Sept. 25, 2020

Best of the Week

AP investigates medical care at immigrant detention facility after explosive allegations

The allegations were explosive: A nurse at an immigration detention facility in rural Georgia said a gynecologist she called “the uterus collector” performed mass hysterectomies without detainees’ consent. 

Reaction was fast and furious, but the AP treated the unsubstantiated allegations cautiously. Immigration reporter Nomaan Merchant dug into the story amid intense competition, reaching out to sources, doctors and a detainee who had surgery performed without her consent. 

While his review did not find evidence of mass hysterectomies, Merchant revealed a growing pattern of women not consenting to procedures that potentially jeopardized their ability to have children. Three days later, the AP was first to report that the doctor would no longer treat immigrant detainees.   

For impressive work that broke new ground on a highly charged story, Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP documents the push to increase diversity in vaccine studies

explored the obstacles to recruiting diverse groups for medical studies of new drugs, treatments and vaccines. During the pandemic, the two leading U.S. vaccine candidates are lagging behind in diverse enrollment, although participation has inched up in recent weeks.

Thousands more volunteers who identify as people of color are needed for upcoming studies. Staffers from the AP Health and Science team and the South region took an inside look at how health officials are trying to recruit participants, focusing on Maryland and Florida. Narancio spent a day at a local farmers market outside the nation’s capital where “promotoras,” or health promoters, are working to sign up Latinos for the vaccine being tested by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna. Neergard used her contacts to get access to the University of Miami, where there’s a similar push to recruit underserved populations for the same trial. The story appeared on more than 200 online news sites.https://bit.ly/331ms3whttps://bit.ly/2G8EHuM

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Inside a COVID ICU as Marseille becomes Europe’s new virus hotspot

took readers inside an already-full COVID intensive care unit in Marseille as the French city became Europe’s latest virus hotspot. Cole’s single-handed multiformat reporting delivered the first visual documentation that France’s resurgent infections aren't just numbers, but people struggling to survive.Cole showed both the drama of COVID intensive care and the daily reality for its staff amid this new wave – and the personal touch of a nurse who took the time to brush a patient’s hair and moisturize her skin.The impact was immediate – the story saw immense use across Europe in all formats, as well as international markets.https://bit.ly/2FHO7NThttps://bit.ly/32y0WDo

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

NFL scrambles to restart disability benefits after AP reporting

Eddie Pells, Denver-based national sports writer, reported exclusively that a fund jointly run by the NFL and the players union had given out $127 million in health benefits to disabled retired players in 2019, but had gone completely dormant since March, approving no applications and not reimbursing any medical bills. The source for the story, a former player, contacted AP because he was familiar with Pells’ previous reporting and wanted the story to have as wide an audience as possible. Within a day of getting questions from Pells, the NFL scrambled to send a letter to all applicants saying approvals would restart soon. AP was alone with the story, which played on ESPN’s SportsCenter and was used on the crawls of all the major sports networks. https://bit.ly/3c4yFr2

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Sept. 11, 2020

Best of the Week

From migrants to COVID, Morenatti delivers a week of outstanding images

Rarely does a Best of the Week award to go to a single AP journalist for work on a variety of stories. But the consistent excellence in the images of Barcelona-based Emilio Morenatti – on stories large and small – moved the judges to make an exception. 

He started the week with a powerful story on migrants crossing a treacherous stretch of the Atlantic to the Canary Islands. And he finished with a remarkable set of photos on a COVID-19 patient, wheeled in his hospital bed to a promenade on the Barcelona waterfront. In between those stories he covered soccer star Lionel Messi’s spat with Barcelona, daily life and more.   

Each of his assignments reflected the highest standards of visual journalism and a level of emotional investment that few can match, earning Morenatti AP’s Best of the Week accolade.

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Sept. 11, 2020

Best of the States

AP examines troubling trend of women dropping out of the workforce

As parents scramble to manage their own work and their kids’ remote learning during the pandemic, AP business reporters Alexandra Olson and Cathy Bussewitz wanted to know how that shift impacted the careers of mothers and fathers. 

They dug into the data, finding that in order to tend to their children, working mothers were giving up their careers more so than working fathers. And they tapped into parenting networks to find families in this situation. What emerged was evidence of a trend that threatens decades of hard-fought gains by working women, who are still far from achieving labor force parity with men.

