The farewell to the Queen of Soul promised to be an extravaganza – days of tributes, musical performances and a marathon funeral.
The AP team diligently prepared for the events and when the time came, the combined efforts of Detroit-based photographer Paul Sancya and Miami-based visual journalist Josh Replogle turned a pair of pool opportunities into two exclusives during the week of mourning for Aretha Franklin in Detroit.
Among the highlights: Sancya’s shot of Franklin lying in her casket with red heels clearly visible, video and photos of the singer in her final resting place and an exclusive interview with a controversial pastor.
Their work earns the Beat of the Week.
Global Entertainment Editor Nekesa Moody's relationship with Franklin’s representative paved the way to make contact, earn trust and show respect during a somber, delicate time. The string of breaks began when Sancya, Replogle and Detroit text reporter Jeff Karoub documented the singer's first public viewing.
When Sancya met representatives for Franklin and the venue, he was initially told not to show the casket and was allowed to stay for a few minutes in only one spot. Thinking there would not be many images to shoot without showing the casket, he diplomatically negotiated to shoot more scenes, including a photo of Franklin's distinctive red high heels. A representative for Franklin liked the shot very much and it was sent out immediately.
Replogle and Sancya were also invited to document the movement of Franklin’s casket from a Detroit museum in the middle of the week, giving AP exclusive images. That led to the pair being invited back to serve as pool shooters for Franklin’s interment. Sancya again pressed for better access, allowing AP to get images inside the mausoleum, where lighting was better.
Replogle parlayed the access into an exclusive interview with the lead pastor who, by the end of Franklin’s funeral, had become the center of a firestorm over touching pop star Ariana Grande during the service. Standing in the cemetery where Franklin had just been laid to rest, the pastor apologized to Grande in his interview with Replogle, allowing AP to advance the story of one of the hottest trending topics to come out of the funeral.
The images Sancya and Replogle shot earned massive play, garnering more than 138,000 clicks on an initial tweet about the pastor’s apology in its first 48 hours – the most of any AP story this year. Replogle’s story was widely credited by outlets including The New York Times, NBC and CBS. In addition to their strong and compelling visuals, Sancya and Replogle’s work greatly bolstered AP’s text stories. For instance, AP was able to move a NewsAlert and updates on Franklin’s interment, providing a beat on a capstone moment in the week.
The video coverage garnered more than 2,500 global broadcast hits, not including the many hours of AP live coverage outside the service. None of this would have been possible had the pair not gained the trust of Franklin’s camp on the first pool assignment. Moody also heard often from Franklin’s representatives about how happy and grateful they were for the coverage.
For their initiative and skill in navigating a delicate situation that put the AP ahead on this big story, Sancya and Replogle share Beat of the Week.