It was a story that took months of planning and coordination across a half-dozen countries and two continents: the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that marked the turning point for the Allied victory in World War II. The Associated Press has had a presence on the beaches of Normandy since the actual invasion in 1944, but AP’s teams in Europe knew that the 2019 event would require an extra effort – it was likely the last major anniversary that veterans who fought in the battle would be alive to tell their stories.
AP journalists in Europe and the U.S. set out to produce the their most compelling and creative coverage to date of a D-Day anniversary in hopes of creating stories, video and photos that captured not just the history but what D-Day meant in today's context, with the ties among European countries and the U.S. the most fractured since the end of WWII.
Paris-based senior producer Jeff Schaeffer, photo editor Bertrand Combaldieu and staff in the U.K. and U.S. went to work laying out detailed plans of the distinctive coverage. They brought together reporters in all formats and in multiple countries months in advance to come up with a plan on how to own coverage of this crucial anniversary.
Among just some of the highlights:
– Emotional on-camera interviews and intimate photo portraits by a team of photographers in the U.S. and Europe, and a compelling text story about how they remember nearly daily what happened during D-Day. New Orleans administrative correspondent Rebecca Santana found several American D-Day veterans by contacting groups that sponsor trips to Normandy.
– Paris photographer Thibault Camus spent hours going through the AP archive looking for historic images of Normandy’s bombed-out churches and buildings and then painstakingly set out to find those same locations for an impressive “then and now” photo gallery.
– Schaeffer and Washington-based producer Julian Styles teamed up for an all-formats story featuring rare color footage shot by Hollywood director George Stevens of D-Day. The story featured an interview with Stevens’ son.
Paris reporter John Leicester and video journalist Alex Turnbull got an exclusive look at the caves where civilians hid during D-Day and the weeks after. Bottles, bowls and a rusty bicycle left behind 75 years ago still remain. In addition, Leicester teamed up with Atlanta video reporter Sarah Blake Morgan, who also interviewed several veterans, for a story looking at two men living on opposite sides of an ocean who discovered via DNA tests that they were brothers who shared the same father, an American GI who fought on D-Day.
AP’s hub for D-Day content compiles all the extensive spot and enterprise coverage, including strong stories by reporter Danica Kirka, video journalist Ben Jary and photographer Matt Dunham among others in the U.K., and the Brussels-based team of photographer Virginia Mayo, news editor Raf Casert and video journalist Mark Carlson.
Thanks to the cross-continent teamwork and significant planning and customer outreach, the play was superb. Dozens of customers used the video packages, with the George Stevens piece and drone footage of Normandy getting the most use. The photos and text stories have been mainstays on front pages across the United States and Europe since the package started rolling out, culminating with standout spot coverage of the anniversary. Newspapers have been featuring the content prominently in special sections about the anniversary.
“Your D-Day stuff has been superb ... in short, we’re LOVING the AP’s work and ready to go with any spot-news offerings.”
— Jason Adrians, national editor, Lee Enterprises
Customer feedback has been extremely positive, including these comments from Jason Adrians, the national editor for Lee Enterprises, which has about 50 publications in the U.S.: “Your D-Day stuff has been superb; we released our four-page preview section this morning, and much of it was from the AP. We’ve also used pretty much every other D-Day story you guys have offered on our daily and weekend budgets, too. So, in short, we’re LOVING the AP’s work and ready to go with any spot-news offerings you guys have on the way for next week.”
For outstanding effort, sensitivity and creativity that gave the AP’s audiences unparalleled and memorable D-Day anniversary coverage, Schaeffer, Leicester, Combaldieu, Camus, Turnbull and Santana – supported by their many colleagues in Europe and the U.S. – share AP’s Best of the Week honors.