Jan. 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP documents China’s clampdown on hunt for virus source

investigated why, for almost a year, little information has come out of China on the source of the coronavirus pandemic.The Associated Press learned what was behind the lack of transparency. In a rare leak of thousands of pages of government documents, Beijing correspondent Kang found that President Xi Jinping issued orders to clamp down on any research that put China in an unfavorable light. The country also denied entry to international scientists.Through dozens of interviews and a review of documents and emails both public and private, Kang and London reporter Cheng reported on the hidden hunt for the virus — and where that work had been shut down. This kind of narrative is especially difficult to report from China, given the difficult access and the constant threat of reprisals.In a key element of the story, Beijing video journalist McNeil and photographer Ng experienced firsthand the kind of obstruction AP was writing about — the pair was tailed by multiple cars, chased and ordered to leave as they tried to visit the bat caves of Yunnan province. Despite the intense pressure, they managed to get into a bat cave, adding some critical color to the story.Taken together with AP’s earlier stories, the riveting story completed the picture of how China’s culture of secrecy and top-down management had allowed the virus to spread faster.https://bit.ly/3nmzcIOhttps://bit.ly/2XuCJKR

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Jan. 01, 2021

Best of the States

AP finds hurricane-battered Louisiana residents struggling, enduring months later

Ever since Hurricane Laura hit southwest Louisiana in August, correspondent Rebecca Santana and photographer Gerald Herbert wanted to follow up with the region’s residents. But in a busy hurricane season, it wasn’t until December that plans finally came together. 

Santana researched for weeks, finding subjects and learning about recovery efforts. The pair then spent two days in the Lake Charles area where they saw the devastation firsthand and met storm victims, including a couple whose postponed wedding was finally happening. Herbert, who also shot the video for the stories, went back to Lake Charles eight times, even sleeping in a gutted house on Christmas Eve.

The result was two print stories, three video packages and a photo essay, all of which received prominent play. For uncovering the compelling stories of hurricane victims months after the storms faded from the headlines, Santana and Herbert earn AP’s Best of the States award for the week of Dec. 21.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation reveals ‘leadership vacuum’ after backlash against public health officials

AP reporter Michelle Smith was working on another project in June when she came up with the names of a dozen or so public health officials who had quit, retired or been fired. Sensing a trend, Smith and reporters at Kaiser Health News continued to track those departures as the pandemic worsened and the backlash against public health restrictions became more strident.

The journalists contacted officials in all 50 states and interviewed dozens of people, finding a public health leadership vacuum developing at a critical time in the pandemic. They told the stories of public servants who toiled through the pandemic only to be reviled by their neighbors — including the wrenching story of an official whose husband would not even follow her recommendation to require masks in the family store. The timely all-formats story included a data distribution, interactive graphics and a sidebar with portraits and quotes of public health officials. 

For a deeply reported package that examines a vital component of the pandemic response, Smith, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Hannah Recht and Lauren Weber earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP traces source of Pope’s comment on same-sex civil unions

teamed up to trace the elusive origin of Pope Francis’ bombshell comment on same-sex civil unions in a three-day run of stories that broke news.After Winfield reported that Pope Francis had endorsed civil unions in a new documentary, she discovered that the origin of the quote in the film was not clear. When Winfield asked the director whether he had understood at the time that the civil union comment was news, his longwinded and indirect answer was the first hint that something was off – triggering a 36-hour reporting effort.Thomas, who was covering the premiere of “Francesco” in Rome, got a top papal communications aide on camera insisting that the quote didn’t come from an interview for the film, but a 2019 interview Francis granted Mexican broadcaster Televisa. After three days of contradictory claims, the reporters nailed down that the comments were made during a May 2019 Televisa interview that was never broadcast in its entirety. Verza pressed and elicited a sourced confirmation that the Vatican had cut the quote out of the raw interview footage it provided to Televisa.AP’s story with the information from Mexico moved three hours before major newspapers reported the story. The Vatican, meanwhile, has refused all comment.https://bit.ly/3kBGZlyhttps://bit.ly/31R6VCq

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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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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Nimble AP journalists deliver unmatched Hurricane Sally coverage

scrambled to provide timely coverage of Hurricane Sally. The storm was expected to hit Mississippi as a low-level hurricane, but at the last minute swung sharply to the east, forcing the AP team to regroup. Reeves and Herbert left Gulfport and hopscotched over Alabama to Pensacola, Florida. Wang stayed in Mobile while Plaisance moved from Louisiana to the Mississippi coast.Their flexibility meant unmatched coverage of the surprisingly strong storm. With the idea of getting photos to the wire fast, Herbert shot some pre-dawn pictures before the flooding could be assessed. When the sun rose, he stepped out of his hotel and took a series of photos that ended up defining the storm, the lead images on the apps for both the The New York Times and The Washington Post. Reeves gathered color to tell the stories of those impacted. Wang and Plaisance sent video that accounted for seven of the top 20 most used pieces of the week.https://bit.ly/32RAParhttps://bit.ly/2G578K3https://bit.ly/2RW4BVbhttps://bit.ly/3kzWSschttps://bit.ly/3hXvOS2https://bit.ly/33SW37c

