AP answers your questions on the news, from Super Bowl ads to journalists in disaster zones

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ask AP: Super Bowl ads, reporting on disasters

Curiosity about the effect journalists have on a disaster area inspired one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions@ap.org, with “Ask AP” in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

You can also find Ask AP on AP Mobile, a multimedia news service available on Internet-enabled cell phones. Go to www.apnews.com/ to learn more.

I have a question about Super Bowl ads. As we all know, they sell for enormous amounts of money. But how do they set the number of ads to be sold? Also, what if the game goes into overtime or runs longer than expected, and they have already shown all of the ads that were sold?

Jeff Vanderslice

Plantation, Fla.

The National Football League and the TV network showing the Super Bowl decide how much advertising time the Super Bowl will have.

The Super Bowl has never gone into overtime. But if it does, the advertising gets complicated. The networks don’t just repeat ads from earlier, but do have ads ready to go. That’s because advertisers lock in spots for overtime, but they don’t pay unless the ads air, said Kyle Acquistapace, media director of ad agency Deutsch. The air time — sold in 30 second chunks — costs about the same as ads during regular play.

Some of the ads might have been scheduled for the postgame coverage, some are altogether new ads. Essentially, everything is subject to negotiation between the advertisers and the TV network. For example, a deal might specifically include the opportunity to get into the game if it goes into overtime, for which an advertiser might pay extra.

Sometimes an advertiser will get an overtime ad slot in exchange for buying commercial time on other broadcasts, Acquistapace said.

NBC sold 69 ad spots for last year’s Super Bowl. CBS won’t give a specific number but says it has sold close to that number and that its commercial time is sold out. Some of the slots cost more than $3 million for 30 seconds.

Emily Fredrix

AP Marketing Writer

New York

In disaster situations like the recent Haitian earthquake, it appears that thousands of members of news crews descend on a locale already lacking sufficient necessities such as electricity, food, security, water, medical facilities and roads. How are they generally supported? Do they represent an additional demand on these resources? Do they contribute any tangible assistance to the victims?

Jack Smith,

Springfield, Ill.

As disasters go, Haiti’s 7.0 earthquake presented unprecedented challenges. Associated Press writer Jonathan Katz, the only full-time U.S. journalist based in the hemisphere’s poorest country, was soon joined by more than 50 other AP staffers who came in on charter planes from the States and by helicopter and road from the Dominican Republic.

These journalists managed to show the world the extent of the disaster in words, pictures and video — coverage that drew attention to desperate needs and probably helped encourage Americans to donate more than $644 million for relief efforts so far.

To support these staffers, the AP brought in three small cargo flights of supplies, from electric generators to dishes to satellite phones and walkie-talkies, along with food, water, medicine — and flak jackets. Since the AP’s bureau was destroyed, many of the staff slept in tents outside a nearby hotel, transmitting from the roof and making a point of traveling in teams for security as well as to report in all formats.

Haiti’s devastated infrastructure and the survivors’ tremendous need for food and water meant AP’s operation had to be self-sufficient. Aside from occupying hotel rooms and buying gasoline for the generators at $25 a gallon, AP staffers made few demands on Haiti’s limited resources. The AP’s small cargo plane landed at the main airport, but did little to slow the aid coming in huge cargo jets competing for landing slots. The staff required no police protection, and hired local drivers and translators who badly needed jobs.

The tougher question for journalists is how to respond to people in such desperate need — just report the news, or try to help?

AP journalists were among those who did both. Writer Alfred de Montesquiou drew the world’s attention to 84 starving residents of the Port-au-Prince Municipal Nursing Home, alerting the authorities to their exact location. And while he had no food or water when he encountered the awful scene, he returned later to check on them and hand out a case of water, the first they had received since the earthquake struck.

Writer Tamara Lush had a similar experience after she discovered a woman lying near death on the side of a road. Her AP team put the woman in their car, fed her and drove her to a nearby village, then a hospital, then a clinic to get her help, despite their deadlines. She said every journalist in Haiti faced similar dilemmas — and made similar choices when they could.

Michael Warren

Chief of Southern Cone News

Buenos Aires

I’ve heard a lot lately about something called “fair use.” Can you tell me what it is and how your company defines it?

Buddy Baker

St. Petersburg, Fla.

Copyright law allows some copying for certain very limited purposes that serve the public interest. For example, copying portions of a work to comment on it, for research or to review or analyze it can be “fair use.” Courts go through a four-factor analysis to decide if a particular use is or isn’t fair use. But even lawyers and judges can find it hard to draw the line.

The four factors are: the purpose of the use; the nature of the copyrighted work that is being used; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyright work as a whole, and; the effect of the use on the potential value of the copyright work.

Laura Malone

Associate General Counsel

New York

Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions@ap.org.

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