Magazine article Editor & Publisher

AP's Curley: We Have Come to a 'Fork in the Road'

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

AP's Curley: We Have Come to a 'Fork in the Road'

Article excerpt

Tom Curley, president and CEO of The Associated Press, who was honored at the annual Knight-Bagehot Dinner in New York tonight, said in his keynote address, "We -- the news industry -- have come to that fork in the road. We must take bold, decisive steps to secure the audiences and funding to support journalism's essential role in both our economy and democracy, or find ourselves on an ugly path to obscurity ...

"The portals are running off with our best stuff, and we're afraid or unable to make or enforce deals that drive fair value. Revenue lines in a good month are flat. In other months, they inspire the merchants of debt to imagine how they might take us over and show us how much smarter they are ...

"Our own reporters ridicule our digital transition plans as one great organization or another faces ownership changes, most notably Knight Ridder, Tribune and Dow Jones. When an experienced media operator steps up, such as Murdoch, he gets vilified."

Excerpts from the speech follow.*

The research we did in cities in the U.S. and abroad this past summer provided compelling evidence that the news is as valuable as ever -- even in an age where screen-based headlines overwhelm the senses and the next update is never more than a mouse click away.

Young people the world over are hungry for news. They just don't prefer our traditional platforms and packaging.

The irony of the disrupted news economy of the 21st century is that the news is hot, but the news business is not ...

I've been inside many major news organizations the last couple years, and, invariably, I hear the same refrain. We know what to do, but we can't get it done. Or, sadly, we're in worse shape than we were two years ago because we're spending even more proportionately trying to keep the old model functioning. More than a few persist in trying to make their online sites life rafts for newspapers or newscasts.

So, a few more things might have to change. The pressures on the bosses will have to build. Many more of us in leadership positions must step up and say, now.

The first thing that has to go is the attitude. Our institutional arrogance has done more to harm us than any portal ...

There's still a place for appointment media -- a home-delivered newspaper on the porch each morning or an evening newscast while making dinner. But it is a smaller place. People, of course, want the news when they want it. Even more difficult to accept, they want control over what they get.

Think of it this way. The perfect paper or newscast is becoming possible -- at least in the reader's or viewer's eyes. What is it you really want to know? We can personalize content now ...

Our focus must be on becoming the very best at filling people's 24-hour news needs. That's a huge shift from the we-know-best, gatekeeper thinking. Sourcing, fact-gathering, researching, storytelling, editing, packaging aren't going away. These professional skills still should command premium wages. But the readers and viewers are demanding to captain their information ships. Let them.

Next to go must be despair. We begin by getting our heads around the most important fact of all: We work in a growth industry. The woe-is-us over the decline in appointment media obscures terrific opportunities. …

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