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AP scores multiple scoops on sprawling mail bomb investigation

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When an explosive device was found at the suburban New York property of liberal megadonor and conspiracy theorist boogeyman George Soros, it raised a few eyebrows with just two weeks to go until the midterm election. When a second device was found addressed to Hillary Clinton, the mail bombs targeting critics of President Trump became the dominant story in the country, political and otherwise, for the better part of a week.

The AP broke the news of the connection between the Soros and Clinton devices,making it clear something broader was afoot,the first in a series of scoops keying a sprawling,days-long effort across regions and formats. We were also first to report that at least one of the packages had the return address of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz,and that the packages had a half-dozen stamps on them,a key detail amid questions about how they were delivered; and that the package addressed to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters intercepted in Los Angeles had the same markings and characteristics of the five others before it. And we were among the first to confirm the suspect’s ID.

Driving the coverage of the investigation into what became more than a dozen homemade bombs sent to prominent Democrats was the Washington law enforcement crew comprised of Colleen Long,Mike Balsamo,Michael Biesecker and Eric Tucker,and law enforcement writers Jim Mustian in New York and Curt Anderson in Miami. Like a host of their colleagues, they worked long hours over the course of several days to keep the AP out front; Long had to be hushed by a flight attendant as her plane prepared to take off because her conversation with a source about bomb components was scaring her fellow passengers.

Long was hushed by a flight attendant because her conversation with a source about bomb components was scaring fellow passengers.

Those scoops highlighted a sweeping effort that involved heavy contributions in the field and at publishing centers across the country and even overseas, complemented by distinctive takeouts. Among the more widely used stories by customers: a fast but deep profile of the bombing suspect,co-bylined by Washington reporters Michael Biesecker and Stephen Braun and relying heavily on reporting from Miami intern Ellis Rua,who also captured strong photos from the club where the suspect worked as a DJ.

In the background,numerous other staffers ensured not just that the AP broke news but that it held to its standards. Notably, Alyssa Goodman and Aaron Jackson on the New York photo desk painstakingly verified the authenticity of images of the devices that spread rapidly without attribution on other outlets.

Play across formats was overwhelming. NewsWhip tracked Friday’s mainbar alone,on the suspect’s arrest,getting more than 125,000 page views on apnews.com and the app. AP was first or alone on a variety of live video positions and other edits,including being the only agency to be live outside Columbus Circle amid CNN’s evacuation,courtesy of a Bambuser shot from New York videographer Joe Frederick. The play there was telling too: Edits on the mail bombs accounted for more than half of the 100 most downloaded videos of the week.

For their beats highlighting the AP’s broad,collaborative and competitive effort,Long,Tucker,Balsamo,Biesecker,Braun,Mustian, Anderson and Rua share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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