AP sends rare 'Flash' for Mandela's death

The Associated Press sent a "Flash" alert to members Thursday about Nelson Mandela's death. Such alerts are used "on the rare occasion when an APNewsAlert represents a transcendent development -- one likely to be a top story of the year," the AP Stylebook says.

People light a candle for former president Nelson Mandela on hearing of his death outside his home in Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

Flashes are rare. In the last two years, AP spokesperson Paul Colford tells Poynter in an email, they were sent perhaps six times -- among them, for the election of Pope Francis, Pope Benedict's resignation, President Obama's reelection. Classic AP Flashes include the collapse of each of the Twin Towers in 2001 and the moon landing in 1969.

On the old teletype machines, Flashes were signaled by bells -- 12 for AP, 10 for UPI. When they pealed, "it was like God clearing His throat," Mike Harden once wrote.

In other media reaction, The New Yorker quickly announced a Mandela cover.


More Mandela:

Related: Learning from Mandela: On Going Beyond the Obvious Goal | Learning from Mandela: On Showing Emotion in the Newsroom | Learning from Mandela: On Getting to Know Those You Lead | Learning from Mandela: On Leading without Permission

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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