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Chance encounter, tenacious reporting reveal harassment allegations against Placido Domingo

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Jocelyn Gecker’s bombshell investigation of sexual harassment allegations against opera superstar Placido Domingo started with a song.

San Francisco-based Gecker was at a party about 18 months ago when she noticed the beautiful voice of the woman next to her singing “Happy Birthday,” and complimented her. The woman was a former opera singer who, without knowing Gecker was a reporter, confided that the industry had a dark underbelly, offering her assessment that “Placido Domingo is the Bill Cosby of the opera world.”

The discussion sparked months of work by Gecker to publicly reveal what many said had been an open secret in the opera world: allegations from dozens of people that Domingo regularly behaved inappropriately with young women and acted with impunity. In all, Gecker would find nine women who accused Domingo of sexual harassment and a half-dozen more who said suggestive overtures from the star made them uncomfortable.

Gecker faced numerous challenges on the story, not the least of which were reluctant sources. Many of the stories were corroborated by others, but getting people to go on the record proved challenging. Some agreed to speak on the record, only to later reconsider, as many of Domingo’s accusers feared that telling their stories publicly would harm their music careers or bring them public humiliation. Domingo, the most successful opera singer in history, was likened by one woman to a god.

Gecker faced numerous challenges on the story, not the least of which were reluctant sources. Domingo, the most successful opera singer in history, was likened by one woman to a god.

A breakthrough came weeks before Gecker’s story ran when one of Domingo’s accusers agreed to go on the record, telling her story on camera.

The resulting 5,200-word story instantly commanded attention,with The New York Times,Buzzfeed and Huffington Post sending push alerts touting AP’s reporting. Gecker’s story ran on The Washington Post’s homepage with her byline,and numerous outlets,including the BBC and El Pais in Domingo’s native Spain,ran stories based almost solely on AP’s reporting. Television stations devoted significant time to the story,including “CBS This Morning,” which ran clips of AP’s interview with Patricia Wulf,a retired opera singer who said she was speaking out in the hopes it would “help other women come forward,or be strong enough to say no.”

The package had than 460,000 page views on APNews,with many visitors spending notably high amounts of time reading about the accusations and Domingo’s response, in which the long-married singer described some of the allegations as inaccurate but acknowledged his conduct may have made some women uncomfortable despite his “best intentions.”

There was immediate fallout to the story as well,with two music companies canceling performances by the singer and the LA Opera saying it would hire outside counsel to launch an investigation into Domingo, who serves as its general director.

Work on the Domingo story also led to a story about sexual abuse allegations against famed opera conductor Charles Dutoit,all of this unfolding while Gecker juggled multiple major breaking news assignments,including the massive,deadly California wildfires,riots at UC Berkeley and mass shootings.

Through it all,she continued to chip away at the Domingo allegations. For finding a major international story in an unlikely setting,and her care in dealing with sources while reporting tenaciously on a sensitive topic, Gecker earns AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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