The wire service Associated Press officially apologized this week for firing one of its war correspondents who in 1945 reported the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany — a full day before other news media released the story.
Normally, journalists are praised for breaking a story first. The trouble for Edward Kennedy, the AP reporter covering the German capitulation, he and the 16 other journalists on hand to witness the historic event at Allied headquarters in Reims, France on May 7 promised to sit on the story for 36 hours before reporting it. Both President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill wanted to placate an increasingly hostile Joseph Stalin by delaying the ceremony for a day and moving it to Berlin where Russian field marshal Georgy Zhukov could represent the Soviets. Because of this, the original surrender was kept under wraps.
Kennedy agreed to abide by his pledge to wait a day before reporting the news, but when he discovered details of the earlier ceremony had leaked and were being reported by a German radio station, he filed his story with the AP London Bureau.
“The absurdity of attempting to bottle up news of such magnitude was too apparent,” he would later write about his decision.
Military censors took AP to task for reporting the story. Editors with the wire service responded by dismissing Kennedy.
The disgraced journalist went onto edit the Santa Barbara News and would eventually become publisher of the Monterey Herald. He was killed in a car accident in 1963.
This week, AP’s top executive Tom Curley issued an apology for the dismissal. The CEO learned of Kennedy’s firing while working on a book entitled: Breaking News: How The Associated Press Has Covered War, Peace, and Everything Else.
“It was a terrible day for the AP. It was handled in the worst possible way,” said Curley.
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