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AP breaks news of Border Patrol chief’s departure

An agent of the Border Patrol observes near the Mexico-U.S. border fence between the towns of Anapra, Mexico, and Sunland Park, N.M., Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Christian Torres)

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San Diego correspondent Elliot Spagat was on his way to the office when a two-word message landed in his inbox from a longtime source: “Morgan resigned.”

Spagat knew what it meant — Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan was out of his job after just seven months. Spagat had seen this coming because the powerful union representing border agents had endorsed Trump and did not like Morgan.

He prepped a story in December so AP would be ready when Morgan’s departure occurred.

But more was needed to go to the wire with the breaking news. He went back to the tipster to get details and permission to use the source in a story. He also immediately enlisted homeland security reporter Alicia Caldwell in Washington.

Within minutes Caldwell had a second source and AP had a clean break on a major follow-up to President Donald Trump’s executive order the day before calling for construction of a wall along the Mexican border and the addition of 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

Caldwell wrote the story with the help of Spagat’s prep and both continued pressing for more information from their sources.

Additional reporting revealed Spagat got the original email 3 minutes before Morgan even started a conference call with his senior staffers to tell them of his resignation. Another source,who was on the conference call, told Spagat that the chief said he resigned at the Trump administration’s request.

The largest paper on the border,the San Diego Union-Tribune, credited AP in a headline on its home page throughout the day.

NBC had a matching tweet 13 minutes after AP’s NewsAlert but others were much farther behind. Bloomberg and ABC used AP’s initial story while The Washington Post had the story on its website for hours – crediting AP in the headline – before matching. The largest paper on the border,the San Diego Union-Tribune, credited AP in its headline for a story on its home page throughout the day. The Los Angeles Times,Fox News and The Hill credited AP with the beat in their staff-written stories. The Spagat-Caldwell story also cracked the top 10 on AP Mobile on an extremely busy news day.

For putting AP out front on an important development in one of the Trump administration’s signature early policy decisions, Spagat and Caldwell win this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.

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