Sept. 18, 2020

Best of the States

Putting a human face to the numbers: A waiter made homeless by the pandemic

Since the pandemic took hold in America, myriad stories have covered the broad economic impact of millions laid off or underemployed. But few have captured how the chilling trickle-down effect is changing lives.

Enter Kelli Kennedy. The Florida reporter produced a compelling, poignant story on one man's struggle with the devastating effects of the coronavirus shutdowns. Orlando resident Jeff Lello lost his waiter job, ended up homeless and briefly lived in a tent in the woods. 

The story was among AP’s most-read of the week, drawing feedback from readers, colleagues and even politicians.

For a stark narrative of unemployment wrought by the pandemic, Kennedy’s story wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive: Can Antarctica remain the last COVID-free continent?

reached research stations in Antarctica to interview scientists who don’t have to wear masks or social distance – there was no COVID-19 on the entire continent. But that status would face a major test days later as new staff arrived for the seasonal changeover. The AP pair described the steps scientists were taking to make ensure the new arrivals do not bring the virus with them. https://bit.ly/2ZKDvF7

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Aug. 21, 2020

Best of the States

Inside the reopening debate: Local school boards face ‘impossible’ decisions

With school districts nationwide wrestling with tough decisions on reopening amid the pandemic, South Carolina reporter Jeffrey Collins wanted to show that process at work.

When several districts rebuffed his efforts at behind-the-scene access, Collins took another approach. He started reporting by watching a school board’s meetings online, taking voluminous notes. Demonstrating a thorough understanding of what the district was facing, he was finally granted in-person access to the district’s meetings and discussions for a revealing all-formats package. 

For finding a way to delve into a local school board’s deliberations, and providing insight into conversations happening nationally, Collins wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Families in Appalachia describe challenges of online learning

made the most of her first major enterprise story in Kentucky, reporting deep in the mountains of Appalachia on the dilemma facing parents with spotty internet service as they weigh the challenge of a new school year. Together with freelance photographer Bryan Woolston, Blackburn sharpened the focus on an often overlooked segment of the population to demonstrate the unique challenges they face, doing so with sensitivity and respect. https://bit.ly/3g8OnBR

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July 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Hit by water cannon, AP’s Balilty captures iconic photo of Israeli protests

Oded Balilty, acting chief photographer, Jerusalem, has gained widespread attention in Israel and abroad for his body of work – breaking news images and striking portraits – depicting Israel’s wave of anti-government protests. His photo of a young man holding an Israeli flag as he is doused by a police water cannon emerged as the most iconic image of this summer of unrest, in which protesters accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of corruption and say he has bungled the country’s response to the coronavirus.

On July 18, protesters were blocking a street when police surprised them with water cannons. Balilty himself took a blast of water to the face and was stunned for several minutes. After drying out his gear, he lay on the ground to stay out of the line of fire, then noticed the protester holding a flag. While there were dozens of journalists covering the event, Balilty’s dramatic and evocative photo appeared throughout Israeli media and on news sites around the world.https://bit.ly/3feHhv8https://bit.ly/2EwtjZ4

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July 24, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Inside the first major outbreak at an ICE detention center

The reason the warden at a large San Diego detention center gave for not wearing masks amid the pandemic was astonishing – and likely helped fuel a large outbreak.

“Well, you can’t wear the mask because we don’t want to scare the employees and we don’t want to scare the inmates and detainees,” a guard recalled being told.

That’s just the lead of the story by AP’s Elliot Spagat, who landed the first detailed interviews with employees and detainees about the situation at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. Spagat also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and government data to provide the most complete account yet of the first major outbreak at a U.S. immigration facility.

For giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the factors that surely contributed to the virus outbreak, and for holding the warden and other officials accountable, Spagat wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 24, 2020

Best of the Week

Global package launches new multiformat AP series: ‘Small Business Struggles’

Small businesses – critical to the health of the global economy – are clearly being hit hard by the pandemic. Over the next six months to a year, Associated Press journalists around the world will chronicle their fight for survival, in an ambitious series called “Small Business Struggles.”

