Months of source building and preparation pay off as AP sportswriter Mauricio Savarese breaks news of the death of soccer legend Pelé.
Brazil sportswriter Mauricio Savarese had been preparing for the death of soccer legend Pelé for months, if not years. When it happened, he and his colleagues from all formats delivered a huge win for AP.
Savarese long had been building sources close to Pelé, from among his current and former agents, friends and family of the three-time World Cup winner considered by many as the greatest player ever.
The 82-year-old Pelé was hospitalized in November to treat ailments related to colon cancer. Through sources, Savarese learned that Pelé's condition was critical and that his death could occur at any minute. Colleagues across all formats mobilized to put finishing touches on the preparedness, from the main obituary to stories looking at every aspect of Pelé's life and accomplishments, to video, lives and photo packages.
Savarese provided daily updates through dedicated Slack and WhatsApp. There were also editorial resources on stand-by to support on-site coverage at the hospital in Sao Paulo, in Pelé's hometown of Santos and to gather reactions.
Then, on Dec. 29, at around 1:37 p.m. ET, Savarese got word from Pelé's agent that the soccer great had died. He informed all those involved in the preparations, told Global Sports Editor Ricardo Zuniga who cleared the information for publication, and the news alert moved at 1:50 p.m. ET. The obituary moved three minutes later, and the push alert and breaking tweet after that.
AP was first, beating other outlets by at least six minutes. The obituary registered 420,000 page views on AP News, with 27% of the traffic coming from search, where AP's story was the #1 result on Google in the hours after the death. The breaking tweet from the main AP account had 4.2 million impressions. Among major media outlets using breaking story, ESPN had the obituary as their lead item all day.
For extraordinary preparation and source development to beat all competitors on a sports story of major importance globally, Savarese earns Best of the Week – First Winner.