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New Associated Press policy on attribution

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In a presser dated Sept. 1, 2010 the Associated Press “announces editorial guidelines for credit and attribution.”

The announcement, highlights the “new set of guidelines” that AP Senior Managing Editor Michael Oreskes passed to AP staffers.

“In the age of the Web, the sourcing and reliability of information has become ever more crucial,” the announcement reads (note the capped “W”) and continues to highlight two situations where this policy will apply:

  • Attributing to other organizations information that we haven’t independently reported.
  • Giving credit to another organization that broke a story first, even when we match it — or advance it — through our own reporting.

In essence, this policy seems like a ‘no-brainer’ — simply put, give credit to those you cite and those who broke the story first and those who did the work.

It’s taken some time for the AP to formally adjust its mindset — by setting policy — or maybe it just hasn’t done a great job in communicating that to members and non-members alike.

I’m happy to hear AP is taken a more active approach in attributing source material.

This announcement comes after another miss by AP on attribution — an oversight their editorial staff admits — at The Daily Local in West Chester, Pa.

Staffer Eric S. Smith penned a story about Rose Ann Belluso of Downingtown, Pa. who had Sir Paul McCartney autograph her back with a Sharpie following a recent Philly concert stop. Ms. Belluso wanted something more permanent so she had a tattoo artist permanently etch the former Beatles signature on her back.

Stories like this aren’t groundbreaking but they are great reads, great photos and great video. The DL staff produced all three and AP quickly pushed the text and photos out to members. Non-member broadcasters contacted The DL for video copy and this quirky little story quickly grew and went global — it is Paul McCartney afterall.

The story found homes on The Telegraph in London, on FOX in DC and on AOL.

And in all cases it was AP cited as the source — both for print and photo.

This policy is overdue. The test now comes as we watch to see how well AP keeps to this policy and ensures that members will be cited.

Also of note from the new AP policy:

The memo states: “… we shouldn’t use facts from a non-member news organization, even with credit, so frequently that we appear to be systematically and continuously free riding on that organization’s work.” Wouldn’t a better policy statement be to make sure AP is the leader in coverage? Obviously being all things to all people isn’t possible but it shouldn’t be about appearances — “that we appear to be systematically and continuously free riding on that organization’s work” — it should be about providing to best, most accurate, most timely content to the audience — regardless of platform or membership.

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Written by Jon Cooper

September 2, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] organisation made this change after several incidents where the AP was credited as a source for stories, when in fact the information had first appeared […]


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