On the killing of James Foley, journalist

The Associated Press is outraged by the killing of James Foley and condemns the taking of any journalist’s life. We believe those who kill journalists or hold them hostage should be brought to justice.

Further, we believe the assassination of a journalist in wartime should be considered an international crime of war.

The murder of a journalist with impunity  is a threat to a free press and democracy around the world.

– Gary Pruitt, AP president and CEO

Update: Pruitt elaborated on his view during an Aug. 24 interview on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

‘Our work becomes more important but also more dangerous’

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt addressed the company’s global staff following a tragic event Wednesday in Gaza:

It is with great sadness that I inform you that an AP videographer and a translator working for us have been killed in Gaza.  An AP photographer was badly injured in the same incident.

Simone Camilli, an Italian journalist and a veteran video journalist who has worked with AP for eight years, was killed when a bomb went off while he and his team were working with a bomb disposal unit.  Ali Shehda Abu Afash, a Palestinian translator who was working with the AP team, was also killed. Photographer Hatem Moussa was injured and is being treated at a Gaza hospital. A fourth member of the AP team, the driver, was uninjured.

Simone was well known throughout Europe, and especially to our video team in London, where his death has hit AP deeply. He had recently moved to Beirut with his wife. We have sent staff to be with her and with his family in Italy.

As all of you know, this has been a very difficult year for AP. Simone is the second staffer to die in the line of duty this year and the 33rd person since our founding in 1846. As conflict and violence grows around the world, our work becomes more important but also more dangerous. We take every precaution we can to protect the brave journalists who staff our frontlines. I never cease to be amazed at their courage.

All of us in the AP family grieve the loss of Simone and Ali Shehda, and we send our deepest sympathies to their families.

Gary

This July 1, 2014 photo shows Associated Press video journalist Simone Camilli at work filming Kurdish Peshmerga fighters under a bridge near the front line with militants from the Islamic state group, in Mariam Bek village, between the northern cities of Tikrit and Kirkuk, Iraq. Camilli, 35, was killed in an ordnance explosion in the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 together with Palestinian translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash and three members of the Gaza police. Police said four other people were seriously injured, including AP photographer Hatem Moussa.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

This July 1, 2014 photo shows Associated Press video journalist Simone Camilli at work filming Kurdish Peshmerga fighters under a bridge near the front line with militants from the Islamic state group, in Mariam Bek village, between the northern cities of Tikrit and Kirkuk, Iraq. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

In this Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014 photo, Associated Press photographer Hatem Moussa works, in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Moussa was seriously injured Wednesday when Gaza police engineers were neutralizing unexploded ordnance in the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya left over from fighting between Israel and Islamic militants. (AP Photo)

In this Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014 photo, Associated Press photographer Hatem Moussa works, in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. (AP Photo)

Poorly worded alert prompts clarification

This morning a poorly worded news alert moved on the AP wire and was also tweeted via @AP.

For the record, here’s the original alert:

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash lands in Eindhoven.

Many readers understandably took it to mean the plane “crash-landed.”

We sought to clarify this as quickly as possible.

Here’s the clarified version:

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) — CLARIFIES: Dutch military plane carrying Malaysia Airlines bodies lands in Eindhoven.

@AP tweeted the clarification as follows:

CLARIFIES: Dutch military plane carrying Malaysia Airlines bodies lands in Eindhoven.

This was an especially regrettable lapse that drew wide attention as Dutch families awaited the return of their loved ones’ remains.

How many U.S. states allow gay marriage?

In stories about gay marriage in the United States, we usually include the number of states where gay marriage is allowed. Settling on that that number can be complicated, though, since the situation in some states is in flux.

In Colorado, for instance, gay marriages are going forward in some jurisdictions. But the legality of gay marriage in the state remains tied up in appeals.

So what number do we use when we need a quick, short answer?

Our approach is not to count a state as allowing gay marriage until all appeals have been exhausted and/or state leaders have committed to dropping appeals.

By that standard, we don’t count Colorado. As of now, our count is that same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

These are the states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

A leap forward in quarterly earnings stories

The Associated Press announced in an advisory to customers today that the majority of U.S. corporate earnings stories for our business news report will eventually be produced using automation technology.

Here, Lou Ferrara, the AP managing editor who oversees business news, explains how this leap forward takes advantage of new technologies to free journalists to spend more time on things like beat reporting and source development while increasing, by a factor of more than 10, the volume of earnings reports for customers.

Lou Ferrara, vice president and managing editor

Lou Ferrara, vice president and managing editor

Why is the AP doing this?

