Cheyanne Mumphrey, a national education writer based in Phoenix, stepped into a competitive story about a Texas student who was suspended for his locs, the African American hairstyle that he wore. His family had already stopped talking to other media. But Mumphrey approached them with an idea to expand the story to include the national context of hair discrimination and the cultural significance of locs to Africans and Black Americans.
The family was receptive, giving AP exclusive details about student Darryl George’s plans to return to school on Monday, Sept. 18 and possibly face more suspension or a forced enrollment change.
The digital team was first to alert the R&E and Education teams about the potential for a story.
The teams planned with colleagues in Texas, so AP journalists were on the ground when George arrived at school. AP was the only national outlet to visually capture the student’s resolve and the family’s emotion, and it broke the news that George would continue in suspension indefinitely. Mumphrey worked with Lekan Oyekanmi and Akira Kumamoto to produce newsroom-ready and consumer-ready social video.
From there, George’s family kept Mumphrey and reporter Juan Lozano, who is based in Houston, updated as developments in the case escalated. That led to stories on the state investigating potential violations of the CROWN Act and the family’s filing of a federal lawsuit. National competitors were still matching AP’s scoop on the lawsuit more than 30 hours later. Mumphrey also was first to interview the district’s superintendent about its dress code.
The play was enormous. The Sept. 18 story was No. 1 on AP’s website and No. 2 among AP customers in Newsroom. Pageviews and the enrollment score ranked in the top five for the week. Customers accessed the stories 1,700 times, and the social video had nearly 200,000 plays on Instagram. The Houston Chronicle, the local metro daily, ran all three AP stories.
For recognizing the bigger picture and smart planning, the team of Mumphrey and Lozano earns Best of the Week — Second Winner.