In back-to-back days over the New Year’s holiday, it seemed that the eyes of the world were on Tokyo, as the AP bureau deftly handled a massive earthquake and a fiery plane disaster that rocked the country — two of the biggest stories from Japan in years — and beat the competition in all formats while doing so. Their coverage included exclusive video, print and photos that far surpassed the offerings from our competitors.
The bureau activated immediately once a 7.6-magnitude quake hit western Japan on New Year’s Day, which was followed by more than 100 aftershocks. Business Writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo filed alerts and for days wrote stories that explained one of the most quake-prone places on earth. Photographer Hiro Komae and freelance videographer Richard Colombo rushed to the scene, followed by video journalist Ayaka McGill. They braved brutal working conditions — sleeping in their car and navigating wrecked roads, often driving more than 12 hours to reach destinations. London-based freelancer Mayuko Ono called the desk on her day off and offered her help, which came in handy with translations and chasing down user-generated content.
Then, on Jan. 2, another massive story: A Japan Airlines passenger jet struck a coast guard plane on a Tokyo runway. Dramatic video, which AP had faster than competitors, showed the JAL plane bursting into flames as it streaked away from the fireball that engulfed the other plane, where five died. Miraculously, all the JAL passengers evacuated safely. Working off TV coverage, News Director Foster Klug had the first urgents out ahead of competitors, with correspondent Mari Yamaguchi interrupting her holiday to write stories that investigated what went wrong and showed what it was like inside the plane. Business colleagues added invaluable context about the planes.
Both the plane crash and earthquake stories were heavily used by AP customers, and the bureau’s frequent news alerts routinely beat that of our competitors. Videos of the two disasters were the most popular on the APNews website, app and YouTube channel. Additionally, the AP’s coverage was routinely cited on Japanese news sites and appeared around the world on major websites and papers.
Those involved in the coverage include Ayaka McGill, Hiro Komae, Yuri Kageyama, Mari Yamaguchi, Eugene Hoshiko, Foster Klug, Haruka Nuga, Masayo Yoshida, Shuji Kajiyama and Elaine Kurtenbach
For dominating the competition on consecutive days in trying conditions on two massive breaking stories, we award the Tokyo bureau Best of the Week — First Winner.