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AP Stylebook Updates Detail How To Handle User-Generated Content

AP StylebookThe Associated Press Stylebook is on a tech kick with its latest updates. Among the new additions, according to a note to online stylebook subscribers: Android, circles (as in Google Plus groups), flash mob, Google Hangout, hashtag, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, retweet, Skype and tablet. The User-Generated Content entry has also been expanded.

The updates were added to the online stylebook and emailed to subscribers on Friday. Since so much of online journalism these days relies on references or links to user-generated/citizen journalism pieces (photos/video taken at the scene by non-journalists or accounts of events shared on social media, for example), I wanted to highlight this addition in particular:

There are a number of challenges that face journalists handling UGC, most notably the issue of verification. Most broadly, do we know exactly what we are seeing, and how we have determined this? We should seek to tell the story surrounding each piece of video and audio and every photo we acquire with the level of accuracy people expect from the AP. This means tapping into our considerable knowledge base, drawing on the expertise of AP staff around the world.

Securing access to content can often be a challenge, especially in a breaking news situation when video or photos have been re-posted to social networks. You must always strive to seek the original source of the media you are seeking to acquire. Once that content owner has been identified, ask for permission to use the material, following all the established protocols the AP has in place.

You must always strive to seek the original source of the media you are seeking to acquire. Once that content owner has been identified, ask for permission to use the material, following all the established protocols the AP has in place.

When publishing UGC, you should make every effort to give due credit to the person who has created that content. Use the person’s name if he or she is happy for you to do so, or a username (from a social network or platform) if it is applicable or the preference of the individual.

The rest of the expanded sections deals specifically with how to reference the user-generated content and recommends language based on the type of format it’s presented in (video, text, etc.). The basic gist of these suggestions, which can be read in entirety on the online stylebook under the label “User-Generated Content,” is to credit the source (and acknowledge that the source has submitted them/given permission to the AP to use them), and include an explanation of their relationship to the events (i.e. local activists, activist group X, a local videographer /photographer on the scene, etc.) and to explain that the contents have been authenticated or are consistent with other evidence, such as the AP’s own reporting, officials’ accounts of the event, etc.

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