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

Best of the States

AP explores impact of Trump immigration policies; rare interviews with Stephen Miller, migrants

President Donald Trump has altered the immigration system arguably more than any U.S. president, meaning this year’s election could have major implications for future immigration policy and for those trying to enter or stay in the U.S. In the run-up to the election, AP’s immigration team unraveled four key policies that have upended lives: reduced refugee numbers, restrictions on international students, a virtual shutdown of asylum and the curbing of legal immigration. 

The journalists used unmatched source work, data reporting and AP’s global footprint, scoring key on-the-record interviews, from would-be refugees stuck overseas to Stephen Miller, Trump’s lead immigration adviser.

For timely, in-depth coverage of immigration issues that likely hang in the balance as the election is decided, the team of Spagat, Tareen, Snow, Watson, Bull and Akour wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Dual scoops on expanding Iran nuclear program

scored a double scoop on a significant development Iran’s nuclear program. Rising used his contacts at the International Atomic Energy Agency to land a formal interview with Rafael Grossi, the IAEA director general, then he and Gambrell composed a set of questions that would break new ground on the agency’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program. At the top of the list was information on Iranian plans to build a new facility in Natanz.

In the interview, Grossi confirmed officially for the first time that his inspectors on the scene had observed the start of construction on the new facility, but that it was not yet complete. After Rising’s interview broke the initial news Gambrell reached out to satellite firms he has worked with repeatedly. By early the next morning the AP was out first with pictures showing construction at the site, including a time-lapse video used by television clients. The story received wide play, with NBC News and others directly citing the AP for the reporting. Iran even drew comment from Iran.https://bit.ly/3mTqvpHhttps://bit.ly/3enj4nK

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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)

AP: Vaccine ‘cold chain’ will be crucial to the most vulnerable

took what sounded like a potential yawn of a story and instead turned it into a compelling and surprising read that revealed how a lack of refrigeration could leave 3 billion people around the world without access to a coronavirus vaccine. The story clearly laid out the concept of a “cold chain” – the need to keep vaccines cold throughout the process of delivery. The story’s conclusion: Impoverished people around the world, already among the hardest hit by the virus pandemic, are also likely to be the last to recover from it.

The story included input from around the world. Bogota, Colombia, regional news editor Christine Armario contributed a feed from Venezuela, and Aniruddha Ghosal reported from India, while Mednick’s reporting and photos were complemented by the work of Burkina Faso video journalist Ludivine Laniepce. And Stockholm-based video journalist David Keyton organized exclusive access to the world's largest humanitarian aid warehouse run by UNICEF. https://bit.ly/37PIFVehttps://bit.ly/35KI8Bc

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive access to medics treating coronavirus – and war wounds

secured exclusive international agency access to a hospital battling coronavirus and casualties in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.Chernov and Lovetsky had been on the front line of the disputed region within Azerbaijan for more than a week when they began to see increasing numbers of people becoming sick with the coronavirus. Repeated requests to document the hospitals and clinics were rebuffed until Chernov tracked down the region’s health minister to personally request access. The minister granted permission.Wearing full protective gear carried with them from previous reporting in the Ukraine, the pair visited the main hospital in Stepanakert and found terrible scenes of suffering as coronavirus patients mixed with the war-wounded – while doctors and nurses continued to treat people despite suffering from the virus themselves. Their on-the-ground reporting was crafted into a powerful text story by Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and the story moved as cross-format agency exclusive the next day.https://bit.ly/3oCN57Ohttps://bit.ly/34BY9Kp

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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 Exclusive: PG&E lacked basic training before California blackouts

solved a central mystery of Pacific Gas & Electric’s intentional power shutoffs: why the utility was so prone to bungling the intentional blackouts.Following an earlier exclusive looking at PG&E’s blackout response last fall, Pritchard received a tip: PG&E had revealed it did not require emergency management personnel to be trained in emergency management. The pandemic interrupted that reporting, but he and Liedtke revisited it just as blackout season returned to California this year. Their central finding was startling: Among the hundreds of people who handled the 2019 blackouts from PG&E’s emergency operations center, only a handful had any training in California’s Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) – the playbook that California has used for a generation. In response to the reporters’ questions, PG&E revealed to AP that only “several” emergency operations center workers or executives had any SEMS training, something not even the executive director of the California Public Utilities Commission knew.The story rippled through the San Francisco Bay Area media market and outward from there, receiving strong play in broadcast, online and in print. https://bit.ly/2FNzlFA

