(AP) The Associated Press board of directors announced Tuesday that Louis D. Boccardi will retire later this year as president and chief executive officer of the world’s largest news organization.
Boccardi has led AP worldwide operations for 18 years, half of his AP career. He will be 66 when he retires in late summer or early fall.
Burl Osborne, publisher emeritus of The Dallas Morning News and AP chairman, said the board’s executive committee would make an announcement on transition at a later date.
“Lou Boccardi has led AP through an era of tremendous growth in news technology and diversification,” said Osborne. “He has spearheaded AP’s search for new revenues and he has been a tireless crusader on First Amendment issues and in matters of the public and the press.”
Osborne, who worked at the AP for 20 years before moving to Dallas, called Boccardi the ultimate editor’s editor. “He has shown a generation of AP staffers a singular devotion to AP’s core values speed, fairness, and accuracy, with an emphasis on quality.”
The AP is a not-for-profit news cooperative of U.S. newspapers and broadcasters. It provides more than 15,000 media outlets worldwide and thousands of commercial customers with news stories, photographs, audio, video, and multimedia products.
Boccardi has led the rebuilding of AP services worldwide with state-of-the-art equipment for the new multimedia news world. The changes have embraced all AP news, photo, graphics, and stock services and include conversion of AP and the newspaper industry to electronic handling of photos.
Boccardi oversaw the launching of Associated Press Television News (APTN), now the world’s largest international video news service, and the creation of The WIRE, AP’s multimedia Internet site. The changes include enhancement of core news wires domestically and internationally and development of commercial businesses to support the work of the cooperative.
As costs to cover world news escalated, Boccardi modernized AP’s management and spearheaded AP’s search for new revenues. A new division to centralize business development was formed in 1996, as commercial revenue rose from about 10% of income in 1985 to 20% in 2002. Budgeted revenue of $200 million in 1985 grew to more than $500 million in 2002.
The AP has increased the number of its reporting bureaus from 215 in 1985 to 242 today. To press for the reopening of AP’s bureau in Havana, which had been forced to close in 1969, Boccardi personally made two trips to Cuba to see Fidel Castro and other senior Cuban officials. The AP was given approval to return to Cuba in 1998.
Boccardi has taken a leading role within the news industry on critical First Amendment and freedom of the press issues as well as challenges involving readership and media credibility. He is a member and former chairman of the Pulitzer Prize board.
During the November 2000 presidential election, when the networks prematurely declared George W. Bush the winner, the AP stood out because it alone said the count was incomplete. Later, a House committee called hearings over the failure of election coverage. Boccardi told the committee that “an official government inquiry into what are essentially editorial matters is inconsistent with the First Amendment values that are fundamental to our society.”
Boccardi agreed there were serious shortcomings in the election coverage but said “fixing them is a job for the nation’s editors and news directors, not its legislators. What we report and when we report it are matters between us and the audience we try to serve, not matters between us and our congressmen.”
Boccardi joined the AP in 1967 as executive assistant to the general news editor, who was then AP’s senior news executive. Before then, he spent eight years with New York newspapers, rising to the position of assistant managing editor of the World-Telegram and Sun and its successor newspaper, The World Journal Tribune. He served as AP managing editor and then executive editor for 11 years, and was elected a vice president in 1975. Prior to assuming the presidency on Jan. 1, 1985, he served one year as executive vice president and chief operating officer.