It’s little exaggeration to call The Associated Press (AP) the backbone of American news.
Even if you don’t realize it, you probably consume AP journalism almost every time you engage with the media. All that content in newspapers and on local TV newscasts and digital portals is created by thousands of AP employees spread across 263 locations, including every statehouse in the U.S., plus 105 other countries.
Since 2005, the task of overseeing human resources for that sizable staff has fallen to AP senior vice president Jessica Bruce ’87, one of eight executives on the organization’s senior management team who report directly to CEO Gary Pruitt. Bruce added a second title to her business card in April 2016, when she was promoted to lead corporate communications as well.
“Jessica has been a key leader for The Associated Press for more than a decade,” Pruitt said when Bruce’s new position was announced. “In this broader role, we will benefit to an even greater extent from her keen intellect and sound judgment.”
Bruce, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her spouse, Karine, and their son, Sully, will mark 20 years at the AP in 2017. She attributes her lengthy stay to a number of factors, including stellar colleagues and her passion for the AP’s mission “to inform the world.”
She said that even though the wire service’s roots predate the Pony Express (Wheaton was 12 years old when the AP was founded), it remains as relevant as ever in an era of 24/7 news and social media, thanks to its emphasis on brevity, breaking news and just-the-facts reporting.
“Today’s news consumers want even more of exactly what the AP provides,” she said.
Bruce said she’s excited about her new role in part because she gets to help design the way employees, business customers and news consumers interact with the AP, which is a nonprofit news cooperative owned by its members. “There’s an opportunity to shift thinking, to streamline access to AP products and services, and to broaden the public’s exposure and understanding of the AP and its value in the world today,” she said.
Bruce was an art history major at Wheaton but looking back, she quipped, “I joke that I really majored in leadership.”
She served in multiple residence-hall positions, finally as the campus head resident, as the treasurer of the student union, and was involved with numerous other organizations. The leadership lessons she took away from those experiences were vital to her success during the first decade of her career, she noted.
“It was all about working successfully with people, leading through influence and finding pathways to change. Wheaton’s leadership training was critical,” said Bruce.
But her art history major also served her well. She chose it after experiencing the intellectual rigor of classes taught by then Professor Leslie Brubaker. “She never, ever said ‘good enough,’” Bruce recalled. “She pushed and pushed and then pushed some more, until I found myself functioning in academic ways I didn’t think were possible for me.”
Wheaton honored Bruce’s success early, giving her the Young Alumnae/i Achievement Award just six years after she graduated. She’s retained close ties to the college in the years since, including as a trustee. In 2014 she delivered the keynote address at Wheaton’s Sophomore Symposium, where she told those in attendance that “career advancement is often about getting things done” as much as book smarts.
“I strongly encouraged students to lead something—anything—while at Wheaton,” she said. “Even if you know you don’t want to be the boss, you’re going to have to work with a couple throughout your career.”