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AP Updates Attribution Guidelines, Links Not Mentioned

Associated Press Urges Reporters to Credit Other Publications

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The Associated Press has revealed some new guidelines for its reporters with regards to credit and attribution. The guidelines come in the form of a letter from AP Senior Managing Editor Mike Oreskes.

Is the AP asking its reporters to do what it has frowned upon in the past? Share your thoughts.

The guidelines apply to AP reports in print, broadcast, and online news, and stress the importance of giving proper attribution to other publications that break stories.

"We should provide attribution whether the other organization is a newspaper, website, broadcaster or blog; whether or not it’s U.S. based; and whether or not it’s an AP member or subscriber," writes Oreskes. "This policy applies to all reports in all media, from short pieces, such as NewsNows and initial broadcast reports, to longer pieces aimed at print publication."

Associate Press updates guidelines Oreskes says attribution doesn’t have to be at the beginning of a story, and that sometimes it can be two or three paragraphs down.

"If some information comes from another organization and some is ours, we should credit ourselves for what’s ours and the other organization for what’s theirs," he writes, adding that if material from another source turns out to be wrong, that will be cited in corrections later. (emphasis added)

The AP is one organization that has famously expressed disdain with blogs in the past (ones that quoted AP stories and gave credit), and was cited among various other publications earlier this year by Danny Sullivan as one that failed to credit where it got its information (most likely his article, at least somewhere in the chain) about a particular story.

It is interesting however that these guidelines appear to suggest that its reporters can freely do what the AP has in the past complained about others doing – using snippets of content. Now, the guidelines don’t exactly say anything about using "snippets", but it’s either that, rewriting, or regurgitating something that’s already been discussed elsewhere (even with some additional original content added). Am I wrong? It’s a matter of fair use, and the AP’s stance on fair use in the past has basically been that there isn’t any when it comes to the AP’s content. Is it a double standard? Clearly, this is admission that the AP has participated in this same type of reporting.

It’s good to know that they’re recognizing that this is just part of how it works in this age of online news, but you still have to wonder what side of the fence they come down on with regards to their own content. I guess we’ll see if AP reporters abide by these guidelines and whether or not the AP attacks anybody for using the same methods with AP content.

The whole thing is very related to the AP’s stance on search engines and aggregators as well. These sites do, after all, provide snippets, links, and credit to the sources. The AP just reignited a deal with Google, by the way. 

While stressing the importance of attribution, Oreskes does also make a note of telling reporters not to use other sources so much that it appears they’re "free riding" on another organization’s work, and stresses matching or further development of the story. 

What is not mentioned once in the guidelines is the word "link". There is no mention of linking whatsoever. It is unclear whether linking is included it in the proper attribution described or whether they deem simple credit to be sufficient. While obviously you can’t link in print or broadcast (one reason why online content is more valuable to readers), linking has become commonly looked upon as necessary to attribution in online news, so those who deserve credit for breaking a story can in turn get traffic to that story.

The letter does say that it will continue to use "information from" lines with URLs, but that attribution should be in the body of the story as well. However, it is unclear whether or not this attribution will actually include links.

It will be interesting to see how the AP proceeds in this regard. Without links, the organization is setting itself up for a great deal of criticism.

Thoughts on the AP’s guidelines? Let’s hear them

AP Updates Attribution Guidelines, Links Not Mentioned
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  • dlsweb

    Yea, we’ll see.
    I have a local TV station that grabs my stories, rewrites them, and submits many to AP.
    A couple of them have gone from our very small market to some major newspapers.
    So yea, we’ll see

  • Guest

    Are you aware the AP Logo you have in the article links to a 404 on Yahoo? irony

    Associated Press Urges Reporters to Credit Other Publications
    “we do need to say where the information came from”
    I’m not even in the business and I understand that means link to source, how did you happen to miss how the internet works asking ‘duh we don’t have to link?’ Do we seriously need a 100 page explanation going into great detail of the exact way you should link, or do we understand the word “credit” equals link back as common sense.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Google starts penalizing those that don’t credit sources soon enough.

  • http://www.classicboats.co.uk Guest

    Five times I have politely asked to be taken off the mailing list and I am still recieving emails from
    Web Pro News. For goodness, take me off your bloody mailing list now!!!!!!!! I don’t want any more news letters from you EVER!!!!

    Ron Binmore

    • Chris Crum

      Not my department, but I’m sure if you email our support team at support@ientry.com and give them the email address you want unsubscribed, they’ll be happy to help you. Or if you want to send me the email you want unsubscribed (at ccrum@ientry.com), I’ll be happy to pass it along.

  • http://www.writecite.com WriiteCite

    As businesses gravitate to valuing and protecting their information based intellectual property over the internet, source attribution will step out of academic and government domains and into the wider community. Attribution, or referencing as it is more commonly referred, requires teaching and sites like www.writecite.com will find wider usage.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      Registering a work is a very important first step that is almost always overlooked in Internet publishing. Technically, a work is copyrighted the second it is committed to media of some sort but without a registration of some sort, proof of first author is next to impossible to prove and timestamps on files or presence in someone’s crawler database is flimsy proof at best.

      I would suggest though that writecite provide dual paths for registration, hard copy and internet/digital as the current one seems more hard-copy related and most might not think of it’s application to web based and/or pure digital content.

  • http://www.uuny.net Dave

    Some reporters just get plain lazy and search for “additional” content that they pass off as their own.

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    What is the definition of ‘attribution’ in copyright law and how and when is it required?

    What is copyright law regarding the Internet and how is it applied or applicable, if at all?

    On the other hand, if one’s information is licensed for use only if a link to the source of the information is included in the copy making use of the information, that would be a different issue as it doesn’t matter what format or medium the information is contained in or how it is communicated.

    Adhoc Internet ‘common sense’ may define ‘attributution’ as including a link but Internet ‘common sense’ is virtually an oxymoron.

    Should AP provide links where possible, definitely but unless sources have their content licensed such that it is necessary, e.g. Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license and then complete their side of the agreement by specifying the manner of attribution and, those with copyright push their claim legally, AP can and will do whatever they want as that is their prerogative under the law, or lack thereof.

    They’ve already shown their disinterest in the opinions of netizens in the past and that is not likely to change in the near future. Opinions alone aren’t going to sway the AP. Someone’s going to have to pony up and enforce their license so that the AP realizes that it is not just a number of opinions they care little about being against them.

    All that said, if those whose content has been used against its licensing don’t do anything about it, they’d have no protection under the law no matter what the format. So if one have a claim push for its enforcement or forget it or one is just banging one’s head against the wall.