Naomi Judd’s family trusts AP with the news that the country music superstar had died at 76.
Video journalist Kristin Hall, who covers entertainment from Nashville, has for years cultivated sources throughout country music and the broader music world.
One of those sources called her Saturday afternoon with stunning news: Naomi Judd was dead. Judd died a day before she and her daughter were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the family wanted to break the news with a trusted outlet that would handle the story correctly and sensitively. That meant the AP.
The family’s statement said Naomi Judd was lost “due to the disease of mental illness.” The publicist, who had worked with Hall to break news previously, waited until AP’s story had posted before putting anything out on the family’s social media accounts.
An alert went out at 3:39 p.m. EDT and by 3:42 p.m. AP moved a 250-word story with a photo. Two minutes later, a writethru was sent with better images, as Hall built the story using her knowledge of The Judds and country music.
AP had prepared a protective obituary on Naomi Judd about 10 years ago, but it hadn’t been touched in six years, so Hall worked to carefully weave details from that prep piece into her story, also drawing on Judd’s memoir where she wrote about her mental health. Hall also pulled from a brief interview she had with Naomi and Wynonna Judd in March ahead of the CMT Awards, adding further depth to the obituary.
While Hall broke the story, weekend Nerve Center manager Leon Keith worked to ensure the social posts and push alerts went out quickly, getting the news out to a wide audience. And New York-based producer Alicia Rancilio, working on her one day off before Monday’s Met Gala, stepped up to produce two video obituaries.
Hall’s obituary immediately became the dominant story on Judd’s death, with many outlets relying exclusively on AP for hours. The Washington Post put Hall’s bylined obit on its home page, and many other outlets credited AP for text and photos in their stories and social posts.
The story received 300,000 clicks in its first hour and had more than 1.8 million pageviews by Monday morning, making it the top story in terms of views during the past month on APNews.
Hall also ensured AP was well-covered at Sunday’s emotional Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony, arranging for a freelance cameraman to shoot video so she could focus on text. By Monday afternoon her Hall of Fame story was the day’s most-viewed story on APNews.
For building trust with a source to secure a significant break for AP, and for fast, thorough, sensitive work on the highly competitive obituary of a country music icon, Hall earns AP’s Best of the Week — Second Winner.