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Sourcing, teamwork deliver scoop on federal charges in Floyd killing

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Minneapolis reporter Amy Forliti, working with Washington-based Department of Justice reporter Mike Balsamo, delivered a 20-minute beat on the news that four former officers involved in the death of George Floyd were indicted on federal civil rights charges — an unusual move for the Justice Department because three of the officers haven’t faced state trial yet.

The pair had been working together for months on the George Floyd case, their collaboration already producing a massive scoop on the sweeping federal investigation into policing in Minneapolis following former Officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction in Floyd’s death.

Last week Balsamo learned that the federal charges were imminent, perhaps including references to a 2017 arrest. Forliti worked her sources to get the full story: off-record details about the still-sealed indictment that allowed her to write robust, fully-formed prep. She was even tipped off that the charges would drop early Friday morning.

But that didn’t happen. And they waited — until Forliti got a quiet source call telling her to phone into a federal hearing happening live. The officers were appearing in federal court,but the charges were still sealed. Forliti and Balsamo — possibly the only reporters listening during the hearing because it wasn’t listed in electronic court records — put out a fast cover story that the former cops were in court on federal charges.

Balsamo then went to his sources,asking them to send the indictment,because,while it wasn’t technically made public yet,he had heard the judge order it made public. AP soon had the indictment. He and Forliti filed alerts,writethrus loaded with context and a full story within 15 minutes. Forliti also filed a video brief on the charges. Meanwhile,no one matched their story for a full 20 minutes, and major national publications were at least 40 minutes behind the AP. Even the hometown Star Tribune used AP’s story on its website.

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