Monday, November 29, 2010

The AP Stylebook and New Editions: A Necessary Nuisance

     Every year, out friends at the Associated Press decide that new rules need to be applied, and thus, that we all must purchase, or at the least pay attention to, the newest version.  At nearly $25 per edition, the costs can add up on a tight budget, which is a factor for many journalists these days.  Each edition contains minimal changes, but yet these changes are large enough that most of the industry pays attention.

     This years edition, however, contains some of the most important changes in recent memory: the addition of the social media guidelines section.

Website: Now that looks better
     According to a press release on the AP Website, the style book has changed the term "Web site" to now be "website" due to increased usage of this version in print as well as online.  This is a welcome change, as the separated version of the word tended to stick out in professional pieces due to constant misuse.
     A skeptic and/or someone outside of the realm of journalism would say, "Isn't this just a word?"  But to those of us in the know, it may meen something more significant.  The AP Stylebook is the go-to bible for writers and has stood highly as a "this is how it is" type of organization.  But the overuse of a word spelled incorrectly forced AP to change their tone.  This is just something to think about.

Twitter is not a substitute
     Another important addition to the 2010 AP Stylebook is the discussion of twitter.  It makes this one important point: Twitter is a great way to find sources, stay in contact with those sources, and even find story leads.  But this is in no way to act as a substitute to real journalistic work.  It is still as ever important to make those cold calls, to ring the doorbell, and to otherwise search for stories on your own.

     It can become very easy to take the easy way and find interviews through impersonal contact, but think about it this way.  The initial conversation with your source is extremely important: it is a chance to let the source know you are looking to speak with them, a way to introduce yourself, and a way to set a tone for the interview.  If a person reads your intentions on a screen, they are more likely to decode the message incorrectly.

     So remember, the internet is truly changing the way journalists work, but it is in no way a substitue to true, satisfying journalism.  Watch for the changes within the AP Stylebook, because it is a great answer for most of your online questions.