Jan. 22, 2021

Best of the States

AP investigation: Capitol rioters included highly trained ex-military, law enforcement

AP reporters Michael Biesecker Jake Bleiberg and James LaPorta joined with colleagues across the country to reveal the influence of current and former members of the military or law enforcement on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The AP team surveyed public records, social media posts and videos, and the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, finding at least 22 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement have been identified as part of Capitol riot, with more under investigation. The story gave specific examples of how such training played out in rioters’ tactics and equipment during the attack.

The all-formats package received prominent play from AP customers and was the top offering on the AP News app on a busy news day. 

For timely and insightful reporting that sheds light on the backgrounds and capabilities of Capitol Hill rioters, Biesecker, Bleiberg and LaPorta win AP’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 11, 2021

Best of the States

He’s a ‘Soul Man’: AP profiles Steve Cropper, a low-key musical legend

Correspondent Adrian Sainz drew on his deep knowledge of Memphis’ musical history to tell the fascinating but sometimes overlooked story of Steve Cropper, the 79-year-old guitarist who worked at Stax Records alongside Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and others, leaving an indelible imprint on the American songbook.

Complemented by Kristin Hall’s engaging video and Mark Humphrey’s striking portraits, Sainz lays Cropper's story out in rich detail, from the birth of Redding’s “(Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay” to his work with the Blues Brothers and current projects.

For an illuminating, unexpected holiday offering that reveals the low-key man whose music everyone celebrates, Sainz earns AP’s Best of the States award for the week of Dec. 28.

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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.

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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

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. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP confronts network on Native American criticism of ‘Big Sky’

turned a routine feature into a news-breaking story by successfully pressing ABC to address Native American groups’ criticism that its show “Big Sky’ failed to acknowledge the problem of missing and abused women on native land. Few outlets had reported on it, and none had gotten a response from ABC.Elber spoke to native groups and pressed ABC, but was repeatedly told the network would have no response. But just before filing her story, Elber received a statement from ABC acknowledging the concerns and vowing to work with native groups to rectify them. The network gave the AP a day’s beat on all other outlets, and that night’s “Big Sky” episode carried for the first time a message about missing women and exploited children. https://bit.ly/39TR0YU

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Dec. 04, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats package reveals challenges of rural education during the pandemic

On the sparsely populated fringe of the Navajo Nation, AP Report for America journalist Cedar Attanasio saw a storytelling opportunity: the bus system used by the Cuba, New Mexico, school district to solve distance-learning challenges for some of the country’s most isolated, vulnerable students during the pandemic. 

Reporting for text, photos and video, Attanasio rode one of the school buses used to transport meals, assignments and counselors to remote students, a number of whom do not have electricity, let alone internet. When the bus driver was forced to quarantine, Attanasio took to his car, chasing buses on their routes and interviewing students and their families.

For delivering an insightful multiformat package that reveals the pandemic’s impact on education in a disadvantaged community — prompting one reader to donate $1000 to the school board — Attanasio earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work leads to scoop on largest US dam demolition

used strong source development to break news of plans for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, affecting four massive hydroelectric dams along the Oregon-California border. Native American tribes that have fought for decades to remove the dams and restore vital salmon habitat. Flaccus had reported from the region earlier, but the coronavirus and coverage of Portland’s racial justice protests kept her from returning during the summer. Still, she followed developments and kept in touch with the key players. Her sourcing paid off when she learned recently that an announcement was imminent on plans to demolish the dams. Flaccus pushed for an embargo, reporting and writing the story in advance with the understanding of tribal leaders and the governors of Oregon and California that she would hold her story until the official announcement.Her deeply reported APNewsBreak moved 15 minutes before the official news release, detailing the restructured deal that will almost certainly lead to the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, a first step in what would also be the largest salmon recovery project in history — a project that would also rejuvenate area tribes.Oregon’s biggest newspaper didn’t try to match the story; they used Flaccus’ story and photos in their entirety. https://bit.ly/3qaV8to

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: Most arrested in US protests aren’t leftist radicals

set out to determine who had actually been arrested in the protests that have rocked the U.S. since the killing of George Floyd in May. They scrutinized the arrest records of every person charged in federal court with protest-related crimes, delivering an important accountability story that showed the Trump administration’s claims of leftist-incited violence during racial unrest were overblown. The trio read through thousands of pages of court documents and sifted through 286 federal cases where people were charged with federal crimes of violence. They found only one mention of antifa and very few cases of organized extremism.They also called dozens of lawyers, activists and sources to determine what was going on behind the numbers, finding an effort by the Department of Justice to pursue cases that normally would be handled in the state systems, and exaggeration by the president of the danger posed to the public. The team’s reporting undercut claims that left-wing extremists were running rampant in American cities. On a busy news day, the story received outstanding play online and in print. https://bit.ly/2HMltwl

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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

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Oct. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP takes readers on one man’s near-death journey with COVID

revealed in evocative text and photos the challenges of a severe COVID case and a long rehabilitation. Their compelling work was made possible by building trust and access with one Indiana man and his family. Murphy heard about Larry Brown, an Indianapolis man who finally came home after nearly 80 days in the hospital – some 50 of those days on a ventilator – and realized even local outlets had not done justice to the story.With expertise as a health writer, Murphy learned about the case and safely navigated spending time with Brown to see what his life is like now. Photojournalist Darron Cummings spent several days with the family, vividly capturing how Brown interacts with the kids, and how his hand therapy and neurology appointments work.Brown sometimes became apprehensive over the story; the AP pair earned his trust by explaining their plan and the importance of sharing his story of recovery and the long-term effects of COVID. https://bit.ly/3d6v1gOhttps://bit.ly/2FgorrM

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Aug. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop on Justice Department investigation of Yale discrimination

landed a scoop on a Justice Department investigation into higher education. Balsamo got word through sources that the two-year investigation was completed and had found something attention-grabbing: Yale University was illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants, in violation of federal civil rights law. Working with education reporter Collin Binkley, the pair scrambled to move a story that crushed other major news outlets by nearly an hour. Thanks to Binkley’s reporting, the AP was also first to get Yale’s statement on the probe, which it said was “hasty” and unfair. https://bit.ly/34cw1gT

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Aug. 14, 2020

Best of the States

The pandemic crisis ‘laid bare’ in AP report from Texas maternity ward

Few places in America have been as hard hit by the pandemic as the Texas border, and the package by this all-formats team exposes the stark contrast between this part of the country and regions with greater resources. 

