Seeking to measure the first month’s impact of the new gay marriage law in Minnesota, two resourceful AP reporters built their own database to find the answer. A staff memo from Managing Editor Kristin Gazlay explains how:
In a Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 photo, Rob Thomas, left, and Joe Strong join guests in a line dance following their wedding ceremony at the Nicollet County Courthouse in St. Peter, Minn. Their marriage was the first same-sex ceremony to be conducted in Nicollet County, located in south-central Minnesota. (AP Photo/The Mankato Free Press, John Cross)
Activists on both sides of the gay marriage issue in Minnesota spent millions of dollars battling over whether same-sex couples should have the right to marry. In the end, Minnesota legalized gay marriage, becoming the 12th U.S. state to do.
Once it happened, St. Paul newsmen Brian Bakst and Patrick Condon decided to measure the enthusiasm that created the law in the first place. No database existed, so they had to create one: The two managed to obtain records from 83 of the state’s 87 counties to report that fully one-third of the licenses issued in the first month since the law passed were going to gay couples. “This is the product of people who were living in the legal wilderness for so long, suddenly no longer being told their relationships are substandard,” a state senator who was a sponsor of the bill told the pair.
The story was a huge hit in Minnesota, landing on at least three front pages and featured prominently on Minnesota Public Radio’s home page. Bakst also did a segment on MPR’s midmorning public affairs show.
For aggressively seeking data to tell an exclusive and important story of their state, Bakst and Condon share this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.
Former Associated Press Senior White House photographer Ron Edmonds is being honored by the White House News Photographers Association with its Lifetime Achievement Award. It will be presented at the 2013 “Eyes of History” annual awards gala on Saturday, May 11, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington.
President Barack Obama congratulates AP White House Photographer Ron Edmonds, with his wife Grace and daughter Ashley, upon his retirement from AP. (White House photo by Lawrence Jackson, July 30, 2009)
Edmonds is “the quintessential Washington photojournalist,” said J. David Ake, AP assistant chief of bureau for photography in Washington. “Many of his images have stood the test of time and are now icons in our collective memory. He was arguably during his Washington tenure, the AP’s most published photographer.”
In interviews with AP and PBS, Edmonds offered recollections of his fascinating career and the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan — a split-second that he captured and that earned him a Pulitzer Prize.
“I have had one of the most fantastic jobs in the world,” Edmonds told colleagues in an email upon his retirement from AP after 28 years. “It has allowed me to work with some of the greatest journalists in the world and to make images of some of the biggest events in the last thirty years. I hope that in some small way, I have helped the Associated Press maintain its prominence as the number-one news organization.”