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Glenn Cruickshank, The Salt Lake Tribune

Informational update on the status of NML
By Glenn Cruickshank, The Salt Lake Tribune

A collection of news representatives, system vendors, members of the NAA Wire Service Committee, representatives from API and attendees from the earlier Dallas Grammarians meeting gathered Tuesday, Feb. 16 in Atlanta. During the all day session, the attendees discussed the reason for a news markup language, NML, and how it relates to the News Interchange Text Format (NITF).

For those who have not closely watched the development of the NITF, a brief history:

In 1992, under the auspices of the NAA and International Press Telecommunications Council, representatives from several news organizations began working on "an industry standard for the interchange of textual material between news agencies and their clients" which would replace the aging non-Y2K compliant ANPA 1312 wire transmission format. This work continued through the 1990's, and additional news organizations joined the process. While the wire services, AP, Reuters and UPI, lead the process domestically, participants included representatives from The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Appalochiancola (FL) Times, Dow Jones, Newark Star Ledger, Lewiston (ID) Tribune, Lexis-Nexis and others. This group also worked closely with international news organizations, under the umbrella of IPTC, the international standards organization.

The original effort was to create a SGML-based language. In 1998, with the explosive growth of the World Wide Web, the base language was changed from SGML to a derivative, XML. The goal remained to create "a device-independent format for textual and tabular information within the global news industry" and "to mark up text once for a variety of uses, including traditional print publications, broadcast news, and electronic services such as Web sites and archival databases." This markup language was named News Industry Text Format, or NITF.

There have been some misconceptions about the work of the NITF committee, perhaps driven by the name of the committee in the US: the NAA Wire Service Committee. While the primary focus has been to develop a standard that the wire services could support, a careful review of the committee's participants, the scope of the work and a careful review of the NITF format would show that this work in general encompasses the entire life of a news story, from reporter to archive.

With that history lesson, we continue to review the goal of the NML Grammarians and the efforts of the NAA/IPTC group to a news industry markup standard. A reminder of the definition of a standard: we agree to speak the same language and these are the rules. The goal of the Dallas task force was to initiate a discussion for the development of news markup tags for the industry. Ditto NAA/IPTC.

Those at the Atlanta meeting concurred on a number of issues:

-- The industry needs to avoid an ad-hoc, grass-roots creation of any number of custom, competing news markup languages to avoid the "Tower of Babel" syndrome. By incorporating the NML tag set into NITF and creating a complete industry standard, organizations have no reason to create their own custom markup schemes.

-- In order to achieve vendor support for a markup standard, that standard had included international issues, requirements and tags.

Steve Graham, Associated Press

Chris Gulker, Apple Computer, Inc.

-- With credit to attendee Chris Gulker of Apple, the motto of NIFT should be "The legacy standard for the future".

-- The Grammarians will continue to work on identifying the high level requirements of a markup language. Members of the NITF committee will do the "nuts and bolts" work of incorporating those needs into the NITF standard.

-- NITF is an evolving standard. The incorporation of the NML tags into the NITF can best be described as Version 2 of NITF. Like any standard, it can and will change over time, so that the structures and tags included in version 2 can and may likely be modified in later versions.


What happens next:

1. The author has been asked to coordinate incorporating the proposed NML tags into the NITF DTD standard. I have reviewed a number of industry standard export formats from Nexis, VuText, Dialog, Dow Jones and The Washington Post and have identified an additional 29 tags representing content which are in common use in the news and online archive industry. They are listed below. On first review, nearly two thirds of the tags are already covered in the NITF.


Alan Fors, Atex

Jeff Field, Reuters and John Iobst, NAA

2. I would appreciate interested parties to review the tag list below and let me know (gc@sltrib.com) if you find any significant tags which are missing. When nominating a new tag, please include a description of the tag and where it is used within you news organization.

3. A merged version of NML and NITF will be released by the author to the NITF committee before March 1st for a first-pass structural review.

4. After a short (read weeks) review period, the proposed DTD will be released to the Grammarians working group for a second pass review.

5. On March 27th (at a NAA/IPTC meeting in Windsor, UK), we hope for a general release to the industry as a whole for review and comment. Once the standard is blessed by both committees, it can be released to the industry.


Original NML Tag list:

Accession Number
Column Name
Date Authored
Date Event
Date Expired
Date Published
Editor's Notes (non-published)
First Character of Text
Headlines and sub heads
Length/Word Count
Nut Graf (Summary)
Package ID
Poster Heads/Decks
Pull Quotes
Record Type
Series Name
Series Number
Text that didn't run
Thread ID
Time stamp

Additional tags identified by the author:

Column Length
Contact (press release)
Date - Advance
Enhancement term
Front Page
Photo / Illustration Caption
Photo / Illustration Creator
IPTC caption information
Language Spoken
Publication Number
SIC code
Statistical Code
Ticker Symbol
Editor's Notes (published)