Like all media companies, AP is constantly reviewing what content it needs to provide to customers and the best use of its reporting resources. At the same time, we analyze the value of the content we produce in the marketplace.

For many years, we have been spending a lot of time crunching numbers and rewriting information from companies to publish approximately 300 earnings reports each quarter. We discovered that automation technology, from a company called Automated Insights, paired with data from Zacks Investment Research, would allow us to automate short stories – 150 to 300 words — about the earnings of companies in roughly the same time that it took our reporters.

And instead of providing 300 stories manually, we can provide up to 4,400 automatically for companies throughout the United States each quarter.

We believe technological automation will be a part of many businesses, including those in media. As part of its business relationship with Automated Insights, AP participated in the company’s latest round of investment financing with other strategic partners.

Does it mean we are no longer providing editorial coverage of earnings reports?

No. If anything, we are doubling down on the journalism we will do around earnings reports and business coverage.

We are going to use our brains and time in more enterprising ways during earnings season. Rather than spending a great deal of time focusing on the release of earnings and hammering out a quick story recapping each one, we are going to automate that process for all U.S. companies in the 4,400. (We are exploring whether we can automate earnings from companies outside the United States.)

Instead, our journalists will focus on reporting and writing stories about what the numbers mean and what gets said in earnings calls on the day of the release, identifying trends and finding exclusive stories we can publish at the time of the earnings reports.

AP’s staff breaks a lot of business news and obtains numerous exclusives throughout the year from many of the top companies in the world. We know that is what our customers want and we are going to deliver more of it through this process.

Are we eliminating jobs to do this?

No. This is about using technology to free journalists to do more journalism and less data processing, not about eliminating jobs. In fact, most of the staff has been receptive to the effort and involved for the past few months of discussion.

How does it work?

Zacks maintains the data when the earnings reports are issued. Automated Insights has algorithms that ping that data and then in seconds output a story. The structure for the earnings reports stories was crafted by AP with Automated Insights. All conform to AP Style, the standard of journalistic style.

The stories will be labeled as being produced automatically with material from Zacks.

As we begin using automation technology in July, we will check each automatically generated report and then publish to the AP wire. As we work out any problems, we hope to move to a model of more fully automating the reports and spot-checking the feed for quality control.

Will you be automating other parts of the AP report?

Interestingly, we already have been automating a good chunk of AP’s sports agate report for several years. Data comes from STATS, the sports statistics company, and is automated and formatted into our systems for distribution. A majority of our agate is produced this way.

By comparison, though, the earnings reports are produced into stories – not just data feeds. And we are looking at whether there are other things we should be automating in this way. Last football season, we introduced an automated NFL player ranking on the website for pro football that we host for newspapers. That ranking included automated text descriptions of player performances each week, which were produced by Automated Insights. We also are examining the potential for automating results stories for lower-audience sports.

When will the automated earnings reports be available?

We are planning to go live in July, and we will be paying close attention to all of the reports as we adapt to this new process. We will address any concerns or bugs, and then keep moving ahead.

Our hope is that customers will begin to see the benefits almost immediately through more breaking business news and an increased volume of earnings reports. Many customers will receive info for companies in their markets that they never received from AP before.

Financial markets story to feature format suited to Web and mobile

The following advisory was sent today to editors at AP member news organizations:

Starting next month, The Associated Press will take a fresh approach to its coverage of global financial markets.

Instead of two separate stories each day – one about U.S. markets and the other about international markets – AP will produce a single story that reports and analyzes the most important global news and trends.

This July 16, 2013 file photo shows a street sign for Wall Street outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York. U.S. stock futures are steady Wednesday, May 28, 2014, with the market market hovering at record levels. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The global financial markets story will be updated throughout the day in Asia, Europe and the U.S. and will include coverage of stocks, bonds, oil and other commodities.

The story will move under the slug BC-Financial Markets, beginning on Monday, July 28. It will replace BC-US-Wall Street, BC-World Markets, BC-Oil Prices and BC-Commodities Review. (AP will no longer write separate daily stories on oil and commodities.)

Just like the current Wall Street story, the new Financial Markets story
will feature an easy-to-read format suited to the Web and mobile devices. It will include a market summary, followed by brief sections that highlight key news and trends. (See two examples below.)

This format gives readers lots of information with continuous updates and catchy headlines.

