An enormous story struck quickly on Sept 28 and unfolded at breathtaking speed – a magnitude 7.5 earthquake followed by a tsunami that washed over the Indonesian city of Palu. Communications collapsed and government reports were sketchy, but the few posts on social media provided the first indications of the enormous scope of the disaster.
The AP team shot into action to move cross-format personnel to the hardest-hit areas, texting details for the wire and squeezing out initial images for photos and video. In the days that followed, the breadth of coverage expanded to include rolling live video of rescues, grim portrayals of the retrieval of the dead, and personal stories of those whose homes and neighborhoods were now rubble.
For impressive work across all platforms despite enormous obstacles, the Best of the Week award goes to the following team:
– Jakarta staffers: office manager Elis Salim, reporter Niniek Karmini, photographers Tatan Syulfana, Dita Alangkara and Achmad Ibrahim, business writer Stephen Wright, newsperson Ali Kotarumalos, medical writer Margie Mason, videojournalist Fadlan Syam and senior producer Andi Jatmiko.
– Bangkok staffers: global enterprise writer Todd Pitman, videojournalist Tass Vejpongsa, video editor Jerry Harmer and special events coordinator Keiko Fujino.
– And: Kuala Lumpur videojournalist Syawall Zain, Manila photographer Aaron Favila, Malaysian correspondent Eileen Ng, Beijing facilities coordinator Xiao Wei Gong and Hanoi producer Hau Dinh.
Coverage was launched on multiple fronts – first by reporter Karmini and photographer Syuflana flying in to the closest functioning airport and then scrambling to find someone willing to take them on the eight-hour journey by car to Palu. Once there, their only means of communication was a messaging app. Their first reporting for all formats was then filed from Jakarta while a second wave of journalists, and then a third, were assembled and deployed.
Meticulous planning and coordination across Asia helped to get reporters, photographers, producers and video journalists to the tragic scenes. Office manager Salim constantly checked on flights that would get our teams to Palu, while also supporting the staff in Jakarta.
The whole team operated as one – contributing to all formats and doing what was needed to keep us ahead. Despite communication difficulties, information exchange was abundant between folks on the ground and folks in Jakarta, which allowed a coordinated and organized reporting under very tough circumstances.
Character-driven stories and vivid images kept the AP far ahead of the competition, including the first investigation of the stalled tsunami warning system and live shots for video clients that were unmatched by competitors.
Of particular note was the effort by AP’s Global Media Service staffers who worked tirelessly to provide 150 video transmissions for clients – a vital business success that goes hand-in-hand with the AP’s commitment to on-the-ground reporting. Important client Australian Channel 7 wrote: “(We) would not have survived without the AP team in Palu. Such an incredible bunch of people. They fed us, made sure we had water, tried to help negotiate drivers and accommodation for us. They went above and beyond.”
“(We) would not have survived without the AP team in Palu. Such an incredible bunch of people. They went above and beyond.”
Monique Dirksz, Australian Channel 7
Among AP’s coverage highlights:
– Karmini and Pitman’s story of one survivor who found the bodies of his father and sister locked in a final embrace
– Pitman again with the tragic account of a family frantically searching for a two-year-old boy swept from his mother’s arms
– Wright providing for all formats the amazing visual and accompanying narrative of the ferry that was left stranded in a neighborhood of houses
For overcoming extreme logistics challenges and using every available tool to report and beat the competition across multiple formats, this AP team wins this week’s Best of the Week.