Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds diversity of politics and religion among West Virginia evangelicals

A tweet was the seed for this illuminating story. “Most people in my rural, Appalachian hometown are being radicalized at church by their pastor, which is the person they trust the most,” it read. AP’s Global Religion team ran with it.

Reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski visited the parishioners of three churches in Bluefield, West Virginia, including one pastor who had attended the Jan. 6 Washington rally that degenerated into a riot. The AP pair spent weeks convincing him to sit down for an interview. The result was an all-formats package of diverse congregations seeking common ground, even as they are divided on the role of evangelical Christianity in American politics. 

For applying gentle persuasion and balanced reporting to produce a nuanced look at religion and politics in one West Virginia town, Henao and Wardarski win this week’s Best of the States award. 

Ap 21036481998337 2000

Feb. 05, 2021

Best of the Week

With sourcing, preparedness, AP breaks news on death of pioneering actress Cicely Tyson

AP national writer Hillel Italie took a call Thursday evening from a longtime source with an unexpected tip: Groundbreaking actress Cicely Tyson, known for her roles playing strong, fiercely dignified Black women, was dead. 

Italie set off to get the news on the wire quickly, while also alerting colleagues. That included entertainment writer Mark Kennedy who had met Tyson years earlier. Kennedy had decided that when the time came, the AP obituary would have to capture the breadth and achievement of her life and career. And he had prepared just that.

The AP story moved at least 15 minutes before other outlets, earning more than 265,000 page views and front page headlines.

Celebrity obituaries are intensely competitive; Italie and Kennedy kept AP well in front, through source work, commitment and solid preparation. For that, they win AP’s Best of the Week award.

Ap 21029025627155 2000

Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Standout visuals mark a year since eruption in Philippines

had a vision for a visually-driven package to mark the year since the violent eruption of the Taal volcano in the Philippines.With his newly acquired drone pilot license, the Manila-based AP photographer knew that aerial photography would make unique still and video images of the ash-covered ghost town. He also learned that many residents of the volcanic island still remained homeless in a temporary tent city.After getting approval for the project, he set out to deliver all-formats coverage. He did extensive research, then drove to the volcano, where a local fisherman ferried him to the island that is home to the volcano.The drone app warned him it was too windy to fly, but Favila knew the visuals would be strong — and it might be his only chance. He launched the drone and kept receiving strong wind warnings during the flight, but he kept the drone airborne long enough to get stunning photos and video.Next, he explored the ash-covered island, visiting an area where people still live in tents. Residents of the island, which is a popular tourist destination, lost their livelihood: livestock animals and the farmland where they grow vegetables. Favila interviewed people who have had to live in the tents through typhoons, excessive heat and even the pandemic, capturing their touching accounts on video, humanizing the story for an impressive one-person package.https://bit.ly/35At6yLhttps://bit.ly/3bIsUB4https://bit.ly/38DyX8a

Taal Ap 21010552473144 Hm

Jan. 11, 2021

Best of the Week

AP traces child labor from Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields to major brands, Girl Scout cookies

For the third installment of their groundbreaking investigation into labor abuse in Asia’s palm oil industry, reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason linked child labor to the supply chains of the makers of popular cereals, candies and ice creams, including KitKats, Oreos and Cap’n Crunch. They also traced the oil to that most American treat: Girl Scout cookies. 

Joined by photographers Binsar Bakkara and Mark Humphrey, and video journalist Allen Breed, their reporting found that some tens of thousands of children toil in the palm fields, some kept from school and forced to work for free or for little pay. Some are trafficked.

The framing of the story — through the eyes of a young girl in the fields in Indonesia and a Tennessee Girl Scout campaigning to have palm oil removed from the cookies — resonated with readers; reaction on social media led the Girl Scouts to address the issue with their suppliers.

For shedding unprecedented light on the children toiling in Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields, and connecting the abusive practice to major consumer brands, McDowell, Mason, Bakkara, Breed and Humphrey share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 28.