For timely reporting that documents a disturbing social and economic trend brought on by the pandemic, Olson and Bussewitz win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team documents accounts of Belarus election fraud

gained the trust of poll workers in Belarus who gave exclusive, on-camera interviews detailing extensive fraud in the Aug. 9 election. Protesters and opposition politicians have called the election rigged since the moment the results were announced showing authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko won with 80% support. Reports of fraud at the polls have appeared on social media and in some local independent media, but often featured anonymous interviews and piecemeal accounts. Litvinova and Manenkov wanted to go deeper. They reached out to poll workers who at first were too afraid to speak on-the-record and on camera – especially since protesters had been beaten by police and arrested. The pair worked tirelessly to gain the trust of several poll workers, eventually convincing several poll workers to share their stories with the AP, on camera and with still photos by Grits.What the workers told them was stunning: One said she was asked to sign a document summing up the results with the vote totals blank before voting ended for the day. Another who pointed out violations during the vote counting was fired on the spot. A third said he falsified results to favor Lukashenko and was now overcome with guilt for betraying the trust of the voters.

As they worked on this story and continued to cover the protests, Manenkov and AP Russia-based photographer Dmitri Lovetsky were arrested and ordered out of Belarus. Minsk-based photographer Grits and reporter Yuras Karmanau also were arrested and had their press credentials revoked. As a result, the two made the decision to leave Belarus.https://bit.ly/32dyjv0https://bit.ly/2RczmoF

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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. 28, 2020

Best of the States

From the front line to the homefront, behind the scenes with COVID nurses

Photographer Jae Hong wanted to tell the story of the nurses on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus. Not just the long, stressful hours caring for patients, but the fear they carry home of spreading the virus to their own families.

Hong found a Los Angeles-area hospital that would grant access to the COVID unit, then he and reporter Stefanie Dazio spent hours getting to know the nurses and asking to meet them at their homes for interviews and photos. 

The result was an intimate, beautifully rendered look at the nurses, their dedication and their sacrifices. The story included a nurse who is a new mom, comforting a patient’s family as the man took his last breaths.

For a poignant and revealing look at nurses’ commitment to both their patients and their families during the pandemic, Hong and Dazio share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Records show businesses swayed governors on reopening

worked with his AP statehouse colleagues in every state to reveal how businesses influenced governors’ decisions on when to reopen state economies during a critical period of the coronavirus pandemic. AP obtained thousands of pages of emails through public record requests filed over several months in all 50 states. In a number of those states, governors overruled public health recommendations at the behest of business interests, only to have to reverse those decisions as COVID cases flared. The story received heavy play, and some AP bureaus added state-specific sidebars for their AP members. https://bit.ly/3hN27UN

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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. 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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Aug. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documenting the border’s ‘forgotten frontier’ in the pandemic

used exclusive hospital access and character-driven all-formats storytelling to reveal the impact of the coronavirus on Imperial County, an often overlooked majority Latino community on the California-Mexico border, already affected poverty, air pollution, lack of health care and a border crossed by thousands daily. The team’s all-formats package, used widely across the country, evoked empathy and shed light on how such communities are exceptionally vulnerable to the virus.https://bit.ly/3gXdOYnhttps://bit.ly/31Re9Fw

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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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Aug. 07, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive visuals of largest COVID-19 final-round test

delivered impressive, carefully negotiated all-formats coverage as a leading U.S. COVID-19 vaccine candidate began final-round testing with volunteers in Binghamton, New York. The exclusive images – photo and video – were heavily played worldwide. The coverage also included an update on the original volunteers who received injections in Washington State in March.https://bit.ly/33ALS8Hhttps://bit.ly/3i9Jmue

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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 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Global humanitarian aid has dropped despite mounting need

lobbied hard to get exclusive advance access to data and findings of a global study showing that international aid funding has dropped by a third compared to the same period last year as governments buckle under the financial strains of the COVID-19 pandemic. Anna developed the reporting by speaking to aid workers in vulnerable countries on the effects they were seeing and also to top humanitarian officials. https://bit.ly/2X71M71

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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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