The AP Looks Back

150 Years of Capturing the Moment

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Associated Press. When AP photographer Joe Rosenthal caught the moment that U.S. marines raised the flag over Iwo Jima, no one could have predicted that the image would become an icon, an emblem of victory, reprinted more than any other in the AP's history, reinterpreted into a postage stamp and a World War II memorial.

Celebrating its 150th anniversary, the AP, in association with Harry N. Abrams, is publishing Flash! The Associated Press Covers the World, an offering of photographs of personalities and events, well known and obscure. These days the AP reaches hundreds of millions of people through more than 15,000 news outlets in 112 nations. But it wasn't always so. The AP was born in 1848 when six competing New York dailies formed a cooperative that would produce one less-costly telegraphic report for every news event. From the beginning, the AP has embraced every technical innovation, from Marconi's wireless to satellites. But it isn't technology that has made the AP a success; it is the reporters and photographers who cover the news. The AP has won 43 Pulitzer Prizes so far. AP reporters are expected to be wherever news is happening, and the standards are high. It was an AP reporter who took down by hand Lincoln's Gettysburg Address; an AP man who held Booth's weapon minutes after Lincoln's assassination and reported the terrible news. AP men and women cover the news in every U.S. county and every country, but at a great cost. On June 24, 1876, Mark Kellogg, assigned to cover Custer's regiment in its confrontation with Sitting Bull, wrote: "By the time this reaches you we would have met and fought the red devils, with what result remains to be seen. I go with Custer and will be at the death." Kellogg was the first AP reporter to die on assignment; 22 others have followed. In the book's introduction, Peter Arnett, a 20-year AP veteran who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Vietnam, and saw AP colleagues work and die under fire, asks, "What kind of organization can ask that of a person, to permit the risking of life itself for something as transitory as a news story?" His answer: "On reflection, I would say that only a news organization that is very, very sure of its mission." The AP is clear: "Get it first, get it fast, get it right. And be fair."

By Marlane A. Liddell

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