Sunday, June 22, 2008

AP expands entertainment news coverage – emphasis on 'news'

AP expands entertainment news coverage - emphasis on 'news'

By George McQuade,
West Coast Bureau Chief,

Associated Press Meet EPPS

Associated Press entertainment editors and reporters gathered in Los Angeles this month to introduce the wire service's ambitious new approach to entertainment news coverage.

The presentation took place at a media workshop of the International Cinematographers Guild in Hollywood, hosted by the Entertainment Publicists Professional Society. Lou Ferrara, managing editor for sports, entertainment and multimedia in New York, said the AP is expanding its entertainment news coverage with an emphasis on the news value of entertainment stories.

Dan Becker & Lou Ferrara, AP

"We think entertainment is important, that the coverage of it is important, and it's relevant in our society," Ferrara said. "And we can be the best, the most accurate, and the first with the news and entertainment.

Lou Ferrara (R), Global Director, Entertainment, Associated Press

The panel was moderated by Joe Schlosser, senior vice president, Communications, NBC-Universal Television Studio Distribution.

Steve Loeper, administrative news editor in AP's Los Angeles bureau, said the news service's worldwide staff of thousands of journalists stands ready to back up its core of entertainment reporters on big entertainment stories such as the recent fire on the Universal Studios backlot.

"The bureau is here to back up AP’s entertainment division to tell the story right with a high amount of accuracy," said Loeper.

(L-R) Dave Germain, Mike Cidoni,
Jesse Washington and Steve Loepel

Ferrara said the organization is "going through deep and vast changes, and I can’t underestimate how profound they are for the AP."

"We have become a digital organization," he said. "All formats are represented and we deliver the world in video, text, multimedia, photos, your name it."

Speaking to the PR pros attending the media workshop, Ferrara emphasized that AP wants to distinguish its entertainment coverage from other, similar, content by reporting entertainment news on the record – a sometimes challenging notion in a field in which publicists for stars and studios have become accustomed to planting stories on background.

"The staff is going to be hounding you and you hound them, give it to us on the record, it really makes life a lot easier," Ferrara said. "I realize you all dealing with sensitive situations, but it really makes a difference in being able to do a job accurately. There have been several stories where bad information got out there. The AP has been a victim of that, you guys have been a victim of that and the industry has been a victim of that.”

In a recent high-profile example of the potential pitfalls for off-the-record attribution, a TV tabloid show reported that Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie had given birth to twins – a report that turned out to be false.

The AP's Dan Becker told PR pros the news service's intention is to deliver a high quality, reliable and objective entertainment report.

"Our reports are always going to be accurate, balanced and informed," said Becker. "That’s the core of what AP’s banner will always be and bringing that to entertainment.”

Becker said one billion people see AP content on any given day, visiting some of the largest online portals, including Yahoo! and MSN.

"We have 243 bureaus based in 97 countries," Becker said.

The largest and oldest news organization in the world began hiring new entertainment division employees in January. Becker said the AP, as of June, had 70 editorial employees dedicated to entertainment coverage.

The presentation included practical advice on pitching story ideas.

“First and foremost, we want you to think of AP when breaking news,” said Becker. “We want you to pitch us, we want high profile news, we want to break it and we want to be exclusive. We don’t just want to break news and be exclusive in a text world. We want exclusive photography, exclusive video, and exclusive opportunities for sit down interviews. We are in a multimedia world."

Becker said the "most effective way for AP to tell the story" is through a combination of text, photo and video.

"So no longer will you be dealing with just a text person, photo person or video person. And no longer with a text person who just understands text, or a photo person photo or video person video. We are going to work with you to tell the story across all platforms."

Becker stressed that the quality of AP's coverage would depend largely on access to newsmakers.

"At so many events the story is happening inside, and so many times news agencies are held outside of the event," he said. "It is only part of the story. We need to be inside."

AP personnel advised PR pros to be sure to provide reliably accurate information when dealing with the news service and said e-mail is the preferred method for sending pitches for most writers and editors – with plenty of lead time for event coverage planning. Publicists need not call AP to see if a routine e-mail or fax has been received.

Last-minute pitches are generally more difficult to consider, and publicists can improve efficiency by using AP Entertainment's contact sheet. (Multiple pitching to various AP writers is acceptable, but if AP passes on a particular story, please do not pitch it elsewhere in the AP.)

AP wants to be first. Exclusive pitches will always get AP's attention. Best AP e-mail contacts:

  1. General Event Media Advisories – U.S.
  2. General Event Media Advisories – Int’l.
  3. Entertainment Film Coverage
  4. Entertainment Music Coverage
  5. Entertainment Television Coverage

The AP features a massive digital photo network, a continuously updated online news service, a television news service and one of the largest radio networks in the United States. The outlet offers RSS (Really Simple Syndication). Associated Press is available on the World Wide Web at

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