Jan. 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP reveals chronic problems, personal stories behind a deadly period in Mississippi prisons

The Associated Press began chronicling rising violence across Mississippi’s troubled prison system in late 2019, but after four deaths in four days it became clear that something bigger was going on.

Reporters Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus explored the history of underfunding and other problems in the state’s prison system. In addition to official documents describing understaffing, the pair obtained photos and video shot by a prisoner that showed the conditions inside the infamous penitentiary at Parchman. 

AP also published all-formats interviews with grieving mothers of prisoners killed, and reported on the state’s decision to house inmates at a private prison.

For bringing much-needed insight and context to a chaotic, evolving situation and giving voice to those affected by the deadly violence, Amy and Wagster Pettus receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 10, 2020

Best of the Week

AP breaks news of Soleimani killing; dominates all-formats coverage

The source’s initial tip seemed fairly run-of-the-mill for Baghdad: A late-night rocket attack hit the international airport.

But AP’s Baghdad correspondent Qassim Abdul-Zahra sensed something unusual was afoot. He alerted colleagues and kept digging, teasing out a name that set alarm bells ringing: Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general and one of the Middle East’s most powerful protagonists, might have been in the car. 

Soon, from three sources, came confirmation that Soleimani was dead. Regional news director Zeina Karam’s AP alert reached our customers well ahead of the competition and triggered a response by teams, across the region and beyond, that would maintain AP’s edge with all-formats coverage astounding in its breadth, speed and insight.

Usage in all formats was off the charts, both by AP customers and on social channels.

For standout work in a competitive tour de force, AP’s Middle East team of Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Zeina Karam, Jon Gambrell, Nasser Karimi, Ahmed Sami and Nasser Nasser share Best of the Week honors.

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Dec. 27, 2019

Best of the Week

Comprehensive impeachment coverage showcases AP’s speed, depth and reach

The world depends on The Associated Press during historic moments, and the impeachment of President Donald Trump was no exception. 

Journalists in Washington and beyond demonstrated the AP’s extraordinary power and depth to cover all angles of the story, including the monthslong footrace to tally votes ahead of proceedings, videos filed quickly of both the hearings and of Trump’s reaction, and the ground-level view of impeachment in six election battleground states.

Stellar post-vote stories included an analysis of how impeachment would affect Trump’s legacy and the 2020 campaign, as well as an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

For impeachment coverage that consistently broke news, gave crucial context and provided customers with materials they could localize and promote, the Washington bureau and the team of journalists behind the vote tracking effort win AP’s Best of the Week.

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Dec. 20, 2019

Best of the Week

How tramadol, touted as the safer opioid, became a 3rd world peril

It was supposed to be the safer opioid, a way to fight pain with little risk of addiction. That promise has meant much less regulation of tramadol than other opioids. And its relatively low cost has made tramadol the drug of choice in many developing countries, becoming what the United Nations calls “the other opioid crisis.”

National writer Claire Galofaro spent months researching the issue – but how to illustrate the story from a fresh perspective?

Galofaro turned to New Delhi-based correspondent Emily Schmall, who traveled to India’s Punjab state, where she talked to people struggling with addiction, visited a treatment center and gained unprecedented access to officials trying to stem the crisis. 

The deeply reported story, one of the top-read pieces on AP News, also delved into tramadol’s heavy toll in Africa, and its trafficking among terrorist groups. 

For their work exposing an aspect of the international opioid crisis that has received far less attention, Galofaro and Schmall win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Dec. 13, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

1979 concert tragedy links The Who and an Ohio suburb

for breaking the news that The Who would return to the Cincinnati area for the first time since a concert 40 years ago in which 11 fans were trampled to death. During an interview, Carucci developed a rapport with Who guitarist Pete Townshend, who opened up in general terms about the group’s plans. Carucci brought in the rest of the team, who produced a richly reported anniversary story in all formats. https://bit.ly/2qMqs7Hhttps://bit.ly/36qVLnChttps://bit.ly/2PJoMVbhttps://bit.ly/36zaGMT

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Dec. 06, 2019

Best of the Week

AP all-formats crew provides unmatched coverage of Albania earthquake

Jolted out of bed by the 6.4-magnitude earthquake just before 4 a.m., correspondent Llazar Semini in Tirana knew immediately he was dealing with a major story. Communications networks were shaky, but he managed to reach colleagues in other formats by phone, triggering what would become a virtual sweep of the disaster coverage.

