‘The Next Generation Beyond Exit Polls’

In the last presidential election, more than a third of voters did not go to a polling place on Election Day but instead voted ahead of time or by mail.

“Voters are increasingly … challenging exit polls’ ability to fully capture the electorate’s opinion on Election Day unless extensive supplemental telephone polling is also done,” Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee told the Nieman Lab blog, as AP today was awarded a $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation for a research project called “The Next Generation Beyond Exit Polls.”

“Innovation is required to ensure our work continues to be accurate and complete into the future,” Buzbee added.

AP works with a consortium, the National Election Pool, made up of AP and the networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC), which contracts with the well-respected Edison Media Research to conduct exit polls.

Working with AP’s two polling partners, GfK and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, AP will test new methodologies and methods during a handful of elections this fall and the early 2016 presidential primaries.

The Knight Foundation’s website further describes AP’s research plans and presents our grant proposal.

“One of the things we really appreciate about the Knight Foundation is that work funded by their election challenge grants must be open and transparent,” Buzbee said. “That pleases us.”

Here are bios of the AP team leading this effort:

Sally Buzbee is a vice president of The Associated Press and has been its Washington bureau chief since 2010. Under her leadership, an AP investigative team won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for its probe of the New York Police Department’s intelligence activities following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

David Pace is a Washington-based news editor for The Associated Press who organizes and supervises the news agency’s election race calling operation. For each national election, he recruits and trains a team of about 40 of the AP’s top reporters, editors and managers to call winners in more than 4,000 national and state races.

Emily Swanson has been a member of the Associated Press polling unit in Washington since 2014. She designs survey questionnaires, analyzes polling data and writes about public opinion. She previously worked in survey research for Pollster.com and the Huffington Post.

The Latest format delivers the latest news

The fiscal crisis in Greece, plans by the U.S. and Cuba to open embassies in each other’s capital and tennis competition at Wimbledon are among the many developing stories in recent weeks that AP journalists have covered in a live blog type of presentation.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, right, speaks with Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos during a round table meeting of eurozone finance ministers at the EU LEX building in Brussels on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was heading Tuesday to Brussels for an emergency meeting of eurozone leaders, where he will try to use a resounding referendum victory to eke out concessions from European creditors over a bailout for the crisis-ridden country. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, right, speaks with Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos during a round table meeting of eurozone finance ministers at the EU LEX building in Brussels on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The filing system, called The Latest, presents short blocks of text on a running story in a broadcast-friendly fashion that works for both online and on-air use.

When used, The Latest replaces AP’s current breaking news filing protocol for text — in which a story is first reported as a so-called NewsNow of 130 words or less containing key developments, and then written-through again to restore all the details and background.

Instead, AP journalists file time-stamped updates stacked on top of each other so that The Latest becomes a running file showing how a story evolved.

“The Latest allows us to imbue developing stories with a you-are-there quality, which makes them feel all the more fresh and current,” said Director of Top Stories Kristin Gazlay.

“For instance, when the Boston Marathon bombing trial started and it took awhile for the proceedings to kick off, one of the first updates to The Latest led off noting that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sitting alone at the defense table and described his demeanor,” Gazlay added. “That’s something we would have been unlikely to file a freestanding NewsNow on, but a detail readers would devour on a top story.”

She noted that the pilot would be expanded to more stories, “including ones that have fewer developments but still can benefit from this treatment.”

Gazlay added: “We’ve heard from a number of TV customers that it’s actually a time-saver for them _ they don’t have to search through a number of separate files to glean the highlights of a story, since they’re all in one file. And the self-contained entries are ready to read on-air.”

At least 200 newspaper, television and radio websites featured The Latest when AP used it for the NCAA Final Four games, including many TV network affiliates.

The Latest also is increasingly gaining traction on Twitter: Versions of it showed in Twitter’s top 10 rankings for each of the three days of the U.S. Memorial Day weekend.

The bottom line is that The Latest has turned out to be effective in showcasing the newest information about a story in a way that is palpably fresh, fast and even more useful to customers. AP plans to expand its use.

