New methods of news delivery offer new opportunities, for readers — customers — and for news-gathering organizations, Thomas G. Curley, president and CEO of The Associated Press, told those gathered Friday at the Monroe County Bar Association.
The MCBA speakers forum was moderated by retired Judge Richard M. Rosenbaum, who introduced Curley as a “journalist’s journalist” and an “aggressive proponent of open government.”
Curley — who started out his professional career at Gannett in Rochester — primarily discussed how the AP’s business model is evolving to deliver news faster and more widely across new tools such as iPads and mobile devices.
“If you think you have it tough in the legal industry, think about how it is for people in the newspaper industry,” Curley said.
Today’s online options and delivery platforms represent a new era, one that is “almost idyllic,” he said. “New media … for us does usher in another business model and, I think, an exciting moment.”
Curley said the traditional newspaper business models still incorporated by “legacy players” are squeezing them, forcing newsroom cutbacks and perhaps fewer editions; however, providers that adapt well to the changes, know their markets and deliver quality, original reporting will thrive, he said. News consumption, actually, is on the rise.
“If it’s convenient and [readers] conceive [content] to be free they will go after it, even in print form.”
“We will see a tiering by quality,” Curley said of media producers that will survive the current business climate. “Tall trees will get taller, others might go away.”
Consumers, too, will not go unaffected, he said. Increasingly, the burden of paying for quality news will shift away from advertisers and onto readers, “but I think you will get more of what you want,” Curley told those present.
The AP itself has not been immune to the reality of producing quality news with fewer reporters covering wider swaths of territory, Curley acknowledged, but he quickly pointed out that the organization has maintained 1,700 reporters internationally. The AP, for the first time in its history, also recently hired marketing and advertising staff.
“We have made strategic hires to go after our priorities,” Curley said.
By far, he said he is most concerned about the ability to uphold the AP’s — and the mainstream media’s — purported role as guardians of democracy.
“Is democracy in danger?” he asked hypothetically. “I do think it’s not good. … There are tens of thousands of fewer reporters and cutbacks in content that people thought shouldn’t have been cut.”
Newsroom cutbacks fortunately appear to be easing, he said, but those who still have a job must begin to ask tougher questions and create better quality, original reports to satisfy readers as well as uphold the First Amendment.
His organization recently hired an attorney charged specifically with assisting reporters in filing Freedom of Information Act requests and also participated in a successful lobby to strengthen FOIA, enabling reporters to access information faster.
New media delivery opportunities represent “a new opportunity to provide what journalists have always done,” he said. Reporting must continue to uphold “the same good values.”