Jan. 01, 2021

Best of the States

AP finds hurricane-battered Louisiana residents struggling, enduring months later

Ever since Hurricane Laura hit southwest Louisiana in August, correspondent Rebecca Santana and photographer Gerald Herbert wanted to follow up with the region’s residents. But in a busy hurricane season, it wasn’t until December that plans finally came together. 

Santana researched for weeks, finding subjects and learning about recovery efforts. The pair then spent two days in the Lake Charles area where they saw the devastation firsthand and met storm victims, including a couple whose postponed wedding was finally happening. Herbert, who also shot the video for the stories, went back to Lake Charles eight times, even sleeping in a gutted house on Christmas Eve.

The result was two print stories, three video packages and a photo essay, all of which received prominent play. For uncovering the compelling stories of hurricane victims months after the storms faded from the headlines, Santana and Herbert earn AP’s Best of the States award for the week of Dec. 21.

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Jan. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds homeless persons the 2020 census missed

followed a straightforward path to reveal flaws in the U.S. Census Bureau’s homeless count: They found the uncounted themselves.Price literally looked beneath the glitter of Las Vegas, in the tunnels beneath the city, to find people who hadn't been counted in a city where an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people are without homes. And Schneider, AP's expert on all things census, leaned on his unmatched national network of sources to show that the problems were widespread. He bolstered the story with reporting on a federal report about flaws in the count — yet another government operation disrupted by the coronavirus — and spoke to an expert who said the problems could make Black and Latinos more likely to be missed in the 2020 count. https://bit.ly/35hmnJF

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Jan. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work pays off on Federer’s Australia withdrawal

has known Roger Federer’s agent since 2005 and kept in touch with him in recent months amid fevered speculation on social media about the tennis star’s return from two knee operations that sidelined him for most of 2020.The source development paid off: When Federer told his agent that he had decided not to compete in the Australian Open in early 2021, the agent texted Fendrich to give him the news first — even before Federer formally withdrew. Fendrich’s exclusive moved 2 1/2 hours before the tournament director announced Federer’s withdrawal, generating worldwide play. AP was widely credited, including by a leading competitor. https://bit.ly/3niLfak

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Dec. 24, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation reveals ‘leadership vacuum’ after backlash against public health officials

AP reporter Michelle Smith was working on another project in June when she came up with the names of a dozen or so public health officials who had quit, retired or been fired. Sensing a trend, Smith and reporters at Kaiser Health News continued to track those departures as the pandemic worsened and the backlash against public health restrictions became more strident.

The journalists contacted officials in all 50 states and interviewed dozens of people, finding a public health leadership vacuum developing at a critical time in the pandemic. They told the stories of public servants who toiled through the pandemic only to be reviled by their neighbors — including the wrenching story of an official whose husband would not even follow her recommendation to require masks in the family store. The timely all-formats story included a data distribution, interactive graphics and a sidebar with portraits and quotes of public health officials. 

For a deeply reported package that examines a vital component of the pandemic response, Smith, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Hannah Recht and Lauren Weber earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Best of the Week

The Pandemic Atlas: AP’s comprehensive global look at how the virus upended 2020

In the year since COVID-19 surfaced, journalists for The Associated Press have produced an impressive array of stories documenting its grim march around the world. Conveying the extent of disruption and death wrought by the virus in 2020 warranted a marshaling of AP’s global resources for a one-of-a-kind project: the Pandemic Atlas.      

The collaborative effort included a compendium of how 13 countries responded to the crisis, six character-driven videos and compelling photos. Deeply reported text stories were translated into Spanish, while the videos received Arabic and Spanish edits. All made possible by the dogged and authoritative work of AP’s field journalists, editors and producers around the world.

For an outstanding display of planning, teamwork, ingenuity, storytelling and presentation on the story that shaped 2020, the Pandemic Atlas — and the scores of AP journalists around the world who contributed — are recognized with AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation, sourcing pay off with standout vaccine coverage

worked nonstop for weeks to gain access to the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine campaign, the largest vaccination program in U.S. history. They reached out to old sources and spent weeks cultivating new ones, breaking down barriers to ensure that AP was positioned to cover the story – from trucks rolling with vaccine deliveries to the first jabs in arms.The source reporting paid off. Tips were aggressively followed and coordination between video, photo and regional news desks led to robust back-to-back all-formats pieces on the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, including healthcare workers receiving injections. Video went live from several hospitals that were among the first to vaccinate front-line workers.Play was unmatched. The vaccine shipment story appeared appeared on more than 2,500 news sites and landed on at least 69 front pages including the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit News, the Kansas City Star and others.The story of the initial vaccinations appeared on at least 1,300 news sites and 64 front pages, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Orange County Register and others. And The New York Times used AP photos as its lead image on consecutive days.https://bit.ly/3nYf15rhttps://bit.ly/3hdKNIUhttps://bit.ly/3mKf57o

