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AP lands elusive first interview with two black men arrested at Starbucks

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The arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia for sitting without ordering anything turned into a major crisis for the coffee chain and sparked a national conversation on unconscious bias and overt racism.

But the two men at the center of the controversy sought to maintain their privacy as they tried to make sense of the ordeal. They even moved to a hotel to hide out as the scandal unfolded – with the CEO of Starbucks flying to Philadelphia and requests coming in from all over for the men to talk. Their attorney put out only brief statements on their behalf, even after they met with the CEO.

Knowing the sit-down with the men was the essential get,Pennsylvania Editor Larry Rosenthal pressed their contact for an interview,noting one conversation with AP would relieve the pressure they were feeling from so many outlets circling. Errin Haines Whack,the AP’s national race and ethnicity writer,followed up with a written pitch. She noted she was based in Philly and wanted to hear both their version of events and what they hoped to see moving forward. In the end, that sealed the deal.

One week after their arrests, Errin was the first to sit down with the men for an extensive interview for text and still photos. (The men agreed to video for “Good Morning America” and we had a shared embargo).

AP’s text exclusive got monster play. In the four days after publication,it had more than 115,000 page views and impressive engagement of 1:11. It’s worth noting more than 50 percent of the readers were first-time visitors to apnews.com. During that same period,the story also drew more than a quarter-million Facebook engagements,and has since surged well beyond that number.

The story was accompanied by photos by East photo editor Jackie Larma. Whack’s audio of the interview enabled BNC’s Stephen Valdivia to pull together sound and photos to finesse a video offering,above, from this exclusive access.

AP’s text exclusive had more than 115,000 page views – and more than half the readers were first-time visitors to apnews.com.

For landing the critical interview and delivering it in multiple formats, Errin Haines Whack is this week’s winner of Best of the States.

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