Posted in Announcements

AP response to questions about recent Xinhua meeting

, by Lauren Easton

The Associated Press has responded to a letter from Congress that sought information about its relationship with China’s Xinhua news agency.

Jan. 10, 2019                                                                                         Dear Senators Cotton, Rubio and Warner and Members of Congress Bacon, Banks, Byrne, Gallagher, Hartzler, Hunter, Kaptur, Lamborn, Sherman, Speier and Stefanik:On Jan. 7, 2019, I received your letter dated Dec.19, 2018, in which you sought information about the business relationship between The Associated Press and China’s Xinhua News Agency.
For more than 170 years, AP has been an independent news agency delivering fair, accurate and unbiased reporting. No outside entity has any influence over AP’s journalism or our editorial content. I write today to assure you that AP’s business relationship with Xinhua is purely commercial in nature, and there is no planned change to the way AP interacts with Xinhua on editorial content.
AP’s mission is to inform the world. This includes providing coverage of all kinds of governments, from liberal democracies to totalitarian regimes. Whenever possible, we do this from within the borders they control to accurately report what is happening inside. We do this in countries like Iran and North Korea without compromising AP’s independence or standards.
The AP is committed to gathering the news even in the toughest environments because much of the world depends on us for objective information. We understand that our work in such countries is scrutinized. I want to assure you that AP journalists adhere to AP’s strict editorial standards even at the risk of being shut out of the countries where they report.
In order to carry out AP’s mission of factual, accurate, unbiased reporting in countries where there is government influence or control, AP executives sometimes meet with representatives of the local news agencies to maintain cordial relations. These meetings are often a formality.
Like most major news agencies, AP has an agreement with state-run media in China that allows AP to operate inside the country. It has been in place since 1972. The agreement allows AP to use up to five Xinhua photos and text stories per day, and Xinhua may use up to five AP photos and text stories per day. In practice, AP uses a fraction of those photos and publishes none of the stories.
Like other news organizations, AP will sometimes cite Chinese state media reports, including Xinhua, after careful vetting to ensure accuracy, to augment its own reporting. This is a standard AP practice for coverage in many countries around the world. It is our policy to explicitly cite any third party within a story when citing their reporting.On occasion AP will distribute Xinhua photos to customers when we cannot use our own photographers to cover a story. Anytime AP distributes a photo from Xinhua, AP’s strict editorial standards are applied to ensure accuracy, and any such photo is labeled clearly as having come from Xinhua. A good example is the recent pictures of a Chinese probe landing on the dark side of the moon: http://apne.ws/A4ElTos.
This too is a standard practice in many countries around the world, and AP uses only the material that meets our exacting editorial standards. AP’s standards are public and can be viewed here: http://apne.ws/t8lx2oi. I encourage you to read AP’s strong and varied coverage of China, including this recent investigation (http://apne.ws/sRkgPzq) tracing U.S. sportswear to a factory in an internment camp and this exclusive on gene-edited babies (http://apne.ws/LQgnna9).   AP’s business relationship with Xinhua is completely separate and firewalled from its journalistic coverage of China. The recent memo to which your letter refers exists only to update that business relationship, which has been consistently the same since 1972, and bring it more in line with agreements AP has with other news agencies around the world. It opens the possibility for future commercial interactions, which again would be completely separate from the news report.
AP does not share any of its economic, technology or any other proprietary information with Xinhua, nor has it ever. Any future commercial interactions with Xinhua would not involve the sharing of any such information, and the agreement does not alter AP’s editorial independence or standards in any way. AP works hard to ensure no one has access to its confidential information. Likewise, AP works hard to ensure no one has access to its journalism before it is distributed.
AP’s business operations are separate from its editorial newsgathering. The November memo could potentially allow Xinhua clients to work with AP’s non-editorial Content Services team to create custom photo or video shoots and advertisements for paid distribution on commercial channels that are completely separate from the AP news wires. This kind of business arrangement is more in line with how AP works with other news agencies around the world. Again, this work is separate from the AP newsroom and the content created neither involves AP news and editorial staff, nor is ever distributed on the AP wire.
AP often helps other news organizations in areas in which we have expertise by providing visual storytelling and video news training, as we have to many news outlets around the world. AP may provide this kind of training to Xinhua or its media clients. Any training effort is an opportunity to stress AP’s editorial independence and strong standards, and to promote credible, accurate, factual journalism.Again, the business opportunities described above, which are outlined in the November memo, are separate from the independent journalism that AP is known for across the globe.
I remain proud that AP is committed to delivering fair, accurate, unbiased journalism to the world, as it has done since 1846.Sincerely,
Gary Pruitt
President and CEO
The Associated Press