Feb. 26, 2021

Best of the Week

Determined source work exposes horrific massacre in holy city of Ethiopia’s isolated Tigray region

Ethiopia’s military campaign in its defiant Tigray province has been shrouded in secrecy since the conflict started in November, but AP East Africa correspondent Cara Anna has been determined to report what happened in the virtually sealed-off region. She has chased every lead through relentless source work, building contacts and networks as she reported one exclusive after another.

For this latest exclusive, Anna had been hearing rumors of a massacre in the holy city of Axum. When phone service returned to the city recently, she was able to reach the deacon of the Axum church who described in disturbing detail the mass killings by Eritrean troops. He believes some 800 people were killed that weekend at the church and around the city, and that thousands in Axum have died in all. Anna found other survivors who corroborated the deacon’s story and offered additional details.

Her reporting scooped all other media and even human rights groups who had been investigating Axum. It also drew rare and surprisingly quick responses from the governments of both Eritrea and Ethiopia.

For determined and resourceful reporting to break through the secrecy surrounding the Tigray conflict and expose the atrocity at Axum, Anna wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds diversity of politics and religion among West Virginia evangelicals

A tweet was the seed for this illuminating story. “Most people in my rural, Appalachian hometown are being radicalized at church by their pastor, which is the person they trust the most,” it read. AP’s Global Religion team ran with it.

Reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski visited the parishioners of three churches in Bluefield, West Virginia, including one pastor who had attended the Jan. 6 Washington rally that degenerated into a riot. The AP pair spent weeks convincing him to sit down for an interview. The result was an all-formats package of diverse congregations seeking common ground, even as they are divided on the role of evangelical Christianity in American politics. 

For applying gentle persuasion and balanced reporting to produce a nuanced look at religion and politics in one West Virginia town, Henao and Wardarski win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals sexual misconduct charges against FBI leadership

used interviews, public records requests and court papers to exclusively confirm at least six sexual misconduct allegations against senior FBI officials over the past five years, and that each avoided discipline. Several were quietly transferred or retired with full benefits, even when probes substantiated the claims.Starting with a single tip from a longtime FBI source, Mustian chipped away for months to reveal the previously undisclosed names of most of those senior officials as well as the details of the allegations against them. He used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain inspector general reports, one of which confirmed the identity of an assistant FBI director who had been credibly accused of of drunkenly groping a female subordinate in a stairwell. The assistant director left the bureau without discipline.Mustian also found a civil rights lawyer in Washington who was preparing two lawsuits by women accusing senior officials. Mustian negotiated both for an exclusive interview with one of the plaintiffs, and to be the first reporter to write about those cases, including one woman’s claim of being blackmailed into sexual encounters for years.Mustian’s story received heavy play and elicited a strong reaction from readers, particularly those inside the FBI. Several women emailed Mustian to say his count was just the beginning; that they too were victims of senior agents while at the FBI. A California congresswoman says she is considering hearings into the FBI’s handling of sexual misconduct. https://bit.ly/3h15d7R

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: China’s virus testing suffered from secret deals

used sourcing and documents to reveal that early in the coronavirus outbreak, widespread test shortages and other testing problems in China were caused largely by cronyism and a lack of transparency at the top disease control agency, including secret deals made with testing companies.Through interviews with more than 40 people and hundreds of documents he obtained, Kang traced the problems back to secret deals that China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention made with three then-unknown companies with which officials had personal ties. Those companies paid for exclusive rights to the test kit design and distribution.Shortages and flaws in the kits meant that thousands of people either didn't get tested or tested false negative; they were sent home to spread the virus while scientists and officials were unable to see how fast the virus was spreading.The level of detail in Kang’s story would be impressive anywhere, but is extraordinary coming from China which has tried to cover up its missteps. The story was also carefully balanced in its portrayal of China, pointing out that many other countries made similar mistakes.The story was widely praised, with experts and journalists calling it “vital, damning” and “another blockbuster AP report on the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in January.”https://bit.ly/37RAuGbhttps://bit.ly/372ZkUc

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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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Nov. 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In AP interviews, election emerges as a referendum on race

delivered a bold, smart story exploring how this pivotal presidential election became a referendum on the future of race relations in America.Stafford, a race and ethnicity journalist, gathered a range of local and national voices to examine how the U.S. is being forced to confront systemic racism in an election year in which the coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty and police brutality have converged. One of those voices was that of Omari Barksdale, a Black man who was impacted by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. And more personally, he lost his sister to COVID. Detroit photographer Sancya met with Barksdale and captured him in strong portraits that complemented the text story.Stafford also landed interviews with some notable national figures, including civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton who said the “soul of the nation” was “at risk.” https://bit.ly/3p4Kwf5

