AP’s top editor: ‘Is the story worth the risk?’

In a time of increasing threats to journalists worldwide, Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said that news organizations need to carefully weigh the risks of reporting against journalists’ passion for telling untold stories.

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Kathleen Carroll, executive editor for the Associated Press, Douglas Frantz, U.S. assistant secretary of state for public affairs and moderator Diane Woodruff take part in a discussion on the growing threats to journalists worldwide, the role of freelancers and local reporters, and the rise of hostage taking at the Newseum in Washington Feb. 4, 2015.   (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists,
Kathleen Carroll, executive editor for the Associated Press, Douglas Frantz, U.S. assistant secretary of state for public affairs and moderator Judy Woodruff take part in a discussion on the growing threats to journalists worldwide, at the Newseum in Washington Feb. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

During a wide-ranging discussion Feb. 4 at the Newseum in Washington, about the dangers of reporting in conflict zones, risks to freelance journalists and responsibilities for news organizations and governments, Carroll said: “I think the real question for all of us, as news consumers and as news employers, is: ‘Is the story worth the risk?’ And that’s a question we often ask ourselves both in the field and back at the home office. And the answer is sometimes, ‘no.’”

The panel, moderated by Judy Woodruff, co-anchor and managing editor of PBS “NewsHour,” also included Douglas Frantz, U.S. secretary of state for public affairs, and Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. The panel followed a separate conversation with Diane Foley, mother of freelance journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by Islamic State militants in 2014, and Debra Tice, mother of missing freelance journalist Austin Tice.

A new set of safety guidelines for freelancers and news organizations that hire freelancers will be unveiled at Columbia University next week, Carroll said, adding that a number of organizations have been involved in their development, including CPJ, AP, Reuters, AFP and others.

In closing, Carroll called on news consumers to care: “This is work that people are doing at great risk to educate you, so give a damn. Read the paper, read on your tablet, engage in the news, be a citizen of the world. Make some effort to understand what it is that these people are taking great risks to bring you.”

Watch a video replay of the event.

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.

Behind the scenes: Down below

One of the perks of being a reporter is that your beat can take you to some places that most people will never have the chance to experience. For AP reporter Dylan Lovan, one such place was deep inside a coal mine.

Listen to him describe the obstacles facing a reporter who wants permission to see mining operations up close and the strict safety requirements, including the need to carry a 10-minute oxygen canister on his hip while down below:

AP reporter Dylan Lovan, left, interviews U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Joseph Main, center, in southern Indiana’s Gibson North coal mine. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

AP reporter Dylan Lovan, left, interviews U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Joseph Main, center, in southern Indiana’s Gibson North coal mine. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Once Lovan emerged from the depths of the earth, he wrote a report on five key things to know about underground coal mining.

Lovan is a print/video reporter who covers religion, the coal industry and the environment in Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter.

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.

Super Bowl through the years: Off the field with AP photographers

The Associated Press has covered every Super Bowl since the first in 1967. Here’s a look at AP photographers, editors and technicians at work covering football’s biggest contest through the years.


As recently as the early 1990s, photographers were still “souping” film in makeshift darkrooms at the stadium. Transmitting a single color photo over phone lines from the big game took about a half-hour per photo. But the introduction of digital cameras and transmitters in the mid-1990s changed that, saving time and eventually improving technical quality.

Boston-based photographer Elise Amendola on the field during the NFL Super Bowl XX football game Jan. 26, 1986 in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Boston-based photographer Elise Amendola on the field during the NFL Super Bowl XX football game Jan. 26, 1986 in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

From front, photographers Spencer Jones, Rob Kozloff, Claudia Counts and Brian Horton work from a trailer for the NFL Super Bowl XXV football game in Tampa, January 1991. (AP Corporate Archives photo)

From front, photo editors Spencer Jones, Rob Kozloff, Claudia Counts and Brian Horton work from a trailer for the NFL Super Bowl XXV football game in Tampa, January 1991. (AP Corporate Archives photo)

Photographers Mark Humphrey, foreground, of Nashville and Cliff Schiappa of Kansas City work at Leafax negative transmitters, sending photos from a trailer for the NFL Super Bowl XXV football game in Tampa, January 1991. (AP Corporate Archives photo)

Photographers Mark Humphrey, foreground, of Nashville and Cliff Schiappa of Kansas City work at Leafax negative transmitters, sending photos from a trailer for the NFL Super Bowl XXV football game in Tampa, January 1991. (AP Corporate Archives photo)