Palm Oil Ap 20363795798963 2000

Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP connects palm oil industry, top brands to abuse of women

followed up on their initial reporting that exposed widespread labor abuse in the palm oil industry, conducting a comprehensive investigation into the brutal treatment of women in the production of the omnipresent ingredient, including rapes by plantation supervisors, serious health issues from toxic chemicals and injuries from back-breaking loads. The pair then traced the oil produced by these women to the supply chains of top Western beauty brands — including conglomerates that make billions of dollars as they market the empowerment of women.Mason and McDowell persuaded dozens of female workers to tell their searing stories, spending months getting the women to trust them and then arranging clandestine meetings in an effort to protect the workers from retaliation by plantation owners. They bypassed the stonewalling of major Western brands that refused to say whether their products contain palm oil by using company data and U.S. Customs records to link the workers’ abuse to the brands’ palm oil supply chains.The package featured striking digital display, video and evocative photos by Indonesia-based stringer Binsar Bakkara, as well as a powerful series of closeups of workers’ hands cradling familiar products containing the fruits of their labor.The story is nearing 250,000 page views on AP News. The Clorox Company, which owns Burt’s Bees Inc., said it would raise the allegations of abuses with its suppliers, calling AP’s findings “incredibly disturbing.” https://bit.ly/3liKAV3https://bit.ly/2VeVUXRhttps://bit.ly/3mlXgfd

Ap 20322759577810 Hm Palm Oil 1

Nov. 13, 2020

Best of the States

Tenacious source work leads to national newsbreak on census fraud

The on-the-record accounts from two census workers were stunning: Under pressure from supervisors amid the Trump administration’s push to bring the census to an end, they were encouraged to falsify records in the 2020 headcount.

Whom did they reveal this to? Not surprisingly, they spoke to Mike Schneider, AP’s authority on the census, who leveraged months of source development and reporting to break the story. Posted just an hour before the presidential race was called for former Vice President Joe Biden, the story still broke through with strong play and reader engagement.

For keeping the AP ahead in a critical coverage area with a terrific scoop, Schneider wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20311682921208 1920

Nov. 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

City interrupted: A portrait of San Francisco amid the pandemic

offer a unique look at how their city has been dramatically altered amid the coronavirus pandemic, with tech workers fleeing for cheaper climes and businesses standing empty.As San Francisco once again received plaudits for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, getting the green light to open more businesses, the AP pair set out to document the evolution they have been seeing in their city: apartment buildings emptying out, moving trucks lining up and a vacant downtown core. With photos by Noah Berger, the result was a well-balanced portrait of a city interrupted. Many of the young tech workers who have helped remake San Francisco in the last few years have fled, after tech companies said they won’t return until mid-2021. The story combined the voices of some who’ve left and some who’ve stayed, as well as business owners and the views of historians and demographers. https://bit.ly/38cpIw6

Ap 20301842097043 Hm Fx

Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the Week

AP reveals that Barrett was trustee for schools with anti-gay policies

Supreme Court nominees are scrutinized for signs of how they may vote on important issues, but Amy Coney Barrett’s jurisprudence told little about her views on gay rights.

Reporters Michelle R. Smith and Michael Biesecker knew that Barrett’s ties to People of Praise, a religious group with anti-gay views, could be an important part of her confirmation process. Through dogged reporting and source work they were able to show that Barrett was a trustee at People of Praise-run schools that had anti-gay teachings. 

Their story had an immediate impact in the run-up to her Oct. 26 Senate confirmation. For thorough and groundbreaking reporting on the tightly held views of a justice likely to sit in judgment of high-profile gay rights cases, Smith and Biesecker win AP’s Best of the Week award.

Ap 20287628784262 2000

Oct. 23, 2020

Best of the States

Amid heightened racial tensions, ‘Looking for America’ series examines ‘sundown towns’

Many white Americans have likely never heard of “sundown towns,” where Black people were once forbidden after dark. So Tim Sullivan, Noreen Nasir and Maye-E Wong visited one such town, Vienna, Illinois, on the second stop in AP’s “Looking for America” series, to see how it is faring in a year marked by racial protests.

While there is no longer a rule against Black people in Vienna after sunset, the habit persists for many out of fear and tradition. With deep reporting and compelling visuals, the AP team captured a lingering racial divide that is obvious to some people but virtually invisible to others. 

For a probing but nuanced package that speaks to a thread of systemic racism, the all-formats team of Sullivan, Nasir and Wong earns this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20287748750097 2000

Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the States

AP ties Supreme Court nominee to faith group said to subjugate women

When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Barrett and her supporters clearly did not want to discuss the nominee’s reported ties to a religious group called People of Praise.

Enter reporters Michelle Smith and Michael Biesecker. Using on-the-record interviews and an archive of deleted web pages, the pair documented Barrett's deep ties to the charismatic Christian group and painted a detailed picture of the organization’s beliefs and practices from its early days to the present. And the reporters went on to reveal how the organization had systematically deleted all mentions of Barrett and her family from its website.

