WEB EXTRA: AP president discusses state of journalism with Kalb

Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley said Tuesday night that despite his own organization’s decrease in profits in 2004, and a myriad of problems facing the industry, he thinks the journalism business is not in trouble.

“(We) need a standard-bearer, and AP provides that,” Curley said in his hour talk with journalist and scholar Marvin Kalb at “The Kalb Report,” a National Press Club event sponsored by GW and Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy.

The AP provides content to 1,500 newspapers in the United States, an additional 1,000 overseas and provides 60 percent of the world’s video news. It has 4,000 employees, 3,000 of which are journalists.

While the AP is one of the leading organizations in the journalism industry, in 2004 it did not make a profit and broke even. For television and newspapers to be considered successful, their profit range is 20 to 40 percent yearly.

“Trying to get revenue to grow when there’s new emerging competition . it becomes a battle to get the resources to do that,” Curley said.

Curley said the 2005 numbers should be better because there is not an Olympics or a major election this year that runs up the AP’s expense account.

“There are coverage expenses we have to bear,” he said. “We don’t just jack up the prices.”

In the face of questions from Kalb about the decline of the industry, Curley insisted that the news business is thriving with more outlets than ever before.

“More people are accessing news than ever before,” he said. “This an expanding market, not a shrinking market.”

However, Curley also acknowledged a number of problems facing the media.

“(We’re) in an era of fierce branding in the news industry,” he said. He added that while the AP provides a great deal of information, Curley acknowledged his company doesn’t always receive credit.

Regarding bloggers in the news industry, Curley said that the AP favors “the broadest definition possible when it comes to saying what is news.” But he still had some criticism.

“A lot of people are just putting out their opinions . that’s what America is about: ideas. So there’s a place for (these bloggers),” he added.

Curley also encouraged students who attended Tuesday’s event that if they are interested in the media that the most important thing is to get experience – and to go to journalism school. “I should have gone,” he said.

“We need you more than ever, and the opportunity to do good has never been greater,” he said to students. He also advised students to pick a specialty such as medicine or finance and to learn a second language.

Curley also spoke about the AP’s new media service targeted at the 18- to 34-year-old-crowd called ASAP. He said ASAP’s Web site promises “original material with a fresh voice, style and presentation.”

Kalb poked fun of the new service, declaring, “News is news. If you’re a good writer, people will read your (story). (You think) young people want their news packaged differently?”

With the “Kalb Report” focusing on the theme of what exactly journalism is today, Michael Freedman, the show’s executive producer and GW vice president of communications said Curley is the perfect source.

“There’s nobody in a better position today to answer this question,” he said.

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