AP photographers accept Pulitzer Prize for Syria coverage

Five Associated Press journalists accepted the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography at an awards ceremony at New York’s Columbia University on May 30.  It is the 51st Pulitzer for AP and the 31st for photography.

Earlier this week the team reflected on the challenges and risks of documenting the civil war in Syria.

See a slideshow of the winning images.

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From left are: Pakistan chief photographer Muhammed Muheisen, Manu Brabo of Spain, Narciso Contreras of Mexico, Rodrigo Abd of Peru and Gaza-based Khalil Hamra. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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From left are: Gaza-based Khalil Hamra, Rodrigo Abd of Peru, Pakistan chief photographer Muhammed Muheisen, Manu Brabo of Spain and Narciso Contreras of Mexico. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

AP Pulitzer winners reflect on challenges, risks of covering Syria

The Associated Press journalists who won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography come from vastly different backgrounds, but are united in their mission to document the civil war in Syria openly, fairly and accurately.

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From left, Santiago Lyon, Rodrigo Abd, Muhammed Muheisen, Khalil Hamra, Narciso Contreras, Manu Brabo and Manoocher Deghati.

The team of Rodrigo Abd, Manu Brabo, Narciso Contreras, Khalil Hamra and Muhammed Muheisen spoke candidly about their experiences, living conditions and the backstory of some of their powerful images at a panel discussion for staff at AP headquarters in New York ahead of the Pulitzer ceremony on May 30. They were joined by Middle East Regional Photo Editor Manoocher Deghati and AP Vice President and Director of Photography Santiago Lyon.

Abd, who is based in Lima, Peru, but is of Syrian descent, said “going back to his roots” to cover this story was sad, but important. “We don’t do this for awards. We believe in journalism and the impact we can have with pictures,” he said.

Speaking about the importance of getting their images out to the world, Muheisen said: “If this picture doesn’t go out, it didn’t happen.”

 See a slideshow of winning images.

AP photographer: For a moment, hope in devastation

AP Photographer Sue Ogrocki has worked in Oklahoma for more than 10 years where she has covered about a dozen tornadoes. She was at the elementary school destroyed by a tornado and saw rescuers pulling children out of the rubble, capturing the key images of the tragedy. This is her account of what she witnessed.

Watch AP news video.

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Follow the latest news from Oklahoma.

AP CEO: Secret seizure of phone records ‘unconstitutional’

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In this Sunday, May 19, 2013, photo provided by CBS News, Gary Pruitt, the President and CEO of the Associated Press, discusses the leak investigation that led to his reporters’ phone records being subpoenaed by the Justice Department on CBS’s “Face the Nation” in Washington. (AP Photo/CBS, Chris Usher)

Associated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt called the U.S. Justice Department’s sweeping and secret seizure of journalists’ telephone records “unconstitutional” during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.

Pruitt, a former First Amendment attorney, told host Bob Schieffer that the DOJ acted as “judge, jury and executioner” with the overbroad action and said it would have a negative impact on journalism. Some officials are already telling AP they’re “a little reluctant” to talk and fear they’re being monitored by the government, he said.

Read or watch the AP news story.

Updated: AP responds to latest DOJ letter

Statement from May 14, 2013

From Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of The Associated Press:

We appreciate the DOJ’s prompt response, but it does not adequately address our concerns. The letter simply restates the law and claims that officials have complied with it. There are three significant concerns:

The scope of the subpoena was overbroad under the law, given that it involved seizing records from a broad range of telephones across AP’s newsgathering operation. More than 100 journalists work in the locations served by those telephones. How can we consider this inquiry to be narrowly drawn?

Rather than talk to us in advance, they seized these phone records in secret, saying that notifying us would compromise their investigation. They offer no explanation of this, however.

Instead they captured the telephone numbers between scores of AP journalists and the many people they talk to in the normal business of gathering news. How would narrowing the scope of the phone records have compromised their investigation?

In their response today, the DOJ says the seized records cover only a portion of April and May of 2012. However, in their original notification to us on May 10, they say they have “received toll records from April and May 2012,” and then list 20 different numbers for AP offices and staff.

Finally, they say this secrecy is important for national security. It is always difficult to respond to that, particularly since they still haven’t told us specifically what they are investigating.

