by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
journalism, news, social media

associated press

AP Scolds Reporters For Breaking News On Twitter

from the the-scarcity-mentality dept

Every time the Associated Press does something concerning the internet, it seems to just reinforce how out of touch it is. The latest is the bizarre and ridiculous decision to scold AP reporters for daring to tweet out the "news" that they had been arrested. You see, in the minds of AP bosses, they haven't quite figured out that artificial scarcity isn't a the same thing as real scarcity. So they think that if a reporter is arrested, the reporter should keep that news hoarded up until the AP itself can release it. But, as anyone who is a frequent Twitter user knows, that's crazy in a situation like this. Reporter gets arrested, reporter tweets about it. That's a perfectly reasonable response. But the AP wanted the story for "itself."

The problem is that the AP is apparently dreadful at chess. It doesn't think beyond the single move ahead. So, yes, perhaps they don't get the "break" on the news that an AP reporter was arrested -- that goes on Twitter. But is it really that bad? Let's just play out the scenario. Assume the story goes viral on Twitter. Remember, this is 140 characters, not a full blown article. If the message goes viral, then tons more people are seeing that short message and are curious about the details -- the details that aren't going to show up on Twitter anyway. But having that tweet out there, so it can go viral, means building interest in the story, and from that, it seems like any story would end up receiving more traffic, because the Twitter messages "primed the pump." I honestly can't fathom a scenario in which people see the tweets and decide that it acts as a full replacement for the eventual news article.

Mathew Ingram makes a key point on all of this. If a single 140-character tweet is acting as a suitable replacement for your reporting... you've got bigger problems:
The other thing the Associated Press needs to think about is that if a 140-character post or two by one of your reporters on Twitter is a threat to your news service, then you have a problem that can’t be fixed by simply enforcing your social-media policies more stringently. This argument feels very similar to the debates that newspapers used to have when they first put up websites — about whether to post breaking news to their site, or “save” it for the paper. This was fundamentally a lose-lose situation, as most newspapers discovered, since saving it often involved others breaking the news first on their websites.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    xenomancer (profile), Nov 18th, 2011 @ 5:34am

    A Cynical View

    This is a good thing: the AP will hemorrhage all their good writers to the internet and become even less relevant. Perhaps twitter should sue them using the hot news doctrine (dropping the case last minute of course, who wants a piece of legal garbage like the hot news doctrine looming over their head) a few times to get them to tone down their devolutionary approach toward reporting and teach them some humility.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    fogbugzd, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 6:21am

    If the reporter doesn't tweet it immediately someone else probably will long before AP can get the full story on the wire.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Addy, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 6:28am


    And soon we'll see ANP in the camp of other dying content-industries, such as record-label. Probably promoting SOPA too...
    Welcome to the 21st century, where the rest of us netizens have been living for more then 10 years already!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    ken (profile), Nov 18th, 2011 @ 6:32am

    Remember AP was considering going with Righthaven as their copyright enforcer. They also attempted an ill-advised and ill-faded attempt to have bloggers pay a fee for as few as 5 words. Newspapers have not learned the art of SEO. They think people will come just because they are the AP, or the New York Times.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Loki, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 7:01am

    The saddest part is that in a lot of cases as I am reading these days, a 140 character tweet (and I don't even use Twitter) often does act as a suitable replacement for a lot of stories I see from AP (and other news services).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Nov 18th, 2011 @ 7:20am

    AP is virtually worthless as a news source

    As soon as I see an article with AP in the header, I automatically skip it. They're always behind the curve, usually inaccurate, and boring as hell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 8:26am

    Re: AP is virtually worthless as a news source

    Funny, thats what I do with all Huffington Poost articles. The AP has a much larger reporter base and therefor a wider range in the quality of articles. In my opinion all of Huffington's articles are just crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    The problem with twitter is that it forces you to dumb yourself down to simple statements, that's why I refuse to use it. If you can't beat that in news reporting then you must be dumb.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Chosen Reject (profile), Nov 18th, 2011 @ 9:39am


    I came here to say this. Most my general news info now-a-days comes from skimming headlines on Google news. I've read enough articles to know that most of the time the headlines give me all the information that the article will.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Joe Perry (profile), Nov 18th, 2011 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re:

    that's pretty much the first thing I learned in the journalism class I took. make the headline tell the story because it's the first, most noticeable thing, and many times the only thing, that people will see. then you start with the most important details and filter down to less and less important things as the article goes on.

    basically they taught that no one is going to read your whole article, so if you want to get the story out, put it all in the first couple lines. and that's why I didn't go into journalism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Michael, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 3:44pm


    They simply hold a grudge against any media that is not theirs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Ilfar, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 5:06pm

    Getting the details

    If a site/paper/whatever has NOTHING on any of their usual information outlets when I start looking for information on something, I won't be going back again later just in case they've put something up - I'll move on to another source that DOES have something up.

    If all they have up is a "Oh, hey, this happened, get back to you soon with more", then I'll go back later and recheck (assuming I don't find a different site with full information) - they've proven to me they're at least aware of the issue in question and are looking into it.

    So basically it's a two-stage race for my attention - who has the basic stub information up first out of all news providers, and who has the detailed information up first out of those who had the stub.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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