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Nov. 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Use of racial slurs not ‘isolated’ at Louisiana State Police

reported exclusively on a string of racial slurs used by Louisiana State Police troopers, both in their official emails and spoken on the job, refuting the contention of the agency’s superintendent that the use of such demeaning language was just “isolated.”Mustian reviewed hundreds of police records and found at least a dozen instances over a three-year period in which employees forwarded racist emails or demeaned minority colleagues with racist nicknames. He also exclusively obtained documents of an accidental “pocket-dial” of sorts in which a white trooper sent a voice mail to a Black trooper that blurted out his name and then a vile racist slur. The state police superintendent made an abrupt retirement announcement in the midst of Mustian’s reporting, which follows weeks of his coverage on the still-unexplained death of Ronald Greene, a Black motorist taken into custody last year following a police chase. Reeves faced criticism for his secretive handling of the case, including the refusal to release body-cam video that, according to those who have seen it, shows troopers beating, choking and dragging Greene. The case is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation. Mustian’s story on the racial slurs received strong play, including on the front page of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune/Advocate. https://bit.ly/34VHCkp

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the Week

AP reveals that Barrett was trustee for schools with anti-gay policies

Supreme Court nominees are scrutinized for signs of how they may vote on important issues, but Amy Coney Barrett’s jurisprudence told little about her views on gay rights.

Reporters Michelle R. Smith and Michael Biesecker knew that Barrett’s ties to People of Praise, a religious group with anti-gay views, could be an important part of her confirmation process. Through dogged reporting and source work they were able to show that Barrett was a trustee at People of Praise-run schools that had anti-gay teachings. 

Their story had an immediate impact in the run-up to her Oct. 26 Senate confirmation. For thorough and groundbreaking reporting on the tightly held views of a justice likely to sit in judgment of high-profile gay rights cases, Smith and Biesecker win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In Mississippi, ‘Looking for America’ examines Black voting rights

looked at at the circumstances faced by Mississippi’s Black voters for the third installment of AP’s “Looking For America” road trip series.The highly evocative package was framed in the context of the “Mississippi Burning” murders of three civil rights activists in 1964 – and it found that too little has changed. The AP team saw the issue through the eyes of a now-elderly activist who was close to two of the murder victims more than 50 years ago. They reported that while poll taxes and tests on the state constitution may be gone, Black voters still face obstacles such as state-mandated ID laws and the disenfranchisement tens of thousands of former prisoners.The text, photos and video, with digital presentation by multimedia journalist Samantha Shotzbarger, perfectly captured the frustration that so many decades later, Black voters are still challenged by the state.The work was highlighted in a long entry in Politico’s Playbook, and attracted attention in the U.S. and internationally.https://bit.ly/31THAI1https://bit.ly/3jzaKCphttps://bit.ly/3oCX50E

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Oct. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Black churches adapt to mobilize voters during pandemic

produced a deep, well-sourced multimedia package showing how – with its disproportionate effect on the Black community – the coronavirus outbreak is forcing Black churches to change the way they mobilize voters during an election that many see as a tipping point.Every major election year, the voter mobilization in Black churches known as “souls to the polls” is a cornerstone of get-out-the-vote efforts that can tip the outcome in close races. But to keep this bedrock tradition alive during the pandemic, Black church communities have had to adapt. New York-based race and ethnicity reporter Aaron Morrison led an AP team in a nationwide look at a this year’s revamped souls-to-the-polls strategy. https://bit.ly/34iHcVhhttps://bit.ly/3jkE7bt

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Oct. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive audio: Black man died after beating by Louisiana trooper

exclusively obtained an audio clip from the body-camera footage of a Louisiana state trooper implicated in the death of a Black motorist last year, capturing the trooper saying, “I beat the ever-living f--- out of him.” It is the most direct evidence yet to emerge in the death last year of Ronald Greene, which troopers initially blamed on injuries from a car crash at the end of a chase. The long-simmering case has now become the subject of a federal civil rights investigation and growing calls for authorities to release the full body-cam video.

Mustian, a former investigative reporter for The New Orleans Advocate, is deeply sourced on the Louisiana State Police and has been consistently out front on this story. He broke the news that federal investigators were stepping in, and his scoop on the trooper’s 27-second audio received strong play through several busy news cycles. https://bit.ly/3d4CwoH

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Feds probing in-custody death of Black man in Louisiana

reported exclusively on the launch of a federal investigation into the death last year of Ronald Greene, a Black man in Louisiana, following what state troopers say was a struggle at the end of a traffic chase. It is a long-simmering case in which police have refused to release any body camera video or records. Mustian’s deep reporting also included confirmation of a separate FBI civil rights investigation and the publication of graphic death photos. The probe has raised questions that the Louisiana State Police has so far refused to answer.https://bit.ly/33Zvf58https://bit.ly/33Z1yBd