The first piece, anchored by national writer Adam Geller with a rich digital presentation by video editor Samantha Shotzbarger, got the project off to an incredible start. With contributions in all formats from more than two dozen staffers worldwide, the story brought readers into the agonizing decisions business owners face as they try to stay afloat. The package led the AP News site and was used by digital, print and video customers around the world. 

For pulling together the opening salvo in this immersive and significant global project, Geller and Shotzbarger share AP’s Best of the Week.

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July 17, 2020

Best of the Week

Houston team vividly documents the grim reality playing out inside a Texas hospital

With coronavirus cases surging in Texas and other states, AP journalists David J. Phillip, John Mone and Nomaan Merchant went beyond the daily numbers to show the reality inside a small Houston hospital. In a gut-punch story that landed in newspapers and on nightly newscasts, the trio’s work included the last moments of a woman’s losing battle with the coronavirus.

But the package – Phillip’s photos, Mone’s video and Merchant’s text story – captured more than just a moment. It showed, with sensitivity, the grim realities almost certainly facing frontline workers in hospitals around the country.

Reaction to the story was massive. It was widely used in all formats by broadcast, print and online outlets in the U.S. and beyond. The video alone was the most-used U.S. story of the day – to a degree rarely seen.

For compelling, empathetic and revelatory storytelling from the frontline of the coronavirus fight, Phillip, Mone and Merchant win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 26, 2020

Best of the States

Frontline health care workers face the emotional toll taken by the virus

As the coronavirus pandemic enters a new phase in a reopening nation, its psychological toll is sinking in for the frontline workers who have cared for the sickest patients. 

Writer Jennifer Peltz, video journalists Robert Bumsted and Ted Shaffrey, and photographer John Minchillo  went into New York City hospitals to see the impact in person, in real time and on the record. They interviewed health care workers and spent time with them on the job, seeing firsthand the lingering effects of months spent treating COVID-19 patients.

“In my wildest dreams, I never imagined how hard it would be,’’ one doctor said. 

For a fully rendered package that takes a close personal look at this important aspect of the pandemic, the team of Peltz, Bumsted, Shaffrey and Minchillo earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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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

Best of the Week

A matter of trust: Covering a remarkable funeral in the midst of the pandemic

Thousands upon thousands of funerals, many not related to COVID-19, are being held during the global pandemic. Washington photographer Jacquelyn Martin provided a very personal look at one of them. 

Martin spent weeks getting to know the family whose mother had died, gaining their trust. But the family’s plans for an elaborate funeral were interrupted by the pandemic and social distancing rules. More weeks passed before the funeral home said it could go ahead. Martin was ready, poised with her camera and notebook, given extraordinary access to a family’s very private moment.

Her moving text and photos captured the essence of the funeral and the family's grief – and its celebration of a life. “Beautiful images shown with so much dignity,” one person wrote.

For her heartfelt account and elegant images, Jacquelyn Martin receives AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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May 15, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Among the vulnerable, the virus stalks with hunger, too

teamed up to put a very human face on the millions in America who are struggling to put food on the table during the pandemic. The pair spent an extended period with Janeth and Roberto, an immigrant couple on the outskirts of the nation’s capital who regularly skip meals to ensure their 5-year-old daughter has enough to eat. Their moving text and photo package, sensitively rendered, brought home how the virus outbreak stalks people on the margins with hunger, as well as disease, and how the social safety net fails many.https://bit.ly/3601QIR

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May 08, 2020

Best of the States

Sourcing, records yield scoop: Texas AG helped donor fight Colorado lockout

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he’d sent a letter leaning on Gunnison County, Colorado, to end an order expelling non-residents during the pandemic, AP’s Paul Weber immediately wondered: Why was the top law enforcement official in Texas picking a fight with a remote county two states away in the middle of the crisis? And did Paxton have donors there? 

Weber and colleague Jake Bleiberg started combing campaign finance and property records, quickly finding that some of Paxton’s biggest donors have homes in the wealthy mountain resort town of Crested Butte, Colorado. 

