eyes of an editor
By John Coomber, Training Editor at AAP
When I walked through the doors of AAP’s old office in Wynyard House, Sydney, in July 1972 two things struck me.
First was the airport-like roar of 120 teleprinters going flat out in a dingy, low-ceilinged room - my hearing has never quite
Second was the fug of cigarette smoke emanating from every desk - my lungs have just about recovered. (Disclaimer: It
wasn’t all passive smoking - it seemed the only way to get through overnight shifts).
It was inconceivable then, but here I am at AAP for its 80th birthday, and it occurs to me that I have been part of the
furniture for more than half the company’s life.
Why, I hear you ask.
It’s easy. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather work.
On that long-ago day, Editor Lyall Rowe (91 and still going strong) instilled in me the eight-word credo that AAP carries to
"Speed is essential, but accuracy is more important".
In 1935 the company founders set it down in more courtly language. AAP was established “to supply news without any
tendency toward or opportunity for the exercise of political partisanship or bias”.
It is the purest form of journalism.
We have no political axe to grind, nor advertisers to please. We stand on our own feet without support or influence from
government. News value is paramount, and successive boards, chief executives and editors have guarded AAP’s
independence and reporting integrity above all else.
I know this from personal experience. I have never seen any AAP journalist asked to write or withhold a story for commercial
or political reasons. In my eight years as editor I did at times experience editorial pressure, occasionally even
from our shareholders, but with the unquestioning support of the executive, we stuck to our principles.
We can’t afford to do otherwise.
We have only our reputation to trade on, and as the digital revolution changes almost everything else, it is more
important than ever.
There is another side to AAP’s news integrity.
It tends to attract people for whom those ideals are more important than getting your head on the telly or seeing your
name up in lights.
And from that springs a culture of teamwork that makes it such an appealing place to work.
As I tell each year’s newly minted batch of cadets and trainees, you don’t come here to get rich or famous (though some
have managed it) but you’ll have a great time, get plenty of opportunities, and at night be able to put your head on the
pillow knowing you’ve done something worthwhile that society needs perhaps more than it realises.
So as we pass this milestone we deserve to pause and give ourselves a little pat on the back.
And then go back to doing what we’ve always done.
* John Coomber has been a reporter, sub-editor, sportswriter, foreign correspondent, national correspondent,
deputy news editor and editor. He has been training editor since 2009.