Reuters and AP
Monday 26 August 2019
It was always my understanding - and a senior AP manager confirmed this to me years later - that the long-standing Reuter relationship with AP was severed by the US agency towards the end of the 1960s as a result of several notable scoops Reuters scored around the world by being faster at distributing AP news from the US globally than AP was.
One of those beats in which I was peripherally involved was the Kennedy assassination in November 1963. All the reporting - the initial shooting and the subsequent announcement that the president had died - came from AP in Dallas.
But, amazingly, under the old agreement Reuters was not obliged to source stories from the AP and they went out under a Reuters credit.
I was a greenhorn sub, what was then called a "university trainee", on the old Caribbean Desk on the night of the shooting. When the "black", or carbon copy, of the AP snap was dropped by an editorial messenger into the in-tray on the desk, we were running a "call-band" on the radio transmission into the Caribbean. The band was fed to the transmitter by our teleprinter operator - remember the chain-smoking Ted Gulliver anyone? I knew I had to do something to get the story out but the call-band had another 15 minutes to run.
Ted came up with the solution. "Why don't we feed the snap out as a call-band?" he suggested. Which we did, and later got plaudits - "Reuters was ages ahead of the AP" - or something similar from the Jamaica Gleaner, a big client at the time, and from other client newspapers and radio stations around the region.
Reuters' other regional desks at 85, with uninterrupted transmission and no radio call-band to worry about, certainly got their snaps out faster than we did. Everyone, if I remember rightly, got hero-grams, and a grinning Doon Campbell, prosthetic arm swinging, toured the desks the next day to thank everyone involved.
"Our people were furious about being beaten on that story which should have been ours," that AP executive told me. But it took another three or four years before they cut the string and Reuters promptly moved into the US as a totally independent operation. ■