As soon as the ground stopped violently shaking in Anchorage on the morning of Nov. 30, Anchorage newsman Dan Joling calmed his nerves and started reporting. Then, within minutes, he went from producing urgents to plotting out with Stephanie Mullen, the West region’s deputy director of storytelling based in San Francisco, how AP would get the most compelling visuals at first light.
His quick thinking and improvisation put the AP far ahead of the competition and gave viewers and customers unmatched views of the quakes’ aftermath, earning him this week’s Best of the Week honors.
Out in the field, Joling drove up to a vehicle stranded on a crumpled roadway, first using his iPhone to snap photos that he quickly sent to a photo editor. He then fired up the Bambuser app, a tool that he had been trained on exactly one month before.
Already adept at capturing still photos, Joling would use a tool new to him, the live video streaming app Bambuser, to report on the damage from the two powerful back-to-back earthquakes centered just outside Alaska’s biggest city.
Out in the field Joling drove up to a vehicle stranded on a crumpled roadway, first using his iPhone to snap photos that he quickly sent to a photo editor. He then fired up the Bambuser app, a tool that he had been trained on exactly one month before.
It was his first time using Bambuser on a breaking story. And it wasn’t without challenges – Joling did not have a tripod to mount his iPhone on, so he had to get resourceful. He needed to get his phone high enough to see over the snow. There were no trees nearby to offer him stability for the 15-minute live shot, nor could he drive close enough to the roadway to use his truck as a stabilizer. Instead, he grabbed a stool he could use to stabilize his shot. Then he realized he needed to move closer for the best angle and adjusted his position accordingly.
The live footage he streamed was scooped up immediately by customers in the United States and Europe. MSNBC and Fox News both took Joling’s feed live, ABC made it available for its affiliates, and NBC used portions of it in an edit. It was an exclusive view – other networks and wire services did not have cameras in Alaska at the time – making AP the essential supplier of footage of the quakes’ aftermath. In addition to the smartphone video and photos, Joling also shot with a still camera, images that landed on front pages of newspapers across the country.
The live footage Joling streamed was scooped up immediately by customers in the U.S. and Europe. Other networks and wire services did not have cameras in Alaska at the time.
Joling co-bylined the first day story with Anchorage newsperson Rachel D’Oro, who dictated the NewsAlert and NewsNow moments after the shaking stopped. News Editor Mark Thiessen left an assignment covering Santa Claus and the National Guard in the wilds of Alaska to provide additional details and images. Juneau correspondent Becky Bohrer came in on her day off to assist, and journalists from throughout the region stepped in to help, in one instance clearing a UGC image that appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. The AP story, with visuals and details that other national outlets could not match, was viewed more than 120,000 times the first day.
Joling’s familiarity with Bambuser was the result of training in the West region in late October that included a webinar and a detailed handout on how to use the app. Joling says the Bambuser training was essential to his success. Also important was earlier training on how to shoot proper videos on an iPhone for Videolicious.
For smart, deft use of AP training and tools to deliver a huge competitive win, Joling wins AP’s Best of the Week award.