Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the Week

Latest on New York COVID policy: State sent over 9,000 virus patients to nursing homes

For nine months, AP has led all media on the story of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial directive to return recovering coronavirus patients from hospitals to nursing homes during the pandemic.

Last week, reporters Bernard Condon and Jennifer Peltz added to that record. Using data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, they reported exclusively that more than 9,000 patients in New York were released under the state’s policy, amid criticism that it accelerated nursing home outbreaks. The latest AP scoop has helped put Cuomo and his administration on the defensive at home and nationally.

For keeping AP at the forefront of this accountability story for the better part of a year — including their latest break documenting the release of COVID patients into nursing homes — Condon and Peltz earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 05, 2021

Best of the States

AP months ahead of New York state in identifying undercount of nursing home deaths

When AP reported exclusively last August that New York state was undercounting its COVID nursing home death toll by thousands, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped the story as part of a politically motivated “blame game.”

But the state’s own investigation, announced last week, reached a nearly identical conclusion, affirming AP’s reporting.

AP’s 2020 investigation had seized on the fact that New York counts just residents who died at nursing homes, not those who were transported to hospitals and died there. AP’s analysis of federal data indicated that the state’s official toll was undercounted by 65%, or well over 4,000 deaths. 

For sharp reporting that led the media pack, withstood criticism from the governor and months later was vindicated, this week’s Best of the States award goes to Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Meghan Hoyer (now data director at The Washington Post).

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Feb. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Highlighting the work of unsung ICU cleaning crews

highlighted the critical and underappreciated work of cleaning crews maintaining COVID-19 intensive care units. The idea for the story came to Becatoros AP’s Southeast Europe bureau chief based in Athens, Greece, as she watched workers in full protective gear making beds in the hospital across the street from her home. She and chief photographer Stavrakis then spent months navigating the health care and governmental bureaucracy to get access to a hospital where AP had shot photos early in the pandemic. Stavrakis was eventually granted access to photograph cleaners in five of the hospital’s ICUs, and Becatoros was allowed up to the door from where the ICU was clearly visible. All the cleaners they spoke to were eager to tell their story, giving voice to a group of laborers who have remained out of the public eye despite taking similar risks as doctors and nurses while preventing the spread of the virus inside hospitals. https://bit.ly/3cIm6Eehttps://bit.ly/3rtb3Db

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Jan. 29, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds exhausted chaplains comforting families, COVID patients in their final moments

Eugene Garcia, just two weeks into his job as the AP’s newest full-time video journalist, and photographer Jae Hong joined forces to tell the deeply touching and heartbreaking story of often unseen and unsung heroes of the pandemic — the clergy.

The pair approached the story with sensitivity and care, maintaining distance to give the families, patients and chaplains space, but close enough to bring the story to life even as their subjects drew their last breaths. The package, complemented by John Rogers’ moving text, shed light on exhausted and emotionally drained chaplains working in situations they had never experienced before. As one put it, “We weren’t trained for this.”

For an arresting package that explores the compassionate yet crushing work of front-line chaplains, Garcia, Hong and Rogers earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 15, 2021

Best of the States

AP reporting reveals some front-line health care workers balking at COVID vaccine

The AP team of Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Carla K. Johnson assembled the most detailed national look yet at one of the most vexing snags in the coronavirus vaccine rollout: Surprising numbers of health care workers — who have seen firsthand the misery inflicted by COVID-19 — are refusing the shots.

The deep reporting, with contributions from colleagues across the country, found the paradox occurring in nursing homes and hospitals, with some individual facilities seeing a refusal rate as high as 80%. The story, one of AP’s most-read on an extremely busy news week, quoted both health workers expressing fears of vaccine side effects and frustrated facility administrators.

