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AP leader tells audience of wartime perils to journalists

The war in Afghanistan is threatening journalistic accuracy and the journalists themselves, the head of The Associated Press told an audience Thursday at the University of Kentucky.

"Nowhere is the truth more at risk than in today's war," said Tom Curley, president of the news organization. Curley delivered the 33rd annual Joe Creason lecture at UK, which kicked off UK's Conference on War, Journalism and History, which runs through Sunday.

During his lecture, Curley spoke of discrepancies between what the government reports and what actually happens in Afghanistan. He described several scenarios in which the government said one thing but Associated Press correspondents found something entirely different.

"While official reports were reporting a beaten Taliban, AP reports were reporting the opposite," said Curley, who became president and CEO in 2003.

Curley said the AP has gone to great lengths to find the truth. The most effective way is to put reporters on the battlefield.

"Being on the ground is essential to discover the truths and mistruths of war," Curley said.

While having journalists on the battlefield is effective, it doesn't come without risk. Curley said that reporters face the same dangers as soldiers and are even targeted by enemies.

To better demonstrate the dangers posed to war correspondents, Curley began his lecture with a series of war photographs taken by AP correspondents that depicted combat from every war since World War I.

"They illustrate the challenges of media in wartime," Curley said at the event, which is named for a former journalist who spent most of his career as a reporter and columnist for The Courier-Journal in Louisville.

Bur those dangers can be avoided. Curley said that when looking for new correspondents, he looks for journalists who can report accurately but also are responsible.

"We don't want cowboys," he said. "We want people who will come back."