Nowa Paye, 9, is taken to an ambulance after showing signs of Ebola in the village of Freeman Reserve, about 30 miles north of Monrovia, Liberia, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014.

ap photo / Jerome Delay

Members and customers:

Sealed into protective gear and armed with bottles of bleach, hand sanitizers, goggles, gloves and masks, AP West Africa correspondent Krista Larson, photographer Jerome Delay and video producer Andy Drake set out last September to bring the story of Ebola in Liberia to the wider world in a way that went beyond numbers and medical facts. Their stories, photos and video showed the real impact of the disease: orphaned children, infected victims left dying in the streets, a health care system in shambles and an epidemic out of control.

In the United States, meanwhile, when federal health officials confirmed that a Texas resident had become the first person in the United States to develop the disease, AP reporters Emily Schmall and Nomaan Merchant tapped their deep community connections in Dallas. What they learned was stunning — the patient had been sent home from the hospital in spite of telling doctors that he had just been in Liberia, where Ebola was spreading unchecked. As the story grew, it revealed a U.S. health care system unprepared to deal with the emergency.

From West Africa to Dallas and beyond, it was quintessential Associated Press coverage: Only AP’s reach, depth and access could have provided such a full picture of the alarming crisis as it unfolded worldwide.

In a year of extraordinary unrest — deadly conflict, fatal epidemics, airplane crashes and natural disasters — AP leveraged its resources around the world to tell stories that no other media could. As we met the challenge of covering a chaotic and dangerous year, our stories broke news no one else had, provided crucial context and perspective and made a difference.

For The Associated Press, 2014 was a year of important accomplishments that reaffirmed and supported our mission to inform the world. Both revenue and cash flow exceeded the prior year, with cash flow growing for the third consecutive year and reaching the highest level since 2008. We sold STATS, our sports data joint venture with Fox Sports, and used the proceeds to significantly reduce our pension liabilities. As in 2013, AP ended the year with no debt.

We renegotiated several important agreements with major international and U.S. customers last year. Facing financial and competitive pressure, an increasing number of media companies are choosing to have a single agency provide their content. Citing our superior coverage and service, many of the organizations we negotiated with last year opted for AP as their content provider, often for longer terms, at the exclusion of the competition.

Demand for AP video news soared in 2014, and AP was positioned to meet it. We routinely track the use of AP video by about half of our broadcast customers and in 2014 those broadcasters used more than 1,244 days of AP video — the equivalent of three years of continuous viewing. In response to the increasing demand, we added video journalists in the Middle East and launched a new service — AP Middle East Extra — for our customers there. Focused on coverage such as lifestyle and technology that goes beyond conflict and breaking news in the region, Middle East Extra has proven immensely popular and has helped AP gain new customers and keep existing ones. We also strengthened our video newsgathering in Latin America, increasing our coverage by one-third.

AP Video Hub, the innovative platform we introduced three years ago for digital publishers and news websites, was expanded with the addition of a marketplace feature for the ingestion and sale of third-party video content. Revenue from AP Video Hub more than doubled from 2013. At the same time, we streamlined our internal video workflows in the United States in order to reduce filing times and better integrate our video into customers’ workflows. This year, AP will be increasing the number of live channels from which we offer video, both for breaking news and planned events, as well as providing enhanced coverage from Europe.

In the United States, we further bolstered AP’s competitive strength in news from across the country by hiring dozens of journalists. We launched a pilot project at our Central news hub in Chicago, to test the effectiveness of a shared news desk that would centralize the creation and distribution of content from our newspaper, radio station and broadcast members in the region. The experiment was a decisive success: The shared news desk there is producing 400 additional stories a month for members, with the biggest increase during the early morning hours that are so critical to broadcasters and online traffic. Meanwhile, our regular beat journalists have now been freed up to create original and exclusive content for AP members. We are rolling out similar desks in our other three U.S. news hubs — Atlanta, Phoenix and Philadelphia — this year.

We took innovative steps to leverage our journalistic resources in other ways too last year. We began using automation technology to produce earnings reports for many U.S. companies and allow more beat journalists to pursue original enterprise and breaking news. Since the automation began, in July, we are producing more than 3,000 stories about U.S. corporate earnings each quarter.

For The Associated Press, 2014 was a year of important accomplishments that reaffirmed and supported our mission to inform the world.

As a result of technological innovations, governments today possess a powerful and growing ability to monitor the actions and communications of their citizens and the media. We experienced this firsthand in 2013 when we learned that the U.S. Department of Justice had secretly seized the records of thousands of AP’s phone calls as part of a leak investigation. After AP and media around the world expressed outrage, the DOJ agreed to review the federal guidelines concerning the use of subpoenas on journalists. Early this year, the Justice Department issued substantively revised protocols that significantly strengthen protections for journalists.

If we had not vigorously protested, these changes would not have been made. The lesson? In this day and age, all media must stay vigilant in support of free press rights and must always fight against government overreach. AP does this as part of its mission — we have ever since our founding nearly 170 years ago. But the fight grows ever more challenging — and costly. A joint project with AP member newspapers this year found that many states are making the cost of a public records request so high that media and public can’t afford it. That’s one way to stop the free flow of public information.

Last year was the deadliest for AP in more than two decades. We lost three journalists in war zones in 2014. In April, photographer Anja Niedringhaus was shot and killed by an Afghan policeman charged with protecting her. In August, videographer Simone Camilli and translator Ali Abu Afash died when an unexploded bomb went off in Gaza. (In addition, AP Cuban photographer Franklin Reyes was killed in a car crash on assignment.) Reporter Kathy Gannon was badly injured when Anja was shot, and photographer Hatem Moussa severely wounded in the explosion in Gaza. Dozens more of their AP colleagues were beaten, arrested, detained and threatened as they worked to gather news.

Around the world, the ability of journalists to report the news is increasingly being threatened. Once welcomed as the voice of truth and fairness, journalists now are targets. At peril are the very people we depend on to serve as the public’s independent eyewitness to history.

We mourn the loss of our colleagues and salute the courage of journalists everywhere who put their lives at risk to tell all sides of the story.

Gary Pruitt
President and CEO

Mary Junck