A nearly two-year AP investigation tracked a single boat from its high-hopes departure from Mauritania to its sad end on a beach in the Caribbean, determining the fates of young men who boarded the craft hoping for a better life.
Two years ago, Barcelona video journalist Renata Brito learned of a boat that had washed up on the Caribbean island of Tobago with dead men aboard. For the next two years, she and colleague Felipe Dana, a photographer and video journalist, undertook a dogged chase to find out who the men were, what had happened to them, and what heartbreak and unresolved questions they had left behind. They succeeded.
Pinballing from the West African nation of Mauritania to France and Tobago, they found forensic evidence. They found clues. They found people. They built a network of sources. And beyond the human story, they found an epic tale of migration inflected with uneven legal policies and the impact of climate change. By the end of their journey, they knew who these men were and what led them to their deaths. They even confirmed one man’s identity with a DNA test.
Inside the AP, the project was just as complex. Immersive storytelling’s Nat Castañeda and multiple editors in Global Enterprise and Global Investigations worked with Brito and Dana over the course of months to shape the project, including a 13-minute minidocumentary full of unforgettable imagery. Dana made hundreds of images and whittled them down to one of the most compelling sets of photos that AP has seen in years. And in addition to newsroom-ready and customer-ready video cuts, a compelling minidocumentary edited by Global Enterprise’s Bram Janssen — with motion graphics by Marshall Ritzel and illustrations by Peter Hamlin — served not only to tell a differently immersive story but as a potential prototype for future AP Productions work around the story.
On a parallel track, immersive developer Linda Gorman began working up a complex interactive presentation that stretched the limits of AP’s platforms, working with colleagues including Dan Kempton, Dario Lopez, Michelle Minkoff and Kati Perry. In the end, their presentation captivated many thousands of viewers who stuck with the story for far longer than most.
The story was translated into French and Spanish with help from colleagues in Europe and Latin America. This ensured that people from Francophone West Africa and Spanish-speaking countries affected by migration — and the victims’ families — could access the content.
The Audience Engagement team spent weeks developing a social plan across multiple platforms. A team led by social media newsperson Sophia Eppolito — including Alex Connor, Bridget Brown and Akira Olivia Kumamoto — worked with Brito and Dana to customize content that not only amplified the core story but told its own stories in different ways, adding an entirely new group of potential audiences for the package.
The Audiences team looped in more folks than ever to coordinate on social video, SEO, newsletters, social visuals, promotional language, scheduling and curation.
By the end, more than three dozen AP people helped make the story happen. It was an exclusive not only in the reporting of the story itself, but in the scope of how AP told it.
It was AP’s top story on the day it moved with more than 200,000 page views. Several newspapers gave splashy full-page play to the story and photos. Because of AP, the International Committee of the Red Cross decided to gather DNA samples from other families of missing migrants in hopes of identifying others who died in the boat.
For their work telling the compelling and tragic story of people who are too often forgotten, Brito, Dana, Gorman, Castañeda and Eppolito, supported by dozens of other AP staff, earn this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.