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AP Thank You for Extraordinary Member Cooperation on Tornado Coverage

Thursday, May 5, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jack Lail
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Editors,

We wanted to call your attention to – and give a shout out to – the extraordinary cooperation we received from Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee newspapers after the killer tornadoes swept their states.

The cooperation started as soon as the storms hit. In Alabama, AP staff photographer Dave Martin in Montgomery reached out to member photographers, and South Regional Photo Editor Mike Stewart contacted photo desks in Georgia and Tennessee. They were overwhelmed by the response.

AP members contributed nearly 400 photos between April 27, when the tornadoes hit, and the week that followed as the states began digging out from the second-deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history. The Alabama newspapers set aside competitive concerns and lifted online usage restrictions, making their photos available to the big Internet portals, which helped drive traffic back to their sites.

A special thanks to The Birmingham News, The Tuscaloosa News, The Decatur Daily, The Huntsville Times, The Montgomery Advertiser and the TimesDaily in Florence, all in Alabama; and The Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press, the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for their exceptional efforts. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo, The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson and The Meridian Star also deserve thanks for their ongoing photo coverage and contributions from the tornadoes that swept Mississippi over the past few weeks. They, too, shared without restrictions, so members could publish in print and online.

As Mike Oreskes says in citing Dave Martin as this week's AP Beat of the Week winner: "If a picture is worth a thousand words, their collective efforts could have filled an encyclopedia.”

When Dave was congratulated for his win, he replied: "I didn't win it, my members did.”

Here is the Beat of the Week citation:

Colleagues,

When the killer tornadoes roared across Alabama, Dave Martin was the only AP staff photographer in the state. But he was not alone. He had a team of photographers at his disposal. Not AP photographers, but AP member photographers.

Martin was on the phone immediately with newspapers across the state, asking about their coverage plans and reminding them to share their images with the AP.

He didn't have to ask twice.

Martin has been cultivating relationships with Alabama members since joining the AP 28 years ago. More than just the AP guy, he is practically one of them.

"Dave Martin gives me back more than I give him," said Walt Stricklin, director of photography for The Birmingham News. "We give Dave whatever he asks."

In the case of the tornadoes, more than he asked.

Casting aside any competitive concerns, Alabama members contributed 309 photos between Wednesday afternoon and Monday morning as the state began digging out from the second-deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history. All of the state's newspapers also lifted online usage restrictions, making their photos available to the big Internet portals.

The Decatur Daily, The Huntsville Times, the TimesDaily in Florence, The Birmingham News and The Tuscaloosa News all contributed daily. If a picture is worth a thousand words, their collective efforts could have filled an encyclopedia.

The images were dramatic, showing the ferocity of the storm and the human toll of the devastation.

Dusty Compton of The Tuscaloosa News had the signature photo of a huge funnel cloud moving through the city. Gary Cosby Jr. of The Decatur Daily showed a woman standing amidst the splintered remains of her neighborhood near Athens, Ala. Jeff Roberts of The Birmingham News captured a man holding his granddaughter near where their house had stood in Concord, Ala.

AP member photos populated many online galleries:

The Atlantic Monthly:

http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/04/storms-tornadoes-devastate-the-south/100055/

National Geographic:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/pictures/110428-alabama-tornado-pictures-news-tuscaloosa-birmingham-nation/?source=link_fb20110428news-alabama

The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2011/04/27/us/STORM.html

There were words, too, of course, including the first indications of the intensity and record number of storms, as well as careful compilations of the death toll and on-the-ground damage accounts. An interactive drew 4.93 million page views, almost five times as many as one for the rebellion against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddhafi and 10 times as many as the royal wedding in London.

National Writer Adam Geller – with the help of far-flung reporters Kate Brumback, Chris Hawley, Holbrook Mohr, Jay Reeves and Michael Rubinkam – fashioned an extraordinary, 2,600-word reconstruction of how the tornadoes hit across Georgia and Alabama.

Fantastic work all around, with the photos leading the way.

Mike Oreskes


Associated Press Media Editors

APME is a professional network, a resource for helping editors and broadcasters improve their news coverage and newsroom operations.

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