Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP connects palm oil industry, top brands to abuse of women

followed up on their initial reporting that exposed widespread labor abuse in the palm oil industry, conducting a comprehensive investigation into the brutal treatment of women in the production of the omnipresent ingredient, including rapes by plantation supervisors, serious health issues from toxic chemicals and injuries from back-breaking loads. The pair then traced the oil produced by these women to the supply chains of top Western beauty brands — including conglomerates that make billions of dollars by marketing the empowerment of women.Mason and McDowell persuaded dozens of female workers to tell their searing stories, spending months getting the women to trust them and then arranging clandestine meetings in an effort to protect the workers from retaliation by plantation owners. They bypassed the stonewalling of major Western brands that refused to say whether their products contain palm oil by using company data and U.S. Customs records to link the workers’ abuse to the brands’ palm oil supply chains.The package featured striking digital display, video and evocative photos by Indonesia-based stringer Binsar Bakkara, as well as a powerful series of closeups of workers’ hands cradling familiar products containing the fruits of their labor.The story is nearing 250,000 page views on AP News. The Clorox Company, which owns Burt’s Bees Inc., said it would raise the allegations of abuses with its suppliers, calling AP’s findings “incredibly disturbing.” https://bit.ly/3liKAV3https://bit.ly/2VeVUXRhttps://bit.ly/3mlXgfd

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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)

Exclusive: DEA recruits describe agency racism, ‘monkey noises’

reported exclusively on a string of recent discrimination complaints by minority recruits at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s training academy, including one allegation that black trainees were taunted with “monkey noises.”Getting trainees to talk about such incidents was the real reporting feat of this story. After Mustian’s June piece about the chronic struggles the agency has had recruiting minorities, several people both inside and outside of the DEA contacted him with accounts of discrimination, saying racism permeated their time at the academy from their first day of basic training, alleging exceptions were routinely made for underperforming white trainees while Blacks were held to an appreciably higher standard.

In the most glaring case, a recruit told Mustian that a firearms instructor called a Black trainee a “monkey” to his face and subjected a group of Black trainees to monkey sounds over a loudspeaker. The DEA did not deny the incident and the instructor retired before he could be disciplined. Mustian’s story played heavily, but most significantly it prompted several more people to contact him with new accounts of discrimination within the DEA.

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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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Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

A year in the making: Exclusive AP interview with Placido Domingo

scored a coveted exclusive: an all-formats interview with Placido Domingo. Barry spent a year convincing Domingo’s team that the singer should sit down and talk to the news agency that broke the story about investigations and sexual misconduct allegations against him. When Domingo’s team finally agreed, Barry was able to negotiate access for photos and video to cover not just the interview, but the concert on the eve of the interview, which for cultural events in Italy is not always the case.Barry conducted the interview in English and Italian, keeping her composure even when her line of questioning prompted Domingo’s family to “swarm” her. The story received wide play with news outlets directly crediting the AP’s interview and previous reporting. Some non-AP customers, including the BBC, were forced to credit the AP in their stories on the interview and Domingo’s denial of abusing power.https://bit.ly/34CurW0https://bit.ly/3ltJKGG

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Aug. 07, 2020

Best of the States

Players open up to AP, describe coach’s abusive practices at Oregon State

National sports writer Eddie Pells was first approached in February by the mom of a player who said she had some concerns about abuses going on in the volleyball program at Oregon State. 

Over the next five months, Pells conducted dozens of interviews both in and out of the program, and checked with experts to learn if volleyball coach Mark Barnard was over the line. Several athletes spoke to Pells, including a former OSU player who described how the coach’s abusive practices contributed to a suicide attempt. 

Pells’ exclusive led to immediate calls for the coach’s firing and questions about the university officials who didn’t take action after hearing complaints. 

