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AP dominates coverage of Charlottesville violence

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Sarah Rankin and Steve Helber were covering a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia when chaos broke out. The marchers and counter protesters – Rankin’s words – ‘’threw punches, screamed, set off smoke bombs. They hurled water bottles, balloons of paint, containers full of urine. They unleashed chemical sprays. Some waved Confederate flags. Others burned them.’’

Rankin and Helber were the first of many AP colleagues to cover the story, and their initial work paid off in significant ways.

Among AP’s beats: We were first with an alert about a car plowing into protesters; we were first with a named official saying the suspected driver was arrested; and we were first with a named source saying that one person had been killed.

Rankin jumped in on all formats, working on text stories while also using her iPhone to take photos and send live video using AP’s Bambuser account. Helber shot stunning photos while hit by pepper spray and buffeted by protesters. His photos were used by The New York Times, The Atlantic, MSN, People Magazine, The Times of India and scores of other sites and publications across the world. They were labeled “unbelievable” by Executive Editor Sally Buzbee and “shocking, captivating, disturbing and essential” by Managing Editor Brian Carovillano.

The violence chronicled by Rankin and Helber set off days of national soul searching and debate, and AP was ahead throughout much of it thanks to journalists across the country anchored by Helber and Rankin.

Among AP’s beats: We were first with an alert about a car plowing into protesters; we were first with a named official saying the suspected driver was arrested; and we were first with a named source saying that one person had been killed.

Helber and Rankin were quickly joined by other colleagues from the region who worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to keep AP on top. Cleveland’s Mark Gillispie and Richmond’s Alan Suderman worked to get the driver’s name. Toledo’s John Seewer was so quick to get an interview with the driver’s mother that he and a journalist from another outlet actually told her the news. Heidi Brown, an AP contractor in Charlottesville, got the only interview with a man who saw a state police helicopter go down, in a second tragedy that killed two people. Ben Finley in Norfolk obtained multiple pieces of UGC. Claire Galofaro pulled together the mainbar and then turned a story Sunday about how we got to this point. In Bedminster, N.J., Jonathan Lemire covered Trump’s reaction to the violence. Reporters around the country covered reaction and vigils.

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People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017. – Ryan M. Kelly / The Daily Progress via AP

The story also underscores the power of AP’s cooperative and how valuable it can be in a breaking news story. A photographer from the (Charlottesville) Daily Progress caught an amazing image from when the car drove into the crowd – an image AP transmitted and that quickly became the iconic photo of the tragedy.

The story dominated customer use and engagement across the weekend. Various text stories were used 7,297 times, according to NewsWhip, and there were more than 1.44 million social interactions on our customer sites. Teletrax showed over 8,200 uses of AP video content. On AP’s Facebook page, Saturday’s mainbar reached nearly half a million readers and generated 60k engagements.

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