“There are lucky journalists but no such thing as a lucky lazy journalist.” That industry adage was again proven true when the crack team of video journalist Mstyslav Chernov, photographer Felipe Dana and science writer Seth Borenstein captured global attention by squeezing every last drop out of being in the right place at the right time for The Associated Press and its clients.
The place was Greenland, so inhospitable and remote that it is infrequently visited by journalists despite being at the epicenter of planet-threatening climate change. And the timing couldn’t have been better: As the giant but often ignored frozen island was suddenly thrust into the news when U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly expressed interest in buying it, sparking a diplomatic spat with Denmark, which said the semi-autonomous Danish territory wasn’t for sale.
When NASA earlier this year invited media to accompany its scientists on a flight over Greenland to study climate change, Borenstein signed on without knowing how timely the trip would turn out _ and not simply because it overlapped with Trump’s ill-received Greenland overture.
Chernov and Dana, dispatched with Borenstein to ensure compelling all-formats coverage for the full array of AP clients, immediately spotted an opportunity for especially haunting, compulsive visual journalism in the beautiful blue-tinged “midnight light” that bathes Greenland in its long summer days, with only a couple of hours of darkness.
“By the end of the summer, about 440 billion tons (400 billion metric tons) of ice — maybe more — will have melted or calved off Greenland’s giant ice sheet, scientists estimate."
“The fact that we had very few night hours worked to our advantage,” Dana said. “We decided to make full use of the beautiful light at night”
“Basically, all of it is in this blue-ish light. It’s 11, midnight at night. It’s very picturesque, very interesting for photos and video.”
To show the vastness of the ice and isolation, Dana also flew a drone.
Their images were breath-taking, a can’t-look-away lament to the furious melting of Greenland’s glaciers hit by record-shattering heat, destruction expertly documented by Borenstein, in terms that all of AP’s global audience could understand.
“By the end of the summer, about 440 billion tons (400 billion metric tons) of ice — maybe more — will have melted or calved off Greenland’s giant ice sheet, scientists estimate. That’s enough water to flood Pennsylvania or the country of Greece about a foot (35 centimeters) deep,” Borenstein wrote in a searing dispatch from the fast-retreating Helheim Glacier.
Accompanying scientists by day and shooting in the midnight light didn’t leave much time for sleep during the three-day trip.
“We decided that we literally would do everything we could to make use of every minute we were there,” Dana said. “It was a very intense trip.”
Using every minute included the team reacting instantaneously to breaking news of Trump’s interest in a Greenland purchase. About to board a helicopter, they interviewed Greenlanders in the airport, on the flight itself and at their destination, quickly filing their reaction stories before boarding another helicopter flight to a glacier where they wouldn’t have been able to file had they waited, because there was no cell reception.
“Greenland to Trump: Thanks, but we're not for sale.”
Their headline made Greenlanders’ feelings clear: “Greenland to Trump: Thanks, but we're not for sale.”
The stories, photos and videos were widely used by AP’s membership and resonated with the public. The Helheim Glacier story landed on 16 front pages and was downloaded 85 times on AP Newsroom.
On their way back from Greenland, the trio also covered a glacier memorial in Iceland, a story that produced 75,000 Facebook engagements, with video downloaded 208 times. The team’s images also received wide play and were published on member sites including New York Times, Los Angeles Times, ABCNews.com, New Zealand Herald, Time.com, PBS Newshour and more.
For their shining example of how to turn a pre-arranged media trip into essential world-grabbing journalism with tireless enthusiasm, smart thinking and the sharpest of eyes, Chernov, Dana and Borenstein share AP’s Best of the Week honors.