Regional Photo Editor Melissa Einberg at the NFL Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Jan. 28, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Regional Photo Editor Melissa Einberg at the NFL Super Bowl XXXV football game in Tampa, Jan. 28, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Photo editor Brian Horton at the NFL Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Jan. 28, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Photo editor Brian Horton at the NFL Super Bowl XXXV football game in Tampa, Jan. 28, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Photographer Doug Mills, center, at the NFL Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans, Feb. 3, 2002. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Photographer Doug Mills, center, at the NFL Super Bowl XXXVI football game in New Orleans, Feb. 3, 2002. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Photo News Editor Stephanie Mullen, left, and photographer Ric Feld walk to the Superdome in New Orleans for NFL Super Bowl XXXVI, Feb. 3, 2002. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Photo News Editor Stephanie Mullen, left, and photographer Ric Feld walk to the Superdome in New Orleans for NFL Super Bowl XXXVI football game, Feb. 3, 2002. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Boston-based photographer Elise Amendola prepares to make pictures of the trophy presentation to the Tampa Bay Bucs in NFL Super Bowl XXXVII football game Jan. 26, 2003 in San Diego, California. Amendola is wearing a backpack with a small laptop for transmitting  images to the AP photo trailer. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Boston-based photographer Elise Amendola prepares to make pictures of the trophy presentation to the Tampa Bay Bucs in NFL Super Bowl XXXVII football game Jan. 26, 2003 in San Diego, California. Amendola is wearing a backpack with a small laptop for transmitting images to the AP photo trailer. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

National Enterprise photographer Amy Sancetta uses a mini-disk recorder to collect audio from Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden's press conference before the NFL Super Bowl XXXVII football game Jan. 23 ,2003 in San Diego, California.

National Enterprise photographer Amy Sancetta uses a mini-disk recorder to collect audio from Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden’s press conference before the NFL Super Bowl XXXVII football game Jan. 23, 2003 in San Diego, California. (AP Photo)

2003SuperBowl_Elaine Thompson 600

Seattle-based photographer Elaine Thompson on the field following the NFL Super Bowl XXXVII football game Jan. 23, 2003 in San Diego, California. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Sometimes the Super Bowl presents AP staff, who are brought together from around the U.S. to cover the game, the opportunity for a reunion. Certain traditions, like the deep frying of a turkey by the late photographer Dave Martin, provide staff a moment of respite and a chance to reconvene.

Photographer and South Regional Editor Dave Martin, center, deep fries a turkey outside the AP photo trailer at the Super Bowl in Detroit, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2006. Standing to the left of Martin is Global Photo Operations Manager Tim Donnelly. It had become a tradition for Martin to deep fry turkeys at major events for the enjoyment of AP staff and other journalists. Martin died after collapsing on the Georgia Dome field while covering the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Cliff Schiappa)

South Regional Photo Editor Dave Martin, right, deep fries a turkey outside the AP photo trailer at the Super Bowl in Detroit, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2006. Standing to the left of Martin is Global Photo Operations Manager Tim Donnelly. It had become a tradition for Martin to deep fry turkeys at major events for the enjoyment of AP staff and other journalists. Martin died after collapsing on the Georgia Dome field while covering the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Cliff Schiappa)

Indianapolis-based photographer Mike Conroy on the field at the start of the NFL Super Bowl XL Feb. 5, 2006 in Detroit, Michigan. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Indianapolis-based photographer Mike Conroy on the field at the start of the NFL Super Bowl XL Feb. 5, 2006 in Detroit, Michigan. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Global Photo Operations Manager Tim Donnelly, right, checks St. Louis-based photographer Jeff Roberson's transmitting device on the field following the NFL Super Bowl XLI Feb. 4, 2007 in Miami, Florida. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Global Photo Operations Manager Tim Donnelly, right, checks St. Louis-based photographer Jeff Roberson’s transmitting device on the field following the NFL Super Bowl XLI Feb. 4, 2007 in Miami, Florida. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

During 2013’s Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, the Baltimore Ravens were leading the San Francisco 49ers 28-6 when most of the lights in the 73,000-seat Superdome went out in the third quarter. While fans and players waited for the stadium to regain power, AP reporters and editors relied on AP generators and jet packs with Wi-Fi hotspots to continue covering the night’s events.