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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. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: How the legacy of Chisholm, others led to Harris’ nomination

landed an exclusive interview with civil rights figure Hazel Dukes on Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 run for the Democratic presidential nomination, a first for a Black woman. Dukes, who seconded Chisholm’s nomination, set the tone for Stafford’s multiformat piece, offering an exclusive window into how Chisholm’s legacy folded into the historic vice presidential nomination of Kamala Harris.The timing of the story and Stafford’s inclusion of other key, relevant voices helped set up AP’s coverage of Harris’ remarks to the Democratic convention and elevated the voices of Black women during the DNC. The piece was accompanied by “Inspiring Women,” a video that Stafford narrated.https://bit.ly/2EwQTFlhttps://bit.ly/3hATPPC

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Aug. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop on Justice Department investigation of Yale discrimination

landed a scoop on a Justice Department investigation into higher education. Balsamo got word through sources that the two-year investigation was completed and had found something attention-grabbing: Yale University was illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants, in violation of federal civil rights law. Working with education reporter Collin Binkley, the pair scrambled to move a story that crushed other major news outlets by nearly an hour. Thanks to Binkley’s reporting, the AP was also first to get Yale’s statement on the probe, which it said was “hasty” and unfair. https://bit.ly/34cw1gT

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Aug. 14, 2020

Best of the States

The pandemic crisis ‘laid bare’ in AP report from Texas maternity ward

Few places in America have been as hard hit by the pandemic as the Texas border, and the package by this all-formats team exposes the stark contrast between this part of the country and regions with greater resources. 

With access to two hospitals overwhelmed by cases in the Rio Grande Valley, AP reporter Paul Weber, photographer Eric Gay and video journalist John Mone carefully documented stories of patients and staff, including a new mom in the maternity ward who unknowingly contracted the virus and had to be isolated from her newborn. 

Weber wrote: “The U.S. failure to contain the pandemic has been laid bare.”

For a compelling and hard-to-report all-formats package, Weber, Gay and Mone win 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 10, 2020

Best of the Week

AP Exclusive: China forces Uighurs to cut births with IUDs, abortions, sterilization

The shocking story exposed a serious human rights issue: The Chinese government has forced the use of IUDs, abortions and sterilization on members of China’s Muslim minority in an apparent effort to reduce its population. 

The piece, which ran without a byline for security reasons, established that China is imposing birth control on Uighurs and other Muslims in a far more widespread and systematic way than previously known. The exclusive reporting drew on Uighur and Kazakh sources, research by a prominent China scholar and hours-long interviews with ex-detainees, family members and even a former detention camp instructor. 

The story elicited a strong global response from government officials, news media and the public.

For uncovering another major chapter on the plight of the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China, the unidentified AP reporter wins this week’s Best of the Week award.

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June 19, 2020

Best of the States

AP teams deliver a deeply reported all-formats profile of George Floyd

The story of George Floyd’s death will likely endure as a pivotal moment in civil rights and police accountability, but his life – from a start in Houston public housing to his death in Minneapolis, where he hoped to start a new chapter – wasn’t lived in a spotlight. 

In a uniquely AP collaboration across states and disciplines, AP journalists turned to people who knew Floyd from his childhood through his adult years, weaving together his story in all formats, enhanced by existing video of the man. The result was a revealing, deeply reported profile, including Floyd’s brief turns as a football player, rapper and bouncer, time in prison and days spent trying to help mentor kids to avoid his mistakes. 

For persistent, collaborative and creative storytelling that goes to the heart of the tragedy that unfolded in Minneapolis, the multiformat team of Luis Andres Henao, Juan Lozano, Nomaan Merchant, Adam Geller, John Mone, David Phillip and Aaron Morrison shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 19, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team documents extraordinary funeral for George Floyd

brilliantly chronicled George Floyd’s final journey. After six days of mourning in cities throughout the U.S., Floyd was laid to rest in a suburb of Houston, with a funeral and burial capped by a procession akin to those for heads of state. The funeral organizers originally barred reporters from the service, but eventually invited an AP reporter and photographer to attend. Other staffers representing text, photo and video held key positions outside the church and at the cemetery, delivering strong coverage throughout, including a brief, impromptu on-camera interview with actor Jamie Foxx. Staffers in Los Angeles and New York monitored live feeds and drafted the story.The funeral lasted hours longer than planned, leaving those covering the event outside in the Texas heat that jumped into the 90s. But the voices, details and images captured by AP, combined with a eulogy-turned-edifying sermon from the Rev. Al Sharpton, made for a compelling narrative that was among the most used stories of the week.https://bit.ly/2NduRbvhttps://bit.ly/3efWagZhttps://bit.ly/2zITREfhttps://bit.ly/2Neswgi

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