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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. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reaches Nobel winner before anyone – including prize committee

was the first to reach and get reaction from the head of the World Food Program following the Nobel Peace Prize announcement, putting AP ahead not only of other media, but the Nobel committee itself.The beat was possible thanks to Thomas’ quick reaction and the good relations the Rome video team has developed with Rome-based WFP. Thomas reached WFO Executive Director David Beasley through a longtime contact who was traveling with the director in Niger. Not only did Thomas get Beasley on the phone, she made sure he provided a video statement that AP expedited to clients. Thomas was also first to receive another clip from WFP in which Beasley, who was in Niger, celebrated the news with co-workers. A still frame was grabbed from the video, sharply handled by the London photo desk to keep AP ahead of other agencies in all formats on one of the top stories of the week. AP’s urgent with Beasley’s reaction to the peace prize moved an hour before major competitors, and video of him celebrating was five hours ahead of a primary competitor.Thomas’ scoop capped a week of excellent coverage by AP's Nobel Prize team, with fast filing of teh announcements across formats and aggressive efforts to locate and interview winners.https://bit.ly/3doVTcchttps://bit.ly/33ZR4Tz

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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. 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)

Collaboration reveals racial divide in US schools reopening plans

collaborated with Chalkbeat, a non-profit that reports on U.S. education, to reveal that schools serving primarily students of color were far more likely to start the year online than schools serving mostly white students – a divide that threatens to further exacerbate inequities in education.Fenn and Hoyer gathered and analyzed the data from hundreds of school districts, while Rubinkam and Vertuno interviewed school administrators, parents and educators to learn about the pressures that shaped districts’ choices. The all-formats story was co-reported and co-written with Chalkbeat. https://bit.ly/2Rwwxirhttps://bit.ly/2FHfNCwhttps://bit.ly/3iAuaa8https://bit.ly/3iF2KQo

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Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Deep reporting exposes the missteps leading to Beirut blast

delivered a stunning and disturbing account of the years of dysfunction behind Beirut’s massive explosion that killed at least 180 people. Based on exhaustive reporting and source work, the AP team produced the most detailed, comprehensive lead-up to Aug. 4, including what is known of the cargo, paper trail, circumstances and missteps that led to the devastating blast. https://bit.ly/34JIJUK

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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. 14, 2020

Best of the Week

AP staff works through injuries and destroyed homes to cover Beirut blast

The deafening Tuesday afternoon explosion tore through Beirut and shattered everything in a few terrifying seconds, badly damaging the AP bureau and the homes of several AP employees in the Lebanese capital. Three employees were injured in their homes by broken glass.

But despite the mayhem and injuries, the AP team sprang into action to deliver standout all-formats coverage of an event that killed more than 170 people and injured some 6,000, sending a mushroom cloud over the city.

The remarkable work was magnified by the fact that a large majority of broadcasters and other news organizations didn’t have a journalist in Beirut, relying mainly on the AP and again affirming the value of the agency’s global footprint.

For their stunning coverage and selfless efforts, the Beirut staff wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals investigation into Venezuelan officials’ money laundering

used deep source reporting to uncover an international investigation into how the former treasurer of Venezuela, who had once served as nurse to then-President Hugo Chávez, used a network of offshore shell companies and dodgy Swiss bankers to loot millions from Venezuela, hiding much of her unexplained wealth in gold.

Goodman’s piece provided a rare look into how former officials in Venezuela used various money laundering schemes to raid the country’s coffers of an estimated $300 billion in two decades of socialist rule. An unexpected twist was the physical transfer of heavy gold bars — previously unmentioned in court records — underscoring the lengths to which some prominent Venezuelans have gone to hide stolen wealth. https://bit.ly/2PMX2iI

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Aug. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork leads to exclusive on North Korea explosion

used cross-format, cross-border teamwork to deliver a huge beat on an explosion in Hyesan, North Korea, on the border with China. Unconfirmed reports say that gas explosions in a residential area left dozens of people dead or injured.Kim learned of the explosion through sources; Wang and Zhang then spent hours scouring Chinese social media, finally obtaining user-generated video that confirmed the story. AP’s exclusive multiformat report was widely used in international media, and a competitive agency was forced to cite AP in its own reporting. https://bit.ly/30UEGmqhttps://bit.ly/3iGX0FD

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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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