BROOKE GLADSTONE: It's been dubbed the world's largest news organization, and it has a new boss, and it's not the New York Times. The Associated Press is the not-for-profit news cooperative that provides stories, images and sound to more than 15,000 news outlets worldwide. This summer, Tom Curley, formerly the president and publisher of USA Today, took over as the AP's new president and CEO. Curley has taken charge of the 155 year old news organization that considers itself, quote, "the backbone of the world's information system." Bob caught up with him to find out how it's going so far.
BOB GARFIELD: Tom, welcome to On the Media!
TOM CURLEY: Thank you, Bob. Glad to be with you.
BOB GARFIELD:Congratulations. You've-- you've just gone from a very nice job at a corporation where you had basically one boss to a cooperative where you have like 5,000 bosses! Are you insane?!
TOM CURLEY: [LAUGHS] You know, ahead of time I thought that would be a huge problem, but the commitment to the Associated Press is so strong that I'm really becalmed about that now. It's just dealing with the lions and dragons that are in the competitive set.
BOB GARFIELD:Well let's talk about the competition. There was a time when United Press International was AP's direct competition, but those days are clearly over. UPI is just a shadow of its former self. But what is the competitive environment.
TOM CURLEY: Well in text it's Reuters. On business or certain areas it's the Bloombergs that have come up. And then in photos or images you have the merger of Getty Images and Agence France Presse, so everywhere there's somebody important, well-funded and also under pressure to raise revenues. So it's pretty serious wherever you look, but that makes it fun too.
BOB GARFIELD: But does AP dominate at this point in all of those areas? I mean have you entered a situation where it's your game to lose?
TOM CURLEY:I would never say that. You never look at it that way. I think AP has a leadership position. There's no question it's the oldest service, the largest and most complete. But there are places where we need to do better, and in some cases we're going to have to go a little faster to catch up.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:At USA Today I understand planning for the brave new digital future was something approaching obsession. What does the internet mean to the Associated Press?
TOM CURLEY: Well, for me it's become clear in the months that I've been here that it is everything. I see it as the perfect content play. AP can deliver great journalism, blend it with an electronic infrastructure and put together a database, if you will, and allow our many members or subscribers to customize how they want to receive it and when they want to receive it, and hopefully in what language as well.
BOB GARFIELD:I begin my day reading your wire, and even before I pick up the New York Times and the Washington Post, I look at the AP over Yahoo. Does this suggest some sort of direct news delivery model for the future that would actually bypass your constituent news organizations?
TOM CURLEY: Not bypass, but it is a part of the real world, and some of the ramifications, frankly are a bit daunting. One of them is the theft of intellectual property. It has been increasingly hard for us to hold on to the AP brand and restrictions as to who gets access to what level of service. But I still see customized reports and a way of providing services to members that helps them with some of the issues they're facing. If AP could provide agate sports pages or the financial numbers and data and move it all here, maybe that relieves some of the expense pressure on the newspaper members, and if we can provide more video that is sourced from us in a membership cooperative way, then perhaps the broadcast members can see some of their costs go away as well.
BOB GARFIELD:You are replacing Lou Bacardi, an AP institution who was 18 years in the job that you've just accepted. Let's just say that you stay in the job 18 years, too. Will the Associated Press in any way resemble in the year 2021 the organization that you've just taken over.
TOM CURLEY: I think in many key ways, absolutely. And the key ways are the values and the mission -- the values of straight, fast, fair cannot change -- and the mission is that we are and we remain a news service. Where that news ends up, how that news is collected will fundamentally be revolutionized. But what we do and the values that surround that cannot change.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. Well, listen -- all the best, and congratulations once again!
TOM CURLEY: Thank you. Good to be with you.
BOB GARFIELD: Tom Curley is the president and CEO of the Associated Press.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Coming up, you are what you write. We consider the language police, a gender detector, and why on line people may still know you're a dog. This is On the Media from NPR.