March 08, 2019
Best of the Week — First Winner
Disabled Walmart ‘greeters’ face job loss; AP coverage helps reverse corporate policy
In this week’s installment of Best of the Week, Pennsylvania correspondent Mike Rubinkam shows us how to translate a local story for a global audience, give it scope and reach, and in the process build a following for ongoing coverage.
Rubinkam, who covers northeastern Pennsylvania, was watching his local 6 p.m. newscast when a story caught his eye: A beloved, longtime Walmart greeter with cerebral palsy had been told that his position was being eliminated in favor of a new “customer host” position.
His interest piqued, the next morning Rubinkam interviewed the man, Adam Catlin, for his first story. That got a lot of attention on social media, but it was only the start.
Rubinkam followed up with three more stories, updating the public about Catlin’s talks with Walmart and interviewing greeters across the country. He also obtained photos of several greeters in their Walmart vests.
With each update, the story’s reach grew, with hundreds of online uses by AP customers and significant engagement on social media. And Walmart was listening. After a week of Rubinkam’s coverage, the mega-retailer announced it would make every effort to keep greeters with disabilities.
The story was a classic example of the impact that the AP’s footprint can have, bringing attention to an issue that surfaced locally but had not yet received national attention. The outcome was a change in corporate policy at one of the world’s biggest companies.
Because of his smart, dogged and curious reporting, and for capitalizing on the AP’s global reach, Rubinkam earns AP’s Best of the Week award.