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Impressive all-formats response to Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings

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It was a merciless attack in a part of the world not immediately associated with Islamic extremism. But what was behind the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka that killed more than 300 people at churches and hotels in the island nation, and why did the government fail to stop it despite early warnings?

Getting images and news out to the world was a monumental task, but one that AP reporters, photographers and videojournalists took on with tremendous skill and dedication.

The initial reporting came from the Colombo-based team of reporters Krishan Francis and Bharatha Mallawarachi and photographer Eranga Jayawardena. They were backed by correspondent Emily Schmall in Delhi, who would soon join them to coordinate text coverage and help cut through the many unverified reports swirling around.

Local stringer Jay Palipane shot the first video before tapping contacts to ensure access to footage from local broadcasters. Bangkok-based Sri Lankan photographer Gemunu Amarasinghe flew in first and would soon be joined by reinforcements who successfully pressed embassies across Asia and the Middle East for emergency journalist visas.

Delhi-based videojournalists Shonal Ganguly and Rishabh Jain joined Palipane in providing hours upon hours of live coverage, including a haunting and live walkthrough of one stricken church shot by Ganguly before competitors even arrived.

AP was also alone in providing live coverage of an interview with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,conducted by Schmall, breaking the news that more suspects were still at large. Schmall also reported on a woman who was left widowed and childless by the bombings.

The scores of still images that moved were just as compelling, including a moving photo essay from one of the attack sites by Delhi-based photographer Manish Swarup and intimate moments of grief by mourning relatives shot by Amarasinghe.

Other highlights included coverage of a raid on militants and an Only on AP story about the first post-attack church service by Gulf News Director Jon Gambrell. Seoul Chief of Bureau Foster Klug examined the little-known local terror cell behind the attack.

Play was tremendous,with the story dominating video metrics for several days as the world remained fixated on the continuously developing story. Sri Lanka text pieces were collectively the fourth most popular story on APNews in April,with very strong play even when compared to other major stories. AP photos were widely used,including by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

For their outstanding work in the face of stiff challenges,the team of Francis,Mallawarachi,Jayawardena,Palipane,Schmall,Ganguly,Jain,Amarasinghe,Gambrell, Swarup and Klug wins this week’s Best of the AP.

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