Persistent reporting and extensive public records work revealed that Paxton’s push against the Gunnison health order stood to benefit an exclusive group of Texans, including campaign donors who gave the attorney general a total of nearly $2 million. AP Texas members jumped on the story, using it in print and online.

For alertly connecting the dots between a puzzling press release and a conflict of interest in the attorney general's office, Weber and Bleiberg earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 01, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: All-formats access to a lifesaving New York emergency room

With coronavirus infection and death rates mounting, hospitals in the New York City area imposed strict guidelines allowing only a small handful of media outlets limited access. After weeks of reaching out to hospitals, St. Joseph’s in Yonkers agreed to give the AP access to its emergency room and screening tent. 

But only one journalist would be allowed into the hospital. Versatile New York staff photographer John Minchillo was an easy choice.

Once inside in full protective gear, Minchillo connected with the hospital staff, who also granted access to the intensive care unit. He made the most of the next four hours, working in all formats to capture the mundane and the extreme, including the dramatic moments when a COVID-19 patient in cardiac arrest was saved. Turned around virtually overnight, Minchillo’s all-formats package was heavily played by major media outlets.

For his powerful, comprehensive all-formats storytelling that takes us inside medical workers’ daily fight save lives against the coronavirus, John Minchillo wins AP’s Best of States Award.

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April 24, 2020

Best of the Week

AP gets ‘blockbuster’ scoop on China’s delay in warning of the coronavirus

What and when did authorities in China know about the coronavirus’ initial spread and did they react fast enough? Those have become burning questions as COVID-19 tears a deadly and destructive path across the globe.

Among the toughest to answer, too. 

The Associated Press cracked open China’s lockdown on information with an exclusive story – based on internal documents and expert testimony – revealing that top officials in Beijing knew about a likely pandemic, but held off on warning the public for at least six days – while tens of thousands attended a banquet in Wuhan and millions more travelled for Lunar New Year festivities.

The story’s byline – “By The Associated Press” – testified to the risks run by the reporter who secured and developed the major scoop.

For breaking through China’s tightly policed walls of information control about the critical first days of the pandemic, with a scoop secured in one of the world’s toughest media environments, the unnamed but not unsung AP reporter is this week’s Best of the Week laureate.

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

The motorcycle diary: Photos of NYC in the pandemic era

found themselves in a city that had gone to ground. Faced with the challenge of photographing the absence of life in a city normally teeming with it, they took more than a dozen motorcycle trips through a New York virtually emptied by the virus, making raw, “drive-by” images. They recorded ghostly pedestrians, lone workers, eerie post-apocalyptic streetscapes and shrouds of fog. And while the virus is unseen, the threat of it appears in the eyes of the people still on the street.https://bit.ly/2Vz99nlhttps://bit.ly/3bxhKMIhttps://bit.ly/2S2pnmuhttps://bit.ly/3bBvfen

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Testing, testing: A portrait of French nursing homes

spent two days chronicling three nursing homes in France’s Haut-Rhin region as the patients and staff all underwent comprehensive testing to determine who must be isolated and who would be allowed the freedom to leave their rooms. One goal: to give patients who are not infected the opportunity to chat face to face, to play board games, to share meals. Badias had rare and exclusive access to the nursing homes, providing compelling photos, video and key text elements for the story he bylined with Paris reporter Lori Hinnant. https://bit.ly/2Y23kAm

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April 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP traces black Americans’ history of mistrust toward the medical field

As New York, Chicago, New Orleans and other cities with large black populations began to emerge as hot spots for COVID-19, reporters Aaron Morrison and Jay Reeves decided it would be relevant to examine how black Americans have historically mistrusted the medical field.

The pair connected the skepticism in the black community in part to the aftermath of the notorious “Tuskegee Study,” in which roughly 600 poor black Alabama men were left untreated for syphilis to track the disease’s progress. The secret program was exposed in 1972 and ended, but its effects linger, well beyond Alabama.

With photography by Bebeto Matthews, the story received heavy play as the nation wrestled with the high rate of coronavirus infections among the black community.

For setting the AP apart with a timely examination of black Americans’ mistrust of the medical field, Morrison, Reeves and Matthews win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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