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Lagos duo perseveres in coverage of students’ kidnapping

overcame countless obstacles to provide on-the-ground coverage from a remote area of northwest Nigeria after the abduction of 300 students from a school in Katsina state. With perseverance, stamina and resourcefulness, the pair delivered content for a series of powerful stories in all formats, including live video coverage of the eventual release of the students.The pair had been covering Lagos Fashion Week when news of the mass abduction broke. After arranging with local stringers for AP’s first images from the school in Kankara village, Oyekanmi and Alamba flew north, then drove for hours over single-lane roads, dodging trucks and potholes, and talking their way through security checkpoints to reach Kankara, a town now in shock. After making images — captured with difficulty among a populace cowed by fear — more hours of travel followed to reach a safe town where they could file photos and video, and get some sleep.That work pattern repeated over the coming days: six or more hours on the road, then filing late into the night with visuals and reporting that brought detail and color to text stories.When they learned that the release of the boys had finally been secured, Oyekanmi and Alamba rushed to the state capital, staying up all night to wait for the students’ arrival. When the freed boys finally did arrive the next morning, Oyekanmi was ready with LiveU gear, streaming exclusive live coverage of their return, while Alamba filed first photos via Whatsapp. Both formats scored heavy usage by AP global clients.https://bit.ly/3rkaQmxhttps://bit.ly/2WFlKozhttps://bit.ly/2KwM9CDhttps://bit.ly/38uEQTXhttps://bit.ly/3nFUpP3

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Heads-up response delivers on shooting at NY cathedral

knew almost immediately that the popping sound — at a church where he had just attended a concert — was gunfire. The New York video journalist didn't hesitate, moving toward it to put AP ahead in all formats on one of the most-used stories of the day.Along with his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe and her mother, Shaffrey had just walked away from a classical Christmas concert at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan when he heard several loud bangs, screaming and the restaurants clearing as people ran for cover. He turned his daughter’s mother and said, “You guys go that way. I’m going to see what’s going on.”While people ran past him, Shaffrey moved in a non-threatening manner toward the sound of the gunfire. One woman stopped to tell him that there was a “terrorist” on the steps of the cathedral firing shots. Shaffrey captured audio and video of the police shooting the man, and the scene in front of the church as people took cover on the ground while police moved in on the suspect.Shaffrey contacted East regional news director Sara Gillesby who coordinated fast filing of photos and video and a Shaffrey story co-bylined with reporter Mary Esch, putting AP ahead of the competition.https://bit.ly/2WDyJHrhttps://bit.ly/37IPeIBhttps://yhoo.it/3pgR4Gr

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: States spent billions on medical supplies

took the lead in obtaining and analyzing public records that disclosed state coronavirus-related spending that had largely been kept from the public. The reporters filed Freedom of Information Act requests in all 50 states seeking purchase order records to determine how much was being spent on what items, which suppliers the states were using and how the spending compared across the states.The findings revealed that overall the states spent at least $7 billion on medical gear in the first few months of the pandemic, a massive amount that had not been reported until AP’s investigation. Even lawmakers in most states did not know the scope of spending, much of which was inflated by competition between states and huge price markups for routine items.The project reflected a signature goal of the AP news department this year: to “connect the dots” across the states for our U.S. customers in a way that only AP can. After months spent analyzing the state-by-state information, the data team made all the information available in an easy-to-use format for AP members and for our own state reporters. In addition to the national stories, more than a dozen AP reporters wrote state sidebars, receiving prominent play online and in print. https://bit.ly/37HJS07

