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AP beats everyone on Mitch McConnell’s decision to step down

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walks off the Senate floor after speaking, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 at the Capitol in Washington. McConnell says he'll step down as Senate Republican leader in November. AP PHOTO / JACQUELYN MARTIN

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Even before U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell began speaking in the well of the chamber on Feb. 28, everyone knew what the Republican leader’s historic announcement would be. That was because AP had already delivered the news, scooping all competition, thanks to source work and perfect execution by Deputy Bureau Chief Mike Tackett and a team of colleagues in Washington.

Tackett had already obtained McConnell’s remarks in advance, saying he planned to step down in November to close his run as the longest-serving Senate leader in history. That allowed enough time to prepare not only an APNewsAlert but also a full story. Tackett also worked out an agreement that AP could publish before McConnell made his announcement on the Senate floor.

Tackett, who is writing a biography on McConnell, worked closely with digital politics editor Katie Vogel and Washington text editor Tom Strong to make sure the copy was edited and ready go — and worked up a full digital engagement plan so when the news was published, the AP would be in a strong position to win on audience engagement. Tackett also worked closely with photos and video to ensure the AP was ready across formats.

When the time came, Strong filed the urgent copy perfectly with the APNewsAlert and full story moving within the same minute. The push alert and breaking social plan also sailed out, beating all competitors by 10 minutes or more.

The news sent a buzz through the Senate floor, and several journalists there asked Tackett how he did it. From Politico to The New York Times, publications cited the AP’s story and continued to give it credit for the scoop throughout the day.

Tackett’s source work also enabled Congress reporter Mary Clare Jalonick and chief congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro to dive straight into the ‘what happens next’ portion of reporting instead of having to focus on the breaking news. They produced a deeply reported story about how McConnell’s exit comes at an uncertain time for Republicans as they align with Donald Trump.

The main story received over 1 million page views on APNews. The breaking news Tweet received over 13 million views.

For delivering a package that kept AP ahead of amazed competitors through the day, Tackett, Vogel, Strong, Mascaro and Jalonick are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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