AP reporters Brian Slodysko, Bill Barrow and Jake Bleiberg broke news on former football star Herschel Walker, who is said to be considering a run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia and has been consulting with political advisers. The Georgia Senate race may be the most competitive in the nation next year and Walker, a former University of Georgia star and a friend of former President Donald Trump, would be an appealing Republican candidate. But Walker also has a history of mental illness and a tell-all book with extraordinary details about his troubled past.
Washington-based Slodysko and Atlanta’s Barrow heard the chatter and decided to dive in. Slodysko started receiving tips about events in Walker’s past, but many many didn’t hold up. He could have stopped there — the tales in Walker’s 2008 book were enough for a good story. But he and Barrow kept looking for more, teaming up with Dallas reporter Jake Bleiberg.
The trio turned up records that had never been reported on: police records detailing a conflict between Walker and his ex-wife who claimed he threatened her life; court filings that described concerns by Walker’s business partners about his behavior; and hard evidence that Walker had exaggerated the size of his company in federal aid filings.
The reporters wrote quickly, knowing that several other outlets were working looking into the prospective candidate. They worked from a strong paper trail, but also good source reporting that added important political context about Walker’s deliberations. They wrote carefully and precisely about Walker’s illness.
The teamwork was impressive, resulting in an extraordinary read that may influence the Georgia race for U.S. Senate. The work took off on social media, was widely used by members, cited on MSNBC, written about in New York Magazine and was the most-read story on AP News last week — a stunning feat for a story that ran midday on a summer Friday.