The unleashing of COVID-19 in Beijing following the end of China’s “zero-COVID” policy didn’t spare AP’s Beijing bureau. Half of the dozen staffers got sick as cold medicines, rapid antigen tests and N95 masks disappeared from pharmacy shelves. The remaining staffers worked across formats not only to deliver the story but also to break important news.
With the video team all but out, photographers Han Guan Ng and Andy Wong traversed the city in sub-zero temperatures shooting photos and video of lines outside health clinics and pharmacies, people being loaded into ambulances, closed shops and streets gone silent. News assistant Caroline Chen stepped up to run the entire video operation, handling pick-ups and producing multiple edits with video journalist Tian Ji in Bangkok and handling coordination with the Asia Desk and London.
Ng captured the compelling scene of a frustrated person shouting for cold medicine in front of a pharmacy that was temporarily closed for two hours and a beautifully shot interview with a tourist with the closed iconic Forbidden City as a backdrop. Investigative journalist Dake Kang did a video profile of a pharmacist dealing with shortages of medicines and anxious customers, touching on an essential aspect of people’s lives in this outbreak. After seeing a report on overwhelmed crematoriums, he rushed to the nearest funeral home and got exclusive video of coffins being rolled out and an interview with a relative confirming a victim had contracted COVID -- it was among the first indications of deaths from the outbreak and two days before the government acknowledged any.
The funeral home story, textured with voices, photos, and video from people on the ground, captured the situation in more depth than competitors. Another video competitor had only remote interviews with funeral home employees. Another main international competitor followed with its own story the next day. Screengrabs of the video gave AP exclusive photos too. AP was the first outlet to publish photos and videos of the funeral home and the only one to confirm with relatives that the people who were dying had tested positive for COVID-19. They achieved all this by going above and beyond their day-to-day responsibilities, showing what a cohesive and outstanding team looks like.
For breaking news while being an exemplar of AP all-format cooperation, the team of Ng, Chen, Kang and Wong earn Best of the Week – 2nd winner