The quick decisions made in the early hours resulted in a compelling all-formats report and gave AP the clear advantage over competitive agencies. Nowhere was that advantage more evident than in live video – AP picked up live video within an hour of the quake, and several hours before any of the competition. 

Coverage was just as impressive in text, photo and video edits. AP’s dominance continued with drone video, and all-formats coverage of dramatic rescue efforts and anguished survivors. 

For resourceful work that powerfully conveyed the human toll and devastation while delivering a dominant competitive performance, the multinational all-formats team of Llazar Semini, Visar Kryeziu, Hektor Pustina, Amer Cohadzic, Erion Xhiabati, Florent Bajrami, Sylejman Klokkoqi and Petros Giannakouris shares AP’s Best of the Week.

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Nov. 13, 2019

Best of the Week

Only on AP: In his last days, al-Baghdadi sought safety in shrinking domain

The death of the Islamic State group “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was one of the most competitive stories in the world in recent weeks. Journalists scrambled to uncover details of the U.S. operation and how the Islamic State leader ended up in a hideout in Syria.

Beirut-based Middle East reporter Sarah El Deeb put the AP out front with a story based on exclusive interviews recounting al-Baghdadi’s final days, as he was shuttled furtively around Syria by a dwindling circle of confidants. 

Enhancing the narrative were dramatic details from a teenage girl who had been enslaved by al-Baghdadi as he sought refuge. El Deeb elicited the previously untold details through sensitive and dogged reporting.

The story stood out from the many accounts that simply echoed the official account of al-Baghdadi’s death, demonstrating not only the AP’s dominance on a global story but also its trusted ability to provide facts-based reporting from the ground in the region.

For outstanding source work and reporting on a story of intense interest, Sarah El Deeb wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

 

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Nov. 08, 2019

Best of the Week

Dodging flames, AP team delivers extraordinary all-formats coverage of raging California wildfires

When two burning tree limbs crashed in flames on the exact spot where Marcio Sanchez had been standing just moments earlier, the shaken AP Los Angeles photographer called two colleagues to check that they both had his wife’s phone number, figuring that “if something happened to me, they could tell her.” He then plunged back to work, capturing vivid images of the furious wildfires tearing across swaths of California.

That incident captured the commitment of AP journalists during a frenetic week documenting the wind-whipped wildfires and accompanying blackouts. Sanchez was joined in the riveting coverage by photographers Noah Berger and Greg Bull, reporters Janie Har and Don Thompson, and more than a dozen others on the ground and in AP bureaus.

The engrossing, all-formats coverage was among the most popular on AP all week.

For their extraordinary work during a hectic and dangerous week, Sanchez, Berger, Bull, Thompson and Har share AP’s Best of the Week.  

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Sept. 20, 2019

Best of the Week

AP offers compelling takes on two oft-reported crises: Migrant rescues and opioid trafficking

They are crises that have received significant attention while playing out in different parts of the world, but the efforts of a trio of AP journalists have shed new light on both the perilous journey of migrants in the Mediterranean and the opioid epidemic in America.

The work of the journalists, Renata Brito aboard the Ocean Viking humanitarian ship sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, and Lindsay Whitehurst and Claire Galofaro in the U.S., tells the respective stories with a captivating clarity that resonated with readers and earned a rare tie in the Best of the Week contest. Each story demonstrated the profound storytelling power the AP can bring to complex stories with ingenuity, smart planning and teamwork.

