The Associated Press has aggressively covered the Dakota Access pipeline since even before construction began on the four-state pipeline to carry oil from North Dakota. The AP tracked the approval process and then was there every step of the way as the project spawned demonstrations from Native Americans and others who set up protest camps by the pipeline’s final piece near the Missouri River, saying construction would damage cultural artifacts and that a pipeline leak could pollute tribal water supplies. In the past few months, the AP has had coverage almost every day.
While Bismarck staffer James MacPherson had covered the story cross-format with the help of colleagues, a visually-focused enterprise project was in the works for December, bringing in staff from afar to provide video and photo elements of the largest camp to accompany a piece that was to explore the protest in the context of other issues being faced by Native Americans now and into the Trump administration. On Friday, Nov. 25, the news forced us to speed up our timeline for visuals as the Army Corps of Engineers gave a Dec. 5 deadline for protesters to get off the land.
Atlanta-based photographer David Goldman arrived on Monday, Nov. 28, to shoot stills, a 360photo and a 360video. He was first met with resistance from protesters, who initially brushed him away. But by Wednesday, he had gained protesters’ trust and was able to take a 360photo and video while standing in the center of a group of protesters holding a water ceremony. David also shot video that he supplied to Houston-based video journalist John Mone, who had made an earlier trip to the protest site for the enterprise package, and contributed feeds to breaking coverage and a spot-enterprise text piece looking at the challenges faced by protesters digging in for winter in defiance of orders to leave the land.
The robust all-formats package _ including photo galleries, satellite images of the site provided by DigitalGlobe, video, the text story by MacPherson and numerous promotional tweets — moved on Friday, Dec. 2. And it got exceptional play. Engagement was strong, with readers spending around 1:45 minutes on the story, peaking as high as 3 minutes. The ‘stacked’ treatment — including a GIF of the satellite images and video — on apnews.com also held readers, with 50 percent reaching 1,170 words, and nearly half reaching the end. Customers made exceptional use of the material, with many highlighting Goldman’s striking photos.
The team, in conjunction with colleagues throughout the Central region and beyond, were able to quickly turn around the material and get it out ahead of a surprise announcement by the Army to further consider whether to relocate the pipeline.
For quickly executing on an ambitious cross-format package, Goldman, Mone and MacPherson share this week's $300 Best of the States prize