We believe it is related to AP’s May 2012 reporting that the U.S. government had foiled a plot to put a bomb on an airliner to the United States. We held that story until the government assured us that the national security concerns had passed. Indeed, the White House was preparing to publicly announce that the bomb plot had been foiled.

The White House had said there was no credible threat to the American people in May of 2012. The AP story suggested otherwise, and we felt that was important information and the public deserved to know it.

Statement from May 13, 2013

The U.S. Department of Justice notified The Associated Press on Friday, May 10, that it had secretly obtained telephone records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP journalists and offices, including cell and home phone lines.

AP is asking the DOJ for an immediate explanation of the extraordinary action and for the records to be returned to AP and all copies destroyed.  

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt protested the massive intrusion into AP’s newsgathering activities in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, May 13.

In the letter Pruitt states:

“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

“We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”

Read the AP news story.

AP Social Media Guidelines update, including newsgathering in sensitive situations

From AP Social Media Editor Eric Carvin and Standards Editor Tom Kent:

When there’s been a mass killing, a natural disaster or a breaking event in a war zone, AP journalists need to use every tool at their disposal to get the story — and, when possible, the images.

As always, we need to work quickly. But when potential sources of newsworthy tips, witness accounts and amateur content are in dangerous or otherwise sensitive situations, it’s critical that we make smart and ethical newsgathering decisions.

Today, we’re releasing the latest version of our social media guidelines for AP employees, and a key update is a new set of guidance on how (and whether) to use social networks to get information and amateur content from people who are in danger, or who have suffered a significant personal  loss. That newsgathering guidance is an abbreviated version of a broader set of tips recently written for AP staff by AP social media experts Eric Carvin and Fergus Bell, in collaboration with other editors.

Here are some of the other updates in the new version of the guidelines. (Note that some updates are simply additions to the document; some of these are policies already in effect that are just being formally added to the guidelines now.)

  • Staffers are advised to avoid spreading unconfirmed rumors through tweets and posts.
  • A new section explains how staffers can use personal sites and blogs to share a portfolio of work they’ve done for AP.
  • New guidance offers tips on how to handle breaking news that surfaces first on a public figure’s social media account.

Do you have thoughts or questions about the latest version of our guidelines? Feel free to reach out to Eric Carvin or Tom Kent on Twitter, or drop an email to AP at standards@ap.org.

Should we use the term “Obamacare”?

The other day, a reader told us that the term “Obamacare” has been “used by opponents to encourage hostility and partisanship.” He said AP shouldn’t use the term when referring to the U.S. Affordable Care Act.

In fact, it’s a little more complicated. While opponents of the legislation have often used “Obamacare” derisively, Obama himself, and some of his supporters, have used it. They apparently don’t consider it derogatory.

But given the various views of the term, we’ve advised our editors to allow the word mainly whenwe’re  quoting someone who uses it — not on our own. On the rare occasions we use it ourselves, we should say something like “also known as ‘Obamacare,’ ” with quotes around the word.

 

Former AP White House photographer honored for ‘Lifetime Achievement’

Former Associated Press Senior White House photographer Ron Edmonds is being honored by the White House News Photographers Association with its Lifetime Achievement Award. It will be presented at the 2013 “Eyes of History” annual awards gala on Saturday, May 11, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington.

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President Barack Obama congratulates AP White House Photographer Ron Edmonds, with his wife Grace and daughter Ashley, upon his retirement from AP. (White House photo by Lawrence Jackson, July 30, 2009)

Edmonds is “the quintessential Washington photojournalist,” said J. David Ake, AP assistant chief of bureau for photography in Washington. “Many of his images have stood the test of time and are now icons in our collective memory. He was arguably during his Washington tenure, the AP’s most published photographer.”

In interviews with AP and PBS, Edmonds offered recollections of his fascinating career and the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan — a split-second that he captured and that earned him a Pulitzer Prize.

“I have had one of the most fantastic jobs in the world,” Edmonds told colleagues in an email upon his retirement from AP after 28 years. “It has allowed me to work with some of the greatest journalists in the world and to make images of some of the biggest events in the last thirty years. I hope that in some small way, I have helped the Associated Press maintain its prominence as the number-one news organization.”