Expanding state coverage through ‘Shared News Desk’

Reinforcing AP’s long-standing commitment to state news coverage, we’ve hired more than a dozen journalists over the past year to leverage the power of AP’s cooperative and expand our state reports.

AP Managing Editor for U.S. News Brian Carovillano (AP Photo/Santos Chaparro)

AP Managing Editor for U.S. News Brian Carovillano (AP Photo/Santos Chaparro)

A “Shared News Desk,” which began at the Central region desk in Chicago as a pilot project last July, will begin operating at AP’s three other U.S. regional news desks, in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Phoenix, on April 20. The desk makes two important improvements to our state reports. It frees AP journalists to produce more original reporting and increases the number of state news stories on the wire.

The move dovetails with the creation earlier this year of a state government team focused on accountability and explanatory reporting across the country.

Here, Brian Carovillano, managing editor for U.S. news, explains the new initiative and how it’s already paying dividends for members and bolstering AP’s domestic news operation.

What does the Shared News Desk do?
The goal is simple: Get more content onto state wires at key times for AP members. To accomplish this, each desk identifies the best stories from members of the AP news cooperative in their region, rewrites those stories and distributes them in time for the morning rush.

What types of content do Shared News Desks produce?
Their output augments AP’s strong original reporting from every state. The Shared News Desk produces briefs and longer stories for print, online and radio and TV broadcasts. They also compile packages of feature stories shared by AP members that move in advance so other members can use them. The desks will ensure a steady flow of fresh stories for crucial drive-time broadcasts and morning online traffic.

The desks strive to find a mix of stories from both print and broadcast members and a diversity of datelines in a given state. They focus on surfacing the types of stories customers in each state have told AP that they most value.

For example, before the Shared News Desk, the news editor in Kansas City spent three hours per week preparing the weekly Member Exchange packages for Kansas and Missouri. The Shared News Desk now handles this responsibility. Its launch nearly coincided with the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, enabling the Missouri team to focus more time on one of the top stories in the world.

In Texas, the Dallas bureau created an additional reporting shift thanks to time freed up by the Shared News Desk. And when the first U.S. Ebola patient was identified in Texas, the Dallas bureau was able to dedicate more reporting power to that top global story because the Shared News Desk was helping out on other Texas stories.

How much content will the desks produce?
The first Shared News Desk in Chicago has produced up to 1,200 stories per month, or 15-20 percent of AP’s total monthly text output in the 14-state region. A significant plus for AP members and subscribers is that more than half these items move before 4 a.m., a big increase over the amount of news previously available to them during those hours. This addresses a frequent request for more early-morning content.

With the Shared News Desk in operation, the state bureaus in the Central region have generated about 400 additional original AP stories in an average month than they did previously.

What has the response been?
The response has been quite positive. Members in the Central region where the desk has been up and running for nearly a year have noticed a difference and have told AP they appreciate the infusion of state stories arriving early in the day. We plan to build on this success and make our state reports even more timely and useful for our members across the country.

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.”

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.

Visit AP at ONA in Atlanta

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AP Standards Editor Tom Kent helps lead a break out session for an ethics panel at ONA. (Photo by Fergus Bell)

The Associated Press is joining digital journalists from around the country at the 2013 Online News Association conference in Atlanta, which runs today through Oct. 19. Here’s a rundown of where you’ll find AP:

October 17:

  • Standards Editor Tom Kent (@tjrkent) and International Social Media Editor Fergus Bell (@fergb) will participate in a discussion about an online code of ethics from 2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. ET.

October 18:

  • Minkoff teams up with ProPublica to give a workshop from 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. ET on how reporters can find hidden structured data online to both drive and supplement stories, using non-programmatic tools.
  • Stop by the AP table from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. ET for a sneak peak at new AP Stylebook (@APStylebook) products that are coming soon.

And looking ahead to 2014, you can also stop by the AP table to learn more AP’s Election services.

Paul Cheung named director of interactive and digital news production

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Paul Cheung

The following promotion was announced today by AP Vice President and Managing Editor Lou Ferrara in an internal memo:

I’m pleased to announce that Paul Cheung is now AP’s director of interactive and digital news production.

Paul joined the AP newsroom in 2010 after roles at the Miami Herald and the Wall Street Journal. Most recently, he’s been serving as the president of the Asian American Journalists Association, where has received rave reviews from colleagues throughout the industry for his leadership and approach in building the organization.

Paul has been in the interim director role at the AP for the past several months, leading the team responsible for some of the company’s key products and innovation areas: interactives, data analysis and visualization, video explainers, mapping, GraphicsBank, news research, AP Overview and print graphics. The team — which includes staff at several AP offices around the world — also has been instrumental in the launch of the online products known as the digital news experiences, as well as parts of AP Mobile.

In this new role, Paul will oversee more of the production of those digital products, which had been part of the Nerve Center’s evolution the past few years. The digital news experiences, AP Mobile and a few other products related to specific customers will now roll up into the interactive and digital news production department. As part of this move, Jaime Holguin, who as the news development manager at the Nerve Center has played a pivotal role in the execution of many of these products, will report into Paul and the new department. Jaime, as he has been, will work with the business operations on products and be the point person between the rebooted, news-focused Nerve Center and the new department.

In the weeks ahead, Jaime and Paul will be working with Tamer Fakahany, the deputy managing editor overseeing the Nerve Center, on workflows and the location of products within the headquarters newsroom.

Please join me in offering congratulations, as these moves will allow us to continue to fine-tune our products and grow while refocusing the Nerve Center on the coordination of AP’s news report every day.