Telum Talks To... Tony Gillies, Editor-in-Chief, Australian Associated Press

Telum Talks To... Tony Gillies, Editor-in-Chief, Australian Associated Press

You've been with AAP for 16 years, and recently announced your intention to leave the newswire at the end of July. Can you talk us through some of your highlights, lowlights and most memorable moments leading the Newswire through over a decade of changes in the Australian media industry?
AAP is a special workplace. It is admired by working journalists all over and everyone who has been in it refers to it as the AAP family.

That’s down to a team-first culture. Everyone supports one another to get the job done - stories are a shared effort and we celebrate successes together. And if anyone is doing it tough personally, we go over and above to help. This is just the way it is.

It has been a privilege to have led the newsroom for the past 16 years. Calling on that supportive, inclusive culture we have been able to innovate very well at a time when the entire industry has undergone transformation of seismic proportions.

I am most proud of the “can do” attitude that has prevailed in both the good times and difficult times.

As a team we look back on highlights such as:
  • The professional development of young reporters in cadetship and intern programmes that are best practice;
  • The transformation of the newsroom and its services to lead the way in digital publishing;
  • Development of a highly-effective news planning workflow;
  • Successful coverage of big, set-piece news events - Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Federal and state elections, federal budgets, Royal Commissions.
  • The development of AAP’s intensive criminal court coverage;
  • The growth of the AAP’s award-winning photos business;
  • Establishment of the AAP FactCheck unit;
  • AAP’s reputation as a innovator it has earned in the global news agency community;
In the current climate, no media organisation has been immune to the tough times. We have all gone through change and we have all had to make hard decisions at times. Having to lose staff has always hurt. Treating staff with dignity and respect on the way out has been critical.

AAP has recently confirmed that instead of closing in June like expected, it will instead transition to new leadership in July. Can you tell us a bit about the role you think AAP plays in the media landscape and why there was such a big reaction when it was announced it would be shuttered?
In an environment of profound digital disruption Australians need the AAP newswire more than ever.

The news agency’s factual reporting, free of political bias and delivered without the influence of advertisers has earned the trust of audiences for generations.

These principles have not been compromised in AAP’s 85 years serving the country. AAP has been the source of truth in a landscape dominated by opinion, inaccurate reporting and mischievous fakes.

We are proud of the fact that during the past 16 years AAP has not had one had defamation ruling against it, and just one Press Council complaint upheld. And we publish more than three times as many stories as any newsroom in the country.

A large subscription base for a newswire enables it to deliver its news content extremely cost effectively. This is important for newsrooms faced with difficult financial circumstances.

The outpouring of support we saw when shareholders announced in March that they would close AAP suggests that the media and the public understand exactly what was at stake and thankfully the newswire will have a life beyond the involvement of News Corp and Nine.

AAP has been stalwart in the industry since 1935, and the new leadership signals a change for the newswire. Can you tell us anything about what the future may hold for AAP?
The prospective new owners of AAP have yet to disclose their plans for the service. We expect plans may come to lights after the sale agreement has been completed and a new leadership team is announced.

What do you think the future holds for Tony Gillies?
I will remain in the media. It’s the industry I love and I am passionate about, and am positive it will punch through these current challenges.

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