Photographer Dave Martin wins AP’s $500 weekly prize for tornado work

Romenesko Misc.
Dave Martin was the only AP staff photographer in Alabama when the tornadoes hit. “[He] was on the phone immediately with newspapers across the state, asking about their coverage plans and reminding them to share their images with the AP,” says an AP memo. “He didn’t have to ask twice. Martin, the Montgomery staff photographer, has been cultivating relationships with Alabama members since joining the AP 28 years ago.”

Casting aside any competitive concerns, Alabama members contributed 309 photos between Wednesday afternoon and Monday morning as the state began digging out from the second-deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history. All of the state’s newspapers also lifted online usage restrictions, making their photos available to the big Internet portals.

More from AP senior managing editor Michael Oreskes‘ memo.

Memo from AP senior managing editor Michael Oreskes

Colleagues,

When the killer tornadoes roared across Alabama, Dave Martin was the only AP staff photographer in the state. But he was not alone. He had a team of photographers at his disposal. Not AP photographers, but AP member photographers.

Martin was on the phone immediately with newspapers across the state, asking about their coverage plans and reminding them to share their images with the AP.

He didn’t have to ask twice.

Martin, the Montgomery staff photographer, has been cultivating relationships with Alabama members since joining the AP 28 years ago. More than just the AP guy, he is practically one of them.

“Dave Martin gives me back more than I give him,” said Walt Stricklin, director of photography for the Birmingham News. “We give Dave whatever he asks.”

In the case of the tornadoes, more than he asked.

Casting aside any competitive concerns, Alabama members contributed 309 photos between Wednesday afternoon and Monday morning as the state began digging out from the second-deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history. All of the state’s newspapers also lifted online usage restrictions, making their photos available to the big Internet portals.

The Daily from Decatur, the Times in Huntsville, The Times Daily in Florence, the Birmingham News and the Tuscaloosa News all contributed daily. If a picture is worth a thousand words, their collective efforts could have filled an encyclopedia.

The images were dramatic, showing the ferocity of the storm and the human toll of the devastation.

Dusty Compton of The Tuscaloosa News had the signature photo of a huge funnel cloud moving through the city. Gary Cosby Jr. of The Decatur Daily showed a woman standing amidst the splintered remains of her neighborhood near Athens, Ala. Jeff Roberts of the Birmingham News captured a man holding his granddaughter near where their house had stood in Concord, Ala.

AP member photos populated many online galleries:

The Atlantic Monthly

National Geographic

The New York Times

There were words, too, of course, including the first indications of the intensity and record number of storms, as well as careful compilations of the death toll and on-the-ground damage accounts. An interactive drew 4.93 million page views, almost five times as many as one for the rebellion against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddhafi and 10 times as many as the royal wedding in London.

National Writer Adam Geller _ with the help of far-flung reporters Kate Brumback, Chris Hawley, Holbrook Mohr, Jay Reeves and Michael Rubinkam _ fashioned an extraordinary, 2,600-word reconstruction of how the tornadoes hit across Georgia and Alabama.

Fantastic work all around, with the photos leading the way.

For nurturing the cooperative spirit of AP members to provide the defining images of one of the nation’s biggest natural disasters, Martin wins this week’s $500 prize.

Mike Oreskes
Senior Managing Editor

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