Feb. 26, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Executioners sanitized official reports of federal inmates’ last moments

AP legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm witnessed 10 of the unprecedented 13 federal executions in the final months of the Trump administration, diligently taking notes on what he saw in the chamber, from the inmates’ last words to their last breaths. 

But weeks after the last execution in mid-January, something nagged at him: The executioner’s official account did not jibe with what he had observed during the execution. Tarm went back, looking through hundreds of filings and court transcripts. His reporting resulted in a stunning exclusive on how the executioners all used euphemisms like “snored” and “fell asleep” while Tarm and other witnesses saw inmates’ stomachs dramatically shuddering and jerking in the minutes after lethal injections.

The sanitized accounts, Tarm realized, raised serious questions about whether officials misled courts to ensure the executions would be completed before Joe Biden, a death penalty foe, took office. His story — the latest exclusive in AP’s coverage of the federal executions — received prominent play and reader engagement.

For backing up his own observations with rigorous reporting to hold the federal government accountable for its official accounts of the executions, Tarm earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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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. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exposes likely superspreader at federal executions

have covered the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, as well as every federal execution of the last year. That reporting and insight led them to the stunning realization that the Trump administration’s unprecedented string of executions likely became a superspreader event at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.Tarm first learned about the case spread when he heard that he had been exposed — although the Bureau of Prisons did not notify him or others attending the executions. Through rigorous, painstaking reporting, the three Michaels discovered that fully 70% of death row inmates had COVID during the 13 executions in six months, but the Bureau of Prisons felt it wasn’t their responsibility to ensure that everyone was told about the spread or whether their employees were following protocols.The trio’s riveting story detailed how cases spread rapidly through the federal prison complex and likely helped spread infections around the country during a critical time in the pandemic as deaths were skyrocketing. The Friday evening scoop lit up social media and was a top news story well into the weekend. https://bit.ly/3qmh0Sh

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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

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.

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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

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Virus experts find themselves facing sudden fame

interviewed some of the virologists and epidemiologists we’re all seeing on the evening news, and produced a fascinating portrait of scientists who — for better or worse — have found themselves in the pop culture crucible. Seattle-based virus expert Dr. Angela Rasmussen told Marcelo how her Twitter following exploded after she got into a tangle with Elon Musk, who attempted to “mansplain” the pandemic to her. Atlanta-based infectious diseases expert Laurel Bristow’s Instagram account swelled to 300,000 followers as she posted videos answering people’s questions and concerns about COVID-19. But Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a frequent presence in the news media, had a darker experience: The India-born expert in pandemic preparedness told Marcelo he’s received anti-immigrant tropes and gotten death threats. https://bit.ly/38knHO1

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Jan. 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

COVID victims remembered in revealing illustrations

revisited the families and friends of 10 people among more than 60 victims of COVID-19 previously profiled by AP in 2020. Over the course of the pandemic, the global cooperative’s journalists have aimed to capture the human toll, one soul at a time. They’ve portrayed the deceased across ages, races, nationalities and social class, and documented the impact of losing someone. For this final Lives Lost story, reporters wanted to know how survivors were coping and ask what they remember most about their lost loved ones. But instead of photos or video, AP made illustrations of revealing objects or other telling details associated with the departed. Even during a very busy news week, the story and illustrations were widely used by news outlets. One family member thanked AP “from the bottom of his heart,” while another said: “I appreciate everything you’ve done for my family.” https://bit.ly/3s1M0bm

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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. 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)

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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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

French team documents the pandemic’s mental health toll

produced an extraordinarily candid all-formats package that takes AP readers and clients inside a French psychiatric hospital where psychiatrists find themselves on the front line of the pandemic’s mental health fallout, treating suicidal young adults driven to despair by the privations of the pandemic and crushing solitude of lockdowns.France has proved a challenging environment for reporting the pandemic, with public health authorities reluctant to open hospital doors to international reporters. But after the recent breakthrough of embedding AP journalists in southern France’s biggest hospital, the Paris team secured a full day of access to the 535-bed Rouvray Hospital Center in Normandy.Leicester was allowed to sit in on sessions as people poured out their anguish to psychiatrists. Garriga shot interviews in a way that protected patients’ identities but also enabled them to speak freely to the AP team, including a young student who plunged back into deep depression after COVID-19 diverted resources away from her treatment. And Camus discreetly wandered corridors with patients, capturing the sprawling establishment’s quiet and otherworldly feel in a riveting photo package. https://bit.ly/2W38UAqhttps://bit.ly/3gwWSIO

