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.
Ed. note: This post has been updated.