Most of the White House Press Corps had departed for the evening, but AP’s Josh Lederman was one of a few still at work inside at 8 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2014 when he heard a commotion outside the doors of the briefing room. Secret Service agents were shouting at people to get inside, saying the building was on lockdown.
Lederman rushed to the press office, where officials were not yet aware that there had been an incident. A few seconds later, agents stormed in with weapons drawn and began evacuating White House staffers into the basement. Lederman was sent there too, along with the White House communications director and a senior adviser to President Barack Obama.
After a few minutes of chaos, Lederman and the White House staffers were hurried out through a side door into the street, where the Secret Service had blocked off the perimeter of the campus. A uniformed agent rushing by said that someone had jumped the fence. Using his iPhone, Lederman wrote a quick, brief story that hit the AP wire at 8:17 p.m.
Then he kept reporting.
His story, written under deadline pressure on one of the most competitive beats in Washington, earned Lederman the prestigious Merriman Smith Memorial Award from the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), which announced its annual honors on Tuesday.
“Lederman was also resourceful enough to use social media to locate an official source for comment on a Friday night, when official Washington normally rolls up the sidewalks, to confirm his hunch that the breach was more serious than it was being portrayed,” the judges said. “Lederman’s quick thinking and ability to turn around a story with nuance in a short time frame made this report stand out.”
Lederman will accept his award on April 25, at the WHCA’s annual dinner in Washington. AP was also honored in 2013, when Chief White House Correspondent Julie Pace won the Merriman Smith award for an on-deadline story explaining Obama’s path to re-election.
“We’re thrilled Josh has won the Merriman Smith award. He’s done a terrific job covering both spot news and also developing expertise on environmental stories and national security stories,” said Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee. “He’s a real building block for our bureau going forward and we’re really proud of him.”
Lederman, 29, has been on the White House beat since 2013 and focuses on domestic and foreign policy, as well as electoral politics and Vice President Joe Biden. He previously reported for AP in Jerusalem and covered Gov. Chris Christie and state politics in New Jersey, and reported for The Hill newspaper.
A native of Tucson, Arizona, Lederman has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from The George Washington University. He makes regular appearances on national television and radio, including on NPR, Fox News, BBC America and other outlets.
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