The AP bulletin rocketed around the world just minutes after the release of the much-anticipated report by special counsel Robert Mueller:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mueller’s report reveals Trump's efforts to seize control of Russia probe and force the special counsel’s removal.
The breadth and sweep of the 17-word APNewsAlert set the tone for a day of dominant AP coverage in every format on the historic findings in the Mueller report.
The success was the result of deep knowledge of the subject matter by AP’s Russia team – Eric Tucker, Mike Balsamo, Chad Day and Mary Clare Jalonick – along with lightning-fast speed and precision execution by the entire Washington bureau.
When we learned the report was being released Thursday, Tucker – who was in Europe on a family vacation – hopped on a flight and made it back to Washington in time (after a brief delay in Iceland). Most of the team had holiday plans for Easter, but everyone canceled or delayed in a strong show of teamwork. The team was ready for several scenarios surrounding the rollout of the report – preparation that paid dividends because the Justice Department kept changing the release plan at the last minute.
In the end, they settled on a plan in which certain Justice Department reporters – Tucker and Balsamo among them – were allowed to view two binders containing the more than 400-page report over a 45-minute period. Balsamo described the scene as a bit like taking the SATs: “We were given specific instructions on when we could open the report and we couldn’t leave for any reason.”
As soon as they were allowed to open the binders (labeled Volume I and Volume II with a stack of papers clipped together as the appendix), Tucker and Balsamo called the Washington bureau and kept two open lines to the newsroom. Tucker knew to go directly to the section on obstruction and start feeding the section to Day in the bureau; Balsamo went right to the written answers that Trump submitted to Mueller and coordinated with Jalonick. It quickly became clear that we were getting fresh information revealing the scope of Trump’s attempts to obstruct the investigation. We moved our first bulletin as White House news editor Nancy Benac – a brilliant writer who stepped in to write the running story – began crafting the story that hit the wire right after the report was posted online.
By then, the AP was off and running with outstanding all-formats coverage. Photographer Pat Semansky had photos on the wire within two minutes of the start of Attorney General William Barr’s news conference earlier in the day. Washington photo editor Jon Elswick photographed many key parts of the report, moving several images within minutes of the release. His colleague Wayne Partlow, who was on vacation, jumped online and filed remotely, helping the photo desk coordinate and edit all the photos.
Our live video coverage was so strong and well-positioned throughout the day that ABC at times took AP’s live coverage over their own. We had live reaction from Trump, key Democratic lawmakers and many others. Our speed was so impressive that clients were able to get a complete set of critical and comprehensive edits by mid-afternoon. Our interactive had tremendous success, being used by more than 800 sites – unheard of play for a non-election story. The Trump Investigation hub on APNews had more than 150,000 pageviews Thursday, more than double its previous high. The standout coverage was on front pages of newspapers around the country.
“While we were sending bulletins saying that Trump had tried to stop the investigation, everyone else was still saying, ‘We have the report, we’re reading it, we’ll get back to you.’”
Sally Buzbee, executive editor
“While we were sending bulletins saying that Trump had tried to stop the investigation, everyone else was still saying, ‘We have the report, we’re reading it, we’ll get back to you,’” executive editor Sally Buzbee said. “AP not only won the day, we informed and explained history to the world in real time.”
For their efforts, Balsamo, Tucker, Day, Jalonick and Benac win AP’s Best of the Week.