For deep, resourceful reporting that sheds new light on the current Supreme Court nominee on the cusp of her confirmation hearings, Smith and Biesecker share this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20275672569010 2000

Oct. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tip, source work reveal Pence immigration order to CDC

worked sources and turned a tip into an exclusive story detailing how Vice President Mike Pence ordered the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use the pandemic as justification to halt immigration into the U.S., over the objections of the agency's scientists who twice refused to take the action.

Burke notified Dearen, who started working CDC sources. After a couple of fruitless weeks, he succeeded in identifying a person close to the events who agreed to talk, and a former Pence aide who confirmed the story on the record.

Meanwhile Burke moved the story beyond politics to bring home the order’s human toll. She gathered data that showed nearly 150,000 people, including 8,800 migrant children, already had been expelled under the order, and she interviewed the father of a 16-year-old Honduran boy who had been held in government custody under the order.

Even on a weekend dominated by news of Trump’s hospitalization, the piece was the top story on AP News and was widely used and cited by local and national news outlets. https://bit.ly/2SvTB14

Ap 20275649989708 Hm Pence

Sept. 25, 2020

Best of the Week

AP investigates medical care at immigrant detention facility after explosive allegations

The allegations were explosive: A nurse at an immigration detention facility in rural Georgia said a gynecologist she called “the uterus collector” performed mass hysterectomies without detainees’ consent. 

Reaction was fast and furious, but the AP treated the unsubstantiated allegations cautiously. Immigration reporter Nomaan Merchant dug into the story amid intense competition, reaching out to sources, doctors and a detainee who had surgery performed without her consent. 

While his review did not find evidence of mass hysterectomies, Merchant revealed a growing pattern of women not consenting to procedures that potentially jeopardized their ability to have children. Three days later, the AP was first to report that the doctor would no longer treat immigrant detainees.   

For impressive work that broke new ground on a highly charged story, Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

Ap 20262093748789 2000

Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation puts AP ahead with fast, deep coverage of RBG

used their deep knowledge of the Supreme Court beat – and rigorous preparation – to put AP out front with a series of exclusives following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sherman and Gresko anticipated the inevitable after Ginsburg disclosed that she was being treated for another bout of cancer, and they were well positioned when the death was announced on Friday night. AP moved an alert within four minutes, with a story was out barely five minutes later, ahead of most other major outlets. Sherman’s elegant and deeply reported appreciation moved shortly after. He then set to work helping the White House and Congress teams with the very real question of what happens next.Gresko, meanwhile, teed off a series of exclusive pieces about Ginsburg – her final moments, the stories she told and how her style was something more than just a fashion statement. Sherman followed up with a look at whether eight justices would be enough should the 2020 election be contested. Play was stunning for their collective work – 5 million page views and 1,500 downloads.Sherman and Gresko understand not only the court and the complex legal filings, but also the justices themselves. And they value preparation as a precursor to speed. The pair works in tandem on different but equally interesting and important stories, and their collaboration kept the Washington bureau ahead of a momentous story in a year filled with momentous stories.https://bit.ly/3mQbKVChttps://bit.ly/2FXOqo7https://bit.ly/2FPTR8N

Ap 20267513761231 1920

Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals Walmart, Amazon donations to Q-linked lawmaker

reviewed campaign finance records and social media posts, finding that Walmart, Amazon and other corporate giants donated to the reelection campaign of a Tennessee lawmaker who had amplified and promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory. Milligan helped compile and review Federal Election Commission data for 81 current or former congressional candidates who have expressed support for or interest in QAnon. The AP analysis showed that dozens of QAnon-promoting candidates have run for federal or state offices during this election cycle. Collectively, they have raised nearly $5 million from thousands of donors. Individually, however, most of them have run poorly financed campaigns with little or no corporate or party backing. Kunzelman’s story showed up in more than 200 news outlets with strong engagement, including Hollywood director Judd Apatow, who tweeted a link to his 2.4 million followers. https://bit.ly/3j0AnfH

Ap 19140735103333 Hm Q

Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Fast, nimble response puts AP far ahead on major Beirut fire

delivered fast, outstanding coverage as a major fire broke out at Beirut’s port, site of last month’s massive explosion.Ammar was nearby when the fire broke out and within minutes was streaming live video using the Bambuser app. Malla and Tawil also rushed to the scene, Malla shooting stills and sending direct to AP’s Middle East photo desk from his camera while Tawil set up a second live shot. AP was streaming live video for more than an hour before a competitive agency had its live shot up.AP’s video edits were also superior and much faster than the opposition, running quick edits of the fire, helicopters dropping water and two powerful edits shot with a drone, captured by Malla, who deftly switched between his camera and operating his drone to capture aerial photos and videos.And thanks to Ammar’s early response, AP’s news alert moved at least 20 minutes ahead of other major news outlets, further cementing the competitive advantage.

