All-formats teamwork across desks — Entertainment, Digital News and Sports — kept AP ahead with fast, definitive coverage of the Oscars moment that shocked the world: Will Smith’s slap of Chris Rock. As soon as Smith walked onto the stage and struck Rock over a joke about the actor’s wife, the AP Entertainment team pivoted its coverage of the otherwise generally upbeat Academy Awards ceremony, expediting remarkable photos, text and video of the confrontation — quickly but carefully.
Photographer Chris Pizzello captured the scene and its immediate aftermath in images that were used across the globe. Photo editor Paula Munoz had those photos on the wire within minutes for customers and their editors.
For text, film writer Jake Coyle worked to quickly update the mainbar story; it moved with one of Pizzello’s photos just four minutes after the APNewsAlert. Coyle continued to update the mainbar during the show, taking color reporting from fellow film writer Lindsey Bahr, who was watching the scene unfold in the Dolby Theatre as a parade of stars like Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper and Tyler Perry counseled and consoled Smith.
And while the handling was quick, it was also accurate: Editors and AP’s Oscar team worked furiously to get the language right in the alert (calling it a confrontation, a smack and a slap in the early copy). That was determined by sports writer Jake Seiner and entertainment video producer John Carucci who carefully reviewed the footage to confirm that Smith’s open hand had made contact with Rock’s face. Other news outlets mistakenly called it a punch and a fight, and one top entertainment publication hedged with “seemingly slaps.” Carucci quickly completed a video edit, ensuring it was ready for clients for use after the live broadcast.
With AP's alert and text copy out, AP's digital team, including Sophia Eppolito and Alex Connor, crafted the words and images into social posts and a mobile push that sent the story skyrocketing. Although the slap occurred late in the evening, the story quickly racked up enough pageviews to become AP’s No. 2 story of the day. A sidebar on the slap by sports writer Tim Reynolds and entertainment writer Jonathan Landrum was also immensely popular and again showcased Pizzello’s images.
AP’s preparedness for the ceremony did not anticipate a slap onstage, but advance work and beat experience by the Entertainment crew — notably reporters Andrew Dalton and Coyle — kept AP's text, photo and social efforts running smoothly throughout the evening, with alerts and fast file updates for all the major Oscar categories. Readership remained strong into the following day with more than 1.5 million pageviews on Monday, and robust social engagement for AP’s full Oscars coverage.