Barcelona-based Brito wins for a story that she’s still living, and telling, from the Ocean Viking. Embedded with a ship that last week rescued 50 migrants fleeing violence in Africa, her dispatch, “Migrant escaping Libya torture: We will go to Europe or die,” showed in stark terms the journey that for many has ended in death.

Galofaro and Whitehurst, meanwhile, share the win with a very different but no-less-gripping tale: “The rise and fall of an Eagle Scout’s deadly fentanyl empire,” about a millennial who built a million-dollar empire of mail-order fentanyl-laced pills.

For packages that brought new insight and perspective to heavily covered stories with significant global impact, Brito, Galofaro and Whitehurst win AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Sept. 20, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Persistence, preparation pay off in all-formats Mugabe coverage

for a collaborative effort that produced outstanding images and powerful storytelling surrounding Robert Mugabe’s death, and explored the hardships of the people he left in economic crisis.

The distinctive work done by AP’s all-formats team in Zimbabwe was due in large part to the efforts of photographer Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi. His tireless negotiations with Zimbwabwean authorities over the preceding months meant AP staffers were already accredited to work in the country and could fly into Harare soon after news broke of Mugabe’s death. AP was reporting the story while other news organisations struggled to get into the country.

Mukwazhi’s persistent face-to-face contact with the information ministry was also crucial for obtaining press accreditation for Johannesburg-based Africa News Editor Andy Meldrum, AP’s foremost expert on Zimbabwe, who had been on a blacklist for 16 years for his reporting on Mugabe’s rule. Meldrum’s personal reporting from the ground defined AP’s coverage, while photo, video and text colleagues delivered comprehensive coverage ranging from the official funeral ceremonies to the daily life of Zimbabeans struggling to get by.https://bit.ly/2m2Hlbphttps://bit.ly/2m0JODehttps://apnews.com/RobertMugabe

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Sept. 06, 2019

Best of the Week

In the face of death, the party of a lifetime

In a world focused on life and survival, death is often unseen, endured in private and acknowledged in glowing obituaries or tragic news stories. It’s also mostly out of the control of the person who is dying.

Now, with nine U.S. states allowing terminally ill people to end their lives with fatal drugs, thousands of people have legally chosen how and when to end their lives.

Seattle Photographer Elaine Thompson has long wanted to show the real, personal side of what often comes across as an impersonal process. She spent months looking for the right subject, getting tantalizingly close to success before plans fell through. She stuck with it, and when she found Bob Fuller, she enlisted reporter Gene Johnson to tell his story.

This week’s Best of the Week goes to the team of Elaine Thompson and Gene Johnson who chronicled how one man, in the face of death, created the party of a lifetime.

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Breaking news of top US prison official’s ouster after Epstein death

for breaking the news that the head of the long-troubled federal prison system was being removed in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide. Balsamo had been pressing sources at the Justice Department about the fate of Hugh Hurwitz, the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons. Two guards and the warden had been disciplined, but nothing was said about the senior leadership. Balsamo worked up prep in case Hurwitz resigned or was fired.

Nine days after Epstein’s death, Balsamo heard from a source who had just met with Attorney General William Barr: Barr was going to remove Hurwitz. The decision was extremely sensitive; even Hurwitz didn't know yet. Balsamo had just a brief window to break the news before it became public, but because he had the prep in place, he was able to move quickly. AP had a 650-word story before any other outlet had even sent an alert. Hurwitz’s removal quickly became one of the top stories of the day, with Balsamo’s story receiving wide play, even by some news organizations with their own Justice Department reporters. https://bit.ly/2NBYC7k

Aug. 23, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP breaks news of Epstein autopsy report

for their source work to break the news that Jeffrey Epstein’s death had officially been ruled a suicide by hanging. Sisak ensured AP would be at the top of the medical examiner’s call list by gently nudging the ME’s office daily, several times a day, about the release of the autopsy findings. Balsamo had put the AP on high alert earlier in the day when a source confirmed that federal investigators had been told to expect the medical examiner’s determination that afternoon. As a result, AP was one of just two news organizations to get the findings first, with AP putting out its alert followed by an updated story less than two minutes later. AP was widely attributed with news of the ruling on the air and in mobile push alerts. https://bit.ly/2TOH3BN

Aug. 02, 2019

Best of the Week

Only on AP: Intimate, compelling all-formats coverage of Congo’s deadly Ebola outbreak

It’s a story so dangerous that the journalists who covered it are still checking their temperatures regulary to ensure that they’re not infected with one of the world’s most lethal diseases. Yet AP’s all-formats journalists helped tell intimate stories about the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history.

