Dec. 24, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation reveals ‘leadership vacuum’ after backlash against public health officials

AP reporter Michelle Smith was working on another project in June when she came up with the names of a dozen or so public health officials who had quit, retired or been fired. Sensing a trend, Smith and reporters at Kaiser Health News continued to track those departures as the pandemic worsened and the backlash against public health restrictions became more strident.

The journalists contacted officials in all 50 states and interviewed dozens of people, finding a public health leadership vacuum developing at a critical time in the pandemic. They told the stories of public servants who toiled through the pandemic only to be reviled by their neighbors — including the wrenching story of an official whose husband would not even follow her recommendation to require masks in the family store. The timely all-formats story included a data distribution, interactive graphics and a sidebar with portraits and quotes of public health officials. 

For a deeply reported package that examines a vital component of the pandemic response, Smith, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Hannah Recht and Lauren Weber earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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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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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. 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. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Data, reporting reveal millions exposed to wildfire pollution

used government air pollution data, academic studies and interviews to report exclusively that the western wildfires exposed at least 38 million people in five states to unhealthy levels of smoke, causing emergency room visits to spike and potentially thousands of deaths among the elderly and infirm. The all-formats package included the experience of an Oregon woman whose smoke-triggered asthma attacks twice sent her to the emergency room.https://bit.ly/34hvDgShttps://bit.ly/3m6yeR0

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Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the Week

AP launches ‘Looking for America’ series with an immersive trip into Appalachia

Assignments don’t come much more challenging or ambitious: Take a road trip across the nation to see how Americans in different regions and are facing the confluence of COVID-19, economic meltdown, racial protests and a tumultuous presidential election. The first installment of the project had to both launch the series and hold its own as a story, and this AP all-formats team came through beautifully.

The story focuses on Ohio communities in the much-maligned Appalachian region, thoughtfully acknowledging both the truths and the enduring stereotypes so often associated with it. The resulting package resonated for days with readers.

For compelling journalism that speaks to core issues affecting Americans in a turbulent year, the team of enterprise reporter Tim Sullivan, enterprise photographer Maye-E Wong and video journalist Noreen Nasir earns AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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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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Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: Few standards for police use of ketamine

pulled back the curtain on ketamine injections, a technique used by police to subdue suspects that played a role in last year’s death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain after a police stop in suburban Denver. Nieberg talked to experts, reviewed medical studies and police policies, and analyzed cases where ketamine has been used. She found a lack of police training, conflicting medical standards and nonexistent protocols that have resulted in hospitalizations and deaths. https://bit.ly/3b3bjSf

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Aug. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: NY State is likely undercounting nursing home deaths

analyzed available data to show that New York’s coronavirus death toll in nursing homes, already among the nation’s highest, is likely undercounted by thousands. New York is the only state among those with major outbreaks that only counts residents who died on nursing home property, not in hospitals, leading to speculation the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is manipulating its figures to make it appear it is doing better on nursing homes than other states. https://bit.ly/2DUz6Yz

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Aug. 07, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Virus-linked hunger tied to 10,000 more child deaths each month

made AP the first news organization to report that coronavirus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to the United Nations.The story was sparked by a riveting set of photos and video by Mednick, showing an emaciated baby in Burkina Faso who had lost half her (already low) birth weight because her mother couldn’t feed her enough. Hinnant decided to tell the story of the worldwide increase in hunger through children, arranging with the United Nations to share the grim statistics with AP.The numbers went along with a global effort to talk to children, families, doctors and aid workers across five countries in various regions. In reporting on Yemen, AP went back to the family with a hungry baby whom we had spoken to previously – only to find out that the baby had died.The widely used story struck a nerve with readers, some of whom reached out seeking to help the families.https://bit.ly/3kenos1https://bit.ly/2F2DJjv

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July 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Moving photos: Spanish nursing home adds the human touch

crafted a tender, poignant photo package of nursing home residents in Spain hugging their relatives through protective sheets of plastic, his images almost instantly resonating among audiences worldwide. “One of the most moving epidemic-era photos I have seen,” wrote one Twitter user. Another called it “an ode to love and so heartbreaking. Terrific work.” Multiple media organizations including The Guardian and CNN included Morenatti’s work in their must-see photo collections of the week. https://bit.ly/2YK0iRg

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July 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Only on AP: Families take legal action over nursing home deaths

gained the trust of French families mourning their loved ones to deliver a heart-rending, intimate and powerful character-driven Only on AP exclusive. With weeks of reporting, including reams of documents and dozens of interviews, the pair told in gripping detail of the growing legal battle being fought by grieving relatives to find how and why their elderly family members died behind the sealed doors of nursing homes in lockdown.https://bit.ly/3gfK2xmhttps://bit.ly/3dPI2tW

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June 05, 2020

Best of the Week

Coverage of Floyd protests, Brazil’s virus toll, commands global attention

The end of May saw unprecedented news: The coronavirus pandemic continued to spread infection and wreak economic havoc around the globe, while much of the world’s attention pivoted suddenly to protests across the U.S. that spread to Paris, London, Australia and elsewhere after the suffocation death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

This week’s Best of the Week recognizes AP’s work surrounding each of those mega-stories, with top honors going to Baltimore-based photographer Julio Cortez for his iconic photo of a protester holding an American flag aloft, and to the AP all-formats team in Brazil for continuing coverage of the virus in a nation being ravaged by COVID-19.

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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Rare all-formats access to Brazil ICU

secured exclusive access to take a camera into an ICU in a working class city north of Rio. With Brazil suffering the most COVID-19 cases and deaths in Latin America, media outlets have clamored for access to hospitals, without success. Fisch worked associates and contacts, finally convincing a city health secretary to grant access to the Sao Jose municipal hospital. She made the most of an hour inside the unit on Saturday, working among medical staff to produce all-formats content that was well-received by clients. Her video was the most-used on AP Video Hub for the weekend.https://bit.ly/2AQ81Uqhttps://bit.ly/3e8tRRc

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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Chicago morgue copes with surge in deaths

used rare, exclusive access to one of the nation's busiest morgues, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, to document the facility as it coped with the surge of COVID-19 deaths while still handling its usual number of homicides. The AP team expected to find employees overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of bodies that more than tripled their workload. Instead they found a well-organized, efficient operation and employees who, while putting in seven-day weeks in some cases, spoke of their determination to provide dignity to the dead.https://bit.ly/2Tqx5I1https://bit.ly/3e5PzW1

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May 15, 2020

Best of the States

Bearing witness as COVID-19 ravages rural Georgia counties

Telling the stories of people who have suffered devastating losses is difficult at the best of times, but with this story, focused on one predominantly black rural county in southwestern Georgia where the pandemic is hitting hardest among some of America’s most exposed, the all-formats team of Claire Galofaro, Brynn Anderson and Angie Wang also had to cope with the challenges of reporting in a pandemic. 

The journalists knew they would have to take cautious risks to tell this important story, while also dealing with the emotional and ethical issues of potentially putting the people they spoke to in danger. They spent much of their time sorting out how to best protect their sources, while also getting a story worthy of the risk those sources were taking to tell it.

That story, intimately told and richly illustrated, connected with readers, some of whom said it made the pandemic finally feel real. Many said it inspired them to act, and others wrote to compliment the journalism. 

For a significant, poignant package that reveals in personal terms the already deep inequities exploited by the pandemic, Galofaro, Anderson and Wang are recognized with this week’s Best of the States award.

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