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All-formats sweep as AP breaks news of Supreme Court nominee

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appeals court judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, poses for a portrait in her office at the court in Washington, Feb. 18, 2022. Jackson is President Joe Biden’s nominee to replace Associate Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court. (AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin)

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Following up on its standout coverage of the retirement of Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, AP’s Washington team stepped up again, this time breaking the news that a former law clerk of Breyer, federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, was nominated to replace him. AP flooded the media space with content on every platform, delivering a comprehensive package that told customers and readers everything they need to know about the nominee, what is next and who bears watching in the process.

Like the retirement package a month earlier, the impressive range of content, delivered with immediacy, was made possible by coordination across formats and departments that had AP poised with thorough preparation on each of the front-runners for the nomination.

The coverage launched with a textbook scoop on President Joe Biden’s decision to nominate Jackson. White House reporter Zeke Miller got off-the-record confirmation that Biden had made his decision before the job had even been extended to Jackson. For the next 36 hours, the White House kept a close hold on Biden’s choice, determined not to let it leak while looking for a window to announce the nomination in the midst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On the eve of the announcement, Miller got the word to stick by his phone the next morning. While Miller worked his White House sources, lead Justice Department reporter Mike Balsamo went to work elsewhere and came up with a source who confirmed it would be Jackson.

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President Joe Biden, right, arrives with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, left, and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House, Feb. 25, 2022, to announce Jackson as his nominee to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. – AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster

AP’s alert beat all the competition. And the story that followed the alert was sweeping and authoritative,thanks to stories prepared in advance on all three leading candidates,written by White House reporter Colleen Long with input from Supreme Court reporters Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko and congressional reporter Mary Clare Jalonick.

The alert and initial story opened a floodgate of audio,video and photographs, and text pieces that provided context on the coming nomination process.

Throughout the day Miller kept AP ahead on the breaking story while Jalonick and her congressional team and other AP staffers produced a quote piece from key individuals and the what’s next explainer. Jalonick closed out the night with an informative piece on who the influential senators will be in this process.

Sherman and Gresko, in addition to pulling together key court opinions in Jackson’s career, produced a profile of the nominee,the third that AP has done since Breyer’s retirement. Still they managed to spotlight Jackson in a new way,highlighting her experience as a defense attorney,rare for a Supreme Court pick.

Other highlights:
— Editor Ashley Thomas reprised her role from Breyer’s retirement announcement,working with Alex Connor and the digital audiences and platforms team to provide a social presence throughout the day.
— The video crew and video journalist Hilary Powell had footage posted within within minutes of the alert and reworked it when Jackson was formally introduced at the White House later in the day.
— Photographer Jacquelyn Martin’s ín-chambers portraits of Jackson,made possible in large part to behind-the-scenes work of Sherman and Gresko,circulated around the country,along with Carolyn Kaster’s breaking news images of the formal White House announcement with Biden and Jackson.
— Multimedia editor Kevin Vineys provided a full selection of graphics, while Ron Vample’s audio team with radio correspondent Sagar Meghani put together a package that hit the wire with the first story.

Thomas Strong and Jennifer Kerr of the Washington desk expedited the breaking story and related content to the wire; AP’s Nerve Center elevated it and got the work to customers with the help of news editor Craig Broffman.

There were unsung heroes too,including Brian Melley in California and Meg Kinnard in South Carolina who reported prep stories so that AP was ready for any one of the favorites to be named. National investigative journalist Michael Biesecker dug into candidates’ backgrounds to head off discoveries that could come later and scuttle a nomination, and New York-based researcher Rhonda Shafner delivered material that informed AP’s coverage.

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