22 years a slave: AP takes readers on emotional journey home

The Associated Press today published a gripping tale of the life of Myint Naing, one of hundreds of former slaves rescued and returned home after a yearlong AP investigation exposed extreme labor abuses in Southeast Asia’s seafood industry.

In this May 16, 2015 photo, former slave fisherman Myint Naing, center, hugs his niece Kyi Wai Hnin, right, and nephew Kyaw Min Tun following his return to his village in Mon State, Myanmar. Myint, 40, is among hundreds of former slave fishermen who returned to Myanmar following an Associated Press investigation into the use of forced labor in Southeast Asia's seafood industry. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

In this May 16, 2015 photo, former slave fisherman Myint Naing, center, hugs his niece Kyi Wai Hnin, right, and nephew Kyaw Min Tun following his return to his village in Mon State, Myanmar. Myint, 40, is among hundreds of former slave fishermen who returned to Myanmar following an Associated Press investigation into the use of forced labor in Southeast Asia’s seafood industry. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

AP documented how slave-caught fish was shipped from Indonesia to Thailand. It can then be exported to the United States and find its way to the supply chains of supermarkets and distributors, including Wal-Mart, Sysco and Kroger, and pet food brands, such as Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. The companies have all said they strongly condemn labor abuse and are taking steps to prevent it.

To highlight the human side of the story, Indonesia-based reporter Margie Mason, who has worked as an AP correspondent in Asia for the past 12 years, sought the assistance of her colleagues and interviewed more than 340 former slaves.

“We had a unique opportunity because the Indonesian government was providing shelter to hundreds of newly rescued Burmese, Cambodian and Laotian former slaves. We knew that once they went home they would scatter and it would be very hard to follow up,” Mason said. “We typed up questionnaires in three languages, asking everything from what boats they were on to whether they were beaten or witnessed anyone being killed. I, along with my colleagues Robin McDowell and Esther Htusan, have interviewed more than 70 men face-to-face.”

AP reporter Margie Mason (AP Photo).

AP reporter Margie Mason (AP Photo).

Choosing a single story to tell, among many heartbreaking ones, was the biggest challenge.

“Most of these men had not been in touch with their families for years and had no idea what they would find when they got home. The story had to be strong enough to stand on its own regardless of the ending,” Mason said. “Myint’s story is like a movie. The Thai seafood industry stole 22 years of his life. He thought he was never going home. He had no idea if his family was still in his old village or if his mother was even alive. So, to have such an amazing reunion just a day after he got back, was really incredible.”

International Enterprise Editor Mary Rajkumar, who was the editor on the investigation, added: “These stories really show why in-depth international journalism matters, and why it’s so important to keep doing it. In this day and age, it’s remarkable that journalism helped to free hundreds of slaves. But it’s  also a humbling reminder of how much more we need to do.”

AP’s initial report generated significant interest around the world and AP reporters described what they found to numerous media outlets, including HuffingtonPostLive’s “World Brief,PRI’s “The World,” NPR’s “Morning Edition,” the PBS NewsHour podcast “Shortwave,” and WNYC’s “The Leonard Lopate Show.”

Read the AP story and explore the interactive report, which features video of Myint’s emotional reunion.

Down-to-earth reasons for that heavenly glow

Is that a halo over President Barack Obama?

It sure looks like one, especially to critics of Obama and The Associated Press, who have complained in blogs and on Twitter that AP photographers sometimes give the president a heavenly glow. The criticism was seen and heard repeatedly this week after AP distributed photos showing presidential candidate Ted Cruz with a gun, seen in a wall poster, juxtaposed so that the pistol was pointed at his head.

