Did The AP Violate CNN's 'Hot News' Rights, Under The AP's Own Definition Of Hot News?

from the questions,-questions,-questions dept

In an otherwise silly article about CNN and the Associated Press sniping back and forth at each other over who properly broke the news of George Steinbrenner's death (the sniping is, in part, due to CNN's decision to dump its AP deal), there is one interesting tidbit. CNN's spokesperson admits that AP's mocking of CNN is silly, and notes that the AP quotes people from CNN all the time:
Pritchard noted that the AP has quoted CNN in its stories since the two parted ways, such as in a report about Virgin Airways stranding passengers on the airport tarmac in Hartford, Conn. Citations of other news organizations aren't uncommon, he notes. "We quote them, they quote us -- it happens."
Indeed. It does happen. But this is the AP that we're talking about, and they insist that blindly quoting someone else can violate the "hot news" doctrine. So, let's take a look at the Virgin Airways story. It appears that CNN kicked it off with this bit of coverage of passengers being stranded on the airplane, including quotes from the passengers.

Now, since the AP constantly changes its articles with no explanation or notice (and regularly takes down articles -- again, with no explanation or notice), it's a little difficult to track what the AP did or did not do in covering this story. However, there are some AP reports that appear to just repeat the CNN report without any additional reporting by the AP. However, the report linked above kicks off with crediting CNN, quoting CNN and then adding some AP reporting with quotes from the airlines. But all the passenger quotes are from CNN. While it's great that the AP did some additional reporting by getting quotes from the airline, it seems that the CNN quotes clearly violate the AP's own definition of hot news.

And it appears the AP recognizes that. That's because later that day, it sent out an updated version of the story that removes the CNN quotes. In other words, those quotes by CNN were considered so crucial to the AP story that it opened its original reporting by quoting them. Thus, under the AP's own definition of hot news, those quotes were clearly key to the story, and the AP simply "appropriated" them. Later on, when the story was no longer "hot" it removed those quotes.

We've been saying ever since news organizations like the AP started pushing "hot news" around again that it was going to come back to bite them. One of these days, maybe they'll realize it.

Now, I should be clear: I don't see anything, whatsoever, wrong with what the AP did in quoting CNN. As the CNN person notes, they quote each other all the time, and it adds relevant, factual information to the story. I do think it's a little sleazy of the AP to later remove those quotes and pretend they never happened, but whatever. What I have a problem with is the AP going around acting all high and mighty about its "hot news" rights, but apparently applying a huge double standard to itself.

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