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.” And U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expected to ban the import of palm oil produced by Sime Darby, a major company cited in the team’s earlier reporting, although that move has been pending.https://bit.ly/3liKAV3https://bit.ly/2VeVUXRhttps://bit.ly/3mlXgfd

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Nov. 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP breaks news with interview of Spanish soccer league president

interviewed Spanish league president Javier Tebas following a surprise announcement by outgoing Barcelona team president Josep Bartomeu promoting the idea of a European Super League to be played only by elite clubs. The league would compete against the Champions League and could hurt domestic leagues and smaller clubs. Tebas is the most outspoken critic of the Super League idea in Europe.The day after the embattled Barcelona president dropped the surprising announcement, Madrid sports writer Azzoni landed the first exclusive interview with the Spanish league president. Tebas added fuel to the discussion by saying that Bartomeu was being directed by Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez, whom he called the architect of the idea. The interview was picked up by nearly all Spanish dailies, including Marca, AS, Mundo Deportivo and El País, and was also cited in sports shows. https://bit.ly/3eruEhz

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Oct. 23, 2020

Best of the Week

AP documents international child labor as families put children to work during pandemic

When Mexico announced in August that its 30 million students would start the school year using a combination of internet and television-based distance learning, many poor families chose to send their children to work to help survive the pandemic’s economic toll. 

With tens of millions of out-of-school children worldwide, AP decided to look at this sad phenomenon on a broad level, from Latin America, where children hammered away inside amber mines or labored in brick kilns, to Kenya where girls had been forced into prostitution while others broke rocks in a quarry. 

For their important and compelling work, the team of Maria Verza, Eduardo Verdugo, Alexis Triboulard, Carlos Valdez, Juan Karita, Carlos Guerrero, William Costa, Jorge Saenz, Tom Odula, Brian Inganga, Sheikh Saaliq and Dario Lopez wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Nevada sought to use Chinese COVID tests from UAE

joined forces for this rare hybrid story of state and international politics, revealing how the rush for medical supplies amid the pandemic raised new concerns about international trade and safety. Price used Nevada public records to report that one way the state tried to secure testing kits was by leveraging a former MGM CEO’s connections with the United Arab Emirates, which partnered with MGM to build a $9.2 billion multi-resort development in Las Vegas. The UAE donated 250,000 Chinese-made test kits that weren’t eventually used because federal officials raised concerns about patient privacy, test accuracy and the involvement of a Chinese company that is the world’s largest genetic sequencing firm. Gambrell framed the reporting around U.S. officials’ concern that foreign powers could exploit the pandemic to access medical histories and genetic traits of test takers. https://bit.ly/37mUYIl

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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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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. 04, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigation: Thousands of environmental waivers granted amid pandemic

When the Trump administration waived enforcement of environmental protections because of the pandemic, a former EPA administrator called it a “license to pollute,” while public health officials told AP that it would be difficult to determine the impact.

At that, five AP reporters around the country embarked on a two-month, brute force effort to wrest loose state data on the suspended regulations.

They found more than 3,000 instances of environmental waivers to oil and gas companies, government facilities and other operations, with nationwide implications for public health. 

For deep reporting and painstaking analysis to document the potential consequences of relaxed environmental regulation, the team of Knickmeyer, Bussewitz, Flesher, Brown and Casey wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 21, 2020

Best of the Week

Dual honorees: Stunning coverage of Belarus protests, and a Ganges River odyssey

This week two distinctly different bodies of work share AP’s weekly honors for their outstanding coverage:

An all-formats team in Minsk, Belarus, facing constant police intimidation, continued to provide extensive coverage of mass protests over the nation’s disputed presidential election. That work included exclusive video of a bloody protester falling to the ground dead in front of heavily armed police, footage that forced the government to reverse its narrative of the incident.

And in work of a different dimension entirely, New Delhi photographer Altaf Qadri spent many months documenting life along the 1,700-mile River Ganges, considered sacred by almost 1 billion Hindus in India. 

Starting with a treacherous two-day hike to the foot of the Himalayas – the remote source of the Ganges – and ending in the fast disappearing mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, Qadri captured a breathtaking range along his odyssey: celebration and death, solitude and fellowship, daily life and holy rites. 

