Award to AP bureau chief for ‘rich content’ on the crises in West Africa

Krista Larson chats with orphans she interviewed at a Catholic church sheltering more than 800 Muslims in Carnot, Central African Republic who had fled sectarian violence. (AP Photo/Steve Niko)

Krista Larson chats with orphans she interviewed at a Catholic church sheltering more than 800 Muslims in Carnot, Central African Republic who had fled sectarian violence. (AP Photo/Steve Niko)

Krista Larson, West Africa bureau chief for The Associated Press, has won the Deborah Howell Award for Nondeadline Writing from the American Society of News Editors, which announced its annual honors for distinguished reporting and photography today.

Larson, who put herself at risk to chronicle the lives of abandoned orphans, left on their own after family members died of Ebola, also covered the ethnic war in the Central African Republic.

In a first-person report from the Ebola zone in Liberia, Larson wrote about her own fear of the disease and the challenges of covering the health crisis: “The world needs to know what’s happening here: Ebola is obliterating entire neighborhoods, leaving orphaned children with no one to lean on but a tree.”

“These stories had a high degree of difficulty and personal risk, were beautifully written and delivered rich content and context on the depth of the crises in West Africa,” the ASNE judges said. “These types of stories can often seem distant to readers, but the writer made the stories compelling with her depth of reporting and the humanity she brought to her storytelling.”

John Daniszewski, senior managing editor for international news at AP, said: “Krista has a passion to tell stories from West Africa that bring alive to a wider audience the threads of success, sadness and humanity running through the lives of the people of the region, always showing empathy and respect for the dignity of those she covers. We are very pleased that her wonderful work has been recognized in this way.”

Larson, 36, began her AP career as an intern in the Paris bureau in 2001, and worked as a reporter for the news cooperative in Vermont and New Jersey. She was also an editor on the AP’s national and international desks in New York. She has been working in Africa since 2008, first as a supervisory editor at the AP’s Africa regional desk in Johannesburg. In 2012, she became a correspondent based in Dakar, Senegal, and was named bureau chief in 2014.

A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she graduated from Northwestern University and has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern.

See the full list of winners

AP announces political team for 2016

U.S. Political Editor David Scott announced The Associated Press’ political reporting lineup in a memo to staff today:

Colleagues,

The past two weeks have been a strong marker, lest there be any doubt, that the campaign for president in 2016 is here, now. So today, Sally and I are thrilled to announce an addition to the U.S. political team, and some other changes, that will help us break the biggest news and report the sharpest enterprise from now until Election Day.

Lisa Lerer (Photo courtesy Lisa Lerer)

Lisa Lerer (Photo courtesy Lisa Lerer)

First, the addition: Lisa Lerer will join AP as a political reporter focused on Hillary Clinton. Lisa, now a correspondent at Bloomberg Politics, will be based in Washington, but will spend time in New York and on the trail with the presumptive Democratic front runner. It’s a place Lisa knows well, having covered Mitt Romney’s campaign in 2012 and the Republican field in 2008. Since then, she has written primarily on domestic policy from the White House for Bloomberg News and BusinessWeek magazine, and appeared on Bloomberg television.

Lisa is a strong source reporter, knowledgeable about campaigns and donors — and also knowledgeable about governing. She has a good eye for fresh and interesting angles.

Next up, a shift we had planned for later this year, but are excited to make now: our White House correspondent, Julie Pace, will broaden her focus to include campaign coverage along with her normal White House coverage, bringing strong sourcing skills and political acumen to the team.

Julie Pace (AP photo).

Julie Pace (AP photo).

Lisa joins the AP early next month. Julie has already begun to split her time between the campaign and the White House. She will retain her title and a strong news portfolio at the White House.

It goes without saying: We do anticipate other reporters will be drawn into our political coverage as the campaign progresses.

Meanwhile, from his base in Iowa, Tom Beaumont is now responsible for our coverage of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Phil Elliott is focused on the Republicans in the Senate seeking the GOP’s 2016 nomination. For the next few months, Cal Woodward will also be working closely with me and the political team as an editor.

