MALCOLM W. BROWNE:
Saigon AP Bureau Handbook
II. SOME TIPS TO STRINGERS
As an AP stringer, you get some fringe benefits. One is the matter of accreditation.
To deal with the U.S. military here, you must be accredited to them through some recognized news organization. Once you become an AP stringer, we can arrange for your immediate accreditation to the U.S. Military Assistance Comand Vietnam (MACV).
This means you will be eligible to go out on operations with American troops, and are eligible to receive the same information and briefings from U.S. officers that AP staffers get.
You also will be eligible to fly free within Viet Nam on the MACV "mule train" transport system.
If you are an American citizen, you probably will be eligible for PX and Commisary privileges, although conditions are subject to change.
You are entitled to read the AP Saigon bureau file, as an AP stringer. This will be especially useful to you in keeping abreast of the Viet Nam situation as a whole, and in planning non-AP projects on which you are working (books, magazine articles, poetry or whatever). The AP bureau is the largest news organization in Viet Nam, and is on top of the story at all times.
Some elementary points on handling news:
Accuracy is vital. If you don't know how many troops participated in an operation you covered, don't guess or make it up. Tell us only what you KNOW. If you are estimating something label it as an estimate, and tell us how you arrived at your estimate. Second Battles of the Marne are fine if they really happened, but the truth is the important thing.
Avoid the crowd. Newsmen and newswomen come to Viet Nam by the hundreds, and there is a tendency to gather in bunches -- in bars, in offices, on operations, and so forth. Obviously, some of this is essential in the routine of daily life. But one of the best stringers we ever had (he now works for the Wall Street Journal) never went near the Caravelle bar, never went out on any story with another person. Blaze new trails, and do it alone. The fresh story, the new angle, the hitherto unreported -- these are the things we want.
Sometimes, hanging around military installations (but not long enough to wear out your welcome) and making friends can pay off. An important operation may come up or some other important story may develop. This kind of thing is something regular staffers rarely have time for, and is a good field of work for stringers.
Don't trust information you get from anyone with out checking it the best you can (including the information in this booklet). This goes not only for Vietnamese and American officers, but from any source, and for that matter, even your colleagues. You will find quickly that most "facts" in Viet Nam are based at least in part on misinformation or misunderstandings.
A final note:
The AP Saigon office is a small, crowded and overworked place. You're always welcome if you want to talk about a story, but if you just want to shoot the breeze, you come at your peril.
PLEASE DO NOT TALK TO OUR HIRED HELP WHEN THEY ARE GRINDING OUT COPY OR OTHERWISE GAINFULLY EMPLOYED.
The bureau currently is headed by an ogre named Browne who has been known to throw out whole squads at a time of the cracker-barrel set.
Particularly bad times to come are any time before 9 a.m., between 1:30 and 4 p.m., and between 6 and 6:30 p.m. These are times when deadlines are coming up or radio monitoring is in progress.
However, you are welcome to telephone at any time of day or night any day of the week, avoiding only the period 6 to 6:30 p.m.
Courtesy Malcolm W. Browne.