The out-of-focus presidential seal looks to some like a halo, as seen here. So AP photographers often shoot with a greater depth of field or a slightly different angle so it is clear the glow around the President Barack Obama's head is the seal of his office. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The out-of-focus presidential seal looks to some like a halo, as seen here. So AP photographers often shoot with a greater depth of field or a slightly different angle so it is clear the glow around the President Barack Obama’s head is the seal of his office. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Concerns have been raised about a glow or halo around the president since George W. Bush held office, as seen in this frame with the presidential seal behind him. The out-of-focus seal is simply a tool to separate the subject from the background so he is not seen speaking in a sea of black. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Concerns have been raised about a glow or halo around the president since George W. Bush held office, as seen in this frame with the presidential seal behind him. The out-of-focus seal is simply a tool to separate the subject from the background so he is not seen speaking in a sea of black. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

“The halo issue has been around for over a decade,” said J. David Ake, AP Washington’s assistant chief of bureau for photography. “We received the same complaints when we photographed President George W. Bush with the presidential seal behind him. It’s never been our photographers’ goal to give the president a heavenly glow. The out-of-focus presidential seal is simply a tool to separate the subject from the background so he is not speaking in a sea of black. We’ve heard the concerns, however, and we now make the same picture with greater depth of field or a slightly different angle so it’s clear it’s the seal of office behind the president.”

Ake added: “To eliminate the halo effect, we’ve talked about just shooting the subjects really tight, so nothing is seen around their heads, but that leaves the image with no context or sense of location at all. We do shoot all situations wide and move wide shots to AP’s member news organizations and subscribers as a matter of course, so they have a choice and a sense of the location and setup. But not everyone wants a wide image, especially for mobile use, so to give our customers a choice we also shoot and move tighter images, which is often when the halo issue often arises.”

The halo is sometimes caused by the backlights hung by event organizers. Still photographers often work directly in front of and below the subject in a security area known as the buffer zone. When looking up from that area, so-called rim light, which is caused by the backlights wrapping around the subject, can be particularly difficult for photographers to avoid. So they use it to make the subject pop from the dark background or because it makes for an interesting image.

“The use of rim light to surround the subject is a equal opportunity technique,” Ake said. “If it’s there and it’s all we have to make the image more than just a plain headshot of someone speaking, we’re likely to take advantage of it.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. The out-of-focus logo of the organization is used to help give a sense of context. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. The out-of-focus logo of the organization is used to help give a sense of context. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The backlights set up by event organizers to highlight the subject during a speech are often used by photographers as a tool to make the images interesting. Photographers are often asked to work between the subject and the audience in an area known as a buffer zone. The position can mean the photographers are looking up at the speaker and into the backlights. The so-called rim light caused by the backlights helps them separate the subject from the dark background, as seen in this image of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, speaking to local residents during the Scott County Republican Party's Ronald Reagan Dinner, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, in Bettendorf, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The backlights set up by event organizers to highlight the subject during a speech are often used by photographers as a tool to make the images interesting. Photographers are often asked to work between the subject and the audience in an area known as a buffer zone. The position can mean the photographers are looking up at the speaker and into the backlights. The so-called rim light caused by the backlights helps them separate the subject from the dark background, as seen in this image of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, speaking to local residents during the Scott County Republican Party’s Ronald Reagan Dinner, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, in Bettendorf, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

AP images of Vietnam War go on public display in Hanoi

Associated Press photos documenting the Vietnam War have gone on public display in Hanoi after a preview and reception highlighting the impact of the images at the time of their release.

“AP presented these images of what was really going on in the war,” company President and CEO Gary Pruitt said at the Thursday reception, attended by government officials, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, other Hanoi-based diplomats and local media representatives. “It was through that lens that people around the world gained a better understanding of the conflict.” 

President and CEO of the Associated Press Gary Pruitt, right, meets with Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang, left, ahead of the opening of an exhibit of AP's wartime photographs, Thursday, June 11, 2015, in Hanoi, Vietnam. The exhibit "Vietnam: The Real War," a collection of 58 photographs taken by the AP opens to the public Friday, June 12, 2015, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt, right, meets with Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang before the opening of an exhibit of AP’s wartime photographs, Thursday, June 11, 2015, in Hanoi, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The photos “gave the whole world a full picture of what was going on in Vietnam,” President Truong Tan Sang told AP. “I believe these photos made an enormous contribution to bringing the war in Vietnam to an end.”

They include Malcolm Browne‘s image of a Buddhist monk set aflame in protest, Nick Ut‘s picture of young girl running naked and in pain after being scorched by napalm and Eddie Adams‘ stark frame showing a South Vietnamese general executing a suspected Viet Cong officer with a pistol shot to the head.

