Technology reporters Barbara Ortutay and Matt O'Brien teamed up with a cast of AP colleagues to deliver scoop after scoop on Elon Musk’s tumultuous first week at Twitter. AP prevailed by placing a premium on one defining element of the storyline: How the platform is changing and how that affects regular people and their discourse on the platform.
After Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion, the Technology team knew that the first week would be critical to determining what the celebrity CEO intended for the platform. As the company veered into uncharted territory, it became clear that Musk was going to announce direction and policy by tweet, at all hours of the day. Often it wouldn't be clear what his intentions really were.
Ortutay and O'Brien reported aggressively but responsibly, anticipating possible angles and consequences to make AP's coverage stand out in a crowded landscape. Peter Morgan, deputy editor for business photos, had already assigned photographers ahead of the story to have fresh images in hand when news of the sale broke.
Two Twitter employees — one whom O'Brien has cultivated since April — told the AP that the chaotic handling of staffing cuts meant that managers were forced to use text messages or monitor tweets to know whether their teams had survived the layoffs. The employees also said the cuts may have been destabilizing to key operations ahead of the U.S. midterm elections. The layoff story was the No. 2 downloaded story by AP customers on Friday.
The AP team didn't stop there. Ortutay was the first to notice an iOS push introducing a subscription service that included a blue verification check mark. She rapidly updated the story when the launch turned out not to be a launch at all — the service didn't yet work. She also teamed with Ted Anthony, director of new storytelling and newsroom innovation, for a definitive look at Musk’s first week — and what it might foretell for the future of the social media platform. That story earned a rare score of 100 for reader engagement, and kept its audience momentum for more than 24 hours.
— While other outlets reported Twitter layoffs ranging fom 25% to 75% of the workforce, AP elected to wait until the layoffs actually began to ensure accuracy. When we did report a number, it was based on screenshots of the company's change in Slack users, provided to us by an internal source.
— AP was the first to report the $7.99 verification announcement, hours ahead of others.
— Ortutay was also out front with a look at the genesis of the blue check mark and what verification means, setting the AP up for speedy reporting when the announcement of changes actually happened.
— AP explored Musk’s history as a Twitter user.
— Influencers pondered the uncertainty of a potential life beyond Twitter.
The efforts were bolstered by work from Frank Bajak, Stan Choe, Mike Liedtke, Claire Savage, Jim Salter, Tom Krisher, Courtney Bonnell, Richard Jacobsen, James Pollard, Leon Keith, Alexandra Olsen, Maryclaire Dale, David Klepper, Haleluya Hadero and others who helped reach out to Twitter employees and stay apace of Musk's latest tweets. Photographers on the Twitter beat included Noah Berger, Jeff Chiu, Mary Altaffer and Yuki Iwamura
The Twitter story has been enormously competitive, and not all reports of developments at the company have been accurate — many have been based on anonymous sources that don't meet AP's standards. Throughout the Twitter saga, careful reporting of what AP could see and confirm has been critical to ensuring reliable, fact-based coverage.