By: Mark Fitzgerald
Incoming Associated Press Managing Editors president, Larry
Beaupre, says the organization’s essential reason for existence
is the AP and its focus should be on that wire service sp.
A YEAR AGO, Associated Press Managing Editors was searching its soul.
At its 60th convention this week, however, APME will be rolling up its sleeves.
“The focus is much more clear to us,” APME’s incoming president Larry Beaupre said in an interview on the eve of the Oct. 12-15 convention in Philadelphia.
APME comes to Philadelphia after a busy year that saw the group resolve two important issues that went to the core of its very reason to be.
First, APME leadership adopted a new ethics code that is expected to win easy approval in a membership vote at the convention.
The new code replaces one APME has had since 1975.
More important, though, the one-page ethics code replaces a stricter and more detailed proposal that proved too controversial for adoption.
Despite a campaign that criss-crossed the country to explain the measure, many editors remained bitterly opposed to it.
While much attention was focused on the ethics code, however, APME was engaged throughout the year in another important debate ? this one about its very identity.
At its convention last year in Minneapolis, APME formed a task force to examine whether there was even a need for APME anymore.
The group concluded that APME still matters, but that it must concentrate on its traditional mission: Being the industry watchdog of the Associated Press.
That mission perfectly suits APME’s incoming president.
“The essential reason for our existence is the Associated Press. To the extent there is one mission, our focus should be on that wire service,” Beaupre said.
It is a task more important than ever, Beaupre contends, now that AP is the one virtually unchallenged full-service wire.
“I think it was [AP president] Lou Boccardi who told me there are only six daily newspapers that do not subscribe to AP,” Beaupre said. “Watchdogging the AP ? which is a powerful institution ? is very important.
“This will not be something new to me,” Beaupre added.
Indeed, Lawrence K. Beaupre, vice president and editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, may have set the tone for his presidency in the current issue of the APME News when he declared, “I don’t have any highfalutin goal beyond [being AP’s watchdog]. I don’t see any need for APME to go beyond that essential role of how we can improve service.”
For Beaupre that means APME will get back to basics.
“I have always believed we are a shirt sleeves organization that works hard on practical issues,” he said in an interview.
For instance, an immediate priority for Beaupre will be pushing for more improvements in AP’s coverage from state bureaus.
“There is virtually no alternative to [AP’s] state bureaus out there,” said Beaupre.
AP state bureau coverage, he said, needs to improve in quality and volume.
An even more immediate change will be noticeable to convention-goers in Philadelphia.
“We need to make sure our conventions are as useful and practical as they can be,” he said.
“Our secondary mission has always been to assist editors in developing their skills. At the annual convention there will be a lot of good things for editors. And not just editors, but also the wire editors, the picture editors and others,” Beaupre said.
And while Beaupre maintains he has no “highfalutin goal” for the organization, he will be using APME as a bully pulpit on one important issue.
“For the good of the profession, we should be looking at salaries . . . and how they are viewed competitively,” Beaupre said.
The Enquirer editor said he worries that newspapering is losing the best and the brightest because they believe it is an underpaid profession.
“There are some false ideas out there,” Beaupre said ? adding that the industry’s ubiquitous salary surveys don’t help.
“Surveys have been done but what they lack is context,” he said. “We don’t necessary make a distinction between papers in large markets and those in smaller markets. These surveys tend to blow over these distinctions.”
Perceptions about low salaries are hurting recruitment across the board, Beaupre said.
“Many of us are frustrated because we don’t see perhaps as many minorities out there beating down the doors to journalism as we would like,” he said.
“But I don’t think it affects just minorities,” Beaupre added. “There are an awful lot of bright people out there choosing careers outside of newspapers.”
Beaupre himself, however, can take credit for a bright young person in journalism: His daughter Becky, 21, has begun work as a reporter at the Times-Union in Rochester, N.Y.
That is where Beaupre began his own journalism career as a reporter in 1968.
In 1984, he was named executive editor for Gannett Suburban Newspapers in White Plains, N.Y. Beaupre was named vice president and editor of the Enquirer in 1992.
?( I have always believed we are a shirt sleeves organization that works hard on practical issues.”) [Caption]
?(-Larry Beaupre, incoming APME president) [Photo & Caption]