The team – Johannesburg Chief Photographer Jerome Delay, West Africa Bureau Chief Krista Larson, Istanbul video journalist Bram Janssen and Congo stringer Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro – had been planning since April to report on the outbreak in Congo, a journey complicated not only by risk of the disease but also the threat of rebel attacks. And their story took on even greater urgency when the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a world health emergency.

Readers, and editors, around the world took notice as the team produced a series of compelling stories from the epicenter of the outbreak.

For careful planning and execution of multiformat coverage that brought the frightening outbreak to a deeply personal level, Larson, Delay, Janssen and Kudra win AP’s Best of the Week.

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July 26, 2019

Best of the States

When worlds collide: FOIA reveals ousted Iowa official’s fixation with Tupac Shakur

When Gov. Kim Reynolds abruptly fired Jerry Foxhoven, the head of the Iowa Department of Human Services, she refused to say why.

But within days of the firing, Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley got a startling tip: The ouster may have been due to Foxhoven’s over-the-top fondness for the late Tupac Shakur. A Freedom of Information Act request yielded 350 pages of official emails referencing the hip-hop artist, and on the day before Foxhoven was asked to resign he had sent a mass email to all 4,300 DHS employees telling them to commemorate Shakur’s birthday.

Foley’s story caused a nearly instant sensation in Iowa and among national outlets that credited the AP for the scoop while giving their own spin on the story.

For investigating a tip rather than laughing it off, and then writing a story that managed the rare feat of connecting state government to a 1990s rap icon, Foley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 19, 2019

Best of the Week

One face of immigration policy: 9-year-old in Texas still separated from Guatemalan family

Houston-based immigration reporter Nomaan Merchant uncovered a heartbreaking tale in his coverage of the lingering toll of President Donald Trump’s family separation policy: a 9-year-old boy, Byron Xol, who is still separated from his parents. The boy eventually landed in the home of a Texas family who took custody of the child, while his parents were deported to Guatemala.

Merchant had been looking for an opportunity to write a detailed narrative that would illustrate the stress that separations have on families. When he learned on short notice of Byron’s upcoming birthday, he decided it was the perfect time to tell the tale.

Merchant and his Houston colleagues – video journalist John Mone and photographer David Phillip – went to the boy’s current foster home outside Austin. Meanwhile, photographer Santiago Billy, reporter Sonny Figueroa and video stringer Sergio Alfaro went to the Guatemalan village of the Xol family. Together they captured the emotion of the day and the sharp contrast between the two worlds, as the dad phoned Byron on his birthday.

The story they produced was gripping, used by more than 400 AP members in the U.S. It was just one of a series of strong pieces that have put names, faces and personal narratives to the immigration story, keeping AP’s coverage ahead.

For recognizing the moment and mobilizing quickly across formats and borders, Alfaro, Billy, Figueroa, Merchant, Mone and Phillip share AP’s Best of the Week.

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June 28, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP partners with Maryland students to investigate US jail suicides

for a unique partnership to investigate the high rate of suicides in U.S. jails. Cohen and students from the University of Maryland’s Capital New Service spent months compiling a database of lawsuits and reviewing hundreds of other cases, finding news-making patterns: Scores of jails have been sued or investigated for allegedly refusing inmates medication, ignoring their cries for help, failing to monitor them despite warnings they might harm themselves, or imposing such harsh conditions that the sick got sicker.https://bit.ly/2IP5zhfhttps://www.apnews.com/DeathBehindBars