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Months of prep, source work propel AP to dominance on student loan forgiveness

FILE - New graduates line up before the start of a community college commencement in East Rutherford, N.J., on May 17, 2018. President Joe Biden is expected to announce Wednesday Aug. 24, 2022 that many Americans can have up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt forgiven. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

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How President Joe Biden would deliver on his campaign promise to forgive student loan debt was one of the most closely watched decisions coming out of Washington this summer.

As anticipation built, White House reporters Seung Min Kim and Zeke Miller, along with lead Justice Department reporter Mike Balsamo, worked sources inside and outside the administration. Sixteen hours before the announcement — and a full news cycle before AP’s closest competitor — their tireless work meant AP alone had the details confirmed: Biden would cancel $10,000 in debt for those earning under $125,000, and extend a pause on repayments through the end of the year.

Amid the race to own the search traffic the night before the announcement, AP’s scoop earned an anchor spot on the Google News carousel, resulting in 460,000 views on AP News

While the Washington team was pursuing sources,AP prepared deep coverage beyond the numbers: Every AP story, from the mainbar to a search-optimized breakout on Pell Grants, would be centered on real people.

Education reporters Claire Savage,Arleigh Rodgers,Sharon Lurye,Heather Hollingsworth,Annie Ma and Bianca Vázquez Toness lined up more than 20 borrowers of all backgrounds and situations for on-camera interviews. In her first AP byline, Education reporter Vázquez Toness wrote powerfully of young people overjoyed to move out of their parents’ home — or heartbroken that they still must put off having kids because of crushing debt.

Financial Wellness reporters Cora Lewis and Adriana Morga used search trends on student loans to prepare a Q&A which they updated to address the intense interest and emerging confusion over Biden’s plan. Then, Morga and audience engagement editor Alex Connor reached the masses with a TikTok-style Instagram reel — AP’s first — that had 2,279 likes and a healthy 680 shares, while a Twitter Spaces session later that week has had more than 43,000 listeners.

In all, AP’s nine breaking and enterprise stories pulled in 1.1 million views on AP News,3,500 views/downloads on AP’s Newsroom platform and 1.2 million interactions on Facebook.

For preparation and determined reporting that produced a massive scoop,deep coverage and resourceful engagement on an issue affecting millions of Americans,AP is delighted to honor the team of Kim,Miller,Megerian,Balsamo,Binkley,Vázquez Toness,Morga, Lewis and Connor as Best of the Week — First Winner.

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