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Resourceful all-formats teamwork on remote Greenland ice melt

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How can the AP cover a story in Greenland, the desolate island 2,000 miles away from the nearest bureau? That was the question Berlin senior producer Kerstin Sopke started asking as soon as it became clear that the heat wave that swept through Europe was now hovering over Greenland and causing its ice sheet to melt at an alarming rate.

From the outset, the story was a logistical challenge. No clients – photo or TV – in Denmark or elsewhere had images they could share. The small media outlets on the island were not answering Sopke’s calls or emails.

But that didn’t stop Sopke and other AP journalists in Berlin and London. Berlin correspondent David Rising, who was reporting for text, asked each person he interviewed if they had photow or video they could share or if they could put AP in contact with someone in Greenland with visuals.

A promising initial source for images on Greenland fell through. That scientist’s internet was not strong and attempts by Sopke to call, Skype and email him proved difficult.

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An aerial view of melt water lakes on the edge of an ice cap in Nunatarssuk, Greenland, June 22, 2019. – AP Photo / Sandy Virgo

In the meantime, staff brainstormed other options. In the London newsroom during one of those discussions, output senior producer Bridget Virgo shared that her parents had very recently been to Greenland and had taken photos. She immediately got in contact with them, and indeed, her father’s photos captured melting ice, including an aerial photo showing the melt water lakes, ensuring that AP’s coverage would go beyond text to include photos and a video edit of the photos. Those photos appeared on at least a dozen US newspaper front pages, on dozens of websites and helped quickly propel the strong text story to the top 10 most viewed stories on the APNews app.

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But the team did not give up on securing visuals of the actual ice sheet, and overnight, the scientist with photos and video of the melting ice sheet emailed overnight saying he would be willing to share the images. Output producer Matthew Catchpole, who was filling in as the overnight intake editor, immediately started to communicate with the scientist, Caspar Haarløv, securing exclusive photos and video of the melting ice sheet seen from the air. Those images were used by dozens of websites, several top newspapers, including the front-page of The New York Times. Haarløv’s video was the top used video by customers for Friday and Saturday. Finally, freelance intake producer Martha Collins was able to establish a Skype connection for an interview with Haarløv. London staff quickly turned around a video edit providing context and explanation on the significance of the heat wave and its effects.

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