Ap 20254407741266 Hm Beirut1

Sept. 04, 2020

Best of the Week

AP shocks world with first word of death of ‘Black Panther’ star Chadwick Boseman

AP entertainment video manager Ryan Pearson had interviewed Chadwick Boseman eight times since 2013. He knew the actor and his work well, and he’d worked closely with the actor’s publicist and her company. 

That’s why the publicist’s first media call after Boseman’s death was to Pearson and the AP – she wanted the story reported by a responsible news organization. Another outlet, she worried, was getting close. 

Pearson immediately alerted colleagues and set out to write an obituary that shocked the world. The AP staff in turn responded with comprehensive all-formats coverage, the story quickly becoming the biggest of the month on AP News and mobile.

For source and beat development that led to a tip on perhaps the biggest entertainment story of the year, and delivered a stream of important work for AP’s customers and audience, Pearson wins AP’s Best of the Week.

Bose Ap 20242082179492 2000

Aug. 28, 2020

Best of the States

From the front line to the homefront, behind the scenes with COVID nurses

Photographer Jae Hong wanted to tell the story of the nurses on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus. Not just the long, stressful hours caring for patients, but the fear they carry home of spreading the virus to their own families.

Hong found a Los Angeles-area hospital that would grant access to the COVID unit, then he and reporter Stefanie Dazio spent hours getting to know the nurses and asking to meet them at their homes for interviews and photos. 

The result was an intimate, beautifully rendered look at the nurses, their dedication and their sacrifices. The story included a nurse who is a new mom, comforting a patient’s family as the man took his last breaths.

For a poignant and revealing look at nurses’ commitment to both their patients and their families during the pandemic, Hong and Dazio share this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20230082720532 2000

Aug. 21, 2020

Best of the States

Inside the reopening debate: Local school boards face ‘impossible’ decisions

With school districts nationwide wrestling with tough decisions on reopening amid the pandemic, South Carolina reporter Jeffrey Collins wanted to show that process at work.

When several districts rebuffed his efforts at behind-the-scene access, Collins took another approach. He started reporting by watching a school board’s meetings online, taking voluminous notes. Demonstrating a thorough understanding of what the district was facing, he was finally granted in-person access to the district’s meetings and discussions for a revealing all-formats package. 

For finding a way to delve into a local school board’s deliberations, and providing insight into conversations happening nationally, Collins wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20224661101595 1920

July 31, 2020

Best of the States

AP all-formats team delivers stunning coverage of Portland protests

When the arrival of militarized federal agents in Portland, Oregon, escalated tensions in the state’s largest city – energizing the racial justice movement and inflaming protests outside the federal courthouse – AP’s all-formats coverage shined all week. 

The AP team, often at risk themselves, delivered a steady stream of breaking news developments, searing images of nightly clashes involving lasers, fires, homemade bombs and tear gas, as well as exclusive coverage from inside the courthouse.

For a week’s worth of powerful, revealing stories and startling images that provided insight into the events in Portland, the team of Flaccus, Berger, Sanchez, Ranen, Balsamo, Selsky, Cline and Fauria wins AP’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20208437663434 2000

July 24, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Inside the first major outbreak at an ICE detention center

The reason the warden at a large San Diego detention center gave for not wearing masks amid the pandemic was astonishing – and likely helped fuel a large outbreak.

“Well, you can’t wear the mask because we don’t want to scare the employees and we don’t want to scare the inmates and detainees,” a guard recalled being told.

That’s just the lead of the story by AP’s Elliot Spagat, who landed the first detailed interviews with employees and detainees about the situation at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. Spagat also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and government data to provide the most complete account yet of the first major outbreak at a U.S. immigration facility.

For giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the factors that surely contributed to the virus outbreak, and for holding the warden and other officials accountable, Spagat wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20189807835463 1920