Posted in Behind the News

Scrambling to obtain exclusive user-generated video of Nice attack

, by Lauren Easton

When news broke of a truck running down crowds of people in Nice, France, on July 14, after the Bastille Day fireworks had ended, video of the scene surfaced almost immediately.

One video, taken by an Egyptian tourist, captured the shootout between police and the driver that ended the attack.

AP staffers worked diligently to obtain it.

Editor at Large for Standards John Daniszewski recounted how AP’s multinational staffers succeeded in this “Beat of the Week” staff memo:

Senior Producer Maria Grazia Murru in Rome got a tip that someone at the scene had taken footage of the police gunshots that ended the attack, and she passed on a phone number for a contact to David Hickey, an overnight intake editor in London. So began a deftly handled, long-distance acquisition that led to the Beat of the Week. Hickey, who was fielding multiple urgent feeds from France at the time, recognized this as something to prioritize. He called the contact, who explained that his friend, Egyptian tourist Nader El Shafei, had used his mobile phone to take video of the aftermath of the attack. He said El Shafei was negotiating with American broadcasters, who had promised him a fee and interviews on primetime television.
A screen grab from the video obtained by AP. (AP Photo)
Hickey knew he had to speak to El Shafei himself, and got him on the phone. He could hear the man was in a state of shock and asked him if he was OK, and gently asked El Shafei to talk him through what his footage showed. El Shafei recounted seeing police firing round after round into the cab of the truck -- something nobody had yet seen on video. Realizing the value of the footage, Hickey knew he needed to keep El Shafei on the line while he got someone to meet up with him in person. Hickey asked producer Poppy Hodgson to phone Berlin freelance sports writer Ciaran Fahey, who had been in Nice for a friend’s wedding and had spent the evening finding eyewitnesses to the attack, taking photographs and streaming live video via Bambuser. Fahey borrowed a car and went off to find El Shafei while Hickey kept him on the phone. Locating El Shafei, Fahey verified that the video was what it purported to be ... El Shafei told Derl McCrudden, head of international video news, the reason he chose to share it with AP was that Hickey had treated him with compassion and respect at a difficult time, while he felt harangued by the other journalists seeking his footage. The video was used more than 2,540 times by broadcasters, including major U.S., German and Japanese agencies. Photos took frame grabs and the video interview that AP did with El Shafei provided material for AP text coverage. It remains the only footage of the shootout that ended the attack. “Hickey identified the best pictures, earned the trust of the man who shot them, and scrambled an AP representative to meet him in person -- all while managing an urgent and complicated story,” said Europe News Director Caro Kriel. “Fahey provided content for all formats, as well as providing the human contact that helped seal the deal.” For their quick and careful work to secure the only video showing the shootout, Hickey and Fahey win this week’s prize.