Ask LH: What Do Those Acronyms On News Stories Mean?

Hey Lifehacker, I occasionally read the news online when I miss breakfast TV in the morning and I often see terms like AAP, AFP and AP. What do these stand for and why are they there? Thanks, News Newbie

Picture: Getty Images

Dear News Newbie,

Those initials indicate that the story you’re reading is written by a wire service, rather than being written by in-house staff. Wire services have existed almost as long as newspapers. Even when there was a fortune to be made from printing classifieds, few papers could afford to have journalists in every conceivable location or covering all possible topics. Wire services employ their own journalists to write stories rapidly and update them as new information emerges, and supply that copy to any publication that wants to pay a subscription fee.

Of the ones you mention, AAP is Australian Associated Press (with a focus on Australia stories); AP is Associated Press, based in the US; AFP is Agence France-Presse. Their ownership varies: AAP is largely owned by the two major news publishing houses in Australia, Fairfax and News Limited (though it operates separately from them), while others are independent commercial organisations.

When newspapers were printed purely on paper, wire copy ensured titles wouldn’t miss out on key stories and that they could fill any unexpected gaps when other stories fell through. In the internet era, many news sites rely on feeds from these services in order to ensure a continuous flow of headlines. As a result, you will often see the same content from the same agency on multiple competing news services. With most newspaper publishers cutting back on staff numbers, you’re likely to see more and more of those initials at the bottom of stories.

A final note: those breakfast shows you’re watching will also be heavily reliant on wire services when putting together their news feeds, even though they will also make use of their own network reporters.


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