- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

The Associated Press laid off about 40 technical managers last week, part of an internal campaign to modernize the world’s largest and oldest news-gathering organization.

One of the wire service’s managers wrote in e-mail to staffers that the AP needed fewer technical employees because of equipment improvements. The manager also cited industry consolidation that has reduced demand for the repair and maintenance of computers and satellites, according to Editor & Publisher Online, an industry Web site.

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The job cuts were spread across the United States, the report stated.

The AP, headquartered in New York, is a not-for-profit cooperative that supplies news reports, photographs and graphics to 1,700 newspapers and 5,000 radio and television stations. It has about 3,700 employees worldwide and operates 242 bureaus in 121 countries.

The service, founded in 1848, has several rivals, although none seem to threaten its dominance. Reuters Group PLC, a British wire service, has become a bigger news-gathering force in recent years and New York-based Bloomberg LP has become a top financial news supplier, but the AP continues to dwarf them both.

United Press International Inc., based in the District, struggled through bankruptcies and ownership changes in the 1980s and 1990s. News World Communications Inc., publisher of The Washington Times, purchased UPI from Saudi Arabian investors in 2000.

In a written statement, Jack Stokes, an AP spokesman, said, “Yes, there is a reorganization going on in the Associated Press, driven by changing business priorities. We’ve been making changes in staff, including reallocations of resources, new hiring, an early retirement plan offering, reductions in staff through attrition, and as a last resort, layoffs. We have not talked publicly about the specifics of the changes in our business. We are still in the process of communicating these changes to the staff.” He declined to elaborate.

AP employees said the organization’s president, Tom Curley, has talked openly about the need to modernize. Mr. Curley arrived in June after more than 10 years as president and publisher of USA Today, which is published by McLean-based Gannett Co. Inc.

“People are worried. There has been a lot of concern expressed about the future,” said Tony Winton, an AP radio reporter in Miami and president of the News Media Guild, a labor union that represents reporters, photographers and other workers within the AP.

The wire service has not introduced a hiring freeze, Mr. Winton said.

Officials with the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America, the union that represents the AP’s technical employees, could not be reached yesterday.

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