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: Mexico diverted development funds under US pressure

used public records requests and persistent reporting to scoop the competition on Mexico’s diversion, under U.S. pressure, of more than $4 million from a fund meant to address the root causes of migration. The money was instead used to bus asylum seekers away from the U.S. border and renovate immigration detention centers. Former officials and experts reacted to the story with harsh criticism of the administration of President Andrés Manual López Obrador. https://bit.ly/33Dn5iK

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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 10, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation details hollowed-out US public health departments

While it is widely understood that U.S. public health departments have suffered budget cuts over the years, a collaborative AP/Kaiser Health News team used data and deep reporting to show exactly how expansive those cuts have been.

The investigation by AP’s Michelle Smith, Meghan Hoyer and Mike Householder, teamed with KHN’s Lauren Weber, Laura Ungar, Hannah Recht and Anna Maria Barry-Jester, drew on data from disparate sources and interviews with more than 150 people to reveal a system starved of money and staff for years, and facing more cuts amid the worst health crisis in a century. 

The team’s all-formats package drew kudos and high-profile reaction from health officials, to the halls of Congress, to editorial pages.

For an ambitious story that laid bare the state of America’s public health system, the joint AP/KHN team of Smith, Hoyer, Householder, Weber, Ungar, Recht and Barry-Jester shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 24, 2020

Best of the States

The cost of Trump environmental rollbacks: Health woes hit minority communities hardest

With African American and Hispanic communities in the Houston region already suffering higher rates of asthma and other diseases than the nation at large, AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer decided to focus on the area for a story on ordinary Americans living through the Trump administration’s public health and environmental rollbacks. 

The administration was cutting back on rules limiting and monitoring harmful industrial pollutants, slashing enforcement and weakening an industrial-disaster rule.

Knickmeyer, a Washington-based environmental issues reporter, spent months searching out Houston residents, telling their stories along with deep reporting on the regulatory actions and their consequences.

Former EPA Director Gina McCarthy was among many retweeting the story, calling it a “must read” article.

For a rich, insightful look at the consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks on vulnerable communities, Knickmeyer wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 20, 2020

Best of the Week

Italy teams lead the way on coronavirus coverage despite major obstacles

As sweeping restrictions and lockdown measures rolled out across the world in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, AP’s team of staff and freelancers in Italy set an example for how to produce compelling and competitive journalism in all formats despite major challenges affecting them both professionally and personally, including the very real risk of being placed in self-quarantine for covering stories in risk zones.

Three weeks into the Italian outbreak, AP produced some of the strongest coverage yet including multiple exclusives and beats across formats. That work included: How the northern town of Codogno greatly reduced the spread of the virus, a first-person account of the lockdown’s impact on families, overwhelmed doctors drawing parallels to war-time triage, rioting at Italian prisons, residents showing solidarity from their balconies, and more.

AP’s coverage throughout the crisis in Italy has consistently won heavy play online and in print.

For resourceful, dedicated and inspired journalism under unusually demanding circumstances, the Rome and Milan bureaus receive AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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Jan. 31, 2020

Best of the Week

Coordinated effort delivers strong, quick all-formats coverage of migrant caravan

From the moment a caravan of Central American migrants set out from Honduras and crossed through Guatemala toward a series of standoffs with Mexican authorities, the AP was there, documenting every step. 

Knowing that Mexican authorities were determined not to let the migrants pass, editors deployed cross-format teams to cover the caravan from both the Guatemalan and the Mexican sides of the border. That effort put the AP far ahead of the competition when the migrants started to cross the Suchiate River into Mexico.

In a coordinated effort, AP staffers and stringers shared information and skills to deliver dramatic coverage, including live video, as people waded across the river and scuffled with Mexico’s National Guard. The all-formats coverage was among AP’s top stories for Jan. 22.

For following the story early and then collaborating closely to produce dominant images and stories of the latest chapter in the migrant saga from Central America, the team of Moisés Castillo, María Verza, Sonia Pérez D., Marco Ugarte, Peter Orsi, Diego Delgado, Marcelo Viaño and Santiago Billy share AP’s Best of the Week honors.  

