Posted in Behind the News

Collaborating to reveal what’s ‘Destined to Burn’

, by Patrick Maks

For the first time, AP is collaborating with the USA TODAY Network-California, McClatchy and Media News on a two-part series, “Destined to Burn,” which examines the deadliest wildfire in California history and showcases the ability of news organizations to work together in the name of deep accountability journalism that matters.

After the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, killed 85 people, journalists from AP, The Sacramento Bee, Chico Enterprise-Record, Paradise Post, Record Searchlight in Redding, Reno Gazette-Journal, Ventura County Star and Desert Sun came together to determine how to tell the story of wildfires with the goal of illuminating problems and pointing to potential solutions.

From there, they began reporting on the extent to which construction standards determine the destruction or survival of homes, among other threads. 

“These publications prioritized cooperation over competition, and the result is journalism that couldn’t have been done by any of these outlets alone,” said Noreen Gillespie, deputy managing editor for U.S. News. “This type of collaborative journalism is not only essential to the future of the news industry, but also results in strong accountability journalism that makes a real impact.”

Firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home in Magalia, California, Nov. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The first installment delved into California’s housing stock, at-risk towns and why residents choose to live — and rebuild — in vulnerable places. The stories were written by the Sacramento Bee, Chico Enterprise-Record and Paradise Post. A sophisticated data analysis by the Sacramento Bee and AP identified and named 10 California communities at high risk as the next dry season arrives. 

The second installment will be published online Thursday. It will reveal just how unprepared California communities are for evacuating residents from their homes and preventing deadly traffic jams for people who do escape. The installment also includes an AP story outlining the similarities and differences in hurricane and wildfire evacuation procedures. 

All of the stories in the “Destined to Burn” series are available to AP member news organizations and customers and can be found online.