AP journalists told: write everything about Britney

Who’s the top celebrity in the US these days? According to the Associated Press it’s Britney Spears. In a inter-office memo, picked up by several American websites and reproduced in the New York Times, AP staff have been instructed to report everything they may pick up – even rumours – about the troubled 26-year-old pop star.

The memo from Frank Baker, the agency’s Los Angeles bureau’s deputy chief, read: “Now and for the foreseeable future, virtually everything involving Britney is a big deal.”

It was written three days after the young star was released from hospital to which she had been admitted after a dispute over the custody of her children.

What was the reason for the unusual memo? Did AP feel they had missed out on the story? No-one is saying, Certainly the story made big headlines virtually around the world. Or is the agency worried it may miss the next big development? Another breakdown? Another brush with the law? Both have been predicted by friends.

Doctors have said she is overwrought, depressed and capable of anything. In his memo, Baker said not every rumour should be published by AP.

“But we want to pay attention to what others are reporting and seek to confirm those stories that WE feel warrant the wire.” And then what? “When we determine that we’ ll write something, we must expedite it”

The memo about the controversial headline-making star – who has virtually pushed Paris Hilton , the last big news-making pop celebrity, off the front pages – comes at a time when AP is putting new emphasis on its entertainment coverage.

One of the agency’s managing editors, Lou Ferrera, said that the news service’s clients, which comprise more than 1,500 daily papers and several thousand other media outlets, are yearning for more photos and videos of celebrities.

“We ca do a better job in breaking entertainment news,” he admitted.

Bu Ferrera added that AP intends to expand its entertainment coverage this year by adding at least 22 new position, mainly in Los Angeles, New York and London.

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