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AP raises the bar for anniversary coverage of Diana’s death

FILE - In this Aug. 4, 1987 file photo, Britain's Diana, Princess of Wales, left, and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II smile to well-wishers outside Clarence House in London.For someone who began her life in the spotlight as “Shy Di,” Princess Diana became an unlikely, revolutionary during her years in the House of Windsor. She helped modernize the monarchy by making it more personal, changing the way the royal family related to people. By interacting more intimately with the public -- kneeling to the level of children, sitting on edge of a patient’s hospital bed, writing personal notes to her fans -- she set an example that has been followed by other royals as the monarchy worked to become more human and remain relevant in the 21st century. ( (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver, File)

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London reporter Danica Kirka knew the upcoming 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death would be an intensive project requiring collaboration across multiple AP departments. She began planning months ahead, relying on her beat expertise and reaching out to news leaders across formats to make AP’s coverage stand out from typical anniversary fare.

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Diana, the Princess of Wales, attends an evening reception given by the West German President Richard von Weizsacker in Bonn, Germany, Nov. 2, 1987. – AP Photo / Herman Knippertz

Among the team’s plans was a video of AP staffers talking through what it was like to cover Diana’s death and aftermath. Kirka and London video journalist Kwiyeon Ha tracked down a number of staffers who were there and recorded Zoom interviews with each; they also had an exclusive interview with the designer who worked with Diana on her wedding dress. London video planning editor Elida Ramadani contributed to the coverage.

From Paris,senior producer Jeffrey Schaeffer found the doctor who treated Diana at the site of the crash. Schaeffer had interviewed him several years ago and contacted him again, persuading him to revisit that traumatic night. The AP exclusive interview was conducted in a poignant spot: just in front of the flame monument to Diana,above the tunnel where she died. And Paris cameraman Nicolas Garriga re-created Diana’s journey,recording the drive through the tunnel with a GoPro, showing Diana’s image painted on the pillar where the vehicle carrying her crashed. That footage that was used in multiple packages.

Digital storytelling producer Nat Castañeda delivered a striking presentation for Kirka’s evocative mainbar,while audience engagement staffer Elise Ryan packaged the content for AP’s social platforms,including a distinctive Instagram story incorporating the video interviews with AP staffers,footage from the 1997 aftermath and some of AP’s top photos.

The multiformat, multiday coverage resonated with AP customers and audiences,turning in high scores for reader engagement, and two of the stories — the mainbar and the AP Was There timeline — landed on multiple high-volume Diana search pages.

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The carriage carrying the casket of Princess Diana passes spectators on the the Mall, followed at right by Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Diana’s brother Earl Spencer, Prince William and Prince Philip as it makes its way to the funeral at Westminster Abbey in London, Sept. 6, 1997. – AP Photo / Eric Draper
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