After markets close each day in the U.S., the AP will continue to publish a more traditional, narrative-style story that summarizes and analyzes the most important events in financial markets. A narrative-style story about markets can run at any time, in any global region, when warranted by major news events …

Here’s an example of how the new format for the BC-Financial Markets story might have looked like on June 11 at around 5 a.m. Eastern time, reflecting moves in Asian and European markets:

LONDON (AP) — Global stock markets turned skittish Wednesday after the World Bank lowered its global growth forecast and a militant takeover of a key Iraqi city pushed oil prices higher. The World Bank cut its 2014 growth forecast to 2.8 percent, citing a bitter American winter and the political crisis in Ukraine. The weaker outlook sent Asian markets mostly lower, except for Japan, which closed slightly higher.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany’s DAX dropped 0.6 percent to 9,969 and the CAC 40 in France fell 0.7 percent to 4,563. Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 0.5 percent to 6,839. In the U.S., stock index futures sagged in pre-market trading after a run of record highs. Dow Jones futures fell 0.3 percent to 16,894 and S&P 500 futures were down 0.4 percent to 1,943. Earlier, Asian indexes closed mostly lower.

WEAKER FORECAST: The World Bank’s gloomier outlook dampened investors’ enthusiasm for stocks, which had been on the upswing. The bank cut its forecast for growth this year to 2.8 percent from the 3.2 percent it forecast in January.

OIL SPIKE: Oil prices rose ahead of an OPEC meeting in Europe that is expected to keep production levels steady for the year. Benchmark U.S. oil for July delivery rose 30 cents to $104.65 a barrel in electronic trading in New York, extending Tuesday’s large gain. Energy markets were also affected by al-Qaida-inspired militants overrunning much of the Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday. Mosul lies in an area that is a major gateway for Iraqi oil.

THE TAKEAWAY: IG Group analyst Ryan Huang said the broader outlook for the global economy remains strong, especially after the European Central Bank announced additional monetary stimulus. “Last week’s monetary policy decision by the ECB to cut rates should also set the eurozone on course for recovery and help developing countries as a market for their exports,” Hwang said in a market commentary. “That will be a further boost for China.”

ASIA: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed down 0.3 percent at 23,257.29 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.3 percent to 5,454. Seoul’s Kopsi inched up 0.1 percent to 2,014.67 and China’s Shanghai Composite posted equally anemic gains, rising 0.1 percent to 2,054.95. Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 percent to 15,069.48, helped by indications that a downturn from a sales tax hike instituted in April might not be as severe as originally expected.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 102.06 yen from 102.33 late Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.3534 from $1.3544.

And here’s what a version might have looked like on June 11 at about 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, reflecting trading in U.S. markets:

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks slipped and government bond prices rose after the World Bank downgraded its forecast for the global economy this year, citing a bitter American winter and the political crisis in Ukraine. Markets also slumped in Europe and Asia, except for Japan, where indexes ended slightly higher.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell six points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,944 as of 1:20 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 99 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,846. The Nasdaq composite fell four points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,333. Markets also closed lower in Europe and Asia.

GLOBAL GROWTH: The World Bank said late Tuesday that it expects the world economy to grow 2.8 percent this year, below the 3.2 percent expansion it had predicted in January.

TAKING A PAUSE: Despite declines Tuesday and early Wednesday, the S&P 500 has been on a slow and steady rise since April and is now up 5.2 percent for the year. In recent weeks, encouraging economic reports have pushed the index to a string of all-time highs, with its latest record of 1,951.27 occurring Monday.

KEEPING THE FAITH: The rally in stocks should continue this year as the economy strengthens, said James Lui, global market strategist at JPMorgan Funds. In the last month, stock gains have been led by the technology and consumer discretionary sectors, which should benefit more from stronger growth. This move “is going to be what drives the market further along,” Lui said.

BEST BEHIND US: Boeing fell $2.88, or 2.1 percent, to $134.37 after brokerage RBC cut its outlook on the plane maker’s stock. Analysts at the bank say that after three years of record orders and no new planes in the pipeline, the good news for Boeing is “already out there.”

TAX BOOST: H&R Block jumped $1.34 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $32.07 after the tax preparation company reported earnings that beat analysts’ expectations. The company’s fourth-quarter net income surged as more people used its services and its prepaid card.

TOUCH-SCREEN TECH: Synaptics jumped $18.16, or 27 percent, to $84.68 after the maker of touch-screen technology said it would buy smartphone and tablet chipmaker Renesas SP Drivers for $475 million. Because of the deal, Synaptics also raised its fourth-quarter revenue outlook.

BONDS, COMMODITIES AND CURRENCIES: As stocks fell, government bonds rallied. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note eased to 2.64 percent from 2.65 percent late Tuesday. The price of oil was little changed at $104.34 a barrel. The dollar fell to 102.10 yen from 102.33 late Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.3514 from $1.3544.

