Associated Press Issues Tighter Attribution Policy

The Associated Press today issued a new policy calling for stricter attribution of outside sources and other news organizations that report news used by AP.

The memo from AP Senior Managing Editor Micheal Oreskes states:


In the age of the Web, the sourcing and reliability of information has become ever more crucial. So it is more important than ever that we be consistent and transparent in our handling of information that originated elsewhere than our own reporting.

Therefore, here is our policy for crediting other news organizations in our reporting. This policy is aimed at introducing consistency to our practices around the world, and applies to our print, broadcast and online news reports.

The policy addresses two kinds of situations:

-- 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. Attributing facts we haven't gathered or confirmed on our own:

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.

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.

It applies once we have decided that we need to pick up the material - and for those decisions, the usual judgments still apply.

The attribution doesn't always have to be at the start of a story or script; it can sometimes be two or three graphs down. But we do need to say where the information came from.
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. (If the material from the other source turns out to be wrong, we'll cite them in any corrective we do later.)

It's important to note that 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.

Crediting other organizations when they break a story and we match or further develop it:

If organization X breaks a story and we then match it through our own original reporting, we should say something like this: “The secret meeting in Paris was initially reported by X.”

This policy applies to spot stories as well as enterprise and investigative pieces.

Sometimes our reporting goes so far beyond the other organization's report that AP's story is substantially our work. In such a case, we should still credit the other organization, though the credit can be farther down in the story. Suppose Blog Y reports that the government has compiled a secret report on something, but we're the first to find out what it says. We should still say, lower in the story, that “The existence of the report was first reported by Blog Y.”

If there are many elements to a story, we don't have to catalog who reported each element first. The goal is simply to give credit to whoever got the story started or added some significant new angle.

It also includes a lengthy Q&A about the policy that can be found HERE.