Operating in a country under lockdown, AP’s team in Rome and Milan has overcome major challenges to produce outstanding journalism with multiple exclusives and beats across formats.
As sweeping restrictions and lockdown measures rolled out across the world in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, AP’s team of staff and freelancers in Italy set an example for how to produce compelling and competitive journalism in all formats despite major challenges affecting them both professionally and personally, including school closures, travel restrictions and the risk of being placed in self-quarantine for covering stories in risk zones.
Three weeks into the Italian outbreak, AP produced some of the strongest coverage yet. Going back to where it all started, Milan correspondent Colleen Barry took the lead on a cross-format story showing how lockdown measures allowed the northern town of Codogno to greatly reduce the spread of the coronavirus, offering a glimmer of hope as infections soared in other parts of the country. The Wall Street Journal matched the story three days later.
Barry also took readers behind the scenes with a first-person account of the impact the lockdown measures were having on her family. Rome correspondent Frances D’Emilio explored the tough choices families must make to protect the elderly, while Nicole Winfield, chief correspondent for Italy and the Vatican, described the enormous pressure on the Italian health care system, with hospitals running out of ICU beds and doctors drawing parallels to war-time triage. When The New York Times had a similar story on their front page a couple of days later, they illustrated it with an above-the-fold photo by AP’s Luca Bruno.
The video team led by Rome producer Maria Grazia Murru faced one obstacle after another as two staffers and an intern were forced to self-quarantine. But thanks to creative work-from-home solutions, AP remained one or two steps ahead of the competition. Murru’s team scored a series of exclusives including footage of rioting inmates at Italian prisons and freelance video journalist Luigi Navarra’s drone video over Rome’s closed parks. Navarra also beat the competition with the first video of Rome residents lining up at 24-hour supermarkets as lockdown measures were implemented countrywide, an edit that got heavy play.
Photographers in Rome and Milan saw their photos hit front pages far beyond Italy, including Antonio Calanni’s double hit on Argentina’s two main newspapers on March 10. A then-and-now photo gallery by Andrew Medichini and photo editor Fabio Polimeni illustrating the sharp drop in visitors at Rome’s most famous landmarks was AP's top tweet on March 12. Another gallery captured how homebound Italians are showing solidarity with beleaguered medical workers – and each other – from their balconies with music and banners reading “everything will be all right.”
For resourceful, dedicated and inspired journalism under unusually demanding circumstances, the staff and freelance teams of the Rome and Milan bureaus receive AP’s Best of the Week award.