07/22/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

New Washington Bureau Chief Saving The AP Or Destroying It?

Ron Fournier says he regards Sandy Johnson, his predecessor as head of The Associated Press's Washington bureau, as "a mentor."

Johnson, though, regards Fournier, who replaced her in a hard-feelings shake-up in May, as a threat to one of the most influential institutions in American journalism.

"I loved the Washington bureau," said Johnson, who left the AP after losing the prestigious position. "I just hope he doesn't destroy it."

There's more to her vinegary remark than just the aftertaste of a sour parting. Fournier is a main engine in a high-stakes experiment at the 162-year old wire to move from its signature neutral and detached tone to an aggressive, plain-spoken style of writing that Fournier often describes as "cutting through the clutter."

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