Welcome to the dog eat dog world of journalism...
It was the most talked-about, blogged-about political story of the week - twice.
First, John Solomon in Washington broke the news that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid had accepted free ringside seats to three pro boxing matches from the Nevada agency that was trying to influence his legislation to bring federal oversight to the sport.
Then Solomon followed up by describing how Reid returned home to Nevada and misstated the ethics rules in an effort to defend himself. Ultimately, the Senate leader reversed course, admitted he misstated the rules and promised never again to accept free tickets from special interests.
The exclusive resulted from several tips that came in after Solomon and Sharon Theimer wrote a series of stories about gifts lawmakers got from fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Before his report moved, Solomon had a one-hour interview with Reid in his Capitol office where Reid uttered his widely quoted declaration that, "I'm not Goodie Two-Shoes."
AP secured the rights to HBO video footage showing Reid in his free ringside seats at one of the fights, and that footage became the centerpiece of an OVN package and also was used by the TV networks and in frame grabs in newspapers. Solomon also did an audio Q&A for radio and Web customers. The story and video won widespread play on the Web fronts and newspaper fronts, and stirred an enormous debate in the blogosphere, generating more than 10,000 postings and more than a dozen newspapers wrote editorials chastising Reid, including USA Today.
For his work giving AP ownership of this high-profile story, Solomon wins this week's prize of $500.
In a week of exceptionally strong entries, these other staffers also impressed the judges:
_George Jahn in Vienna, for scoring a major scoop at a meeting of foreign ministers from six world powers who were seeking an elusive agreement on a package of incentives in a bid to persuade Iran to stop its program of uranium enrichment. Jahn got word from diplomats that a deal had been reached some 90 minutes before the official announcement was made, putting AP well ahead of all its competition which had to scramble to match the news. Reuters _ unable to match the story _ was forced into an almost unprecedented position of quoting AP on its Web site under a banner "Breaking News" headline.
_Devlin Barrett in Washington and Sara Kugler in New York City, for reporting two full hours ahead of the official announcement that New York was seeing its Homeland Security funding drop by 40 percent, news that drew outrage in the city. With the AP so far ahead of the competition, key newsmakers turned to us first with their outrage, including Rep. Peter King, who said that the Bush administration had "declared war on New York."
_AP's Kabul staff, for providing distinguished coverage across all formats of the riots that ensued after the brakes failed on a U.S. military truck in Kabul, causing a fatal accident. Having been tipped off by local contacts about the crash, AP was first on the scene and broke the story 26 minutes ahead of Reuters. APTN/photo stringer Faridoon Poya got exclusive footage of US forces speeding from the crash site in their armored vehicles, firing in the air to ward off an angry crowd. Staff cameraman Dr. Mohammed Shoaib, print reporter Rahim Faiez and photographer Rodrigo Abd then witnessed the crowd turn on the local police, who retaliated by firing on the demonstrators. Correspondent Amir Shah and cameraman K.H. Wahid later witnessed the riot spread like a wildfire across the city and were the only media to see protesters ransack the headquarters of CARE International.
_Margie Mason, Asia Medical Writer, for outgunning the competition on the latest outbreak of bird flu, on Sumatra. When a family on the Indonesian island was decimated by the disease, she tracked down the family's lone survivor _ a man who was hospitalized and recovering in a nearby city. Mason interviewed him and his mother, who was taking care of him. Their comments revealed an alarming mindset that denied bird flu existed and blamed the Tamiflu drugs for the deaths.
_John O'Connor in Springfield, Ill., for reporting exclusively on a list of 1,800 state government jobs, most of them listed with the names of people recommended to fill them, that suggested top aides to the governor were routinely signing off on hires as mundane as plumbers and highway workers. Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been under fire for the last year as federal investigators look into his hiring practices for any hint of political hiring _ the very issue that has put Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's patronage chief on trial in federal court. Blagojevich's administration has steadfastly denied tracking any mundane jobs by name, insisting its process is "blind."
_Seth Hettena in San Diego, for being first to report that murder charges were imminent against seven Pendleton Marines and a Navy corpsman for the April killing of an Iraqi man in Hamandiya.
_Richard Drew, New York City photographer, for his exclusive photos of Katie Couric on her final day as host of the "Today" show. Drew has been covering the popular morning show for years and has nurtured a
relationship with a number of NBC publicists. Because of this longstanding relationship Drew was the only news service photographer allowed to cover Couric on the sets inside 30 Rockefeller Plaza and outside on the plaza.
Entries are now welcome for the current week.