FILE - In this Feb. 1, 1968, file photo, South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the National Police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem (also known as Bay Lop) on a Saigon street, early in the Tet Offensive. "Vietnam: The Real War," a collection of 58 photographs taken by the AP opens to the public Friday, June 12, 2015, in Hanoi, (AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File)

FILE – In this Feb. 1, 1968, file photo, South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the National Police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem (also known as Bay Lop) on a Saigon street. It’s among the AP images now on display in Hanoi. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File)

“Vietnam: The Real War,” a total of 58 black-and-white photos, opened to the public on Friday, also drawing a large number of Vietnamese media. The selection is drawn from a book of the same name, AP’s photo history of the war, published in 2013.

The exhibit will run through June 26 at Hanoi’s Exhibition Hall, after previous displays in New York and London.

A guest looks at photographs taken by Horst Faas during the opening reception of The Associated Press photo exhibit, Thursday, June 11, 2015, in Hanoi, Vietnam.  The exhibit "Vietnam: The Real War," a collection of 58 photographs taken by AP photographers during the Vietnam War that ended 40-years ago, opens to the public Friday, June 12, 2015, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

A guest looks at photographs taken by Horst Faas during the opening reception of The Associated Press photo exhibit, Thursday, June 11, 2015, in Hanoi, Vietnam. The exhibit “Vietnam: The Real War,” a collection of 58 photographs taken by AP photographers during the Vietnam War that ended 40-years ago, opens to the public Friday, June 12, 2015, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Seen from left to right, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, Canadian Ambassador David Devine, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt and AP photographer Nick Ut chat June 11 at the opening reception in Hanoi, Vietnam, for AP's photo exhibit. Ut's iconic "Napalm Girl" image is among those on display. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Seen from left to right, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, Canadian Ambassador David Devine, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt and AP photographer Nick Ut chat June 11 at the opening reception in Hanoi, Vietnam, for AP’s photo exhibit. Ut’s iconic “Napalm Girl” image is among those on display. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Guests and members of the public view photos from the Vietnam War on display at an exhibit Friday, June 12, 2015, in Hanoi, Vietnam. "Vietnam: The Real War," a collection of 58 photographs taken by the Associated Press, opens to the public Friday, marking a homecoming that officials say is historic and an emblem of changing times. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Guests and members of the public view photos from the Vietnam War on display at an exhibit Friday, June 12, 2015, in Hanoi, Vietnam. “Vietnam: The Real War,” a collection of 58 photographs taken by the Associated Press, opens to the public Friday, marking a homecoming that officials say is historic and an emblem of changing times. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

AP photographer Nick Ut addresses visitors at the opening of exhibit in Hanoi of AP's Vietnam War images on Friday, June 12. (AP photo/Ted Anthony)

AP photographer Nick Ut addresses visitors at the opening of exhibit in Hanoi of AP’s Vietnam War images on Friday, June 12. (AP photo/Ted Anthony)

Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang talks to the media in front of "Napalm Girl," the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo taken by Nick Ut, during his visit on Monday, June 15, to an exhibit of AP's Vietnam War photos in Hanoi. (AP Photo/Na Son Nguyen)

Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang talks to the media in front of “Napalm Girl,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo taken by Nick Ut, during his visit on Monday, June 15, to an exhibit of AP’s Vietnam War photos in Hanoi. (AP Photo/Na Son Nguyen)

AP at the Arab Media Summit

Several AP people took part in last week’s Arab Media Summit in Dubai, a large annual gathering of journalists and news executives from across the Arab world. This year there was substantial interest in user-generated content — how we verify the accuracy of photos and video we find on social networks.

AP Standards Editor Tom Kent talks at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

My talk at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Of course, some news organizations devote little attention to such verification, but most of those we talked to in Dubai understood its importance. News media have to be better than relayers of “whatever’s out there”; viewers look to us to vet what’s true and what’s not. And, ultimately, the truth will win out: false or deceptively labeled images are usually quickly discovered, and the reputations of news organizations that use them are tarnished.