For months of persistent and sensitive reporting despite uncertain prospects, resulting in an impressive story with impact, Pells wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 31, 2020

Best of the Week

AP exclusive leads to release of migrant kids held in US hotels for deportation

Earmarked for deportation, the immigrant children, some mere toddlers, were parked in nondescript hotels – out of sight and, the Trump administration thought, out of mind.  But not out of reach of an Associated Press exclusive.

With an investigation based on source work, court records and witness accounts, immigration reporter Nomaan Merchant exposed how the Trump administration held children in hotels despite federal anti-trafficking laws and court rulings that mandate child-appropriate facilities.

Merchant’s exclusive sparked outrage and accusations of child abuse. Five days later, the Trump administration said it would not expel 17 people, including children, detained at one Texas hotel, and the hotels pledged to stop allowing the practice.

For his investigative story that punctured layers of secrecy and changed the fortunes of all-but-invisible immigrant children, Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award. 

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July 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: US Catholic Church lobbies, gets windfall in federal PPP funds

Based on a tip following AP’s previous reporting on the Paycheck Protection Program, AP anticipated that the Roman Catholic Church might be one of the program’s biggest winners. 

Investigative reporters Reese Dunklin and Michael Rezendes started digging, first showing how the church had successfully lobbied for special treatment under the program, then, when the federal data dropped, the full extent of the church’s windfall. An analysis on deadline revealed $1.4 billion to $3.5 billion in forgivable loans, with many millions going to dioceses that paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy because of sexual abuse claims.

The story had an immediate impact with strong play and engagement in digital, print and broadcast outlets.

For being both first and authoritative on this highly competitive story, and for holding a remarkably powerful institution accountable, Dunklin and Rezendes share this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 08, 2020

Best of the Week

AP exclusive reveals ex-Green Beret’s failed Venezuelan coup plot

In a gripping exclusive that reads like the plot of a Hollywood film, Latin America correspondent Josh Goodman revealed the failed plot to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro by a ragtag group of 300 volunteers led by a former U.S. Green Beret. The ill-conceived plan called for the group to invade Venezuela from Colombia and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in Maduro’s arrest.

The plot was uncovered and dismantled with barely a whisper, but a cryptic tip to the well-sourced Goodman planted the seed of the story. Over the next several months he reviewed documents and interviewed more than 30 Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters with knowledge of the plot, piecing together the narrative with a strong assist from investigative researcher Randy Herschaft.

Goodman’s story broke and reaction was strong: International media struggled to catch up and authorities in the U.S. and Colombia launched investigations. Senate Democrats have sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding answers.

For his impressive scoop on the failed coup that has been dubbed “The Bay of Piglets,” Goodman and Herschaft win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

‘Cartels are scrambling’ as virus disrupts drug trade

revealed how the coronavirus is taking a bite out of the global drug trafficking – everything from severing key supply chains for Chinese precursor drugs to paralyzing the economies upon which drug sales rely. With detailed, on-the-record source work, they reported why drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia are being disrupted and how that is playing out in cities across the U.S., mostly in the form of tight supplies and prices that have risen to crisis-gouging levels. https://bit.ly/355KtWz

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April 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Focus on COVID-19 patients for testing treatments

spent weeks searching for patients to put faces on two clinical trials testing COVID-19 treatments: One was a coronavirus survivor who opted to donate her blood for research; the other was a doctor turned patient who decided to join a study testing an experimental biotech drug. The stories were part of AP’s ongoing effort to tell the behind-the-scenes stories of people affected by the pandemic.https://bit.ly/2JQKbcwhttps://bit.ly/2XlHOWQ

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March 27, 2020

Best of the States

Fast, definitive work on US price gouging complaints amid coronavirus crisis

When reporters Justin Pritchard and Reese Dunklin were asked to look into price gouging and profiteering off the coronavirus crisis, they  sought to go deeper by employing a key part of their investigative reporting toolkit: a systematic reporting strategy.

