Reporter Ben Finley developed a relationship with Pat Robertson’s spokesman over several years that set AP up for a speed win on the religious and political figure’s obit. AP was ready with a multiformat package when the announcement went out.
Over his seven years in Norfolk, Ben had worked with Robertson’s spokesman Chris Roslan on stories about Robertson’s Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, Regent University and Operation Blessing based in nearby Virginia Beach. Ben has also gotten to know Robertson’s son.
The AP’s previous work and working relationship with Roslan led to a phone call Tuesday letting the AP know that Pat Robertson’s death was imminent. Finley then worked with desk editor Mike Warren on polishing obit prep that was stored in the system, crafting an obituary that painted a complete picture of Robertson’s life, from his accomplishments to his controversial statements and his influence on American politics. The early word also allowed the photo desk to prepare archive photos.
Roslan called Finley shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday to let him know that an announcement would be coming soon. That allowed AP to move its first news alert within minutes of CBN announcing Robertson’s death, and no other outlet beat AP. AP was well ahead of several national outlets that wrote their own obits.