These changes make our already strong team stronger. Ken Thomas remains focused on national Democrats, and Steve Peoples on the national Republican Party. In New Jersey, Jill Colvin is on point for Chris Christie and all 2016 news in New York City. Nick Riccardi covers politics in the West and Bill Barrow in the South, as before.

Jesse Holland remains our lead voice on race, ethnicity and voters, and Emily Swanson on polling. The report benefits each day from the work of our team on Capitol Hill, led by Donna Cassata. And, of course, AP’s corps of statehouse reporters has already proved highly valuable on the trail.

In photos, we are pleased to have recently welcomed Andrew Harnik, an experienced campaign and political photographer, to AP’s team of Pulitzer Prize-winning campaign photographers who will cover the 2016 race both in Washington and on the trail.

And AP’s Washington-based U.S. video operation is already gearing up to produce the coverage of candidates and issues that will explain to television and digital video audiences — worldwide — where the race for the White House stands hour by hour.

Please join me in welcoming Lisa.

Best,

David

Where to find AP at SXSW Interactive

The Associated Press is joining thousands of digital and creative professionals from around the world converging at the 2015 SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, which runs March 13 through 17.  Here’s where you’ll find AP:

Saturday, March 14

Social Media: Breaking News or Fixing News?

AP Social Media Editor Eric Carvin (AP Photo).

AP Social Media Editor Eric Carvin (AP Photo).

  • AP Social Media Editor and Online News Association board member Eric Carvin (@EricCarvin) joins a panel on the impact of social media on the news ecosystem. The hour-long session presented by The Knight Foundation also features Kai Ryssdal, host of “Marketplace”; Michael Roston, social media editor at The New York Times; and Alison Lichter, the Wall Street Journal’s social media editor. The session will take place from 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Austin, Zilker Ballroom. Follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtags: #sxsw #breaking.
  • AP is sponsoring a photo booth at the popular SXSW event, “The Awesomest Journalism Party Ever. V.” The event is from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. and RSVP is required.

Sunday, March 15

When robots write the news, what will humans do?

Lou Ferrara, vice president and managing editor

Lou Ferrara, vice president and managing editor (AP Photo).

  • When AP announced it would use technology from Automated Insights to automate corporate earnings stories the reaction was dramatic, and many wondered: what will happen to human journalists? AP Vice President and Managing Editor Lou Ferrara (@LouFerrara) will discuss why AP decided to automate some business and sports news content, the impact of automation on the news business and how journalists have adapted to the change. He’ll be joined by Robbie Allen, CEO of Automated Insights. The session will take place from 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Austin, Texas Ballroom 4-7. Follow the conversation on Twitter using hashtags: #sxsw #newsrobots.

AP journalists will also be providing news coverage of SXSW interactive, film and music. Follow business writer Mae Anderson (@maetron) and Music Editor Mesfin Fekadu (@MusicMesfin) for updates.

Dig into data journalism with AP

The Associated Press will be sharing expertise and learning from other data journalists from around the country at a computer-assisted reporting conference put on by NICAR and Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE). The annual event runs today through March 8 in Atlanta.

AP Editor for Interactive Technology Troy Thibodeaux (AP Photo)

AP Editor for Interactive Technology Troy Thibodeaux (AP Photo)

“Every year we pick up tools and techniques that become essential to our data journalism toolkit. And every year, I personally steal a few teaching ideas that help me bring the material back to the broader AP,” said AP Editor for Interactive Technology Troy Thibodeaux. “All this, and we get to compare notes and ask questions of the people in other news organizations whose work most inspires and challenges us.”

Here’s some of the hands-on training AP is providing:

THURSDAY, MARCH 5

FRIDAY, MARCH 6

SATURDAY, MARCH 7

  • Getting started with SQLite
    This workshop led by Thibodeaux will provide an introduction to the world of SQL (Structured Query Language), “the lingua franca of relational databases.”

Setting the standards for journalists’ safety

The Associated Press has joined 25 other news organizations and journalism groups in endorsing an unprecedented set of safety standards designed to protect freelance reporters on dangerous assignments.

A document spelling out the safety guidelines, titled “A Call for Global Safety Principles and Practices,” will be discussed this evening by leaders of the organizations during a gathering at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York sponsored by the school’s Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma.

