The Associated Press will soon name Sally Buzbee as its new Washington bureau chief, an influential position overseeing the wire service's coverage out of the capital. An announcement is expected on Friday, according to newsroom sources. [See Update below]
Newspapers around the country rely daily on the AP's Washington coverage, especially with regional papers hit hard by revenue and circulation drops in recent years. Many papers have shuttered their Washington bureaus or significantly scaled them back. (Yahoo! News is also an AP partner.)
Buzbee will assume the high-profile position that previously belonged to Ron Fournier, an AP veteran who left in June to become editor-in-chief of National Journal Group. There, Fournier is overseeing the integration of several publications — National Journal, CongressDaily, and Hotline — and a rapid expansion of staff, which now includes former Fox correspondent Major Garrett, former Time and Newsweek writer Matt Cooper, and several other Washington-based reporters and editors.
Fournier, a hard-charging political reporter, quickly put his stamp on the bureau in May 2008 by tinkering with the AP's usual detached tone in exchange for a sharper style that he said "cut[s] through the clutter." Some staffers embraced Fournier's vision, while others balked at his plans to shake up the 164-year-old institution.
Buzbee — unlike Fournier and his predecessor, Sandy Johnson — will take over the top job without a resumé steeped in D.C. politics. Instead, Buzbee has spent much of the last few years working overseas before taking a newly created position earlier this year. Buzbee returned to the U.S. in January to become deputy managing editor and head of the AP's News Center, a new global headquarters based in New York. Previously, she served as Middle East editor in Cairo, a position that included overseeing 11 bureaus in 16 countries.
However, Buzbee does have some experience in the capital: She served as assistant bureau chief overseeing foreign affairs out of the Washington bureau. Since joining the AP in 1988, she has covered a variety of topics, including education, politics, and economics.
AP spokesman Paul Colford would not comment on the buzz about Buzbee but said an announcement is expected soon.
UPDATE: Senior managing editor Mike Oreskes confirmed Buzbee's appointment in a Friday memo to AP staffers. Oreskes, in the memo, wrote that "there are few jobs in journalism more challenging or crucial than the post of Washington bureau chief of The Associated Press" and that the bureau is "at the very core of the AP's mission to deliver the news first, and best." He described Buzbee as "a passionate advocate for our journalism."
(Photo of Buzbee addressing the AP Annual Meeting in April: AP/ Richard Drew)