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Smart reporting puts AP ahead on indictments in spa killings

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Atlanta reporter Kate Brumback was far ahead of even local media in reporting the indictment of the man accused of killing eight people at Atlanta-area massage businesses, answering a key question in the case: whether the district attorneys in two counties where the shootings occurred would seek the death penalty and/or enhanced penalties under Georgia’s hate crimes law.

Brumback had learned from sources that both counties would likely present their cases to grand juries the same day; she worked up prep for no fewer than eight different scenarios. She also tracked down video from a candidate forum last year where the now-Fulton County district attorney committed to not seeking the death penalty.

Instead of waiting for the indictment to be announced, Brumback began checking Fulton County’s court website. The indictment showed up — along with notice of intent to indeed seek hate crime charges and the death penalty. When a website glitch prevented the document from downloading, Brumback quickly obtained it from court clerk sources, then turned to her prep reporting for the story.

Meanwhile, Brumback had been told that a Cherokee County indictment might not be filed online until the next day. But she had asked South Desk editor R.J. Rico to keep checking Cherokee County’s court website while she attended the Fulton County news conference. When Cherokee County’s indictment did turn up, the pair worked together to expedite that news. As other reporters asked questions regarding Cherokee County’s indictment during the news conference, AP’s update was on the wire.

AP’s reporting was more than half an hour ahead of local media, and national outlets were even further behind. The story led AP customer use for the day, picked up by some 650 news outlets.

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