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Only on AP: Rich multiformat project tells the intimate story of Gaza family and the toll of four wars

In Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2021, Mahmoud Nassir, 10, looks out from his home, heavily damaged by airstrikes during May’s 11-day war between Hamas and Israel. Members of the Nassir family and their neighbors have endured four wars in 13 years. A United Nations inspector said the building will have to come down, but even with the expectation that conflict will erupt again, the family plans to rebuild. (AP Photo / Felipe Dana)

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An AP team encompassing all formats, an array of digital skills and expert reporting from two continents came together to tell the story of more than a decade of conflict in Gaza in a new way: a sweeping look at the cost of war that combined the scope of the recurring conflict with an intimate profile of a single family and neighborhood that had suffered in each of the wars.

The twin approaches enabled AP to provide perspective on the story that no news outlet has achieved while keeping the human toll front and center. Each of the project’s elements was strong on its own: fearless, honest reporting and elegant writing; striking, evocative photos of the family; an innovative 3D model created by SITU,a forensic architecture firm that partnered with AP on the project; data analysis that tallied the cost in lives, structures and opportunities lost; and engaging interactive graphics that brought the statistics to life.

For the first time, AP combined these elements into a dynamic “scrollytelling” experience, all while overcoming the challenges of getting into and out of Gaza given border closures and COVID restrictions.

AP Gaza journalist Fares Akram,Barcelona-based visual journalist Felipe Dana and New York enterprise writer Adam Geller,collaborating with Middle East News Director Karin Laub and the rest of the Gaza staff,conceptualized the project,scouting the location and ultimately finding the family that would tell a broader story about Gaza through four wars in 13 years. Essential to the ambitious initiative was the deep knowledge that Fares, Gaza producer Wafaa Shurafa and news director Joe Federman brought to the project.

Dana and Fares spent nearly a month on the ground identifying the place and family,then,along with Geller,they spent countless hours with the Nassir family over weeks,“peeling back layers of the onion” each time,as Geller put it. They came away with remarkable,intimate detail despite the need for translations.

Dana also convinced other families to allow him to photograph their children traumatized by successive wars and their families’ losses. Photographing the mental state of anyone,let alone children, is difficult; Dana’s images reveal a broken world through their eyes, complemented by heart-wrenching vignettes from Dubai reporter Aya Batrawy.

An interdepartmental team of AP staffers made key contributions:

— News application developer Andrew Milligan created the scrolling presentation,enhancing the immersive experience.
— Data/graphics journalist Kati Perry developed the interactive graphics.
— Storytelling producer Natalie Castañeda integrated the photos into the presentation.
— Storytelling producer Samantha Shotzbarger crafted alternative text to make the experience accessible to screen readers.
— Data journalist Helen Wieffering gathered data on costs of each of the wars and provided analysis.
— Global investigations editor for video Jeannie Ohm spearheaded the collaboration with SITU and oversaw the consumer-ready video.
— Immersive storytelling producer Raghu Vadarevu directed the presentation.

For a pioneering project that brought AP’s audience up close to the lived experience of Gaza and of a family tragically buffeted by war over 13 years,Geller,Dana,Akram,Federman,Shurafa,Batrawy,Milligan,Wieffering,Perry,Ohm, Castañeda and Shotzbarger share AP’s Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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