Using large-scale planning, smart sourcing and lots of hustle, the AP definitively examined the impact of climate change, from six continents and in all formats, merging the science behind a major — and sobering — United Nations report with the voices of people who are living it.
This ambitious undertaking started with a question that served as its overarching goal: With climate coverage a priority for the AP, how could the cooperative inform the world on the U.N. report, arguably the most important body of climate science this decade, without making it sound like just one more doom and gloom study?
Weeks before the Feb. 28 release, climate news director Peter Prengaman, reporters Seth Borenstein and Frank Jordans, both veterans of climate coverage, and Stockholm-based video journalist David Keyton brainstormed the plan, putting AP’s global footprint to use: Instead of just one big, all-formats story — the norm for previous reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — AP would use the report as a jumping-off point to explore the state of climate change from each continent.
That required significant coordination, preparing the journalists to cover the report from the perspective of their regions, getting draft copies of the report — thousands of pages — to the reporters as quickly as possible, and assigning coverage thematically, ensuring that the major points were covered without overlap and redundancy between regions.
Borenstein, well-sourced from years covering climate change, was able to obtain regional-specific parts of the report nine days before it was released, setting off a mad scramble. He and Jordans conducted many interviews, recording them via Zoom to contribute to the eventual video packages. Prengaman worked with Keyton on video assignments while also assigning text stories to people lined up around the world. He also also pulled in photographers, photo editors and text editors.
Borenstein’s lead story on Monday provided the big overview and included a stunning presentation by top stories photo editor Alyssa Goodman. Borenstein and Jordans accompanied that with an explainer on how the report could shape policy, and Borenstein wrote a Localize It guide. The video team delivered setup pieces and day-of packages.
In the days that followed, the team rolled out regional-specific stories, all linking to the mainbar. The guiding idea of these pieces was to connect the science with people in the region and experience on the ground. In Africa, reporter Wanjohi Kabukuru focused discussions around inequality and the major issues the continent faces. In South America, reporters Diane Jeantet, Mauricio Savarese and Debora Rey explored flooding in the Amazon and wildfires in Argentina.
In Europe, chief Spain correspondent Aritz Parra and freelance video journalist Sergio Rodrigo explored changing agricultural yields. For Asia, reporters Julie Watson and Victorial Milko looked at migration, as no region is experiencing such large movements of people. In Australia, reporter Kirsten Gelineau examined coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef. In the U.S., there were three pieces. Reporter Gillian Flaccus and photographer Ted Warren teamed up for a story on extreme heat in the Northwest. In the Gulf Coast, reporters Rebecca Santana and Curt Anderson focused on erosion. In Colorado, water team video journalist Brittany Peterson did an all formats package on diminishing lake ice.
Executing the series took the collaboration of many others across the AP, including environmental editor Tim Reiterman and water issues team leader Candice Choi, as well as photo editors Ben Curtis, Patrick Sison and Anita Baca who built compelling photo packages.
While all major news organizations covered the report, none rivaled the scope and depth of AP’s coverage — a holistic body of work, rich with strong reporting and visuals on the state of climate change.
Even during an extremely busy news week the work broke through, the 10 stories used by news outlets across the globe. Borenstein’s mainbar alone had more than 20,000 interactions on Facebook and customers used the video pieces nearly 500 time, a remarkable number considering the events in Ukraine.