For extraordinary work in enterprise and spot news journalism, Altaf Qadri and the Belarus team of Mstyslav Chernov, Sergei Grits, Yuras Karmanau, Dimitri Kozlov and Dmitri Lovetsky share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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April 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigates ongoing outbreaks in US nursing homes

revealed that outbreaks of COVID-19 keep happening in nursing homes across the country despite federal lockdown orders imposed last month. The AP team found that the answer appears to lie in the insidious threat of asymptomatic staffers and other individuals who slip past screening measures, spreading the virus to entire nursing home populations. In addition, the coronavirus crisis has deepened a chronic industry staffing shortage, made protective gear scarce and led to actions by several states that force nursing homes to take recovering COVID-19 patients from overcrowded hospitals. The all-formats package included a dataset on nursing home inspection reports for members seeking to localize the story. https://bit.ly/2xWpTLQ

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April 03, 2020

Best of the States

Surviving the coronavirus upheaval may depend on your paycheck – a tale of 2 families

California's Bay Area is full of extremes: poverty and wealth; homelessness and opulence; high-end industry and the service workers who support it. Those extremes matter when it comes to weathering the shutdown in response to the coronavirus.

 Jocelyn Gecker and Olga Rodriguez set out to show how that divide plays out, telling the stories of Rebecca Biernat, a San Francisco attorney, and Sonia Bautista, a hotel worker, and their families. With photographer Jeff Chiu they developed an intimate portrait of the two families – what they have in common and the differences in how they are adjusting to the shutdown.

 For doggedly seeking out the right subjects, overcoming distancing restrictions and expertly weaving together two tales to tell a deeper story about inequality amid turmoil, Gecker, Rodriguez and Chiu earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In-depth look at concerns over pricey new voting machines

for his detailed look at how new, expensive voting stations heavily promoted by the voting machine industry will be used by 1 of 5 voters, despite concerns over reliability, vulnerability to hacking and political contributions by the leading manufacturer. Bajak pieced all these elements together to write a compelling story that raised questions about whether the machines were problematic for the integrity of the 2020 election. https://bit.ly/2TkE58r

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Dec. 20, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Accidental shootings show nationwide gap in police training

A mother shot fatally shot in front of her 3-year-old son. A suspect killed while an officer tried to handcuff him. A Homeland Security agent was shot at a Texas high school by a U.S. marshal fumbling with equipment. These are among the more than 1,400 unintentional discharges found by Seattle reporter Martha Bellisle in an investigation that highlights the shortcomings of police weapons training.

No agency tracks how often local, state and federal officers accidentally fire their weapons. Over the course of more than a year, Bellisle exhaustively documented 1,422 unintentional discharges by 258 law enforcement agencies since 2012.

With contributions from colleagues in photo and video – including the story of an Iowa woman who was killed when an officer’s gun discharged, leaving her husband and children still scarred by the tragedy – the all-formats package received prominent play.

For an exclusive that sheds light on a virtually undocumented area of firearms safety, Bellisle earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 08, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Closing of coal plant on tribal land upends a community and a culture

Coal-burning generating plants are closing in the U.S., and coal mines are shutting down amid worries of climate change and the new economies of renewable energy.

Against that backdrop, correspondents Felicia Fonseca and Susan Montoya Bryan traveled to Arizona’s remote Navajo Generating Station to the tell the story of workers, their families, a community and the tribal nations who have depended on coal and are feeling the profound effects of the plant’s impending closure. 

In their all-formats package, the pair let workers explain what they were losing, and how the local economy is taking a massive hit with millions of dollars of revenue no longer flowing to the Hopi and Navajo tribes.  

For a comprehensive, compelling look at the impact of coal’s decline on a community and a culture, Fonseca and Montoya earn this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Oct. 18, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Venezuelan fishermen live, work in oil industry wasteland

for a beautifully shot all-formats package that captures the collapse of Venezuela’s once-prosperous oil industry through fishermen and women who scratch out an existence on the blackened, sticky shores of Lake Maracaibo. People cast their nets and lines in waters fouled by black gunk seeping from broken rigs that once fueled the country’s wealth. Abd spent several days in the villages of Cabimas, documenting the home life and workday of the fishers. He returned with a team including Smith and Nunes. They watched the fishermen struggle with oily nets, and interviewed women who scrub oil from fish and crabs before eating or selling them. On his second trip to Cabimas, Abd brought a 19th century-style box camera to make black and white portraits of the fishermen and industrial decay around them. The package played widely on web sites including the Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, MSN and Yahoo.https://bit.ly/2pd49quhttps://bit.ly/2Bnd5wwhttps://bit.ly/2MqwenJ

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP gets first word of plan to allow drilling, mining near national monument

for breaking the news that the government would allow mining, drilling, grazing and recreation on lands around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah that had been off limits. President Donald Trump downsized the protected area two years ago.

Impressed by AP’s fairness in coverage of the ongoing debate about managing public lands in the West, the Bureau of Land Management reached out to McCombs to share embargoed materials and the first interview by the region’s acting director ahead of the plan’s release. The APNewsBreak revealed that not only would the formerly protected lands be made available to a wide variety of uses but that those activities could have an adverse effect on the monument that is home to dramatic formations and vistas and is prime territory for paleontologists. https://bit.ly/2UafUcE