Tag Archives: Agence-France-Presse

Should journalists start checking ID?

The Agence France-Presse news agency has banned its journalists from using Wikipedia and Facebook as sources in news stories. This comes after it was caught with its pants down quoting liberally from a fake Facebook profile setup in the name of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of slain former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

On one hand, many non-journalists might argue that it’s obvious such user-generated sites should not be considered authoritative.

But this story exposes one of journalism’s Achilles heels: In general, we take people at their word that they are who they say they are. Unless there is something suspicious that would lead us to believe otherwise (like someone giving their name as Hugh Jass), we ask people for their names and we trust that they’re not fooling us.

Is this wrong? No matter how good we get at our jobs, journalists will always be vulnerable to pranksters and others who intentionally try to mislead us. (Insert Iraq war comparison here.)

Should we just accept that as an occupational hazard, or should we start checking ID whenever we want to quote someone by name?

Google the wires

Speaking of wire services, Google News, which used to be an aggregator of news content with links to full articles on their original sites (and for some reason annoyed content owners who I guess don’t want traffic from the biggest website on Earth), has come to an agreement with Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Canadian Press and the U.K. Press Association to host wire stories on its site (as evidenced by that CP story hosted on Google).

The result of this is that when you see mention of “Canadian Press” or “Associated Press” in Google News results, that link will take you on a page at Google instead of some cheap generic small-market U.S. network TV affiliate who just republish unaltered wire copy online.

What it doesn’t mean is that you will be able to directly scroll the wires on Google. You still have to go through the Google News homepage. Fortunately there are other places that give you almost-direct access to unedited CP wire copy.

It probably won’t mean a huge deal, but you’ll note that wire copy on Google is much simpler and less ad-riddled than the places you’ll usually find it, which I think will lead to more people linking to stories off Google when given the choice.