Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Associated Press responds to my blog post. How about naming names instead of tell us to "rest assured" about the basis for its "important" plan?

Paul Colford, AP Director of Media Relations, responded to my earlier post raising questions about whether its "plan for reclaiming news" needed an editor.

I think it's important to give prominence to his response for two reasons: a sense of fairness requires me to give his words the same prominence my own writing had, and I think he raises an important issue that would open the door to a more fruitful discussion of news and who owns it in the Internet era. The following is the entirety of what he wrote:

"Mr. Temple appears to believe that the one "important internal document" on which he bases his blogpost is the lone, full summary of AP's ongoing efforts to protect its news content.

"Rest assured that additional materials, valuable research and AP's fruitful discussions with its members continue to inform this important undertaking."

Paul Colford
AP Director of Media Relations

I don't actually believe what Mr. Colford says I believe. But I have seen AP struggle to explain its position. Which raises questions for me about the quality and depth of the supporting material he assures us exists. But most important, the AP and other news organizations routinely urge government and powerful corporations to be open and transparent. Yet when dealing with such an important issue as what constitutes misappropriation of content and what should be done about it, the AP isn't operating in a transparent way.

Again, let's treat this the way the AP would treat a news story in the Internet era.
  • AP should post a list on the Web with links to the "tens of thousands of Web sites" it believes are using AP content in unauthorized ways. Then the public could understand by example what the AP considers to be unauthorized use.
  • AP should explain why it hasn't taken legal action against any of those sites that are in states where the "hot news" legal doctrine is recognized and it already has recourse to sue to stop the kind of free-riding it says is rampant. Many of the biggest states in the country recognize this doctrine: California, New York, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and Pennsylvania.
If it would take these steps, the public could better understand an important news organization's thinking and it could enter "fruitful" discussions beyond those it says it's having with its membership.


  1. AP's continual schizophrenic, sometimes contradictory descriptions of its plans suggests only two possibilities to me:

    1. It's a brilliant and nuanced rendition of good cop/bad cop (Curley suggests outrageous behavior, somebody else walks it back) designed to keep us all off-balance until they spring their plan full-blown and complete; or

    2. AP really doesn't have its arms around these issues and is flailing around looking for something with some traction.

    I suggest we apply Occam's Razor: "Of several acceptable explanations for a phenomenon, the simplest is preferable, provided that it takes all circumstances into account." (Wikipedia)

  2. Howard, I think yours is a reasonable interpretation of what's up with AP. My experience in the past would support both possibilities.

  3. AP = Ass Hole Iated Press

    They said they want to get rich on headlines like Google gets rich on keywords.

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