Jan. 11, 2021

Best of the Week

AP traces child labor from Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields to major brands, Girl Scout cookies

For the third installment of their groundbreaking investigation into labor abuse in Asia’s palm oil industry, reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason linked child labor to the supply chains of the makers of popular cereals, candies and ice creams, including KitKats, Oreos and Cap’n Crunch. They also traced the oil to that most American treat: Girl Scout cookies. 

Joined by photographers Binsar Bakkara and Mark Humphrey, and video journalist Allen Breed, their reporting found that some tens of thousands of children toil in the palm fields, some kept from school and forced to work for free or for little pay. Some are trafficked.

The framing of the story — through the eyes of a young girl in the fields in Indonesia and a Tennessee Girl Scout campaigning to have palm oil removed from the cookies — resonated with readers; reaction on social media led the Girl Scouts to address the issue with their suppliers.

For shedding unprecedented light on the children toiling in Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields, and connecting the abusive practice to major consumer brands, McDowell, Mason, Bakkara, Breed and Humphrey share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 28.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: States spent billions on medical supplies

took the lead in obtaining and analyzing public records that disclosed state coronavirus-related spending that had largely been kept from the public. The reporters filed Freedom of Information Act requests in all 50 states seeking purchase order records to determine how much was being spent on what items, which suppliers the states were using and how the spending compared across the states.The findings revealed that overall the states spent at least $7 billion on medical gear in the first few months of the pandemic, a massive amount that had not been reported until AP’s investigation. Even lawmakers in most states did not know the scope of spending, much of which was inflated by competition between states and huge price markups for routine items.The project reflected a signature goal of the AP news department this year: to “connect the dots” across the states for our U.S. customers in a way that only AP can. After months spent analyzing the state-by-state information, the data team made all the information available in an easy-to-use format for AP members and for our own state reporters. In addition to the national stories, more than a dozen AP reporters wrote state sidebars, receiving prominent play online and in print. https://bit.ly/37HJS07

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds rural hospital running out of staff during surge

acted on a source’s tip to reveal the pandemic’s toll on rural Midwestern hospitals during the current case surge. She told the story of a tiny Kansas hospital, full of patients and struggling to function as much of its own staff was sidelined with COVID-19. At one point a doctor and physician assistant tested positive on the same day, briefly leaving the hospital without anyone who could write prescriptions or oversee patient care. Hollingsworth spoke with hospital staff, including the radiology technician who slept in an RV in the parking lot for more than a week because his co-workers were out sick and there was no one else available to take X-rays.A medical staffing agency saw the story and responded by offering to send nurses to the town to help out, a sign of the power and reach of the AP. https://bit.ly/34gVpl1

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Report from a tiny hospital; weary staff treats friends, family

teamed up for an intimate look into a 25-bed rural hospital whose medical staff was struggling with deeply personal concerns as they treated people they had known long before the coronavirus hit.

Salter, from rural Missouri himself, has been covering the pandemic in the state all year, on the lookout for undertold stories. When he found a hospital with an extraordinarily accommodating public relations chief, he proposed an all-formats package that would put readers inside the Scotland County Hospital in Memphis, Missouri. As they have for years, he and Roberson collaborated on this package, Salter working the phones to interview patients and staff while Roberson suited up in personal protective gear to capture poignant photos and video on the hospital floor.

Said Roberson: “What makes this story different and interesting to me are the close relationships between the hospital and its patients. The fact they are often neighbors, coworkers and sometimes even family makes the story unique and somehow more personal.”https://bit.ly/37PkEvJhttps://bit.ly/37VRyuS

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Nov. 30, 2020

Best of the Week

As cases peak, AP duo embeds in a French ICU for a 24-hours in the battle against COVID-19

Just as a second surge of coronavirus cases peaked in France, Associated Press journalists secured exclusive, hard-won access to an intensive care unit in southern France’s largest hospital for 24 hours, capturing the exhaustion, loneliness and dedication medical workers desperately struggling to save lives.

After a full day embedded with the ICU team, AP freelance photographer/video journalist Daniel Cole and global enterprise reporter Lori Hinnant came away with a searing, intimately reported all-formats account of Marseille’s La Timone  hospital, as medical staff tried to keep even one bed open.  

