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A letter from the chair and CEO

In 2021 we celebrated 175 years of The Associated Press — nearly two centuries of serving as an eyewitness to history. As we write this letter, history continues to unfold in Ukraine, where Russian forces are attacking, and a humanitarian crisis is growing. AP journalists are there, reporting the facts and showing the world what is happening on the ground.

These intrepid journalists have been the world’s eyes and ears, relaying heart-wrenching details and providing agonizing visuals of the Russian offensive. A brave team in Mariupol spent 20 days in the besieged city, documenting the reality of life there. Their photos of the aftermath of the shelling of a maternity hospital — with pregnant women carried out on stretchers — became defining images of the Russian assault. As the only international journalists on the ground amid a communications blackout, an AP video journalist wrote in a harrowing first-person account that “if not for us, there would be nothing.”

Protecting our teams in Ukraine, Russia and across the globe remains AP’s top priority as we continue to report from some of the world’s most dangerous places, especially during a global pandemic.

In Gaza in 2021 we documented the 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group. An Israeli airstrike destroyed the building housing our own bureau in May, and our journalists kept telling the story. In the chaotic moments when AP’s team evacuated the building, they also sprung into action, grabbing their gear and rushing to a nearby tower to capture on live video the building crumbling. They then went on to cover the conflict. The loss of our bureau took an intense personal toll on our staff, but they persevered to report the facts.

Last year brought with it the largest evacuation of AP staff in modern history when the Taliban again rose to power in Afghanistan. Our team in Kabul and beyond broke multiple stories during the U.S. withdrawal: 12 members of the U.S. military killed in a strike outside the Kabul airport; two U.S. lawmakers flying unannounced to Kabul, prompting fury; and the launch of a U.S. drone strike against the Islamic State.

In Ethiopia in 2021, a string of AP exclusives revealed disturbing accounts of killings committed by both Ethiopian and Eritrean troops in the Tigray region — a province shrouded in secrecy since the start of the conflict. This work exposed a major humanitarian disaster. AP-accredited freelancer Amir Aman Kiyaro was detained in Ethiopia for four months because of his journalism. He was released on bail, but the investigation into him continues.

In Myanmar, we produced strong and exclusive coverage of the aftermath of the country’s military coup, even after AP journalist Thein Zaw was arrested while covering a protest and held for over three weeks in the country’s notorious Insein Prison. Through resourceful reporting and fact-checking, AP uncovered the Myanmar military’s use of systematic torture, prompting the U.S. State Department to demand an investigation and the United Nations’ top expert on human rights in Myanmar to call for international pressure on the military. Another reporting team used interviews, social media, satellite imagery and data to expose a campaign of massacres conducted by the military, and a unique visual investigation revealed the junta was not only shooting at civilians but also going out of their way to mutilate and drag bodies in the street as a way of terrorizing people. 

At the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, AP journalists, themselves at risk, delivered searing images and a nonstop stream of breaking news during the unprecedented insurrection challenging Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump. AP revealed that top military officials feared insider attacks from National Guardsmen activated to protect the inauguration of President Biden, and that the concerns prompted the FBI to vet all 25,000 troops sent to Washington. As the year went on AP countered misinformation surrounding both the events of Jan. 6 and claims of election fraud with the facts.

In all of these cases, AP journalists on the front lines showed the world what was happening, despite great personal risk. Of course the safety of all our staff remains paramount as we tell every story, especially with regard to protecting them from the global pandemic.

Visuals have been critical to telling these stories and so many others. Our photo and video journalists continue to produce poignant, striking and impactful images that rocket around the world. Their work earned AP its 55th and 56th Pulitzer Prizes in 2021 for gripping photography showing explosive protests over racial injustice and the COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on the elderly in Spain. Last year AP produced over 1 million photos from all corners of the globe, in many cases using innovative techniques including drones and robotic cameras, which we deployed at the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Beijing Winter Games.

Innovation and collaboration remained crucial to AP’s success in the second year of the global pandemic. AP Global Media Services, our production arm, produced and livestreamed auctions for Sotheby’s, which had taken its auctions online due to COVID. We doubled down on our efforts to support our members and local news as a whole, introducing localization guides to help newsrooms make major stories local. We also expanded AP StoryShare, the platform that allows local outlets to share their content with one another, and now have 11 networks up and running. With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we surveyed local newsrooms on their use of and need for artificial intelligence and automation and have used the findings to inform a free course for local newsrooms that launched this month.