Photographer Visar Kryeziu, left, covers riots in Kosovo's capital Pristina, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. Thousands of protesters clashed with police for hours in the city's streets, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. More than 80 people, including over 50 policemen, were injured, while 160 were detained. (Photo by Petrit Rrahmani)

AP photographer Visar Kryeziu, left, covers riots in Kosovo’s capital Pristina, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (Photo by Petrit Rrahmani)

Among the seven international safety standards for reporters working in perilous regions, the document says, “We encourage all journalists to complete a recognized news industry first aid course, to carry a suitable first-aid kit and continue their training to stay up-to-date on standards of care and safety both physical and psychological. Before undertaking an assignment in such zones, journalists should seek adequate medical insurance covering them in a conflict zone or area of infectious disease.”

In addition, the document says, “Journalists in active war zones should be aware of the need and importance of having protective ballistic clothing, including armored jackets and helmets.”

Also included in the seven standards for news organizations making assignments in hot zones are these:

  • “News organizations and editors should endeavor to treat journalists and freelancers they use on a regular basis in a similar manner to the way they treat staffers when it comes to issues of safety training, first aid and other safety equipment, and responsibility in the event of injury or kidnap.”
  • “News organizations should not make an assignment with a freelancer in a conflict zone or dangerous environment unless the news organization is prepared to take the same responsibility for the freelancer’s well-being in the event of kidnap or injury as it would a staffer. News organizations have a moral responsibility to support journalists to whom they give assignments in dangerous areas, as long as the freelancer complies with the rules and instructions of the news organization.”

“Over the last two years, killings, imprisonments and abductions of journalists have reached historic highs,” the document notes. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 61 were killed in 2014 and 73 in 2013.

“As journalists from AP face ever-increasing risk to gather the news that the world needs, it is vitally necessary to put in place best practices to keep them as safe as possible to do their jobs,” said AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll. “We have embraced the values represented by these practices, and we believe they will help set the standard for the industry to protect journalists and ultimately to save lives.’’

AP Senior Managing Editor for International News John Daniszewski (AP Photo).

AP Senior Managing Editor for International News John Daniszewski (AP Photo).

A preamble to the new guidelines was a meeting of foreign news editors last September in Chicago hosted by John Daniszewski, AP’s senior managing editor for international news. “Foreign editors were asking what we could do to strengthen the commitment to safety, especially for freelancers and local journalists, after the horrific killings of journalists in 2014,” Daniszewski said, “and we were concerned that some of the newer organizations did not have organized standards and rules for protecting the journalists that they sent on assignment.”

Reuters investigative reporter David Rohde, who attended the Chicago meeting, shared the results with his colleagues. Reuters Editor in Chief Stephen J. Adler had already launched similar discussions. Steve Coll, dean of Columbia’s journalism school, and Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center, also had concerns, which led to other meetings.

As a result, the resulting guidelines were drafted by an international group of freelancers, foreign correspondents, press advocates and news executives.

Daniszewski added: “We are proud of the AP’s deep and ongoing commitment to safety and security of journalists and hope the values represented in these best practices can serve as a guide for all news organizations.”

Besides AP and Reuters, the 26 signatories include the British Broadcasting Corp., Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, the Miami Herald, GlobalPost, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Overseas Press Club, USA Today and Reporters Without Borders.

A video of this evening’s discussion is expected to be available within a few days on the Dart Center’s website.

Sharing our members’ stories via @AP

Social Media Editor Eric Carvin describes how and why The Associated Press is using @AP, our flagship Twitter feed, to highlight stories reported by member news organizations.

AP Social Media Editor Eric Carvin (AP Photo).

AP Social Media Editor Eric Carvin (AP Photo).

What’s behind the touting of others’ stories via @AP?
AP is a cooperative of news organizations, and a core part of our mission is to provide our members the tools and content they need to succeed. Over the past few years, we’ve built up a significant social media following — especially on Twitter, where the flagship @AP account is approaching 5 million followers — and we’re constantly looking for ways to leverage our online presence to benefit members and customers more directly. This one was a no-brainer: We look for strong member and customer enterprise content, in all formats, and choose some to highlight from @AP. This can give the member a big boost in engagement and clicks, and @AP followers are served a strong piece of content that they might not otherwise know about. It’s win-win.