A faster, new format for AP’s Major League Baseball game stories

For decades, AP reporters have chronicled every big play, every no-hitter and every controversy that erupts on the field during the hundreds of games that make up the Major League Baseball season.

Now, we’re reshaping the way that game coverage looks.

Starting July 28, we’ll launch a new format that presents the game story in a faster, more accessible and more customizable package. Instead of a traditional 600-word game story, our coverage will feature 300 words about the game and then up to five bullet points that highlight mini storylines, injuries, key plays and what’s coming next for a team.

It’ll be faster to read, faster to publish and more customizable for newsrooms. Unique content will be more easily highlighted and communicated. Editors can choose to use the 300-word story, or break off the bullet points for websites.

The new format is based on customer feedback and a trial conducted during spring training this year.

The new format was discussed at the gathering of Associated Press Media Editors in New York today, and will be reviewed at the annual Associated Press Sports Editors conference later this week. Here are highlights in an advisory that went to AP member news organizations and customers today:

THE FORMAT

The basics won’t change: We will continue to publish a NewsNow at game’s end, a 300-word writethru shortly after, followed by a 600-word writethru and a hometown lead.

What will change is how those stories look. The top of the story will continue to look like a traditional AP game story. After 300 words, the text will break into a chunky-text presentation featuring up to five bullet points that explain team storylines, key plays, injuries and a look ahead to what’s next for a team or player.

Los Angeles Angels' Erick Aybar, left, celebrates with Mike Trout after they defeated the Texas Rangers 5-2 in a baseball game, Sunday, June 22, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Angels’ Erick Aybar, left, celebrates with Mike Trout after they defeated the Texas Rangers 5-2 in a baseball game, Sunday, June 22, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

THE BENEFITS

EASY TO READ: The format allows consumers to more easily see interesting content, and it can be read faster across platforms.

SPEED: The format is naturally shorter than a traditional game story and can be published more quickly, resulting in a faster turnaround time from AP to newsrooms.

FLEXIBILITY: Customers have the option of using the 300-word traditional game story, or breaking off the bullet point items for briefs on websites, mobile or in print.


EXAMPLE OF NEW FORMAT

Slug: BC-BBA–Royals-Indians

Headline: Kipnis hits go-ahead double, Indians beat Royals

Ext. Headline: Jason Kipnis delivers tiebreaking double in 7th inning, sends Indians to 5-3 win over Royals

Eds Note: Indians 5, Royals 3

By The Associated Press

CLEVELAND — With seven games still left this month, Jason Kipnis has already surpassed his statistics from last April.

That wasn’t hard to do.

“I set the bar so low,” he said.

Kipnis drove in Nick Swisher from first base with a two-out double in the seventh inning, sending the Cleveland Indians to a 5-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.

Kipnis, who batted just .200 with one homer and four RBIs in the season’s first month in 2013, ripped his double off Kelvin Herrera (0-1) into the gap in right-center, deep enough to easily score Swisher, who reached on a two-out single.

“That was a real big hit,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Sometimes you need a big hit at a big time and we got it tonight.”

The Indians tacked on an important insurance run in the eighth on pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall’s bloop RBI single.

Bryan Shaw (1-0) finished the seventh and got one out in the eighth. Cody Allen retired two, and John Axford worked the ninth for his AL-leading eighth save.

Michael Bourn had three hits and two RBIs for the Indians. Bourn, Nick Swisher and Kipnis, Cleveland’s 1-2-3 hitters, combined for six hits and three RBIs.

Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas hit back-to-back homers in the second for Kansas City.

Indians starter Justin Masterson remained winless through five starts. The staff’s ace, who turned down a contract extension during spring training, allowed two earned runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings.

“I’ll take as many no-decisions as come as long as we’re winning,” he said.

Down 3-2, the Indians tied it in the sixth off lefty starter Jason Vargas when Michael Brantley scored from first on two Kansas City errors.

Brantley singled with one out, and broke for second with two down and Yan Gomes batting. As Brantley slid safely into second, the throw from catcher Perez skipped into center field. Brantley hustled toward third and center fielder Jarrod Dyson took his eye off the ball, overrunning it and letting the tying run score.

“I came in too hard,” Dyson said. “I should have come in and played it off the hop because I probably didn’t have a shot at him anyway.”

Moustakas’ RBI single after Kipnis dropped a throw for an error had given the Royals a 3-2 lead in the sixth.

TIPPING PITCHES?