We also expanded our work with foundations and nonprofits, using philanthropic grants to examine in depth traditionally under-covered areas, such as health and science, religion, and challenges to democracy worldwide. We laid the groundwork for our flagship climate reporting initiative, which will infuse the global media landscape with a new stream of quality climate journalism through both AP content and in-depth training and collaboration with our customers. Of course in all cases we maintain our editorial independence; our commitment to AP standards never wavers.

All of this crucial work continues in 2022 — a midterm election year in the U.S. As we have since 1848, AP will count the vote and report the results quickly and accurately, delivering all-formats election coverage — and so much more — to our customers around the world.

Here are highlights from 2021:

Journalism with impact

  • AP delivered a major scoop on the contents of the long-awaited report by Chinese and World Health Organization experts on the origins of COVID-19. The draft of the report — first obtained by AP — stated that COVID likely first jumped into humans from animals and that a lab leak was unlikely.
  • An exclusive AP story revealed that thousands of COVID patients in New York State were released into hundreds of nursing homes under the direction of then-Governor Andrew Cuomo.
  • Reporting in Chad, where not a single COVID vaccine shot had been administered, highlighted vaccine inequality and vaccine deserts across the globe.
  • A data-driven AP investigation undercut President Donald Trump’s voter fraud claims and prompted a rare phone interview with the former president.
  • In the wake of Hurricane Ida, AP uncovered major chemical spills that regulators and the chemical companies themselves had not acknowledged.
  • A decade-long AP investigation looking into the loss and theft of U.S. military guns prompted an immediate reaction from the Pentagon, with the top general signaling they would seek systematic fixes for the missing weapons.
  • AP journalists won unprecedented Western media access to China’s Urumqi detention center and revealed China’s move to more permanent mass incarceration of Uyghurs and other minorities.
  • An AP investigation exposed multiple cases of beatings at the hands of Louisiana State Police, and efforts to conceal the evidence, prompting a series of reforms and the chief stating he would be open to a U.S. Justice Department investigation into potential racial profiling.
  • AP was first to report details of a U.S. plan to fly migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border back to Haiti, and produced sharp and illuminative enterprise pieces, including one that used data to explore allegations that U.S. immigration policies have long been anti-Black.
  • An all-formats investigation examining the disproportionate use of police force against Black and brown children caught the attention of the U.S. Congress, with the House Judiciary Committee voting to enter the entire AP package into the committee record during a hearing with the attorney general.
  • AP exclusively reported that six Dr. Seuss books were pulled from publication because of racist imagery.
  • An immersive interactive took readers on a tour of the globe, visualizing how and where exposure to extreme heat is escalating and its impact on population centers.

Innovation and collaboration

  • AP expanded its robust news verification efforts by working with Twitter to elevate credible news and information on the social media platform.
  • AP’s Global Media Services business worked with Sotheby’s to expand the auction house’s video production capabilities and global reach as it adapted to virtual auctioneering.
  • Working across the organization and industry, we implemented a robust training program for staff to protect themselves from and mitigate online harassment, a troubling trend globally.
  • We nearly doubled active AP StoryShare networks to 11, helping knit together virtual newsrooms around geography or topic and turbocharging state and topical news coverage, putting the power to share in the hands of participants.
  • With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, AP launched a two-year project to expand the use of artificial intelligence tools in local newsrooms.
  • Funding from the European Journalism Center allowed AP to examine the lasting effects of the global pandemic on women in Africa, including how they have been pushed to the brink in the least developed countries.
  • AP launched a team dedicated to covering water issues in the U.S. with funding from the Walton Family Foundation.
  • The use of robotic cameras at the Tokyo Summer Olympics provided unparalleled images of athletes and venues.
  • AP brought economic, sports and race call data onto leading blockchains as factual sources for developers in need of data for their programs.
  • We streamlined and enhanced video services to make it easier for customers to put both live and archived video into production.

As we enter 2022, AP is in strong financial shape. There is a lot to be excited about at The Associated Press, where our customers can count on us to deliver the services they rely on and, above all else, report the facts, as we have for 175 years.

Gracia C. Martore
Chair

Daisy Veerasingham
President and CEO

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