For bringing to light an important part of the stumbling early rollout of the much-anticipated vaccine, Condon, Sedensky and Johnson win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Brazilian women seek now-legal abortions in Argentina

teamed up to make AP the first news organization to report the extremely sensitive and timely story of Brazilian women starting to travel to Argentina for now-legal abortions.The complex all-formats story required coordination between Brazilian and Argentine bureaus to follow individuals crossing the border, and awareness of the shifting legal issues in both countries. The staffers had to ensure that AP was presenting the story and its protagonists in a way that was fair, useful to clients, and — most importantly — minimized risks of our interviewees facing backlash.The AP had unique access to a 20-year-old woman traveling to Argentina who agreed to show her masked face and be quoted by her first name. They had worked diligently to cultivate her trust and that of the nongovernmental agency assisting her, repeatedly addressing concerns without applying pressure.Ultimately, both the woman and the agency were comfortable with the result: The package offered a uniquely intimate perspective into this highly controversial issue that disproportinately affects women from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. https://bit.ly/3bws3nd

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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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Jan. 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Greece team tracks down nurse who built a home ICU

dug behind the scenes to reveal the extraordinary lengths one man went to in caring for his COVID-19-stricken mother-in-law and other relatives — the nurse created an intensive care unit in his home. Kantouris won the international competition to track down the man whose feat had begun to appear in local media reports. He interviewed nurse Gabriel Tachtatzoglou, delving into his motivations and methods for taking on the high-risk endeavor. Tachtatzoglou had spared his family members from hospitalization in an overburdened local facility while simultaneously easing the patient load in Greece’s most heavily affected region, where ICUs were already at capacity. Visuals were a challenge as the makeshift ICU was dismantled when the family recovered, but photo stringer Papanikos complemented the story with a visit to the home for a portrait shoot. Athens staffer Derek Gatopoulos drafted this installment of AP’s “One Good Thing” series, which was picked up even by the Greek press. https://bit.ly/3oy9nHv

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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 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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Nov. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP documents the surge in non-COVID deaths due to nursing home neglect

An exclusive analysis conducted for AP showed that in the shadow of the pandemic, a quiet surge in non-COVID “excess deaths” in U.S. nursing homes could top 40,000 above and beyond what is normal. 

To find out why, the AP team of reporters Matt Sedensky and Bernard Condon, with video journalist Allen Breed and colleagues, interviewed nursing home authorities and family members, documenting severe cases of neglect and prolonged isolation for residents not infected with the virus, much of it due to chronic understaffing. The text story and video piece received prominent play and were among the most widely viewed on the AP News app on the day of publication. 

For exposing a grim consequence of the pandemic affecting an already vulnerable population, the team of Sedensky, Condon and Breed earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 30, 2020

Best of the Week

As cases peak, AP duo embeds in a French ICU for a 24-hours in the battle against COVID-19

Just as a second surge of coronavirus cases peaked in France, Associated Press journalists secured exclusive, hard-won access to an intensive care unit in southern France’s largest hospital for 24 hours, capturing the exhaustion, loneliness and dedication medical workers desperately struggling to save lives.

After a full day embedded with the ICU team, AP freelance photographer/video journalist Daniel Cole and global enterprise reporter Lori Hinnant came away with a searing, intimately reported all-formats account of Marseille’s La Timone  hospital, as medical staff tried to keep even one bed open.  

For their dogged pursuit of access, tireless reporting and sensitive, compelling and timely storytelling, Cole and Hinnant earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Nov. 20, 2020

Best of the States

Using voters’ voices and hard data, AP analyzes Black support in Biden’s win

While there is little dispute that Black voters pushed Joe Biden into the presidential winner's column, AP wanted to know: How big of a factor were they?

Race and ethnicity writers Kat Stafford and Aaron Morrison began reporting on what Black voters said they wanted Biden to deliver once in office. Using the voices they collected as the foundation of the story, Stafford and Morrison teamed with data journalist Angeliki Kastanis and polling journalist Hannah Fingerhut, who infused the piece with data and voter survey findings that bolstered the anecdotes with hard numbers. 

Their collaboration put the AP days ahead of other news organizations’ pieces on Black voters’ support of Biden. For resourceful and insightful reporting and analysis on a major factor in the 2020 election, the team of Stafford, Morrison, Kastanis and Fingerhut wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 06, 2020

Best of the Week

As families respond to the crisis, AP reveals desperate state of Venezuelan COVID treatment

Venezuela was one of the least-prepared countries in the world to fight the coronavirus. But it has arguably succeeded on one front: suppressing news of the virus’s true impact on its people. The country has acknowledged only 814 COVID deaths. But this Caracas-based all-formats AP team scored a breakthrough, telling the actual story in a country where contradicting the government’s official narrative can lead to detention.

Documenting two women working to ensure the survival of their fathers, the AP journalists delivered a hard-won, startling and exclusive look at the bleak state of health care and the plight of relatives who risk their own lives to care for loved ones in the COVID-19 wing of a rundown public hospital.