For their dogged pursuit of access, tireless reporting and sensitive, compelling and timely storytelling, Cole and Hinnant earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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 as they market 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.” https://bit.ly/3liKAV3https://bit.ly/2VeVUXRhttps://bit.ly/3mlXgfd

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team well-positioned for major vaccine announcements

used textbook planning and multiformat coordination to keep AP competitive as Moderna and Pfizer made news about their COVID-19 vaccines three times during the week, causing the markets — and the world — to react. AP medical writers Lauran Neergaard and Linda A. Johnson worked their sources to get the latest developments, while health and science video journalists Kathy Young and Federica Narancio prepped video edits in advance for core customers, followed by spot edits. For AP Horizons clients, video journalist and motion graphics designer Marshall Ritzel made an animation explaining the vaccines’ brand-new technology. Seattle photographer Ted S. Warren reached out to two original volunteers who received the Moderna vaccine in March, making fresh portraits and reaction for both video and the wire, while Boston-based video journalist Rodrique Ngowi camped out at Moderna’s headquarters for a live shot. In Europe, Frank Jordans and Dorothee Thiesing scored an interview with the head of BioNTech, Pfizer’s German partner.Not to be outdone, the health and science team and the misinformation team published a special edition Viral Questions based on the vaccine news.https://bit.ly/37kHw67https://bit.ly/3q9qyjwhttps://bit.ly/36eo77xhttps://bit.ly/2JhH80ahttps://bit.ly/3fMmBfWhttps://apnews.com/hub/viral-questions

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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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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP breaks news on the opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma, with focus on victims

AP reporters from three different teams broke distinctive, significant stories on the continuing drug overdose crisis in the U.S., which has been overshadowed this year by the coronavirus pandemic:

— A state-level report showing that overdose deaths are on pace to reach an all-time high this year, and that overdoses increased after the virus began spreading in the U.S.— An accountability story on President Donald Trump’s handling of the opioid crisis, and how the issue has been overlooked in the presidential race.— A major scoop on a settlement between the federal government and Purdue Pharma, complete with details of criminal charges and the $8 billion settlement. 

But the depth of coverage didn’t end with the major news beats. All three stories put victims at the center of the reporting. 

For revealing stories that broke news and provided a powerful reminder of an ongoing epidemic that has contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans, Mike Stobbe, Adrian Sainz, Farnoush Amiri, Geoff Mulvihill, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Balsamo win this week’s Best of the States 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. 16, 2020

Best of the Week

Joint AP/‘Frontline’ investigation reveals deadly failures in US medical supply chain

With exceptional multiformat journalism, AP investigative reporters Martha Mendoza and Juliet Linderman exposed the collapse of the U.S. medical equipment supply chain that led to deadly shortages of crucial personal protective equipment during the pandemic.

In collaboration with public television’s “Frontline,” the Center for Global Reporting and AP reporters worldwide, “America’s Medical Supply Crisis” identified a series of missteps in the U.S. that contributed to one of the highest death rates per capita in the world.

The investigation elicited strong public engagement, praise from public health experts and response by bipartisan members of Congress.

For breaking down a complex topic to show the critical importance of medical supply chains and the human cost when those supply chains fail, Linderman and Mendoza share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Ukraine revisited: A surge of COVID, a shortage of doctors

returned to the Ukraine to follow up on their May coverage of the country’s outbreak of COVID-19, finding that over the past five months the situation has deteriorated even more. Amid a critical shortage of doctors, the virus has recently made a fierce comeback and many of the healthcare workers they previously documented have since died of the virus.The pair focused on a small hospital in the western part of the country that had been designed for 100 patients but already held 106. They also told the powerful story of a 51-year-old therapist, featured in their earlier story describing the challenges of the outbreak. The man had died the previous week of double pneumonia, which his colleagues believe was caused by the coronavirus, even though he tested negative for it. The therapist’s widow told Chernov she was grateful for AP’s coverage earlier in the year: The stories were so widely published that the whole country knew of her husband and was mourning his death with her.Working with reporter Yuras Karmanau, currently in Kyiv, Chernov and Maloletka produced a deeply reported text story, two exclusive video stories and a comprehensive photo package that gave an intimate look at the crisis in Ukraine. The all-formats work was used by numerous key AP customers.https://bit.ly/3iUbjGv https://bit.ly/3nMI63Mhttps://bit.ly/3lLt64Ghttps://bit.ly/2SO71G6

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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. 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)

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)

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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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 analysis: Few standards for police use of ketamine

pulled back the curtain on ketamine injections, a technique used by police to subdue suspects that played a role in last year’s death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain after a police stop in suburban Denver. Nieberg talked to experts, reviewed medical studies and police policies, and analyzed cases where ketamine has been used. She found a lack of police training, conflicting medical standards and nonexistent protocols that have resulted in hospitalizations and deaths. https://bit.ly/3b3bjSf

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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. 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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