As the president downplayed the effects of the coronavirus, Indianapolis reporter Tom Murphy and photographer Darron Cummings revealed in evocative text and photos the challenges of a severe case and a long rehabilitation. Their compelling work was made possible by building trust and access with one Indiana man and his family.
Murphy doesn't usually write long narratives. But he heard about Larry Brown, an Indianapolis man who finally came home after nearly 80 days in the hospital – some 50 of those days on a ventilator. Months later, his life still wasn't back to normal. When Murphy read details a relative posted on Facebook about Brown’s case and how COVID-19 affected the whole family, he realized even local outlets had not done justice to the story.
Murphy pitched the story and worked with editor Janelle Cogan to make the enterprise piece happen. He safely navigated spending time with Brown to see what his life is like now. And he worked with Brown and the doctors to get details on the case and treatment, putting his expertise as a health writer to work.
Cummings, in turn, spent several days with the family, vividly capturing how Brown interacts with the kids now, and how his hand therapy and neurology appointments work.
Brown sometimes became apprehensive about the story, going silent on phone and text; the AP pair had to earn his trust by explaining their plan and the importance of sharing his story. The resulting piece, as global enterprise editor Marjorie Miller says, is a strong window into the recovery and long-term effects of COVID, something AP hadn’t yet focused on. The work also contributed to AP’s ongoing coverage of the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on African American communities.