We obviously didn’t invent the notion of retweeting another news organization — pointing to external content has been key to the Twitter ecosystem going back to the early days. The difference here is that we, as a news cooperative, are in a position to use this practice to benefit members of the AP family in a big way.JS_RT

What are some of the first member stories to be shared via @AP?
The first story we shared under this initiative was a piece by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about an unregulated kickboxing bout that pitted a seasoned athlete against a mentally disabled man who was promised $50 and a medal. It was part of a series by the paper on the dangers of increasingly popular sports such as ultimate fighting and mixed martial arts. We later highlighted a multimedia investigative piece by the Seattle Times examining problems with inmate labor programs in Washington state.

These were both eye-opening pieces that added wonderful texture to the @AP Twitter feed and brought some quality journalism to a new audience. And the members were really pleased to bring additional exposure and engagement to work they’re proud of.

How often will members’ stories be featured on @AP?
Though we’re initially looking to do this a few times a week, we’re open to ramping it up considerably if we find that members are interested in the initiative and benefiting from the tweets.

It’s also worth noting that this is part of a broader effort to bring strong AP member journalism to a wider audience. On the AP mobile app, for example, we’ve featured content and even entire topical sections created by AP members, and we’re always looking for opportunities to do so again. AP members and customers looking to pitch something for us to highlight from Twitter or our mobile app should bring ideas to their AP representative.

We also continue to work on ways we can reconfigure our social and digital strategy to help our members meet their own online news goals. If members have their own ideas about how we can help them succeed online, we’re all ears.

Automated earnings stories multiply

The Associated Press, working with Automated Insights and Zacks Investment Research, is now automatically generating more than 3,000 stories about U.S. corporate earnings each quarter, a tenfold increase over what AP reporters and editors created previously. Here, Assistant Business Editor Philana Patterson, who has been overseeing the rollout of this process in the newsroom, gives an update on AP’s automation efforts that began last summer.

Assistant Business Editor Philana Patterson (AP Photo).

Assistant Business Editor Philana Patterson (AP Photo).

What changes has AP made to the automation process?
Since automation began in July, AP has added a number of enhancements to the stories. Descriptions of businesses have been added and the stories now include forward-looking guidance provided by the companies. We are running smoothly, and always looking for opportunities, along with Zacks and AI, to improve what we are producing with automation.

What has the reaction been?
There has been a great deal of interest about how automation works from both members and readers, and overall the reaction has been incredibly positive. AP members are getting more stories about companies in their markets than ever before. We want this process to be as transparent as possible so we have added an explanation of how earnings automation works. It can be found on Automated Insights’ landing page: http://www.automatedinsights.com/ap/.

That link, and one from Zacks, is provided in the tagline of each story. We’ve also encouraged our members and subscribers to make these links available to readers when using the stories, especially online.

Internally, the reaction has been positive from staff, largely because automation has freed up valuable reporting time and reduced the amount of data-processing type work they had been doing.

How does AP ensure quality control?
Quality control was critical from the outset. We worked with Zacks and AI to make sure that every step of the process would produce stories without errors. When we launched last summer, a fair number of errors were discovered in the testing process. We then worked with Zacks and AI on solutions to ensure they wouldn’t happen again. Today, mistakes are rare. Pretty much the only time we will now have an error is if a number is entered incorrectly into the system at the beginning. Once you set up automation, and go through a rigorous testing process, you reduce the prospect of errors. In fact, we have far fewer errors than we did when we were writing earnings reports manually.

Has automation allowed staff to focus more on reporting?
Absolutely. Like all media, we are working with limited resources and it’s critical that we maximize the time reporters have to do journalism and break news. We estimate the automation of earnings reports has freed up about 20 percent of the time that we had spread throughout the staff in producing earnings reports each quarter. It is enabling us to reconfigure our business breaking news operations to be more in sync with social media and user-generated content, and focus more reporters on higher-end enterprise stories that break news that no one else has. Our goals are to break more business news than our competitors, aim higher on investigative and explanatory journalism and focus more of our work on the general consumer. We’ve got some big projects in the works. Automation is helping us free up resources to do all of these things.

