Mark Sherman applied unmatched beat knowledge and meticulous preparation to score a major beat on the Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling that left the entire Affordable Care Act intact. Sherman was so quick that he had a virtual exclusive on the closely watched case, with AP's mobile push alert moving a stunning 19 minutes ahead of major competition.
The foundation of his success was Sherman’s encyclopedic knowledge of both the court and the case. He covered the original 2012 challenge to Obamacare and had a full understanding of the options in the current case. That expertise helped him anticipate that the Court was heading toward preserving the law, based on the tone and questions of the case’s November hearing. In the end, Sherman would not only predict the outcome, but according to Jessica Gresko, his highly respected partner in Supreme Court coverage, he even predicted who would write the court’s majority opinion.
But Sherman had thoroughly prepared for every possible ruling. In his own words: “We developed a range of possible outcomes based on the issues under consideration by the Court: standing, constitutionality of the penalty-free mandate, severability. We talked to lawyers and experts on both sides. We drafted and revised alerts and leads for each option: No standing, mandate constitutional, mandate unconstitutional but rest of law stands and mandate unconstitutional and rest of law falls.”
In the lead-up to the ruling he also worked with White House news editor Nancy Benac and developed background material with health care reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar to quickly fill out the story regardless of outcome.
It all paid off on Thursday with Sherman’s standout coverage putting AP far out front on the intensely competitive story. And not limiting himself just to text, he recorded video neatly explaining the court's decision: