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Meticulous planning, near-flawless execution put AP ahead of the pack on Prince Philip coverage

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The AP team in London had been preparing its coverage of Prince Philip’s death for years to ensure when the moment came, everyone would be ready. That exceptional planning laid the foundation for lightning handling and a major win when Philip passed on Friday.

The preparation included multiple revisions of the main obituaries for all formats and meetings across formats and departments as well as with our broadcast and photo partners and Buckingham Palace. As soon as Philip was admitted to the hospital earlier this year, U.K. news director Susie Blann and the London team updated obituaries and plans. The level of detail was granular: They addressed filing plans for all formats, including the decision to move the news as a Flash, and a strategy for how the newsroom and editorial support teams would communicate to customers.

On Friday,the planning paid off: U.K. photo editor Martin Cleaver picked up rumors of Philip’s death and immediately let Blann know. Blann confirmed with her sources and immediately let the wider team know. Editors across formats started pulling up the obit-prepped material while setting video and photo staffers in motion to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Because the team knew in advance that official word would come via an email from the palace,and had prepared for that moment,the coverage team of more than 25 individuals in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States was poised for action when the email arrived.

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From foreground, Prince Philip, Prince William, Diana’s brother Earl Spencer, Prince Harry and Prince Charles follow the carriage carrying Princess Diana’s casket to her funeral at Westminster Abbey in London, Sept. 6, 1997. – AP Photo / John Gaps III

Europe editor Naomi Koppel filed the Flash alert two minutes after the email confirmation. A short text story was out four minutes later,and then writethrus moved every five minutes until top stories editor Sarah DiLorenzo moved our full prepped obit. DiLorenzo had spent the past several weeks working on the text obituaries with reporters Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka,who built on the tremendous work Gregory Katz and Robert Barr did on the text before their deaths in 2020 and 2018 respectively. A prepped newsroom video moved eight minutes after the news alert,and a series of newsroom edits were filed after that by the global video team, thanks to head of production Samira Becirovic’s prep work which made extensive use of the AP’s Movietone archives. AP went live from Buckingham Palace about 20 minutes after the news broke; live coverage has continued from Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle ever since.

Photo editor Anne Marie Belgrave swiftly moved the initial prepped photos,and Koppel promptly linked them,followed by a more in-depth series of curated photos that photo editor Bridget Jones had spent a lot of time carefully pulling together and editing. Playbook,AP’s customer planning application,was updated within 10 minutes of the news going out, and an advisory was sent out to customers a short time later.

AP was incredibly fast with the news in every way: the push alert,the announcement from the Palace and the video edits,to name a few, all tailored to customers who depend on and expect this coverage when it matters. Several sidebars were prepped in advance and Photos produced a separate gallery of Philip through the years in addition to the timeline and other sidebar stories. The sprawling content was collected in AP’s hub for Philip coverage.

Staff and freelancers in London,across formats and departments,including Entertainment and Horizons,jumped in to help ensure the AP’s coverage was robust all day Friday,into the weekend and throughout the week.

For exceptional,nearly flawless performance across the AP on one of the biggest stories thus far this year,Blann,Cleaver,Jones,Belgrave,Becirovic,Lawless,Kirka,Koppel, DiLorenzo and the international royal coverage team earn AP’s Best of the Week honors.

CORRECTION: This post has been corrected to remove references to AP sending its alert before competitors and being “faster than the competition in every way.”

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