A team of Associated Press journalists, many working outside their native formats, overcame difficult access and logistical hurdles to produce fast, distinctive, widely used coverage of the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian in South Florida and South Carolina.
From the start, visuals made a difference. Miami photojournalists Wilfredo Lee and Marta Lavandier made striking photos of the destruction from the air, just before the airspace over southwest Florida was shut down. New Orleans-based photographer Gerald Herbert traveled to hard-hit Pine Island for evacuations, taking photos and video while also feeding details for the text story. And Virginia’s Steve Helber made heavily played drone photos and video of the collapsed causeway to Sanibel Island.
The team routinely collaborated across formats. Video journalist Robert Bumstead worked with his New York colleague, reporter Bobby Calvan, to document the work of freelance rescuers. New Orleans correspondent Rebecca Santana delivered text, photos and video from a poor neighborhood particularly hard-hit by the storm. Text reporter Adriana Gomez Licon also had photos and video from inland river flooding in the town of North Port.
In South Carolina, reporter Meg Kinnard wrote about a wedding nearly canceled, sharing a byline with enterprise journalist Allen Breed, who produced photos and video. On Florida's western coast, photographer Rebecca Blackwell managed to get to devastated Fort Myers Beach, making images of destruction and struggling residents. In the center of the state, reporter Mike Schneider shot photos to accompany his story of people getting flooded as the water kept rising — four days after the storm.
Also keeping AP ahead of the competition were photographers Chris O’Meara and John Raoux in Florida, and Washington-based Alex Brandon in South Carolina; Miami video journalists Cody Jackson and Daniel Kozin, who provided live shots during the storm, then ran out to tell stories of the aftermath; and Florida reporters Terry Spencer, Tim Reynolds and Curt Anderson.
AP’s sweeping coverage received extraordinary play across formats. The hurricane team had five of the top seven stories on AP News for the week, with well over 3 million views. The video team produced more than 200 hurricane-related edited pieces, including 16 of AP’s 20 most-used consumer videos of the week.
Helber’s drone footage of the collapsed causeway was used extensively and even written about by The New York Times. The paper also used one of his drone photos, along with Lee’s aerials, to construct a full page before-and-after package of the destruction. And one of Lee’s photos dominated The Washington Post’s front page with a five-column lead image.
Not to be overlooked, just days after Ian, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran an evocative slideshow observance during their game. Every photo from the hurricane scene was AP’s.