With access to two hospitals overwhelmed by cases in the Rio Grande Valley, AP reporter Paul Weber, photographer Eric Gay and video journalist John Mone carefully documented stories of patients and staff, including a new mom in the maternity ward who unknowingly contracted the virus and had to be isolated from her newborn. 

Weber wrote: “The U.S. failure to contain the pandemic has been laid bare.”

For a compelling and hard-to-report all-formats package, Weber, Gay and Mone win this week’s Best of the States award.

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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.

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July 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Hit by water cannon, AP’s Balilty captures iconic photo of Israeli protests

Oded Balilty, acting chief photographer, Jerusalem, has gained widespread attention in Israel and abroad for his body of work – breaking news images and striking portraits – depicting Israel’s wave of anti-government protests. His photo of a young man holding an Israeli flag as he is doused by a police water cannon emerged as the most iconic image of this summer of unrest, in which protesters accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of corruption and say he has bungled the country’s response to the coronavirus.

On July 18, protesters were blocking a street when police surprised them with water cannons. Balilty himself took a blast of water to the face and was stunned for several minutes. After drying out his gear, he lay on the ground to stay out of the line of fire, then noticed the protester holding a flag. While there were dozens of journalists covering the event, Balilty’s dramatic and evocative photo appeared throughout Israeli media and on news sites around the world.https://bit.ly/3feHhv8https://bit.ly/2EwtjZ4

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July 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In French Guiana, virus exposes inequality, colonial legacy

pulled off a thoughtful, enterprising story about how the pandemic was playing out in France’s South American territory, French Guiana. With revealing interviews, Pedram showed how French Guiana’s outbreak exposed deep economic and racial inequality in the overseas department of about 300,000 people where poverty is rampant and health care is scarce. The story hit the two themes that are dominating news agendas among AP clients: the pandemic and racial inequality.In an AP interview, a representative of French Guiana’s Indigenous communities explained how the appearance of white doctors sent from the French mainland caused alarm, not relief. “There is still in the minds the time of colonization and the havoc wreaked by viruses brought by colonizers,” Jean-Philippe Chambrier, a member of the Arawak tribe, told Pedram. “So when they saw white people from the mainland, they made the link.”The story included images by photojournalist Pierre Olivier Jay. https://bit.ly/2WRNPK1

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July 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Investigation: Trump briefed on bounties in 2019

worked sources to reveal that a year earlier than originally believed, officials briefed President Donald Trump on intelligence reports of Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. Coming on the heels of The New York Times scoop on the reported bounties, Laporta's reporting dramatically changed the story’s timeline. He further advanced the story with news that then-National Security Advisor John Bolton told colleagues that he personally briefed Trump on the matter, and Laporta also broke the news that the military was investigating the death of three Marines killed in an ambush last year. https://bit.ly/2O3FtKn

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July 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

July Fourth through the lens of a reporter’s Mexican American family

excavates pain and patriotism in his family history, in particular his great-uncle’s World War II service, to examine the meaning of Independence Day and reclaim the holiday at a time of national reckoning. Contreras’ first-person story recounts years of racism against his family. But he chooses to focus on his Mexican American great-uncle who was wounded on Iwo Jima, even as the Contreras family was subject to Jim Crow in Texas.That episode in the Contreras family history resonated through the generations, and today family members use it as a cornerstone of their Independence Day celebrations. In the process of his eloquently told tale, Contreras not only redefines the holiday for himself and his family; he makes a valuable contribution to AP’s coverage of inequality, capturing many threads of recent American history in the process. https://bit.ly/38ySUvc

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June 19, 2020

Best of the Week

Race and Ethnicity team explores question: ‘What is a black life worth?’

In the course of covering protests and a memorial service for George Floyd in Minneapolis, AP race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison started thinking about other cases that began over minor offenses and ended with a black person dying. Morrison visited the scene where Floyd took his last breaths, talked to members of Floyd’s family and interviewed protesters with this question in mind: 

What is a black life worth? 

AP video journalist Noreen Nasir, also in the Twin Cities, was picking up on the same theme in her own reporting. Joined by New York-based photographer Bebeto Matthews, the team took a deep and unflinching look the at the circumstances behind Floyd’s death, and what many see as a pivotal moment in the struggle against institutional racism. Their story led the AP News site, was featured at the launch of the Facebook’s News Feed and was widely used by AP members. 

For sharp reporting and analysis that cast George Floyd’s killing in light of systemic issues of race inequality, Morrison, Nasir and Matthews win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 12, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work breaks story: Iran releases US veteran

broke the news that a U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran for two years, Michael White, had been released from custody as part of a deal that resolved a Justice Department case against an American-Iranian doctor in the United States. The AP was far ahead of competitors with the breaking story and key details of the deal, the result of months of reporting by Lee and Tucker, including constant checks with sources in government and elsewhere. https://bit.ly/3cQC3or

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