You know your scoop has touched a nerve when it gets tweeted by both Ann Coulter and Chelsea Clinton.
Such was the case with Colleen Long’s multiplatform APNewsBreak that the U.S. approved thousands of requests by men to have their child or adolescent brides admitted to the United States. The story not only pointed to problems in immigration law, but also lax state laws that make immigration by child brides possible. While it seems no issue is more divisive in this country than immigration, the story highlighted a little-known problem that is of bipartisan concern. The story got widespread attention, casting a spotlight on an immigration problem that’s been totally overshadowed by debates over issues like the wall and Central American convoys.
It started with a tip from Ron Nixon, AP’s new international investigations editor. Nixon, a longtime homeland security reporter at The New York Times, had been told by a source that data requested nearly a year ago by the Senate Homeland Security Committee would be startling.
Nixon passed the information to Long, the Washington-based homeland security reporter, who contacted committee staff and persuaded them to give her the story exclusively. She also talked them into giving her a few extra days of reporting to allow for time to reach out to real people. She wanted to get beyond the striking data to give readers a sense of how the issue affects women’s lives. She spoke with women who had been married as children, plus advocates who have long tried to bring the issue to light. Video journalist Robert Bumsted interviewed one of the women and an advocate, weaving in a D.C.-based interview with Sen. Ron Johnson, the committee chairman, to create a compelling video story. Photos and graphics accompanied the piece.
On a busy news day, the story was one of the most widely used, with 437 customer interactions within hours of it coming out and more than 2,500 retweets. It appeared on the front of many news websites, including the Miami Herald and USA Today, was cited on NPR and was posted on Facebook by NBC, CBS, the Miami Herald, ProPublica and the New York Post, among others. Long discussed the story on the “Press Play” program of NPR’s Los Angeles affiliate, KCRW. The video piece also had a strong showing, receiving 7,300 YouTube streams and 27 total customer downloads.
For revealing a loophole in immigration policy that raises concerns over security and exploitation, and for connecting the data to women victimized by the policy, Colleen Long wins this week’s Best of the AP.