Posted in Behind the News

Brussels attacks highlight importance of live video and user-generated content

, by Lauren Easton

Quickly switching on the need to obtain user-generated content, making the most of a stroke of luck involving a news partner and literally sprinting to get our own boots on the ground enabled The Associated Press to lead with its coverage of the Brussels Airport attack.

The defining images of the day -- passengers cowering and scurrying from a smoke-filled terminal moments after the twin blasts and an airline attendant, her clothes ripped from her body – were both acquired at the scene by AP journalists who were among the first to get there.

Photograph of injured Jet Airways flight attendant Nidhi Chaphekar quickly became a defining image of the Brussels attack.(Ketevan Kardava/ Georgian Public Broadcaster via AP)

And the drama was captured live by AP's British news partner Sky News, whose crew had just checked in at the airport on their way home. Their live images told the story of the drama as it unfolded.

It was the smart thinking of AP video journalist Mark Carlson to run past the police cordon on foot with camera and video transmitter already running live, so that AP had footage from inside and outside the terminal in real time. When Carlson found a fellow journalist who had filmed a shocked and injured flight attendant on a mobile phone, he had the presence of mind to secure rights there and then for AP to syndicate that powerful image worldwide.

Outside as AP video journalist Ian Sullivan edited his first footage, he bumped into a passenger who had filmed inside the terminal near the site of the blast, Sullivan knew what he had to do: obtain the footage exclusively for AP (below).

In a memo to AP staff, Europe News Director Caro Kriel said: “Frame grabs from the video were also heavily used by photo subscribers. The BBC six o’clock news ran the video almost in its entirety."

AP customers also were first to receive the gripping photograph of the injured Jet Airways flight attendant, later identified as Nidhi Chaphekar.

It happened this way: As Carlson was setting up his live operation, he bumped into a TV journalist from Georgia who was visibly shaken after being evacuated from the airport. She showed him stills taken on her mobile phone. Carlson immediately got her written permission for AP to distribute them. The photograph of Chaphekar became one of the most-used images of the attacks, appearing on front pages and websites around the world.

AP was not exclusive with the photo, but was hours ahead of others, so the majority of the photo credits were AP's.