MALCOLM W. BROWNE:
Saigon AP Bureau Handbook
I. STRINGER PAYMENTS
The AP Saigon bureau does not have any stringers on regular retainer. The bulk of coverage is handled by staff members, and all copy must be edited or rewritten by the desk to meet AP requirements. Don't be offended at rewrite jobs on your copy, it's all part of the game. The AP rewrites even its Pulitzer Prize winners.
For photos, the bureau pays $5 U.S. or its equivalent in Vietnamese piastres per picture, on acceptance. Normally, the negative becomes the property of the AP and goes to Tokyo. Acceptance of photos is up to the Tokyo photo desk. In rare instances, higher rates can be paid for pictures of exceptional interest.
If the bureau assigns either a photo or news stringer on a day-assignment basis, the stringer receives a flat $10 U.S. (or its piastre equivalent) for whatever he produces for the day. He is also entitled to normal expense payment (to include film, transportation and other items). Vouchers or receipts must be submitted to the bureau for each expense claimed.
For news stringers, rates of payment are scaled according to relative value (of which speed is a factor) of the material.
An accurate tip on a breaking story is worth $5 U.S., as a rule. If it's a tip on something of particular importance, it may be worth somewhat more. First tips on major battles or multiple-American-casualty crashes might be worth up to $10. It would take something like the assassination of the president to bring the ante much above that.
A tip is just what the word implies -- the first fragmentary bit of information that something important has happened. Even if most of the details are lacking, the tip may be valuable to us. We can usually fill in the details ourselves, once we know something has happened.
A stringer who happens to be at an isolated town or outpost when a story breaks often can get to a U.S. military telephone (see section IX), from which he can call Saigon -- and the AP. When this happens, the stringer usually is in a position to send a stream of fast, accurate information -- in short, the whole story -- to Saigon. This is the best way to make money as an AP stringer.
Under such circumstances, the stringer can be paid either on a day-assignment basis for the story he has given us, or we can pay for the story on the basis of its relative value. For a major military engagement, payment might be about $30.
Features are a tricky business. We take stringer features from time to time, but always check with the bureau before heading out on one. Your idea may be something we've done already. OR we may have another feature idea that needs handling. Sometimes a well planned feature is just not suitable for the AP wire, good though it looked. Features, like photos, we buy on acceptance. Don't worry about our pirating the material you struggled so hard to get. If we want it, we'll pay you for it.
Speed is vital on all tips and news stories. The development that was news today may be worthless tomorrow. News gathering is a hotly competitive business, in which speed is worth money.
If you can't get to a U.S. military telephone with your tip or story, you may be in or near a town where you can find a Vietnamese Post Telephone & Telegraph office. If so, send us a cable addressed ASSOCIATED SAIGON. If it's a hot story, mark it URGENT. You'll have to pre-pay the cable charge, but this is a reimbursable expense. In rare instances, you might be able to telephone us with the government system.
Obviously, you can't expect to make a living solely from your income as an AP stringer. But if you are working on magazine articles or stringing for other outfits, the AP income can at least keep you in cigarettes and booze for just a little extra effort.
You may string for us and anyone else you like, EXCEPT our competitors. Our competitors are UPI, Reuters and Agence France Presse, in that order.
Courtesy Malcolm W. Browne.