Best of AP — Second Winner


AP timelapse of newly built spire on Notre Dame Cathedral tops online views

This combination photo shows, from top left, clockwise, the scaffolding around the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral spire being removed from Jan. 24, 2024 to March 6, 2024. Scaffolding has enshrouded Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris since a 2019 fire destroyed its spire and roof and threatened to collapse the whole medieval structure. After an unprecedented international reconstruction effort, the scaffolding is at last starting to peel away. AP PHOTO / ALEXANDER TURNBULL


An exclusive timelapse of the new spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was AP’s most viewed online video and drew top views from customers too, scooping all competitors and providing a new model for innovative storytelling.

After the 2019 fire that threatened to topple Paris’ centuries-old Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild it within five years. AP’s Paris bureau immediately started brainstorming about how to capture the monumental but protracted project in an innovative way.

A timelapse came to mind — but it took two years just to stabilize the building, and scaffolding has concealed the massive construction work from view since 2019.

Paris video journalist Alex Turnbull and senior producer Jeff Schaeffer didn’t give up on the idea. As soon as they learned in late 2023 that the newly built spire was nearing completion, they started plotting a way to capture timelapse images as the scaffolding around it was removed, plank by plank, bar by bar.

Schaeffer hunted for rooftops with the best angle and landed on the newly renovated Tour d’Argent restaurant. For weeks, he doggedly negotiated for round-the-clock, free-of-charge access to their magnificent terrace while it was closed to the public during the Paris winter. With access at last secured, Turnbull worked his magic with his own camera that took thousands of images over weeks as the spire reappeared. Frost and rain clouded the camera at times or delayed the removal of scaffolding. Turnbull checked on the camera again and again, and then filled out the project with images of the spire from other angles around the cathedral and around Paris. In addition to newsroom-ready videos, Turnbull did a produced video focused on the spire and then another consumer-ready and social video where he gives viewers a glimpse of the backstory. He also provided select photos from the timelapse to photo editor Bertrand Combaldieu for a combiner photo that ran with portraits by Christophe Ena and a story by Thomas Adamson looking back at the five tumultuous years of reconstruction.

The timelapse scooped all competitors, including well-connected local media and better-resourced international media. The main consumer-ready video was the No. 1 featured video on the APNews homepage for the week and the top video download by customers for two days straight. That is impressive for a package that was not breaking news or even spot news — it was just an original, highly visual way of telling an important ongoing story.

For a project that was a powerful example of how to tell stories differently — and serve both digital audiences and our customers at the same time, Turnbull and Schaeffer are Best of AP — Second Winner.

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