Sam Metz had been on the job for four days. The newly appointed North Africa reporter had just arrived in Rabat, fresh from Utah, when Morocco’s strongest earthquake in more than a century hit late Friday night.
As Metz got news alerts and a story going, photographer Mosa’ab Elshamy — an experienced Morocco hand — knew exactly what to do. He organized a car and driver in the middle of the night, and the duo headed to the scene hours away, navigating rubble-blocked roads toward the epicenter. Their all-nighter paid off: AP had the first international journalists on-site.
Both Elshamy and Metz shot live video and clips from their phones as Brussels-based video journalist Mark Carlson rushed to get to Morocco with a LiveU unit and satellite phone (at the Casablanca airport, Carlson’s official customs entry form was but a hand-written attestation, in blue ink, that he was a “journaliste de video pour l’agence de presse s’appelle Associated Press”). Africa News Director Andy Drake, thanks to his own experience in Morocco, negotiated entry for the equipment. Moroccan freelancers stepped up to keep AP ahead, while the team on the ground comforted parents who lost their children and shared villagers’ pleas with the world for more help. Meanwhile, colleagues from around the world pitched in, pulling together help from all formats to cover the main story, produce sidebars and navigate complicated logistics.
AP beat the competition with the first confirmed death tolls and stayed ahead throughout that crucial first day. Metz’s firsthand accounts and Elshamy’s photojournalism yielded exclusive stories that led websites beyond AP News throughout the weekend and topped the print edition of the Los Angeles Times for two days in a row. The Day 1 story was the third-most-viewed story on AP News for that week, with more than 645,000 page views. In less than a week, and despite the late hour of the news breaking, the top video edit had already edged into the worldwide top 50 most-used edits of 2023. Edits also nabbed the top seven video spots in the worldwide Teletrax rundown for the week. A major French client said it has been using AP’s live footage since Day 1. Metz also provided interviews to many clients, including NPR and MSNBC.
For fast and fearless work under complex circumstances, Metz, Elshamy and Carlson are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.