When ’80s pop star Daryl Hall sued his longtime music partner John Oates, the lawsuit generated numerous headlines but was filed under seal. It took a collaboration between Nashville reporter Jonathan Mattise and Los Angeles-based music writer Maria Sherman to shed new light on what was happening, in a scoop that was widely credited by other outlets.
Many outlets focused on the mysterious nature of the case or highlighted that a judge had granted a temporary restraining order — a common legal term that can easily be misunderstood. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Mattise took a closer look and realized that documents unsealed just before the holiday offered new details, and he enlisted Sherman’s help to contextualize what it meant. AP’s knowledge of and access to the Nashville-based court put their report ahead on a day when many outlets were thinly staffed. Mattise and Sherman were the first to report that the dispute was over Hall seeking to stop Oates from selling part of a business that they shared to a company that already owns a stake in their music catalog. They were also able to explain what the restraining order meant in clearer and more direct terms.
The AP was widely credited with the scoop, with venerable entertainment industry outlet Variety writing: “On Friday afternoon, the Associated Press was first to report the actual reason for the restraining order, after the judge quietly unsealed some — but not nearly all — of the case two days earlier, on Thanksgiving eve.”