Internal AP Memo Thanks Writers For Successful ‘Literary Treasure Hunt’ In Finding Sarah Palin’s Book

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Before Sarah Palin’s book, “Going Rogue,” was released to the public, the Associated Press published a much-heralded fact check that detailed where her claims didn’t line up with reality. It was possible in part because the AP snagged a copy of Palin’s book early.

There’s a lot to how the AP found the books – and beat their competitors – detailed in a weekly internal newsletter to the company’s 4,000 employees and obtained by Talking Points Memo.

Mike Oreskes, a senior managing editor, offers staffers a description of the AP’s own work tracking down and fact checking the book and it reads like a spy thriller:

“The AP was determined to get the first copy,” Oreskes wrote, detailing how the writers learned a store had “inadvertently placed the book on sale five days before its official Nov. 17 release date.”

“They bought a copy, ripped it from its spine and scanned it into the system so it could be read and electronically searched,” he wrote. “A NewsNow moved within 40 minutes, followed quickly by multiple leads as details were gleaned from the 413-page manuscript.”

Paul Colford, director of media relations for the AP, said the latest edition of “Beat of the Week” newsletter lauding the reporters who tracked down “Going Rogue” showcased the wire service was “dogged enough” to find the book and “be able to echo what was in it before it was in wider circulation.”

“There’s no greater fox hunt in newsgathering around the publication of a big book than the rush to be the first to get it and say what it says,” Colford told TPMDC.

In the newsletter, the AP congratulates the two reporters who found the book for their work, and jabs a bit at the competition. The reporters will share a $500 cash prize awarded to the best beats at the AP each week.

Read the “Going Rogue” portion of the weekly newsletter – which also lauds other reporters’ unrelated works – after the jump.

It was a literary treasure hunt. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue” was perhaps the most anticipated memoir of the year, the pre-order alone placing it at the top of some best-seller lists, and leading newspapers, Web sites and television outlets were clamoring for an early copy.

At the AP, Entertainment National Writer Hillel Italie and investigative editor Rick Pienciak were among staffers who combed bookstores in New York, Washington and Anchorage, Alaska, and visited warehouses and wholesalers.

All to no avail. The publisher, HarperCollins, had it locked down. There were no galleys for reviewers or agents. Warehouses were closely guarded. Stores were threatened with large fines. People close to Palin – those given early copies – were strongly advised not to show them to reporters.

The AP had owned the story from the start, with a series of exclusives from Italie beginning with Palin’s contract with HarperCollins, and the AP was determined to get the first copy.

Finally, they learned that a store had inadvertently placed the book on sale five days before its official Nov. 17 release date.

They bought a copy, ripped it from its spine and scanned it into the system so it could be read and electronically searched. A NewsNow moved within 40 minutes, followed quickly by multiple leads as details were gleaned from the 413-page manuscript.

The story commanded massive play, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal.com and USA Today, the three major television networks, and major Web sites and portals Yahoo, Google, Huffington Post and Politico. The Washington Post did a separate story about how the publisher’s carefully orchestrated rollout was foiled, and Palin herself, not happily, noted the scoop on Facebook.

For relentless efforts that put AP more than 24 hours ahead on the book story of the year, Italie and Pienciak share this week’s $500 prize.

Mike Oreskes

Ed. note: This post has been updated.

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