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AP team tells the uneasy saga of a town where the world’s tallest flagpole could rise

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It was a fitting start to the July 4 weekend and a fitting end to the first week of life with the new apnews.com: A truly immersive, all-formats package that painted a nuanced portrait of quite literal polarization in Columbia Falls, Maine. Portland correspondent David Sharp, photographer Bob Bukaty and video journalist Rodrique Ngowi were dispatched to the rural Maine town to cover conflict over a plan to build a flagpole taller than the Empire State Building.   

New England Assistant News Director Caleb Jones had spotted local coverage back in March and thought big: The disagreement would be a great vehicle to explore the entrenchment of American divisiveness, even around something designed to be unifying. In partnership with Trends and Culture, the idea bore ripe fruit.  

The regional expertise of Sharp, Bukaty and Ngowi, and their understanding of the forces at play in modern life in Maine, helped create the engine for the story. They used drones for dramatic visuals, expended shoe leather knocking on doors and gathered demographic data for context. The package was augmented with online graphics from Phil Holm and Peter Hamlin, a crisp layout from Dario Lopez and a “talker” — a micro-podcast initiative from Jaime Holguin and Ron Vample.  

For a beautifully told tale whose timeliness resonated with customers and on AP digital platforms, Sharp, Bukaty and Ngowi with this week’s first Best of the Week honorable mention.

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