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Jan. 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exposes Vatican’s failure in Mexico abuse case

for a cross-format, trans-Atlantic exposé of a 30-year cover-up of a horrific case of clergy sexual abuse in Mexico. The pair revealed how the Vatican’s reform of the Legion of Christ had failed, as the papal envoy who ran the Legion starting in 2010 refused to punish or even investigate the abusing priest or the superiors who covered up his crimes, many of whom are still in power and ministry today. https://bit.ly/38NCjmdhttps://bit.ly/2UiftPZ

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Nov. 22, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Migrants face bleak situation in camps south of the border

for bringing new attention to a growing humanitarian crisis with a pair of powerful, complementary stories on the bleak conditions facing migrants forced to wait at the U.S.-Mexico border under Trump administration policies. Verza reported that drug cartels and gangs are profiting from the policy by robbing and extorting the migrants, while Merchant revealed the dire medical conditions at a migrant camp just feet from U.S. soil.https://bit.ly/2s0z5M8https://bit.ly/2XFDxvB

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Sept. 13, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Singer says Domingo harassed her, grabbed her breast; more women come forward

In the weeks after Jocelyn Gecker’s bombshell investigation detailing multiple sexual harassment allegations against Placido Domingo, competitors were out in full force, trying to produce their own stories about women who had encounters with the opera superstar.

But only the AP was able to advance the story, offering the accounts of an additional 11 women who said the legend had behaved inappropriately, including one who said on the record that Domingo insisted on kissing her and later forcefully grabbed her bare breast under her robe. In addition, backstage staff told the Jocelyns – AP’s Gecker and Noveck – how they strove to keep young women from ever being alone with Domingo.

No one could match the pair’s reporting, which produced one of the most-read stories on AP’s platform and formed the basis of stories by many other media outlets. Meanwhile, more opera companies announced they were canceling or reassessing their relationship with Domingo.

For remarkable source building and reporting that continued to give AP ownership of this highly competitive story, Gecker and Noveck earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 06, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP ahead of the competition in Bahamas Hurricane coverage across formats

Through smart planning, speed and considerable courage, the AP managed to be the only agency on the ground Sept. 1 as Hurricane Dorian, a powerful Category 5 storm, arrived and parked itself over the Bahamas for more than 24 hours dumping tons of water and packing sustained winds in excess of 185 MPH. Not even local broadcasters, including the government channel, were able to feed live images.

https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2019-09-01/northern-bahamas-hunkers-down-as-hurricane-dorian-closes-in

July 19, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Unscrupulous landlord exposed in hurricane-ravaged North Carolina

for deft text and video reporting that highlighted, as no other news outlet had, the struggles of vulnerable hurricane victims caught in a vice between rent hikes and a housing shortage. Morris reported that in a county hammered by two hurricanes in two years, a Florida-based landlord had bought up two-dozen area mobile home parks between storms, doubling or tripling rents. https://bit.ly/30DCvAA

May 03, 2019

Best of the States

‘Destined to Burn’: AP, media organizations join forces to expose California wildfire risks

A groundbreaking collaboration among California newspapers and The Associated Press started with a tweet.

Northern California News Editor Juliet Williams saw on Twitter that the editor of The Sacramento Bee, a McClatchy paper, was driving to meet with the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record, a MediaNews paper, to talk about wildfire coverage. Williams reached out, offered the AP’s help, and a partnership was born, with the goal of illuminating problems and pointing to potential solutions to California’s increasingly deadly wildfires.

The results: nearly a dozen stories, including an analysis of data by McClatchy and AP Los Angeles-based data journalist Angeliki Kastanis revealing that more than 350,000 Californians live in towns and cities almost entirely within zones of very high wildfire risk. An analysis also found that a 2008 building code for California’s fire-prone regions can make the difference in whether homes burn or not, but there’s little retrofitting of older homes.

The partnership’s next installment was focused on evacuation planning, revealing that many communities wouldn’t share the information or didn’t have an adequate plan, or any plan at all. Data analysis by USA TODAY Network-California showed many communities had too few roads to get everyone out.

We heavily publicized the package and play was impressive, with hundreds of downloads of the first two installments. Many outlets used the data to report their own stories about local fire risks. And this isn’t the end of the partnership: The next phase will focus on legislative action on wildfire coverage.

When AP engages in collaborations like these we become more than just a content provider to our customers; we’re helping them produce high-impact local coverage that wouldn’t exist otherwise. In this case, the “Destined to Burn” partnership was managed at every level by West Deputy Director of Newsgathering Anna Jo Bratton, who worked for six months with people throughout the AP and the collaborators to make the partnership a success.

For putting the AP at the center of an important collaboration, driving important journalism in a state ravaged by wildfires, and forging a stronger relationship with members, Williams, Kastanis and Bratton win this AP’s Best of the States.

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