Story Headlines from the NPR API Will Now Update

Jul 8, 2013

We’ve made an important change to how API stories update when you publish them on your Core Publisher site.

Beginning tomorrow, when you post a story from the API, whenever the original publisher changes the story and/or the headline, the story and headline will also change on your site. Before today, the story would change but the headline wouldn’t.

Why was this the case?

You’ve heard the saying: “That’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

Well, this is the story of something that was once a feature, and that we now think is a problem.

When Digital Services originally tied the API into Core Publisher, we allowed stations to edit the headline of NPR or other stories because we thought stations should be able to localize the story. Stations couldn't change the story itself, but they could modify the headline. This meant the original publisher had full control over the body of the story, including the ability to modify it, but in Core Publisher, the headline remained static, in deference to any possible changes the posting station might make to it.

So what happened when you published a breaking story or live blog from the API on your site, and the story inevitably changed?

This is what could happen:

Headline not matching story content.

The Moore tornado story took a major turn. The body of the story changed, but because the posting station controlled the headline, it remained unchanged.

Yes, KGOU could have updated the headline, manually, to reflect the developing story, but this requires attention and action at KGOU and on every CP site that posted the story from the API. That's too much to ask of stations that are most concerned with their local coverage. Let's just say KGOU was a bit busy.

The risk of damage to our credibility (the original publisher as well as the station using the content) is too great to leave this door open. We're also concerned that changing the headline can alter the intended meaning of the story or change the context.

And, cue the lawyers: making such changes to API content goes against one of the fundamental tenets of the API: the original creator owns and controls that content. The user does not have rights to modify it.

So this important change should make us all breathe easier. When you publish a story into the API, whether you’re at NPR News or at Michigan Radio or KUNC, or any other station, you can know that your content will be unchanged. And as a station using content from the API, you can know that the stories you post will update properly on your site.