One night after Cleveland’s struggling right-hander Danny Salazar said he might be tipping his pitches, Indians manager Terry Francona said the 24-year-old Salazar is just leaving too many over the plate. Francona was surprised Salazar would say he was giving hitters clues.

“He’s not,” Francona said. “There were some instances last year in spring training that we kind of addressed with him. But, no, we really keep an eye on that.”

SLUMPS

Royals: Perez snapped an 0-for-22 slump with a drive over the center field wall off Masterson in the second inning for his first homer. The Royals catcher with a .295 average in three-plus seasons entered batting just .211 in 71 at-bats.

Indians: Third baseman-designated hitter Carlos Santana is in a 2-for-46 (.043) slide.

SLOPPY PLAY

The Indians came in tied for the AL lead with 20 errors. Kipnis, the second baseman, made his third of the year Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Royals: The six-game road trip continues in Baltimore with hard-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura (1-2) facing Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (0-3)

Indians: Cleveland heads west for its first interleague series. Righty Carlos Carrasco (0-2) faces San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Hudson (2-1).

Is it ISIL or ISIS in Iraq?

How best to refer to the al-Qaida splinter group leading Sunni militants in Iraq? ISIL or ISIS?

In Arabic, the group is known as Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The term “al-Sham” refers to a region stretching from southern Turkey through Syria to Egypt (also including Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan). The group’s stated goal is to restore an Islamic state, or caliphate, in this entire area.

The standard English term for this broad territory is “the Levant.” Therefore, AP’s translation of the group’s name is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

“We believe this is the most accurate translation of the group’s name and reflects its aspirations to rule over a broad swath of the Middle East,” says John Daniszewski, AP vice president and senior managing editor for international news.

The term ISIL also avoids the common misunderstanding, stemming from the initials ISIS, that the group’s name is the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” (“Iraq and Greater Syria” might be an acceptable translation, since Greater Syria also implies the entire area of the Levant.) But saying just “Iraq and Syria” suggests incorrectly that the group’s aspirations are limited to these two present-day countries.

ISIL is also the term used by the United Nations.


This note was corrected on June 18 to reflect that al-Sham does not include Iraq.

Bangkok bureau chief named Journalist of the Year in Asia

The Society of Publishers in Asia named The Associated Press’ Bangkok Bureau Chief Todd Pitman Journalist of the Year, in recognition of his work over the past 12 months, including gripping stories from Typhoon Haiyan and moving coverage of the travails of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Todd Pitman (AP photo)

Todd Pitman (AP photo)

He accepted the award at the SOPA annual dinner June 11 in Hong Kong.

Pitman’s work “represents the pinnacle of our profession and of our ambitions,” said Ted Anthony, AP’s news director in Asia, in a note to staff.

Earlier this year Pitman also received the Joe and Laurie Dine Citation from the Overseas Press Club of America for his reporting on the massacre in Myanmar.

Read more of his work.

Piecing together the story of a girl, 10, left in an African forest

Her name is Hamamatou Harouna. She is 10 years old and unable to walk because she has polio.

Amid the sectarian violence in Central African Republic, she managed to survive a rampage by Christian fighters on her Muslim village by fleeing on the back of her 12-year-old brother.

In this April 16, 2014 photo, 10-year-old Hamamatou Harouna smiles as she sits in a tent with other Muslim refugees on the grounds of the Catholic Church in Carnot, Central African Republic. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

In this April 16, 2014 photo, 10-year-old Hamamatou Harouna smiles as she sits in a tent with other Muslim refugees on the grounds of the Catholic Church in Carnot, Central African Republic. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Her story – one of heartache and resilience — was pieced together by AP West Africa correspondent Krista Larson, who notes in her report that hundreds of thousands of children have been displaced by violence in the country and hundreds have become separated from their families..

Larson told The Definitive Source blog that she researched Hamamatou’s story with the help of a Sango translator over a two-week period.

“I was in Carnot, Central African Republic, to do a follow-up story about the Catholic church that was sheltering 900 Muslims,” she said. “AP Chief Africa Photographer Jerome Delay spotted Hamamatou crawling through the mud on her way back from the communal toilets and snapped her photo. She stole our hearts with her determination and bright eyes.”

Larson continued: “I went to her tent with my Sango translator and we did a first interview. I contacted my editor, Mary Rajkumar, who gave me more suggestions for questions to ask and people to talk to. We then interviewed her several times over the next day or so, and then we went to her home village of Guen, where we learned more about the attack her family had fled.

“It’s been touching to see how many people have reached out to help Hamamatou despite a lack of international interest in the conflict ravaging her country.”

Efforts to provide for her long-term needs are ongoing.