AP’s White House crew was already juggling news about a new Supreme Court nominee, revelations about Trump’s tax records, a chaotic presidential debate and a fresh controversy over the president’s attitude toward white supremacy. Then, around 8 p.m. on Thursday night, came word that a top Trump adviser, Hope Hicks, had the coronavirus.
Reporters Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire sprang into action to develop the story and explore the implications for Trump and those around him. By 12:30 a.m., they’d pushed the story as far as they could: Trump had revealed he and wife Melania were awaiting test results and would “begin quarantine.” The White House gave no guidance on when results would be known.
Miller freshened up preparedness copy in case the president tested positive – text that had been updated multiple times over the past seven months. And then, one by one, reporters and editors dropped off to get some sleep.
Colvin was still up, though, when Trump tweeted word just before 1 a.m. that he and the first lady had tested positive. The APNewsAlert moved at 1:02 a.m. and a full writethru packed with context was out a minute later, giving newspaper editors around the country time to frantically remake the next day’s front pages.
Over the next three days, through two dozen news alerts and more than 100 writethrus, the three reporters collaborated on sharp reporting and questioning to tell the remarkable story of a president in both a health crisis and a credibility crisis of his own making.
Miller got an early heads-up on the decisions to hospitalize the president and to release him. Lemire broke the news that Trump had received supplemental oxygen, and managed to churn out two enterprise pieces while also contributing to spot news reporting. Colvin pinned down evasive doctors on Trump’s oxygen levels and lung scans, and kept volunteering for more every time there was a lull in the action, asking: “What’s next?”
Their stories dominated play throughout the weekend as the trio set the standard for journalists worldwide by calling out inconsistency and obfuscation, and asking probing questions both at briefings and behind the scenes.