AP’s Race and Ethnicity team and South region staff collaborated on a text and visual package that was one of the first in-depth profiles of Ahmaud Arbery, the black man shot to death in February by a white father and son on a Georgia road.
When smartphone video emerged more two months after Ahmaud Arbery was killed by a white father and son while running through a Georgia neighborhood, the case burst into the national consciousness – followed by murder charges.
Amid rhetoric about Arbery’s background and the actions that led to the fatal encounter, AP’s New York-based race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison headed to Brunswick, Georgia, to connect with Arbery’s family and friends, seeking to tell the full story of the 25-year-old’s life.
The story of the February shooting had originally been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic – and it didn't help that details of the shooting were murky in the months before the video went public. The father and son told police they grabbed their guns and pursued Arbery, who was black, believing he was a burglar. Arbery's family said he was in the subdivision taking a jog.
Morrison dug deeper, joined by AP South Desk video journalist Sarah Blake Morgan for an interview with Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, on the road where her son was killed. That conversation, which made the story ever more poignant and authentic, became a centerpiece of the text and visual package. The mother and others talked about how Arbery was preparing to become an electrician like his uncles but had decided to pause technical college until the fall. His dreams of an NFL career hadn't panned out.
Reporting by AP Savannah correspondent Russ Bynum and Atlanta writer Kate Brumback added important detail to complete the picture. The AP collaboration produced a nuanced and unflinching profile of Arbery’s life, putting a spotlight on the racism that many young black men experience and capturing the pain of a grieving family.
The story landed on more than 300 websites, received more than 9,000 social media interactions and had 14,500 views on AP News. Morrison appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” to speak about Arbery and his family.
For a revealing all-formats portrait of Ahmaud Arbery that adds key context to the story behind his killing, Morrison, Morgan, Bynum and Brumback share this week’s Best of the States award.