What’s next?
This quarter, we are testing the automation of earnings from Canadian and European companies. We expect to add further enhancements and more companies in future quarters. My colleagues in the sports department are also exploring small-audience sports for automation in order to free staff to report news that fans and consumers do not get on the field or a broadcast. We expect to be talking about automation through the year, including at this year’s SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas.

Update: What to expect when you’re interviewed by AP

Sometimes people ask about the “ground rules” when they’re being interviewed or photographed by AP. Previously in this blog, we’ve described what you should expect when working with an AP reporter, photographer or videographer. Here’s that advice again, slightly expanded in light of some questions we’ve been asked:

  • We want to hear and see your story. We’ll work hard to accurately convey what you say, and to provide background that gives the context for your remarks. If there are other points of view besides yours on the subject at hand, we’ll look to obtain those as well and include them in the story.
  • We prefer to talk to you directly. We seek to do all interviews in person or by phone, webcam or similar. Sometimes we may ask questions by email. But our story will then characterize our exchange as an email conversation, not an interview.
  • We want to interview you on the record, and to use your name in our story, radio report, video piece or photo caption. We owe it to our readers and viewers to be straight about your identity. We can quote you anonymously in some cases but our rules are quite strict. We won’t quote you anonymously on your opinion, only on matters of fact. We do not grant anonymity unless it is the only way to get information that is essential to the story. We will need to tell our readers why you insisted on anonymity. (We are particularly reluctant to quote anonymously company or government officials whose official duties include speaking to the news media.) Also, if we quote you anonymously in a story, we cannot quote you on the record, elsewhere in the story, as refusing to comment.
  • We almost never obscure a face in photos or video. On rare occasions we can take photos and video from an angle that does not identify the person. Any such issues should be discussed with the photographer or videographer.
  • We cannot show you our story, or the images we’ve taken, before publication. (AP reporters are free, however, to double-check facts or quotes with you at their initiative.)
  • We cannot provide a full list of questions in advance of the interview. We may specify some areas we intend to ask about, but we always reserve the right to ask about something else.
  • We cannot agree not to ask about specific topics. If we ask about something you don’t wish to discuss, you can decline to comment and we’ll report that.
  • Once AP publishes its report, contact the reporter or editor if you believe anything is incorrect. We take accuracy very seriously and will correct any errors.

For more on AP’s editorial standards, see the AP Statement of News Values and Principles.

AP CEO welcomes DOJ’s revised media guidelines

The Associated Press today welcomed revised guidelines on how the federal government could obtain records from the news media during leak investigations.

Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of The Associated Press, delivers the keynote address at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce annual meeting luncheon in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Pruitt spoke on the subject of "Free Press vs. National Security: The False Choice." (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of The Associated Press, delivers the keynote address at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce annual meeting luncheon in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Pruitt spoke on the subject of “Free Press vs. National Security: The False Choice.” (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The guidelines, released by the Justice Department, revised steps announced last year in the wake of a public and media industry outcry over the secret seizure of AP phone records in May 2013.

“We are very pleased the Justice Department took our concerns seriously and implemented changes that will strengthen the protection of journalists for years to come,” said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt.

AP General Counsel Karen Kaiser added: “These revisions advance the law significantly. In particular, the changes eliminate potential ambiguity of what constitutes newsgathering and help provide consistency in how the guidelines are interpreted across investigations and administrations.”

The AP, together with the Newspaper Association of America and the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, played a leading role in advocating for the changes on behalf of a coalition of news organizations.

In 2013, Pruitt had decried the DOJ’s seizure of the AP phone records during a leak investigation, calling the action  “unconstitutional” in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and warning it would have a negative impact on journalism.

AP’s industry leadership in challenging the DOJ and calling for stronger protections for journalists was recognized last year with a First Amendment Award from the Radio Television Digital News Foundation (RTDNF) and the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s memo spelling out the new guidelines is found on the DOJ’s website.

AP statement on Mueller report

AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll offered the following statement in response to a report from former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who was hired by the NFL to investigate how the league pursued evidence in the Ray Rice abuse case:

“We have reviewed the report and stand by our original reporting.

“The Mueller team did ask us for source material and other newsgathering information, but we declined. Everything that we report and confirm goes into our stories. We do not offer up reporters’ notes and sources.”

Read the AP news story.