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Clara Jeffery @ClaraJeffery
, 31 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
1/ After joining in the pile-on for @AP_Politics bad tweet, I want to back up and explain what @AP is, how vital it is to world-wide journalism, the strains that it is under and how they are representative of the greater journo crisis. If I mess any point up, please lmk...
2/ First, the @AP is a non-profit. It is not trying to meet insane shareholder demands. It is there to continue it's particular, insanely hard and important mission even as the news gets tougher to report and pay for.
3/ What is that mission? Well the AP has reporters and editor and photojournalists and videographers all over the world, and if every part of the country. It is, along with the BBC, one of the biggest most vital news gathering entities out there.
4/ Most of your local papers, radio stations, TV stations depend on the AP for national coverage, certainly international coverage, and local/state coverage. They supplement whatever those news orgs do (or don't) do.
5/ The @AP is a "wire service." Basically their reporters cover the news wherever and "wire" that to their desks, those stories are assembled and edited and put out to their subscribers--ie all those other news orgs.
6/ Some of that "copy" winds up in the paper with an AP byline. Look at almost any paper in America's foreign coverage, you'll notice the AP. But it also helps tons of things you don't see. Reporters and editors at those client news orgs use it to help their own work.
7/ And, as I learned when I attended a year-long intensive seminar with other news executives, it also does a ton of crazy stuff I had no idea about. Minute by minute updates to stories, earnings reports, sports stuff, etc etc.
8/ It also has journalists in all the most remote, most dangerous, most war-torn places. It does heroic work there. BUT IT ALSO in many cases is almost only the thing still keeping an eye on statehouses and regional housing boards or whatever.
9/ And for all that risk and/or drugery, AP reporters and editors go unheralded. Their work is often unbylined. It is folded into the bylined pieces of other journalists. Sublimating their egos is part of the gig.
10/ (Because of this, btw, AP journalists are also less likely to get TV gigs and other things that help supplement their income. But I digress.)
11/ Because of that role and history, AP stories historically were, and many still are, written in "just the facts" inverted pyramid (so news orgs can cut from the bottom to fit style. Old school. BUT now it needs to, and is trying to do, more narrative, more analysis, work ALSO.
12/ Meanwhile, because those client news orgs are struggling (or decided to do what they can do on their own, like NYT) they've cut back or eliminated their AP subscriptions. So the AP is still doing all that work, or a lot of it, but with less money coming in.
13/ So today, in which the @dallasnews cut half its newsroom, worry about the compounding factor. Less @dallasnews reporters is horrible. But ALSO have they already cut their AP subscription or will they rely on AP even more? idk. But likely one or other.
14/ Ok, so you have an old-school institution, working its ass off to hold up its standard of everywhere excellence AND evolve, AND trying to meet the demands of hundreds or thousands of picky clients, each with their own priorities, most/all facing their OWN financial woes...
15/ Ok, so now I turn to the tricky topic of social media. *deep breath*

The goal of social media editors is, or should be, to get you to read the piece. No tweet, or even tweetstorm, can both summarize every point in the piece, or often even it's biggest thrust.
16/ But also, we want you to read the piece. Because we put a lot of hard work in it. Because we hope it's important. Because that's how some revenue (in most cases) is made. Because our job is to inform.
17/ The piece that the tweet was attached to was essentially what we refer to as an "explainer." What do you need to know, and what does it all mean. Since Trump lies so much, such a piece about his speech is going to deal with true/not true more than other POTUSes.
18/ So I can see why they put "fact-check" on the tweet. But then they chose really the only "both sides" and worst part of the piece, to attach to it. Why? idk. Maybe onus to appear even-handed. Maybe tjust tired. Speech was at 10. Maybe the piece was wrapped by midnight?
19/ So let's assume by midnight some social media editor is charged with this task. Who knows? Given the hour, could even be someone not in US. Whoever they are, that probably really exhausted person is having a very bad day.
20/ Now I think that "both sides" false equivalency journalism and packaging should be torn up by the roots, don't get me wrong. It's a hangover from when middle aged white men were calling all the shots in journalism and everywhere, for one thing.
21/ But those conventions are still prized by many AP clients. And even if that were no longer true, conservatives (and others, but for this case..) use them to work the journalism refs. Sure Trump lied 21 times, but why didn't you talk about whatever small thing on other side?
22/ This struggle with standards is an enormous, industry wide one. And the best way forward isn't clear. We all don't want just endless partisan takes, right? AND YET
23/ HOT/PARTISAN TAKES is what you—yes you, yes me, yes everybody—most reliably reads and/or hate reads. Even absent all that ginormous gap between what people say they want and what they really do, people just skim social media and don't read more deeply.
24/ You're doing it now. Many of you are seeing this thread, finding my part in the pile-on, and RTing that instead of this more measured, more nuanced one. (So excuse me while I go all all this to that thread)
25/ We—news orgs, reporters and editors, everybody—makes dumb/bad tweets. Social media editors often have/want to make a bunch of different ones for the same story. But also, we're all just humans, prone to error, mistakes in judgement.
26/ "Why doesn't the AP just delete the tweet?" Well the AP has very specific (often very tortured) rules about that. We all struggle with it. If you delete, is that being not transparent? Does it erase the replies? Does it correct the record or does it malign it?
27/ And honestly, there are a lot of confused (at best) uncharitable (medium) or malignant (at worst) people out there who'll take a deleted tweet as some kind of conspiracy or make a real or faked/change screen shot and do their worst with it.
28/ Like if you want to know why I tend to excessively thread and number tweets—this is why. It's less likely to be taken, intentionally or otherwise, out of context. And it makes me more disciplined about providing some.
29/ I could go off on a long digression about that kind of bullshit. But instead let me just summarize what I'm trying to say.
30/ Yes, hold media accountable for its mistakes. But try and consider if it's a momentary lapse or a systemic one, and what in either case, might help rectify. Journalists are just people, and some of the hardest working straightest arrows in the business work for the AP.
31/ And if you're not spending at least as much as your cable bill on good news-gathering institutions, you're part of the problem. We're all doing a lot more, with a lot less. Support media you care about, you'll be even worse off when it is gone. -30-
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