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals how major terrorism prosecution almost fell apart

delivered an exclusive, deeply reported account of how the Department of Justice’s biggest terrorism prosecution in years almost didn't happen. The case involves two alleged Islamic State militants dubbed “The Beatles,” British citizens blamed for the jailing, torture and murder of Western hostages in Syria.Tucker spoke to roughly a dozen current and former U.S. and British officials — many of whom rarely, if ever, grant interviews — as well as relatives of slain hostages. The story broke news in several areas, revealing for the first time how grieving families reached a gradual consensus to take the death penalty off the table, a major sticking point. Tucker also reported the behind-the-scenes involvement of current and former FBI officials who encouraged the families to prod the administration into action, and never-before-seen email correspondence from a senior Justice Department official to one of the victims’ relatives.https://bit.ly/3m1IcCOhttps://bit.ly/37Std99

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Dec. 04, 2020

Best of the Week

AP coverage of refugees in Sudan opens a window into Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict

The thousands of refugees spilling over the border into Sudan from Ethiopia’s Tigray region are some of the only firsthand witnesses to a worsening conflict that remains out of reach for most of the world’s media. Crossing a remote desert area, they recount ethnic-targeted killings, many fleeing at a moment’s notice and leaving loved ones behind amid an offensive by the Ethiopian government against Tigray separatists. 

Video journalist Fay Abuelgasim and photographer Nariman el-Mofty have put individual faces on the complex story since arriving at the Sudan-Ethiopia border area nearly two weeks ago. Along with reporters Sam Magdy in Cairo and Cara Anna in Nairobi, their work has revealed the human toll of a conflict to which access remains tightly restricted, even as the United Nations warns of possible war crimes. AP clients have recognized the work with strong play.

For their determined, resourceful and revealing work to document the individual struggles of an escalating refugee crisis, Abuelgasim, el-Mofty, Anna and Magdy earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP captures the essential work of Spain’s mortuary workers

produced a powerful set of images that captures the grim but essential work of mortuary workers collecting the bodies of COVID-19 victims from hospitals, nursing homes and private residences in Spain. Since the pandemic began in the spring, Morenatti has recorded the impact of the coronavirus on Spain with moving and sometimes jarring photo packages from spaces not often open to journalists: hospitals, funeral parlors and even private homes. While the images may shock, Morenatti consistently documents his subjects with sensitivity and respect. His latest package is no exception.After weeks of trying, Morenatti managed to embed with the Barcelona mortuary workers. His photos, accompanied by colleague Joe Wilson’s text, revealed the important work done by people in a profession that rarely makes headlines, and also captured the emotional toll on the workers. One image from a nursing home showed workers in protective suits removing the body of an elderly COVID victim as another resident slept in an adjacent bed. The images played widely, including the front-page of Spain’s leading daily, El Pais, and made The Guardian’s “20 Photographs of the Week.”https://bit.ly/36yJvVdhttps://bit.ly/36BFfnM

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Nov. 20, 2020

Best of the Week

‘We went straight to the border’: AP documents Armenians burning their homes in conflict zone

For more than a month, video journalist Mstyslav Chernov and photographer Dmitri Lovetsky tirelessly documented fierce fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Then, as they were wrapping up their assignment, Armenia signed an agreement ceding the territory to Azerbaijan, triggering protests in Armenia and an exodus of ethnic Armenians from the region now falling into enemy hands. When Chernov and Lovetsky learned that Armenians were burning their own homes as they fled the region, the AP pair repeatedly made risky and arduous trips into the territory, producing powerful, emotionally charged reporting and images, including the moving story of a family abandoning its home.

For displaying exceptional commitment and courage in their coverage of last week’s dramatic developments — as they have throughout this weekslong story — Chernov and Lovetsky earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Nov. 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Dedicated, resourceful reporting sheds light on Ethiopia conflict

has applied relentless drive, journalistic smarts and competitive spirit in her coverage of the conflict between Ethiopia’s federal government and its rebellious Tigray region. A year after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has vowed a “final and crucial” military offensive against Tigray.The story is largely opaque: It has few facts, no death tolls reported, no troop numbers and only hazy social media suggestions of massacres perpetrated in places not found on Google. There is, however, a sea of propaganda and angry words of recrimination from both sides. Through tireless reporting from Kenya, making hundreds of calls to officials, diplomats, aid agencies, diaspora and analysts, through astutely monitoring videos, talking to stringers and parsing through hours of propaganda, Anna has built up a picture of the conflict that, while still a work in progress, is the sharpest and clearest picture available anywhere.https://bit.ly/38RO3HQhttps://bit.ly/3kI89q9https://bit.ly/2IPU11g

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