In my presentation, I showed a number of photos that turned out to be false, or labeled in order to mislead. They included a fake photo of the Statue of Liberty with Superstorm Sandy whirling around it and a fake video supposedly showing a young boy pulling a little girl to safety from an attack in Syria.

Our Beirut bureau chief, Zeina Karam, and AP Dubai business writer Aya Batrawy gave a separate session on reporting on the Middle East. Karam spoke about the challenges of reporting on the Syrian civil war while not being able to be in Syria outside of government-controlled territory. Batrawy, who recently filed several stories from Saudi Arabia, said she’s often asked if it’s a hindrance or a help to be a woman journalist in that country. She said being a woman has given her a great advantage because she has access to half the population of women that often male journalists are barred from approaching.

John Daniszewski, AP senior vice president for international news and a speaker last year, joined the AP team at the forum, along with staffers from AP’s commercial operations in London.

AP general counsel urges lawmakers to strengthen FOIA

Associated Press General Counsel Karen Kaiser today urged lawmakers to enact bipartisan legislation now before the U.S. Senate to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and make it work better.

Karen Kaiser, general counsel at The Associated Press, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 6, 2015, before the Senate Judiciary hearing on open records laws. Kaiser testified that despite promises of greater transparency by the Obama administration, most agencies are not abiding by their legal obligations under open records laws. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Karen Kaiser, general counsel at The Associated Press, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 6, 2015, before the Senate Judiciary hearing on open records laws. Kaiser testified that despite promises of greater transparency by the Obama administration, most agencies are not abiding by their legal obligations under open records laws. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In testimony delivered to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary in Washington, Kaiser detailed the many problems journalists and the public face when seeking access to public documents.

“Non-responsiveness is the norm. The reflex of most agencies is to withhold information, not to release, and often there is no recourse for a requester other than pursuing costly litigation,” Kaiser said. “This is a broken system that needs reform. Simply stated, government agencies should not be able to avoid the transparency requirements of the law in such continuing and brazen ways.”

Kaiser, who spoke on behalf of AP and The Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI), a coalition of media associations promoting open government, said the legislation would “result in a more informed citizenry and a more transparent and accountable government.”

Kaiser said the legislation is critical to:

  • improving efficiencies for FOIA requesters.
  • reducing the troubling backlog of cases.
  • driving agencies to decisions that better align with FOIA’s goals.
  • ensuring government operates from a presumption of openness in most cases.

AP is a leading and aggressive advocate for transparency in government. As detailed in the news organization’s 2014 annual report, requesting public records and fighting for access around the world have long been AP priorities. AP journalists file many hundreds of requests each year for government records and other information under FOIA and state open records statutes, many of which resulted in important stories that the public would otherwise not have known.

Last week, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll detailed some recent government access challenges, on NPR’s “On the Media,” and in March AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt wrote a column published in newspapers across the country that explained how the government is undermining “right to know” laws.

AP and other news organizations seek Freddie Gray report

Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts announces that the department's investigation into the death of Freddie Gray was turned over to the State's Attorney's office a day early at a news conference, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Baltimore. Standing at right is Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis.  Batts did not give details of the report or take questions. He said the department dedicated more than 30 detectives to working on the case and report. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts announces that the department’s investigation into the death of Freddie Gray was turned over to the State’s Attorney’s office a day early at a news conference, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Baltimore. Standing at right is Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis. Batts did not give details of the report or take questions. He said the department dedicated more than 30 detectives to working on the case and report. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A coalition of news organizations, including The Associated Press, has called on the Baltimore Police Department to release immediately its report on the death of Freddie Gray that it has submitted to the Maryland state’s attorney.

The coalition argues that “release of the document would … only serve the public interest.”

See the letter sent to the police department.

Vietnam photos of Henri Huet displayed in France

Henri Huet, one of the most admired photojournalists of the Vietnam War, is being remembered in an exhibit of his work in France.

“Henri Huet: Vietnam 1965-1971” opened last week and will remain on view until May 8 at the Bidouane Tower in St. Malo, the historic walled city on the coast of Brittany, a region where the Vietnamese-born photographer passed much of his childhood.

