Memo to AP staff from Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll

Nov. 16, 2011
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In a Nov. 16 note to the staff, she explains why certain policies exist to "protect our people and the fruits of their work." Read the text below.

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I want to talk with you about some of AP’s policies and why we have them. Yesterday, a handful of AP staffers, including some managers, tweeted that two AP journalists had been picked up by the New York police department while covering some Occupy Wall Street activity in Manhattan.

Those tweets violated a couple of AP policies. A note reminding staff of those policies has generated a bit of chatter in media-gazing circles, chatter that mostly misses the point.

The issue around yesterday’s tweets was not how quickly we got word out that two of our people had been rounded up. The issue was that TWO OF OUR PEOPLE HAD BEEN ROUNDED UP.

When we lose contact with a journalist, our major focus is making sure they are safe, no matter where they are. Sometimes, talking about it while things are still uncertain can endanger them.

In this case, the two were released after a few hours. We aren’t always that lucky.

Those of you who live in the United States may not think about this much since your work rarely puts you in the kind of jeopardy that many of your colleagues elsewhere endure with great regularity. AP’s international staffers know from bitter, often personal experience that that kind of information may make things worse.

Even in the United States, it’s not outlandish to think that a tweet that’s taken by someone in authority to be opinionated or sarcastic could lead to one of our staffers being held longer than necessary. Imagine you’re that staffer. Would you want to be kept behind bars by a colleague’s thoughtless tweet?

Social networks are a wonderful thing and we use them to help newsgathering and to promote your work, all to great effect. But sometimes other values are more important.

I know how proud you are of AP’s hard-earned reputation for accuracy and credibility. And that you wouldn’t dream of violating the policies that uphold those cherished values.

We have them for good reasons -- to protect our people and the fruits of their work. You and your work.

Kathleen

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