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Dr. Birx in violation of government’s COVID guidelines

unraveled some messy decisions by Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, that appeared to contradict the government’s own COVID-19 safety guidelines.When it was first reported that Birx was angling for some kind of role on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team, one of her relatives reached out to Madhani and suggested he look into Birx, who spent Thanksgiving weekend at a Delaware beach house with extended family, and who also made many visits to a multigenerational family home in Maryland between her widespread travels to coronavirus hotspots for the government.Madhani and Slodysko contrasted Birx’s activity with her warnings to Americans to “be vigilant” and limit celebrations to “your immediate household,” and with CDC guidelines to avoid travel for the holidays. The two Washington reporters also discovered that while Birx was in Delaware, she conducted an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” in which she noted some Americans “went across the country or even into the next state” for the holiday weekend. Birx declined to be interviewed for the story but provided a statement acknowledging she went to her Delaware property, insisting she was there to winterize the property.The story received strong play and reader engagement, and continued to generate discussion on cable TV well beyond its weekend release.Birx has a since said she plans to retire, but is willing to first help President-elect Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response as needed.https://bit.ly/38sWmb7https://politi.co/2WFxDeh

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Dec. 18, 2020

Best of the Week

AP analysis and reporting: Millions of hungry Americans turn to food banks for 1st time

Long lines of people and traffic seemed to indicate that dependency on food banks was on the rise in the U.S. as the COVID-19 pandemic hit home. But a team of AP journalists set out to know the facts and tell the stories of those relying on handouts — many accepting the aid for the first time.

Merging exclusive data analysis with in-depth personal reporting, the team delivered an accurate, powerful picture of food insecurity and economic distress in the U.S. AP’s analysis found a significant increase in food bank distribution during the pandemic, while all-formats AP journalists across the country reported from food lines and the homes of those relying on food aid.

For telling data analysis and on-the-ground coverage that harnessed AP’s national footprint to reveal the consequences of the pandemic economy, this AP team wins Best of the Week honors.

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Dec. 18, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats team tells the shared story of rural Missouri churches, immigrants, adversity and faith

It’s a story of two churches in rural Missouri, only 30 miles apart — and worlds apart. 

One congregation is mostly white, while the other offers services in five languages with members from around the world. The pandemic has united them, with pastors meeting to support each other, share ideas and figure out how to continue ministering to this region hit disproportionately by the coronavirus.

The team of national writer David Crary, youth and religion reporter Luis Andres Henao and video journalist Jessie Wardarski earned the trust of residents to produce an intimate all-formats story, revealing diverse Midwestern communities that aren't famous but are integral to the nation’s identity.

For compelling coverage of communities united in adversity and navigating with faith, the team of Crary, Henao and Wardarski wins this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals sexual misconduct charges against FBI leadership

used interviews, public records requests and court papers to exclusively confirm at least six sexual misconduct allegations against senior FBI officials over the past five years, and that each avoided discipline. Several were quietly transferred or retired with full benefits, even when probes substantiated the claims.Starting with a single tip from a longtime FBI source, Mustian chipped away for months to reveal the previously undisclosed names of most of those senior officials as well as the details of the allegations against them. He used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain inspector general reports, one of which confirmed the identity of an assistant FBI director who had been credibly accused of of drunkenly groping a female subordinate in a stairwell. The assistant director left the bureau without discipline.Mustian also found a civil rights lawyer in Washington who was preparing two lawsuits by women accusing senior officials. Mustian negotiated both for an exclusive interview with one of the plaintiffs, and to be the first reporter to write about those cases, including one woman’s claim of being blackmailed into sexual encounters for years.Mustian’s story received heavy play and elicited a strong reaction from readers, particularly those inside the FBI. Several women emailed Mustian to say his count was just the beginning; that they too were victims of senior agents while at the FBI. A California congresswoman says she is considering hearings into the FBI’s handling of sexual misconduct. https://bit.ly/3h15d7R

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Breaking news on US ramp-up of federal executions

have broken exclusives on this year’s resumption of federal executions following a 17-year hiatus, and the accelerated pace of executions during President Donald Trump’s lame-duck period. They have also witnessed every federal execution.Their stories have revealed that the Justice Department considered using firing squads or borrowing electric chairs due to a possible shortage of drugs used for lethal injection, and that the execution team at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where the executions are carried out, was sickened with COVID-19, even as they planned more deaths.But above all, the AP witnesses have risked their own health to enter the federal prison in Terre Haute to attend every execution. The team has been unstoppable, delivering fast, accurate reporting that has made AP the definitive source for news on this topic.https://bit.ly/3nlUxTHhttps://bit.ly/2ITQTkShttps://bit.ly/3ahw91Lhttps://bit.ly/3h13Shl

