A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, November 4, 2011

AP Still Wrestling with those Internet Tubes or Whatever

This post is not specifically about the Middle East, but it involves many issues of interest, I think, to those of us in media, publishing, journalism, and blogging, and is relevant to anyone covering and writing about the Middle East.

The Associated Press, the enormous and venerable American wire service, has had what can be described, at best, as a curious relationship to the Internet and the blogosphere, and other things that have succeeded the era of linotype. I'll deal with that history in a moment, but first their latest venture: they've issued guidelines placing restrictions on exactly how their correspondents can Retweet (RT) other people's opinions on Twitter.

They are getting a lot of flak from their correspondents, as the link above notes. Now, while the headlines of my blog posts do go out on MEI's feed (@MiddleEastInst) and I occasionally add something there when news is breaking, it won't surprise my readers to learn that I'm too loquacious and too fond of nuance to editorialize in 140 characters. But I use Twitter constantly as a source for breaking news, and even though I'm a white-bearded guy in his 60s who remembers the Eisenhower Administration, I know what Retweeting is. I also understand that AP is trying to avoid bias: they worry that if you RT something some politician says, it means you agree with him. (Does anyone else think that's what Retweeting implies? At least always? The Egyptian revolutionaries used to RT Mubarak speeches.)

Anyway, from the link above it sounds as if AP is already backing off the original memo, suggesting that you just need to make it clear it's not your opinion.

This would not merit comment if it were not for AP's history of apparently not getting Web 2.0, or maybe even Web 1.0.

Flash back to 2009. Not 1991, when the savvy folks were on Compuserve and the World Wide Web was first invented, or 1995, when AOL ruled the world, or even the bold new Netscape days of 1999, but 2009. Two years ago. AP managed to make a fool of itself twice that year. First, it sought to claim copyright infringement against any website that used even short quotes from its stories (within the usual fair use parameters) and/or even linked to its stories. Here's a tech site story from the era, complete with a an astute comment (and imaginary AP quote) from the website:
“We figure that having writers in the thriving medium of web publication quote us and link back to our content can only hurt us,” Associated Press Vice-President and Strategy Director Jim Kennedy never said. “I mean, that sort of thing increases our visibility, reinforces our brand, provides free marketing, and ups our search engine ranking. Hogwash, I tell you. Hogwash,” he neglected to add.
Even before the Internet had stopped laughing at AP's attempt to deflect attention and hotlinks from their stories (horrors!), they struck again. Now, as I said above I'm a whitebearded guy in my 60s, etc., but I've had a personal YouTube account since 2006. Apparently in 2009 AP's administration was startled to learn that they had one too. having sent a cease and desist letter to one of their own affiliate stations for embedding a video from AP's YouTube channel that had embedding enabled.

Now for those of you out there who have never uploaded a video of your cat or hamster to YouTube, you can make your upload private, visible only to you, or family, or subscribers, or whatever. You can also make it public but not embeddable: that is: someone has to link to it, not put your video directly on their webpage, Apparently AP did not realize that it was allowing embedding for all its uploads, not just for its members (like the station they sought to sanction),  but just anybody.

Again, that was in 2009. Now they are wrestling with Twitter.

When the last dead-tree newspaper dies and AP moves the story on the last telex in the world, will they let me link to it?

No comments: