate reporting was no less important in large and small communities across the country.

“Good reporting is needed every day in every town,” Buzbee said. “The need for good, fact-based reporting never goes away.”

Buzbee also told the crowd of about 250 students, journalists and members of the public that the journalism industry needs to embrace new technologies and be open to new partnerships in order to serve the needs of readers and viewers.

Buzbee said user-generated content such as videos from war zones or natural disasters were becoming more integral to journalism. Competing media organizations also need to be more willing to work together to tell stories that they can’t do as well on their own, such as a project of media organizations in California to examine the massive wildfires there.

Buzbee is a 1988 graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism. She started her career in Topeka and moved up through the AP ranks to the Washington bureau and international posts. As executive editor of AP, she now oversees the news service’s global operation, which includes journalists in more than 254 locations in 100 countries, according to a news release from KU.

Buzbee joins a select group of journalists who have won the White award, including Bob Woodward, Leonard Pitts, Gwen Ifill, Bob Dotson, Cokie Roberts, Molly Ivins and others.

The journalism school sponsored Thursday’s event and handed out awards and scholarships to approximately 200 students at the event.

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