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Months of planning, preparation put AP out front with unmatched coverage of SCOTUS abortion ruling

At left, protesting against Texas Senate Bill 8, which would ban most abortions in the state, Cindy Gomez of Austin wears a “handmaid” costume during the Women’s March ATX rally at the state capitol in Austin, Oct. 2, 2021. At right, David Trujillo holds a sign outside an abortion provider in Dallas, Oct. 7, 2021. ( AP Photos / Stephen Spillman (left); LM Otero )

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With extensive preparation ahead of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the AP moved at lightning speed and revved up to cover the historic ruling comprehensively in all formats.

The long-awaited abortion decision required meticulous planning and smart execution to get the word out quickly and then deploy teams of AP journalists to capture reaction and the sweeping ramifications of the ruling.

Supreme Court reporters Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko began their prep on the case shortly after December’s arguments,then built on those efforts in the months that followed. That work accelerated after a draft leaked in May. The result: When the court’s opinion came down Friday morning,Sherman and Gresko had the story out faster than competitors,all of whom received the opinion at the same time. And the results were virtually flawless — just one minute from a Flash on the wire to an Urgent, and two minutes to a full story.

That 1,200-word story had fresh photos attached from outside the court,where photographers Jacquelyn Martin,Steve Helber and Gemunu Amarasinghe fired off images of reaction by people on both sides of the abortion debate. Helber’s fast-filed photo of exhubant abortion opponents celebrating with a spray of bubbly,reminiscent of football fans winning a championship,told the story of decades of anticipation realized. Meanwhile, photographers Scott Applewhite and Andrew Harnik poised to capture reaction from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden respectively.

At the same time, the video team promptly moved an edit highlighting the political history of abortion legislation in the U.S.,and moments later, Sherman’s on-camera analysis of the decision. For live video,AP had four cameras up and running in Washington as cheers of celebration and cries of distress rose from the crowd outside the court,as well as live footage of reaction from the White House and Capitol Hill. In the end,video journalists Nathan Ellgren,Rick Gentilo, Dan Huff and Mike Pesoli delivered more than 12 hours of uninterrupted live coverage for clients and AP platforms.

A host of journalists also worked in advance with Central Desk deputies Sarah Rafi and Kim Johnson,and others,setting AP up to deliver impactful spot and enterprise stories from around the country.
Among them:
— Kim Kruesi,Lindsay Whitehurst and John Hanna, whose background reporting and source building set the stage to immediately explore the further fracturing of an already deep division between states, and the alarm among LGBTQ advocates who fear the ruling could someday allow a rollback of other legal protections, including gay marriage.
— Matt Sedensky and photographer David Goldman captured the emotion and experiences of a longtime anti-abortion activist in Mississippi.
— State Government/Democracy Editor Tom Verdin, Central Desk editor Andrea Thomas and graphic artist Kevin Vineys published an interactive map outlining the new state of play in all 50 states, continuously updated to reflect shifting landscapes along with 50-state text summaries.
— Mississippi-based photographer Rogelio Solis documented reaction outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic,ground zero for the Dobbs v. Jackson case. More noted images of the wave of reaction across the nation included work from Eric Gay in Austin,Texas,and Rick Bowmer in Salt Lake City.

Social media posts were also up quickly after the news hit the wire. Audience editor Alex Connor had worked off Sherman and Gresko’s prep,drafting several different outcomes for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Countless other AP journalists across regions and formats mobilized to deliver real-time reaction from all sides that elevated AP’s coverage of the ruling.

For exemplifying the news cooperative at its best,covering a pivotal moment with far-reaching consequences for American society,AP recognizes journalists Sherman,Gresko,Martin,Helber,Amarasinghe,Applewhite,Harnik,Gentilo,Huff,Ellgren,Pesoli,Kruesi,Whitehurst,Hanna,Sedensky,Goldman,Solis,Bowmer,Gay,Connor, Vineys and their colleagues throughout the organization with Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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