“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu,” sang the lead to Jill Lawless and Raf Casert’s story on Jan. 31 when, after years of debate, the United Kingdom finally withdrew from the European Union.
The sharp and pithy writing was a highlight of AP’s unparalleled breadth of journalism, produced by a staff with the depth of talent, experience and knowledge in all formats that would dominate coverage of the historic withdrawal after nearly 50 years.
AP’s multi-format coverage captured the emotion and news developments on all sides – from the final lead-up to the Brexit to the ceremonies, celebrations and pro-EU vigils on the night itself.
Video, text and photos staff were deployed to the U.K., including Scotland and Northern Ireland, and to Belgium, France, Gibraltar, Germany and beyond.
The veteran team of London-based reporters Lawless and Danica Kirka, with Brussels-based news editor Casert, has been one of the pillars of AP’s Brexit coverage since before the 2016 referendum vote to take the UK out of the union. This trio again proved its worth with stellar, incisive coverage of the climactic final week.
Bringing together story strands and resources from 28 – now 27 – EU nations were Europe and Africa’s head of planning Susie Blann, U.K. photo editor Martin Cleaver and Brussels photo editor/photographer Virginia Mayo, ensuring that AP didn’t miss a beat. Blann ensured we had just the right mix of live video from all the key spots on Brexit day, as well as compelling cross format stories explaining the dramatic withdrawal in human terms.
Mayo, Casert and Brussels video journalist Mark Carlson fought successfully for pool coverage of the EU Council removing the U.K. flag, providing iconic images for AP clients. AP’s pooled TV coverage of this hugely symbolic and poignant moment garnered millions of hits on AP clients’ Twitter pages.
AP also went the extra mile – or kilometer – to break news. In Paris, AP senior producer Jeffrey Schaeffer, who coordinated AP’s television field coverage, thought long and hard about how to set AP apart for its clients. He hit upon a brilliant idea: bringing together the two tunnellers – one French, the other British – who first shook hands 30 years ago deep under the English Channel, when they broke through from their respective sides to create the first link-up in the Channel Tunnel. Schaeffer worked relentlessly to get Philippe Cozette and Graham Fagg back together, and sourced archive footage to show to the miners at their reunion in Fagg’s home in Dover.
Graham and Fagg howled with laughter as they watched the 1990 footage of themselves smashing with jackhammers through the last slivers of rock that separated France and Britain. Paris video journalist Nicolas Garriga filmed the moment, capturing the emotion of this reunion between two men who symbolized European unity, while Paris-based correspondent John Leicester’s text piece explained the significance of the meeting. “How poignant and instructive those images now look, as Brexit drives Britain and France apart,” he wrote.
Garriga and Leicester also rode the first ferry to make the Calais-Dover crossing after Brexit, capturing for text and video – including live video – the mixed emotions of passengers on board.
Nor did AP’s exclusives stop there. In a rare sit-down all-formats interview, former French President Valery Giscard D’Estaing told AP Paris Bureau Chief Angela Charlton that the EU will recover from Brexit, and Stockhom-based video journalist David Keyton snared a forward-looking one-on-one with Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe on trade prospects post-Brexit.
Other visual highlights included enterprise photographer David Goldman’s photo essay capturing the Irish border and the fractures on both sides.
The huge AP effort relied on dozens of journalists, producers and editors across Europe who ensured the speedy, and in many cases, live delivery of the all-formats coverage and breaking developments.
AP’s four live choice channels registered record usage on Brexit Day, with 110 clients taking 23 Brexit live feeds.
For standout efforts in a continent-wide team effort in which there are too many to name, Schaeffer, Blann, Lawless, Casert, Kirka, Mayo, Cleaver and Garriga share AP’s Best of the Week honors.