NMG member Justin Pritchard is this week’s winner of AP’s Best of the States award – his second in barely three months.
The Los Angeles-based reporter exclusively reported last September that federal investigators had found shortcomings in how South Korea’s Asiana Airlines dealt with relatives of passengers on the plane that crashed in San Francisco in 2013.
Since then, Pritchard called his U.S. Transportation Department source frequently to check on the latest in the investigation. Then the source retired. So Pritchard simply got the source’s replacement to promise to call him first with news of any sanctions.
Those efforts paid off. Pritchard got the first notification that the department would fine Asiana for not following a law requiring airlines to give prompt, generous assistance to loved ones of crash victims.
Pritchard set up an embargo involving having an Asiana spokeswoman set her alarm to give AP comment in the middle of the night in South Korea, then go back to bed. His APNewsBreak went out at 10 a.m. Pacific time _ and 4 a.m. in Korea, forcing other outlets in California and Korea to quote AP for hours.
Pritchard also reported that anguished family members _ many of them in South Korea and China _ calling the airline about loved ones aboard the crashed jet were stuck in an automated reservation system, and Asiana took five days to connect with families of all 291 passengers.