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AP Africa team delivers searing, unconventional look at gas industry’s impact on Senegal fishing town 

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AP West Africa correspondent Sam Mednick had been looking into reports that a fishing exclusion zone around an offshore gas project was adding to the economic hardships faced by locals in Saint-Louis, Senegal. Using great care, Mednick, along with freelance photographer Leo Correa and investigative video journalist Grace Ekpu, worked with contacts in the coastal town to find concrete examples of people affected by the gas project.   

Through careful efforts owing to the sensitivities around the legal yet taboo work, the AP team was able to identify four women who had begun secretly working as prostitutes after the decline of their family fishing incomes. The team assured the women that their anonymity would be protected if they allowed the AP to tell their stories.   

Interviews were conducted discreetly, and, through gentle questioning, the women opened up. Ekpu and Correa overcame the challenge of not identifying them by using careful yet artfully edited images and voice distortion in video post-production to ensure anonymity. 

Capturing the women’s stories wasn’t the team’s only reporting challenge. Photographing the gas rig itself was difficult, due to its distant offshore location and the restrictions against sailing boats close to it. Through contacts at the docks, the team convinced a rig worker to film on his mobile phone, and later managed to get moody shots at night on their long lenses, despite persistent bad weather. 

The overall nuanced mood of the package, with its superb photography and brooding video, was woven with great care into 2,500 words overseen by AP enterprise editor Janelle Cogan. Mednick also wrote a sidebar with useful takeaways. A one-minute-long social video edit created by McKinnon de Kuyper was a powerful addition to the overall package.    

Alyssa Goodman of AP’s Climate Team edited the photos along with Correa and created an immersive storytelling presentation on APNews.   

The newsroom-ready video has been broadcast over 60 times at feature length on networks in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. And as a result, the Senegalese Oil & Gas ministry was unhappy that their gas project wasn’t projected as a beacon of success.  

For a moving story that combined great visuals with deep reporting, the team of Mednick, Correa and Ekpu are AP’s Best of Week — Second Winner. 

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