News of a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue broke on a Saturday morning that found many AP staffers still covering the spate of pipe bomb attacks against prominent critics of President Trump.
First word that something was happening came around 10:30 a.m. from a stringer cultivated by regional photo editor Jackie Larma. Within minutes Pittsburgh photographers Gene Puskar and Keith Srakokic were rushing to the scene, providing some of the first images and text feeds. Colleagues from Pennsylvania rushed in on their day off, joined by a seemingly endless list of colleagues elsewhere volunteering to help out.
Reports about the extent of the attack were spotty, with competitors variously reporting “multiple fatalities” or different single-digit tallies. Washington law enforcement reporter Eric Tucker, pivoting from pressing federal sources about the mail bombs, immediately sought solid details on the synagogue shooting. From his post in Harrisburg, reporter Marc Levy went to work on sources in state government and law enforcement. Between them, Tucker and Levy enabled the AP to break word that at least 10 had died – the final toll would be 11 – in what would become the worst attack on Jews on American soil.
The AP stayed focused on reporting only verifiable facts, avoiding traps that snared several competitors.
Their joint APNewsBreak was one of several push alerts that The Washington Post sent with AP credit throughout the day, an unusual move on one of the most consequential national stories of the year. Smart on-the-ground reporting from national writers Adam Geller and Allen Breed rounded out our all-formats coverage. These were just a few of the highlights of a seamless and extraordinary effort by colleagues around the country too numerous to list.
Saturday's main text story on the synagogue attack alone racked up 160,000 pageviews on apnews.com and the app, with Newswhip showing more than 5,000 instances of customer use of synagogue text in a little more than 24 hours after it broke. Though the shooting happened on a Saturday, it accounted for three of the top dozen video downloads of the week, highlighted by a chilling interview with a shooting survivor who hid in a closet, recorded by New York videographer Robert Bumsted and Philadelphia newswoman Maryclaire Dale. Throughout, the AP stayed focused on reporting only verifiable facts, avoiding traps such as the one that snared several competitors: one of the elderly synagogue victims was not, in fact, a Holocaust survivor.
AP’s photos were widely used as well, particularly a series of poignant shots by Philadelphia photographer Matt Rourke, who raced across the state in time to join Puskar at the first vigil for victims that night. And Larma’s strong relationship with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ensured the hometown paper made time amid its own coverage to share its strongest images from the scene, which AP distributed to the world.
For headlining an extraordinary multi-format collaboration that kept the AP in a commanding position on a second straight major breaking story, Puskar, Srakokic, Rourke, Tucker, Levy, Dale and Bumsted share the Best of the Week award.