The pair quickly executed a plan to question attorneys general in all 50 states, resulting in the most comprehensive look yet at the problem across the nation. In just two days of reporting, Pritchard and Dunklin uncovered more than 5,000 reports of everything from price gouging on toilet paper and masks, to scams offering tests and even cures for the illness. 

Their brightly written story won strong play on a busy day of coronavirus news, hitting the wire hours before Attorney General William Barr announced new actions against such crimes.

For fast, aggressive work that tapped into a topic on the public’s mind, AP recognizes Pritchard and Dunklin with this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: Manufacturers of generic opioids fueled crisis

delivered a fast, smart follow-up after U.K.-based Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals announced a U.S. settlement over its role in the opioid epidemic. The team’s analysis revealed that Mallinckrodt and one other generic drug manufacturer were responsible for the vast majority of high-dosage prescription painkillers – billions of generic pills – distributed throughout the U.S. during the height of the opioid epidemic. https://bit.ly/2IoXuQG

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Feb. 28, 2020

Best of the States

Be Prepared: Source work, planning deliver top coverage of Scouts’ bankruptcy

David Crary heard from his legal sources that something big was coming for the Boy Scouts of America, which has been besieged by sexual abuse lawsuits: a bankruptcy filing.

Weeks before the paperwork was filed, Crary, who has been covering the organization for 20 years, set into motion plans to ensure the AP was well-covered. When the Scouts’ filing finally came out late on a holiday, his sharply written prep had the story on the wire within minutes, explaining the gravity of the filing and the reasons behind it.

AP journalists around the country pitched in, including Brady McCombs who gathered reaction from Scouts and local councils, spinning it into an engaging follow-up, and correspondent Randall Chase who attended the Scouts’ first bankruptcy hearing in a Delaware court. Their efforts were rewarded with outstanding play.

For their careful planning and flawless execution of coverage of the Scouts’ bankruptcy filing, Crary, McCombs and Chase win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Wrestler goes public with abuse charges; AP gets the interview

Kantele Franko, reporter, Columbus, Ohio; Larry Lage, sports writer, Detroit; and Thomas Peipert, reporter, Denver, for nimble coordination across three regions to secure an all-formats interview with the first athlete – Olympic wrestler Andy Hrovat – to make public accusations of sexual abuse against now-deceased Dr. Robert Anderson of the University of Michigan.https://bit.ly/2HZ8m7Ghttps://bit.ly/2PwPH7j

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Feb. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Vatican envoy knew of offer to bribe abuse victim

for teaming up in a new investigation into the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order, revealing that the pope’s own envoy knew about a sex abuse settlement offer that is the subject of an obstruction of justice and extortion trial in Italy. AP scored the first-ever interview with the victim’s mother and obtained her wiretapped conversation with the Vatican cardinal running the Legion who was utterly unfazed that the order wanted to pay her son to lie to prosecutors and deny he had been abused.https://bit.ly/2TftYlihttps://bit.ly/2VpMJVI

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Feb. 21, 2020

Best of the Week

AP team follows African migrants risking all to reach Saudi Arabia

After Maggie Michael, Nariman El-Mofty and Maad al-Zekri followed Ethiopian migrants across Djibouti and Yemen, they worked with the digital storytelling desk to deliver an all-formats package that hooked readers from the start, weaving together the differing fates of two migrants – one who succeeded in his epic walk to Saudi Arabia, the other who failed, left stranded and hopeless along the way.

The story demonstrated the scope of the AP’s reach, covering a little-noticed but rapidly growing route for migrants, exploring what motivates these men and women to risk their lives, and making readers care about people to whom they would not otherwise have been introduced.

The package, produced and packaged by Natalie Castañeda and Peter Hamlin, showcased how AP’s formats can work seamlessly together – from reporting on the ground to digital production – with dazzling results.

For stunningly beautiful work that took AP’s audience on the migrants’ journey from the sun-blasted wastelands of Djibouti to the shores of the Gulf of Aden and beyond, Michael, El-Mofty, al-Zekri, Castañeda and Hamlin win AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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