Through a combination of prep and strong beat reporting, AP beat the competition to deliver the news of Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten’s release from prison after serving more than 50 years.
Los-Angeles based journalist Christopher Weber had for months followed Van Houten’s efforts to be paroled after half a century in prison for participating in two gruesome stabbings. When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not continue trying to block Van Houten’s parole after a court ruling, her attorney said she could be out within weeks.
It happened within days.
Weber had written prep ahead of the news of Van Houten’s release, which came in handy when the journalist spotted an email from California prison officials that she had been paroled. AP’s news alert beat competitors by at least 30 minutes.
Desk editor Peter Orsi immediately took over the prep while Weber called Van Houten’s lead attorney to confirm and get more detail, likely making him the first journalist to interview her after release. Photo editors Eric Risberg and Richard Vogel quickly found a variety of photos of Van Houten, including some from the archives from her conviction in the 1970s, strengthening AP’s coverage by bringing readers back in time.
As of Monday, the story had garnered 211,000 page views and was used by 1,222 customers online.