Deputy Director of Photography Denis Paquin, front left, and colleagues edit during the Super Bowl blackout, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Superdome in New Orleans. (AP Photo/ Julie Jacobson)

Deputy Director of Photography Denis Paquin, front left, and colleagues edit during the Super Bowl blackout, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Superdome in New Orleans. (AP Photo/ Julie Jacobson)

Washington Assistant Chief of Bureau David Ake edits during the Super Bowl blackout, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Superdome in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Washington Assistant Chief of Bureau David Ake edits during the Super Bowl blackout, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Superdome in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Photographers Matt Slocum, left, and Mark Humphrey, right, in red, covering Denver Broncos Peyton Manning during media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Photographers Matt Slocum, left, and Mark Humphrey, right, in red, cover Denver Broncos Peyton Manning during media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Technology specialist Jorge Nunez, far left, watches as Global Photo Operations Manager Tim Donnelly and Houston-based photographer David Phillip, right, install a robotic camera on the catwalk in preparation for Super Bowl XLIX, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. (Photo by Denis Paquin)

Technology specialist Jorge Nunez, far left, watches as Global Photo Operations Manager Tim Donnelly and Houston-based photographer David Phillip, right, install a robotic camera on the catwalk in preparation for the NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Denis Paquin)

Photographers David Phillip, left, and Morry Gash work on a robotic camera in preparation for for Super Bowl XLIX, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. (Photo by Denis Paquin)

Photographers David Phillip, left, and Morry Gash work on a robotic camera in preparation for the NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Denis Paquin)

Photographer Charlie Riedel shown during  Super Bowl XLIX Media Day at the U.S. Airways Arena in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kazdan)

Photographer Charlie Riedel takes photos of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (not pictured) using a camera attached to a monopod during the NFL Super Bowl XLIX Media Day at the U.S. Airways Arena in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kazdan)

Photographer Charlie Riedel takes photos from the stands during the NFL Super Bowl XLIX Media Day at the U.S Airways Arena in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kazdan)

Photographer Charlie Riedel takes photos from the stands during the NFL Super Bowl XLIX Media Day at the U.S Airways Arena in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kazdan)

In recognition of the game’s rich history, AP is hosting a photo exhibit of its Super Bowl game coverage. “Super Moments, Superstars, Super Game—An Associated Press Exhibit” is on display at Gallery Glendale, 9830 W. Westgate Blvd., in Glendale, Arizona, until Feb. 1.

What’s the deal with Davos?

DAVOS, Switzerland — It’s hard to think of any other event quite like the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting here in the Swiss Alps. The U.N. General Assembly draws more world leaders. The Oscars attract more celebrities. But nothing brings together quite this combination of corporate executives, academics, philanthropists and media.

Participants walk in the main entrance hall of the Congress Center the day before the opening of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. The world's financial and political elite will head this week to the Swiss Alps for 2015's gathering of the World Economic Forum at the Swiss ski resort of Davos. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Participants walk in the main entrance hall of the Congress Center the day before the opening of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

It began in 1971 as a two-week meeting designed to improve European management. Some 450 executives attended. It has grown to something both grander and broader, with 2,500 attendees and a sweeping motto: “Committed to improving the state of the world.” No small task.

To a considerable extent they all come because they all come. Some critics dismiss the meetings as a talk shop or a gathering of elites who fly pretty high above the world most people live in, the one they are committed to improving.

Yet, for all that, interesting things are often said here and occasionally news is broken here. One year, AP Chief Switzerland Correspondent John Heilprin scooped the world on a new security policy in which the United States said that protecting corporate supply chains was now as important as the longtime job of guarding shipping lanes. How did he get the scoop? The then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was sent to Davos with half a dozen copies of the new directive signed personally by President Barack Obama. They were intended for other world leaders. But it’s hard to actually catch up with a world leader here, even though there are usually about 40 at least passing through. So John seized the moment and cajoled one of those documents out of an aide.

Some news organizations send small armies to cover Davos. One, for example, takes over the town’s library for its operations. AP takes a different approach. A small but hearty band of journalists covers all formats. It’s a great place to snag newsmakers for video or text. Pan Pylas, an AP business reporter here from London, recalls standing feet from actor Matt Damon one moment and then being quick marched by his editors (well, me actually) to a private briefing with the president of Iran.

“It’s unusual to get so many newsmakers and thought leaders all together in a very small place, when they are unusually accessible and a little bit more relaxed than usual,” Heilprin said. “For a reporter, the first challenge is to recognize them all. The second is to quickly think of a good question when one passes by.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron and  rock star Bono speak during the panel discussion  "The Post-2015 Goals: Inspiring a New Generation to Act", the fifth annual Associated Press debate, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014.  (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

British Prime Minister David Cameron and rock star Bono speak during the panel discussion “The Post-2015 Goals: Inspiring a New Generation to Act,” the fifth annual Associated Press debate, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The highlight of our Davos week is the annual AP Davos debate, the brainchild of Director of Global Video News Sandy MacIntyre and Senior Field Producer Masha McPherson. Working with the Davos organizers, we turn one of the panel discussions into a broadcast and send it to our 700 broadcast clients and hundreds of digital news outlets.

