Wick Communications

AP considers attribution

In Associated Press on September 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

Some of you may have seen a note from Mike Oreskes, senior managing editor of the Associated Press, concerning changes to the AP policy when it comes to attributing the information the cooperative uses. Specifically, the nation’s preeminent news wire is looking to better source material it uses to the blog, newspaper, broadcast outlet or other originating organization.

This is a good idea and I’m anxious to see how it works in practice.

For as long as I can remember, the AP has seen itself as a single entity. The work of member papers was essentially the work of the group as a whole. From that perspective, then, there wasn’t any reason for AP’s own writers to say they were cribbing information from some local paper to share with others. I never had a problem with that as it was the same for everyone.

But two truths have emerged:

  • Papers like ours are trying to drive Web traffic; and
  • Credibility has taken a hit as rumor travels the bumpy path through the Internet.

To address those issues, as I understand it, the AP has decided to attribute to other organizations information it hasn’t independently reported and to give credit to whomever broke the story even if the AP advances a story well beyond that breaking news…

It’s actually a much more nuanced idea than you might think. In making the announcement, Oreskes says the attribution may not happen in the lede and, depending on how heavily the organization relies on the reporting of others, may not occur for several graphs. It is meant to apply to all news-breakers, including blogs and other nontraditional sources.

I think this is a positive move. Readers are increasingly cynical and want to know the source of information so they can reach their own conclusion about the veracity of what’s published. In fact, I think we should follow the AP’s lead and redouble our own efforts to be fair with attribution. We may have occasion to begin with the reporting of AP, bloggers or even the competition. Don’t be afraid to tell readers as much.

Clay

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