IN THE OLYMPIC and presidential election year of 1996, the Associated Press intends to improve news and sportswriting, give a harder edge to state and regional reporting and move voting and sporting results faster, its top executives say.
In a report to the recent Associated Press Managing Editors convention in Indianapolis, managers of the nation's largest wire service repeatedly emphasized initiatives to sharpen the writing of their reporters ? especially at the state level.
Veteran national political writer Walter Mears will be the most prominent of several AP staffers working at state bureaus to improve writing, AP vice president and executive editor William E. Ahearn said.
State reports will also take on a sharper journalistic edge, Ahearn said.
"Hard-edged journalism on a state level has been a prime goal of AP," Ahearn said.
In addition, AP will introduce regional reporting, beginning with a dozen western states, he said.
AP is also promising election-year coverage with more enterprise reporting.
"We will track trends from the grass roots up," said managing editor Darrell Christian. "And coverage of election nights themselves will be more sophisticated, more oriented to the 'why' than the 'what.' "
AP intends to expand its use of exit polls and speed up projections, he said.
"That means you will get faster calls on the winners and losers ? some almost as the polls close ? and smarter journalism that focuses on why the voters did what they did," Christian said.
Speed will be a big factor in reporting this year's Summer Olympics in Atlanta, as well, said AP sports editor Terry Taylor.
"This [Olympic year] we don't have to cross the ocean or pay $25 for a Pizza Hut pizza, as we did in [the 1992 Summer Games in] Barcelona. This will be a home Olympics. But in many ways, Atlanta will be a harder Olympics to cover," Taylor said.
The reason: AP will lose the overseas time differential.
"Finals in all the glamour events will fall right on East Coast deadlines ? between 10 p.m. and midnight," she said.
In addition to selecting its writing staff on the basis of their speed, AP has been working with the Atlanta organizing committee on a computerized delivery system that will move results and statistics without requiring the wire service to format the data first, Taylor said.
For the Atlanta Games, AP is also reviving the so-called "minor sports" reporting desk that it had dropped in the most recent Olympics, she said.
Beyond the Olympics, AP's sports department will also emphasize improved writing ? and emphasize golf as never before, Taylor said.
For instance, assistant sports editor Ron Sarak will soon replace retiring writer Robert Greene as the golf writer. Sarak will produce a weekly golf page similar to the wire's weekly auto racing page.
"There will be a greater emphasis on women's golf, on the business of golf and on technology in golf," Taylor said.
Sarak will also double as AP's sportswriting coach, she said.
?( "Hard-edged journalism on a state level has been a prime goal of AP.") [Caption]
?(-William E> Aheran, vice president and executive editor, Associated Press) [Photo & Caption]
By: Mark Fitzgerald Coverage of Olympics also discussed sp.