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Berlin team fast, comprehensive on Witnesses shooting

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When an ex-member of a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Hamburg, Germany, stormed a service and fatally shot six members of his old congregation before taking his own life on the evening of March 9, AP got out fast and comprehensive coverage of the shocking crime, widely used even by some German customers. 

After news broke, writer Geir Moulson sent a fast news alert and followed with quick and aggressive updates, while video and photo staff gathered material from German partners until AP could reach the scene three hours away.  

After working through most of the night, Geir was joined by writer Frank Jordans the next morning, and the two worked together to report that the perpetrator bore anger toward Jehovah’s Witnesses and appeared psychologically unfit to own a gun under German law. 

With a video team that included Kerstin Sopke, Pietro De Cristofaro, Liv Stroud, Daniel Niemann, Philipp Reissfelder and Hakan Kaplan, the AP filed its first live video from the scene hours before Reuters. The video crew also obtained user-generated content showing the perpetrator entering the center, firing shots inside and police arriving.  

They accessed an interview with the witness who shot the UGC and had more witnesses in a second package as well as including people placing flowers at the scene and a police news conference. They produced multiple TV edits, with some getting hundreds of hits each.  All major story lines were wrapped up within 24 hours.   

Germany’s chief photographer Markus Schreiber also documented the aftermath of the crime, with strong images of forensic workers in white protective clothing and the bodies of victims being removed in black body bags as snow fell. Writers and editors continued to follow the story through the night, getting help from across the global AP, including from a former Berlin staffer, David Rising, who lent a hand from Bangkok. 

All major story lines across formats were wrapped up within 24 hours, including speaking to witnesses and the families of victims and gathering all available user-generated video.    

For beating competitors on one of the worst shootings in recent years in Germany, Moulson, Jordans, Sopke, De Cristofaro, Stroud, Niemann, Reissfelder and Kaplan earn Best of the Week — Second Winner. 

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