And that’s basically how Associated Press Albany News Editor Rik Stevens ended up talking to a roomful of journalism students today in the SUNY Purchase Neuberger Museum Study about the news industry and the venerable AP.
His daughter, Kiley Stevens, is one of the bright sparks in my Journalism 1 class (which has a number of bright sparks, by the way.) And when she confessed earlier in the semester that her dad was in the news business, I asked if she’d hit him up for a visit. He said yes, and yesterday he put aside the news for a day and schlepped down to Purchase from Albany.
He told the students how the AP was formed (in 1846 by five New York City Newspaper bosses) and how it works (as a not-for-profit cooperative of news organizations.) I was reminded of their great motto: “We get it first, but first we get it right.”
I’ve always admired AP reporters for their precision and speed. They always seem somehow above the competitive madness that can grip the news industry. (They might disagree.) When I was covering breaking news, I always felt they were on my side.
Rik was upbeat about the news industry, which was refreshing. Journalists can be a cynical bunch. He told some great war stories (including one about the time he saw a wanted criminal drive past a police station while he and a group of journalists and photographers were standing outside, and how he became the subject of the news that day after he alerted the police and helped them reel in a bad guy.)
Our Journalism 1 class was joined by Prof. Virginia Breen’s Journalism 2 class. And between the two groups, students asked a number of great questions. Eve Frohm asked if technology had put increasing competitive pressure on reporters. To which Rik replied “yes,” adding, however, that the rise of blogging and social media has reinvigorated the commitment some of the serious news organizations have to quality journalism.
On Monday, Rik said, the AP will learn if they won a Pulitzer Prize for their much-discussed investigation into the NYPD’s surveillance of muslims.
It was a great talk, a great class. And if anyone needs an AP Stylebook I have a box of them in my office – courtesy of Rik!