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Resourceful, innovative coverage of virtual Supreme Court

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Supreme Court reporters Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko saw opportunity in the unprecedented news that the Supreme Court would hold telephone arguments with live audio available. If the tradition-bound court could innovate during COVID-19, so should the AP.

The pair brainstormed ways to mark the moment, coming up with a package of new ideas harnessing their extensive court knowledge and exploiting AP’s scope.

They started with clever, out-of-box articles on how lawyers would prepare (Do they wear pants?) and how tech upgrades are largely resisted by the court.

They revived the AP SCOTUS Twitter account @AP_COURTSIDE to live-tweet trivia, analysis and details when the arguments were happening, including when Justice Clarence Thomas asked a question for the first time in at least a year, a tweet that got 300 retweets and some 3,000 clicks – not bad for an account dormant for four years. In a matter of days the handle grew from 1,700 followers to more than 21,000.

They also worked with the AP broadcast team to get AP pool access to the live audio. AP clients are subscribing to AP’s SCOTUS audio, and recognizing the need for the public to hear it, too, they helped get the feed threaded through YouTube. Sherman did debriefs on camera.

The team also came up with a brand-new wire feature they also called “Courtside” – a more live-blog style of breaking news to help the public understand what they were hearing (including that weird toilet flush sound during one argument). That approach could become a model for covering future live news events.

The features introduced by Sherman and Gresko attracted readers and followers, and complemented AP’s comprehensive stories on the court sessions.

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