In six years with The Associated Press, Huet covered more combat than any other photojournalist in Vietnam, sharing danger and hardship with U.S, and South Vietnamese troops.

His work reflected an artist’s appreciation of the landscape of his native country and the plight of its people caught in war.

The risks caught up with Huet in 1967 when he was severely wounded by artillery at Con Thien, a U.S. Marine outpost in northern South Vietnam, and spent months recuperating from leg injuries in a New York hospital. He returned to Vietnam in mid-1968, but a year later AP, worried about his safety, transferred him to Tokyo, an assignment he regarded as unwelcome exile.

Huet was recalled to Vietnam in 1970 to cover the war in Cambodia and Saigon forces’ invasion of Laos in early 1971. During the latter operation, on Feb. 10, 1971, he was killed, at age 43, in the shoot-down of a South Vietnamese Air Force helicopter.

Many of Huet’s photos appear in “Vietnam: The Real War,” AP’s photo history of the conflict that was published in 2013. His work is also represented in a London exhibition of AP’s Vietnam images, on view to May 31 at the headquarters of The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way.

En francais: Exposition photographique d’Henri Huet

Expanding state coverage through ‘Shared News Desk’

Reinforcing AP’s long-standing commitment to state news coverage, we’ve hired more than a dozen journalists over the past year to leverage the power of AP’s cooperative and expand our state reports.

AP Managing Editor for U.S. News Brian Carovillano (AP Photo/Santos Chaparro)

AP Managing Editor for U.S. News Brian Carovillano (AP Photo/Santos Chaparro)

A “Shared News Desk,” which began at the Central region desk in Chicago as a pilot project last July, will begin operating at AP’s three other U.S. regional news desks, in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Phoenix, on April 20. The desk makes two important improvements to our state reports. It frees AP journalists to produce more original reporting and increases the number of state news stories on the wire.

The move dovetails with the creation earlier this year of a state government team focused on accountability and explanatory reporting across the country.

Here, Brian Carovillano, managing editor for U.S. news, explains the new initiative and how it’s already paying dividends for members and bolstering AP’s domestic news operation.

What does the Shared News Desk do?
The goal is simple: Get more content onto state wires at key times for AP members. To accomplish this, each desk identifies the best stories from members of the AP news cooperative in their region, rewrites those stories and distributes them in time for the morning rush.

What types of content do Shared News Desks produce?
Their output augments AP’s strong original reporting from every state. The Shared News Desk produces briefs and longer stories for print, online and radio and TV broadcasts. They also compile packages of feature stories shared by AP members that move in advance so other members can use them. The desks will ensure a steady flow of fresh stories for crucial drive-time broadcasts and morning online traffic.

The desks strive to find a mix of stories from both print and broadcast members and a diversity of datelines in a given state. They focus on surfacing the types of stories customers in each state have told AP that they most value.

For example, before the Shared News Desk, the news editor in Kansas City spent three hours per week preparing the weekly Member Exchange packages for Kansas and Missouri. The Shared News Desk now handles this responsibility. Its launch nearly coincided with the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, enabling the Missouri team to focus more time on one of the top stories in the world.

In Texas, the Dallas bureau created an additional reporting shift thanks to time freed up by the Shared News Desk. And when the first U.S. Ebola patient was identified in Texas, the Dallas bureau was able to dedicate more reporting power to that top global story because the Shared News Desk was helping out on other Texas stories.

How much content will the desks produce?
The first Shared News Desk in Chicago has produced up to 1,200 stories per month, or 15-20 percent of AP’s total monthly text output in the 14-state region. A significant plus for AP members and subscribers is that more than half these items move before 4 a.m., a big increase over the amount of news previously available to them during those hours. This addresses a frequent request for more early-morning content.

With the Shared News Desk in operation, the state bureaus in the Central region have generated about 400 additional original AP stories in an average month than they did previously.

What has the response been?
The response has been quite positive. Members in the Central region where the desk has been up and running for nearly a year have noticed a difference and have told AP they appreciate the infusion of state stories arriving early in the day. We plan to build on this success and make our state reports even more timely and useful for our members across the country.