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats team tells wrenching stories from Paris hospital

broke through administrative barriers to produce powerful character-driven storytelling as the staff of one of France’s largest hospitals coped with the relentless tide of COVID cases and deaths. Since March, repeated AP efforts to gain access to Paris hospitals inundated with virus cases had been met by “Non” — or silence. So Leicester found workarounds. He interviewed staff, including a top surgeon, outside Bichat Hospital as well as on Zoom and by phone. His reporting eventually put AP on the map for senior administrators and doctors, winning access to the 900-bed hospital. Over the course of two days the team reported in all formats on the last hours of a patient who died of COVID complications, and from inside an operating room as surgeons performed procedures after months of COVID delays. The team’s harrowing stories drew praise the hospital and from rival publications. “Beautiful and heart-wrenching,” said a New York Times staffer. An editor at New York Magazine called it “tender, beautiful, and bitter,” while the hospital’s surgical ICU chief called it “a brilliant display of the daily reality in ICU.” https://bit.ly/2WmxHQ0https://bit.ly/3r5uRgchttps://bit.ly/3ahdpPThttps://bit.ly/2IVF7Xp

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Putting people before politics in Brexit trade coverage

delivered a unique story on the people directly affected by the high-stakes trade talks reaching a crescendo in Brussels. While competitive news organizations focused on the post-Brexit political wrangling, AP took an exclusive look at struggling French fishing crews and overwhelmed British truck drivers stuck in traffic jams at the English Channel. Thanks to years of source building in the region, the journalists were able to identify subjects that provided strong visuals, capturing the attention of AP clients and the public.https://bit.ly/382rj5Ghttps://bit.ly/3gQud1Fhttps://bit.ly/387pGnn

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP breaks news of USOPC change on athlete protests

used his longstanding contacts in the leadership of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee to break the news that the organization was ready to heed the calls of its stars and won’t sanction athletes for raising their fists or kneeling on the medals stand at next year’s Tokyo Games and beyond.The USOPC knew Pells was monitoring the issue — they offered him advance interviews along with copies of their recommendations so the AP could have the story ready to publish before the official news release. Other news outlets used Pells’ story or had to scramble to match it. https://bit.ly/3gQSW5M

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds rural hospital running out of staff during surge

acted on a source’s tip to reveal the pandemic’s toll on rural Midwestern hospitals during the current case surge. She told the story of a tiny Kansas hospital, full of patients and struggling to function as much of its own staff was sidelined with COVID-19. At one point a doctor and physician assistant tested positive on the same day, briefly leaving the hospital without anyone who could write prescriptions or oversee patient care. Hollingsworth spoke with hospital staff, including the radiology technician who slept in an RV in the parking lot for more than a week because his co-workers were out sick and there was no one else available to take X-rays.A medical staffing agency saw the story and responded by offering to send nurses to the town to help out, a sign of the power and reach of the AP. https://bit.ly/34gVpl1

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Dec. 11, 2020

Best of the Week

In exclusive AP interview, AG Barr says no evidence of widespread election fraud, undermining Trump

Justice Department reporter Mike Balsamo has spent months cultivating sources at the Department of Justice, earning a reputation as an objective journalist who reports fairly and accurately. 

His relationships paid off with an exclusive interview of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in which Barr said the DOJ could find no evidence of widespread voting fraud, dramatically undercutting President Donald Trump’s insistence to the contrary.

“I knew ... he had made probably the biggest news he has in his tenure as AG,” said Balsamo. His story topped the news cycle and resonated for days. No other news outlet could match it and AP was widely cited for the scoop.

For persistent, evenhanded reporting on the Justice Department beat resulting in the interview that netted one of AP’s most consequential news coups of the year, Balsamo wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Dec. 11, 2020

Best of the States

True West: Enterprise reporting reveals lurid story that led to Idaho cold case arrest

An arrest in a decades-old Idaho cold case started Boise correspondent Rebecca Boone digging, aiming to tell a broader story about the victim, the suspect and the colorful — and at times shady — pro rodeo and gambling circuit. 

Forty years ago, Dan Woolley was shot in the parking lot of a small-town bar in the Idaho mountains. The shooter crossed the street to the only other bar in town, ordered a drink and declared, “I just killed a man.” Then he disappeared. But late last year an 87-year-old man was arrested in Texas for the slaying — a former pro rodeo rider.

Boone spent months building trust with Woolley’s son and other sources, talking to long-time central Idaho residents and historians. All while juggling her state coverage of breaking news, the pandemic and the 2020 election.

The result of her efforts, an engaging 1,900-word Saturday piece, was among AP’s top stories for the weekend. For an absorbing read that is a textbook example of a general assignment reporter chipping away at a challenging enterprise piece, Boone earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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