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.

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About Tom Kent

Deputy managing editor and standards editor of The Associated Press, responsible for accuracy and balance across all AP news services. Frequent contributor to forums and conferences on newsroom ethics and organization. Adjunct professor at the School of International Affairs and Journalism School of Columbia University. Former AP correspondent or bureau chief in Russia, Iran, Belgium, Australia and the United States. Graduate of Yale University. Languages: French, Russian, Spanish. @tjrkent