“Like working for AP and having access to the morgue”

Recently, we sat down with K Lee Lerner–a senior commissioning editor and advisor/contributor to news services and academic resources. Lerner’s portfolio covering science and global issues includes two RUSA Book and Media Awards, and two Outstanding Academic Titles. A former classroom teacher,  Lerner holds multiple degrees in science, science education, and also a  Master’s in Journalism from Harvard.  We asked him to critically review our new Associated Press Collections Online archives. We hope his insights will help you to see the real value in these collections for active journalists and students alike.

First, we asked whether the archives provide value for both journalism students and active journalists:

My initial reaction was that while the historical value was literally priceless, it would be tough to  make the collections relevant to news as it is practiced today. But then I thought about how every class has a component of what I term “packaging”. Reporters often work significant portions of their careers as freelance, which means they do not  have access to the in-house archives of a news organization. Yet, at the same time reporters are pushed to package stories–to include facets of interest  (sidebars on history, odd facts, personalities, geography, etc)–with exactly the kind of background materials these archives provide. The Associated Press Collections Online archives are like working for AP and having access to the morgue.  It’s vital, not just nice fill.

Lerner went on to discuss how the collections might be used beyond written journalism:

This applies to more than just written journalism; in fact, the push for material is MORE intense in the 24/7 online and cable news world. It is extremely rare to find well organized resources one can use for “Ken Burns-style” video inserts into reports and documentaries. If I were a news director, I would want access (and some republishing rights) primarily for this reason alone.

Next, he discussed why the News Features & Internal Communications collection is his favorite of the three existing archives:

The real sleeper in here for me was the writing about the Associated Press. This collection contains articles about AP employees and operations, as well as writings by AP staff. The Oliver Gramling commissions, part of what’s known as Reporters’ Recollections, consist of rare, unpublished, firsthand accounts of the experiences of AP correspondents. These accounts include the recollections of James “The Silver Fox” Mills, who traveled to 54 countries across five continents, reporting on notable people and extraordinary events along the way. This collection also includes articles and addresses by Melville Stone, general manager of the Associated Press at the turn of the century.

He finished off by talking about how AP’s organizational history really drove the way news is reported and delivered in today’s world:

As these documents assert, one could argue that the first globalization of news happened in the early 1930s when AP–in recognition that they covered news across borders–stopped listing foreign correspondents by location. There is a strong tie-in to the modern world of journalism.

Have you explored Associated Press Collections Online? If you haven’t, ask your library sales consultant for a free trial and see if you agree with Lerner’s assessment? Or, hop on over to check out this 1985 AP manuscript about the “internationalization” of the news and advertising.

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