For their determination and courage to report this story and expose Venezuela’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Smith, Cubillos and Arraez earn AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP breaks news on the opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma, with focus on victims

AP reporters from three different teams broke distinctive, significant stories on the continuing drug overdose crisis in the U.S., which has been overshadowed this year by the coronavirus pandemic:

— A state-level report showing that overdose deaths are on pace to reach an all-time high this year, and that overdoses increased after the virus began spreading in the U.S.— An accountability story on President Donald Trump’s handling of the opioid crisis, and how the issue has been overlooked in the presidential race.— A major scoop on a settlement between the federal government and Purdue Pharma, complete with details of criminal charges and the $8 billion settlement. 

But the depth of coverage didn’t end with the major news beats. All three stories put victims at the center of the reporting. 

For revealing stories that broke news and provided a powerful reminder of an ongoing epidemic that has contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans, Mike Stobbe, Adrian Sainz, Farnoush Amiri, Geoff Mulvihill, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Balsamo win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive access to medics treating coronavirus – and war wounds

secured exclusive international agency access to a hospital battling coronavirus and casualties in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.Chernov and Lovetsky had been on the front line of the disputed region within Azerbaijan for more than a week when they began to see increasing numbers of people becoming sick with the coronavirus. Repeated requests to document the hospitals and clinics were rebuffed until Chernov tracked down the region’s health minister to personally request access. The minister granted permission.Wearing full protective gear carried with them from previous reporting in the Ukraine, the pair visited the main hospital in Stepanakert and found terrible scenes of suffering as coronavirus patients mixed with the war-wounded – while doctors and nurses continued to treat people despite suffering from the virus themselves. Their on-the-ground reporting was crafted into a powerful text story by Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and the story moved as cross-format agency exclusive the next day.https://bit.ly/3oCN57Ohttps://bit.ly/34BY9Kp

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Oct. 23, 2020

Best of the Week

AP documents international child labor as families put children to work during pandemic

When Mexico announced in August that its 30 million students would start the school year using a combination of internet and television-based distance learning, many poor families chose to send their children to work to help survive the pandemic’s economic toll. 

With tens of millions of out-of-school children worldwide, AP decided to look at this sad phenomenon on a broad level, from Latin America, where children hammered away inside amber mines or labored in brick kilns, to Kenya where girls had been forced into prostitution while others broke rocks in a quarry. 

For their important and compelling work, the team of Maria Verza, Eduardo Verdugo, Alexis Triboulard, Carlos Valdez, Juan Karita, Carlos Guerrero, William Costa, Jorge Saenz, Tom Odula, Brian Inganga, Sheikh Saaliq and Dario Lopez wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 02, 2020

Best of the Week

AP exposes palm oil labor abuses linked to the world’s top brands, major banks

While covering the Rohingya crisis, investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason knew tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Myanmar were vulnerable to exploitation. They suspected desperate men were being tricked or sold into the massive palm oil industry that supplies some of America’s most iconic food and cosmetic brands.

Working with photographers Gemunu Amarasinghe and Binsar Bakkara, they vividly documented the horrors some workers in Malyasia and Indonesia face. Workers spoke of brutal conditions including child labor, outright slavery and allegations of rape.

Reaction was swift, with the  U.S. government saying it would block shipments from a major Malaysian producer mentioned in the story.

For exposing abuses affecting tens of thousands of workers in a global industry that manufactures a vast array of products we buy and use daily, McDowell, Mason, Amarasinghe and Bakkara win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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.

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

India team exposes the truth behind India’s low virus death rate

delivered an ambitious all-formats package led by a compelling character profile to unravel the mystery behind India’s relatively low COVID-18 fatalities number, which experts say is an undercount. India has 5.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, but only 87,000 deaths. After numerous conversations with experts, health care officials and workers across the country, Ghosal and Saaliq offered a critical counternarrative, showing that India is not counting many deaths.

The story began with the personal narrative of Narayan Mitra, whose family said he wasn’t counted as a coronavirus victim by doctors who said the virus was “incidental” since he had a pre-existing disease. The story also showed how Indian states were not complying with the Health Ministry guidelines to record all suspected virus deaths, including those who likely died of COVID-19 but weren’t tested for it.https://bit.ly/2Ev4tZZ

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