We’ve had some memorable moments. Like the time Prime Minister David Cameron asked Bono to help craft a message for the fight on global poverty. Or when the Italian finance minister got angry because we asked about a bank scandal in Siena instead of the high-minded global financial questions he was looking for. Our Italian customers were very happy.

But that’s Davos. If you remember why you’re here, as a journalist, you can always find a story.

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.

Why AP didn’t run the Charlie Hebdo cartoons

In this Sept.19, 2012 file photo,  Stephane Charbonnier also known as Charb ,  the editor of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, displays the front page of the newspaper as he poses for photographers in Paris. AP moved this image on the wire this week. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

In this Sept.19, 2012 file photo, Stephane Charbonnier, the editor of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, displays a front page of the newspaper as he poses for photographers in Paris. AP moved this image on the wire this week. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

The attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris raised many questions about how news agencies handle controversial images. We answered some of them Wednesday in response to calls from reporters and bloggers. Below is a summary of the questions and our replies.

Did AP run the Charlie Hebdo cartoons mocking Islam?
AP tries hard not to be a conveyor belt for images and actions aimed at mocking or provoking people on the basis of religion, race or sexual orientation. We did not run the “Danish cartoons” mocking Muhammad in 2005, or the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the same type. While we run many photos that are politically or socially provocative, there are areas verging on hate speech and actions where we feel it is right to be cautious.

This policy is consistent with our approach to sound bites and text reporting, where we avoid racist, religious and sexual slurs.

But don’t such images and speech sometimes make news?
They do, and we may need to describe hate speech and images when they lead to attacks or arrests. But we limit ourselves to brief descriptions, often without the images or slurs themselves. Routinely publicizing hate speech and images can lead to a “can-you-top-this” situation where provocateurs produce increasingly offensive material for news media to lap up and redistribute, accusing them of censorship when they fail to bite. We don’t want to fan such flames.

We also believe we should not rotely transmit propaganda images designed to sow fear and terror. These could include images that display hostages in demeaning situations, prisoners being abused or the bloodied bodies of vanquished enemies. Sometimes such images, or crops of them, may be essential to convey an event.

On occasion we’ve run a few seconds of video of a hostage. We also ran the well-known photos of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. But any such material requires discussion by our editors and a judgment that it is truly newsworthy. We never transmit such material simply because “it’s out there” and others are carrying them.

What about images mocking Christianity or Judaism?
We try to be even-handed. We have declined to run cartoons demeaning Jews and the Holocaust, although we have referred to them in stories when the reaction to them has made news. In the urgency of a 24-hour newsroom, some images get through despite our best efforts; we removed from our service some photos we put out showing a crowd in Afghanistan burning a cross to disparage Christianity.

These are AP news policies for the pictures we distribute in our news reports. In addition, the company has a separate commercial photo business called AP Images that, among other things, has an archive of 22 million photos, including AP pictures that predate our current editorial standards and pictures from many other photo partners. Sometimes photos that don’t meet our current editorial standards are found among those millions of pictures.

Thus, on Wednesday we removed from AP Images some Charlie Hebdo cartoons that had come from a non-AP source. We also became aware that a 25-year-old image of the controversial “Piss Christ” photo was among the photos there, and removed it. Of course, every removal is a judgment call, and we took some flak over the decision on “Piss Christ.”

We learned long ago that some of our news decisions will be controversial. While there’s certainly a slippery slope that leads to avoiding any image that could cause offense, there’s an equally slippery one that leads to suspending our editorial judgment and allowing our news service to be hijacked by whatever offensive image is circulating on a given day. Our best approach is to try to be as thoughtful and even-handed as we can, knowing we’ll sometimes be criticized for a decision not everyone likes.

But what about the censorship issue? Who is the AP to decide what images the world will see?
This question was more valid a couple of decades ago, when a very small number of international news agencies “owned the wires” that distributed photos around the world. If the agencies chose not to run a photo, few were likely ever to see it. Even at that time, we felt a responsibility to use our judgment and distribute only those photos we were comfortable with.

But now the censorship argument has largely evaporated. The most hotly disputed images of recent years can usually be found easily via search engines and social networks by anyone who wants to see them. In the Internet era, we are free to edit our news service in line with our own professional consciences and the valid needs of our readers and subscribers without people being able to claim we’re making some decision for the entire world. We have an editorial policy, and that’s what you get from AP.

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.