The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism. AP’s commitment to independent, comprehensive journalism has deep roots. Founded in 1846, AP has covered all the major news events of the past 165 years, providing high-quality, informed reporting of everything from wars and elections to championship games and royal weddings.
Today, AP employs the latest technology to collect and distribute content. It is in the process of overhauling its video and photography content: transitioning to high-definition, expanding its coverage and building a new, flexible, powerful infrastructure. AP has the industry’s most sophisticated digital photo network; a 24-hour continuously updated online, multimedia news service; a state-of-the-art television news service; and one of the largest radio networks in the U.S. Its commercial digital photo archive is one of the world's largest collections of historical and contemporary imagery. AP Mobile, the AP’s award-winning news app, has been downloaded over 9 million times since its launch in 2008, and AP has a strong social media presence, building new connections between AP and its members, customers and consumers.
Since the Pulitzer Prize was established, in 1917, AP has received 51 Pulitzers, including 31 photo Pulitzers.
AP, which is headquartered in New York, operates in more than 280 locations worldwide, including every statehouse in the U.S. Two-thirds of its staffers are journalists.
The Associated Press has been breaking news since it was created in 1846. That year, five New York City newspapers got together to fund a pony express route through Alabama in order to bring news of the Mexican War north more quickly than the U.S. Post Office could deliver it. In the decades since, AP has been first to tell the world of many of history’s most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.
More than 30 AP journalists have given their lives in this pursuit of the news. 'I go with Custer and will be at the death,' AP reporter Mark Kellogg wrote before Custer's final stand against the Sioux. And so he was.
One reason for AP's longevity has been its ability to adapt quickly to new technologies. When it was founded, words were the only medium of communication. The first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale, AP delivered news by pigeon, pony express, railroad, steamship, telegraph and teletype in the early years. In 1935, AP began sending photographs by wire. A radio network was formed in 1973, and an international video division was added in 1994. In 2005, a digital database was created to hold all AP content, which has allowed the agency to deliver news instantly and in every format to the ever expanding online world. Today, AP news moves in digital bits that travel nearly as quickly as the news itself unfolds, to every platform available, from newspaper to tablets. AP’s video division is now the world’s leading video news agency.
Often called the 'Marine Corps of journalism'—always first in and last out—AP reports history in urgent installments, always on deadline. AP staff in 280 locations in more than 100 countries deliver breaking news that is seen or read by half the world’s population on any given day. It remains a not-for-profit cooperative, owned by 1,500 U.S. newspapers, which are both its customers and its members. A Board of Directors comprised of publishers, editors, and broadcast and radio executives oversee the cooperative.
In 2003, AP moved from its long-time headquarters at Rockefeller Center to its current global headquarters, on the West Side of Manhattan, where it could integrate its all-format news department in one space. In the process of that move, AP established a Corporate Archives, which has since been carefully documenting the story of AP from its beginnings. In old AP periodicals we discovered the story of correspondent Frank Martin’s 13-day hike from Ledo, China in 1944 to link up with Gen. 'Vinegar Joe' Stillwell's forces in Burma. The road was strewn with the skeletons of 30,000 refugees, Martin noted. At one point he encountered a tribe of Naga headhunters singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm, E-I-E-I-O.” The tribe had been taught the song by a missionary, after which they cut off his head.
On occasion, the findings have been flattering. During the Civil Rights era, newspaper editors concerned that AP reporting of racial tensions might upset their readers pressured AP to identify blacks as “Negroes.” Other historical findings reinforced AP's remarkable role as eyewitness to history, such as when AP correspondent Joseph I. Gilbert borrowed President Lincoln’s handwritten text of the Gettysburg Address so he could copy it. Gilbert’s account of Lincoln’s speech stands as the most accurate version of what Lincoln said that day.
Even in this digital age, AP remains the definitive source for reliable news across the globe. While the company has gone from distributing news via pony express to instantaneous digital transmission, its news values and mission remain the same.
“The people of the AP are part of the fabric of freedom,” said former board chairman Frank Batten. “They are the honest messengers, mostly anonymous, far from the limelight, often at risk and always committed to getting out the news as thoroughly and as accurately as possible.”
For more than a century and a half, men and women of The Associated Press have had the privilege of bringing truth to the world. They have gone to great lengths, overcome great obstacles – and, too often, made great and horrific sacrifices – to ensure that the news was reported quickly, accurately and honestly. Our efforts have been rewarded with trust: More people in more places get their news from the AP than from any other source.
In the 21st century, that news is transmitted in more ways than ever before – in print, on the air and on the Web, with words, images, graphics, sounds and video. But always and in all media, we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news.
That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions.
It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast; nor will we alter photo or image content. Quotations must be accurate, and precise.
It means we always strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information – not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable.
It means we don't plagiarize.
It means we avoid behavior or activities that create a conflict of interest and compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action.
It means we don't misidentify or misrepresent ourselves to get a story. When we seek an interview, we identify ourselves as AP journalists.
It means we don’t pay newsmakers for interviews, to take their photographs or to film or record them.
It means we must be fair. Whenever we portray someone in a negative light, we must make a real effort to obtain a response from that person. When mistakes are made, they must be corrected – fully, quickly and ungrudgingly.
And ultimately, it means it is the responsibility of every one of us to ensure that these standards are upheld. Any time a question is raised about any aspect of our work, it should be taken seriously.
'I have no thought of saying The Associated Press is perfect. The frailties of human nature attach to it,' wrote Melville Stone, the great general manager of the AP. But he went on to say that 'the thing it is striving for is a truthful, unbiased report of the world's happenings … ethical in the highest degree.'
He wrote those words in 1914. They are true today.