Oct. 04, 2019

Best of the States

AP reveals research into a rare-but-severe infection carried by family pets

It could have been a routine follow-up story, but Milwaukee video journalist Carrie Antlfinger found a way to tell that story and break news. 

Very little was known last year when Greg Manteufel, a perfectly healthy Wisconsin man, developed a severe blood infection attributed to a bacterium commonly found in the saliva of cats and dogs. 

While reporting on Manteufel’s effort to reclaim his life after more than 20 surgeries and the loss of his limbs, Antlfinger discovered an angle that had not been pursued by other outlets: Researchers had identified a genetic factor that appears to make otherwise healthy people susceptible to the disease.

Antlfinger shot video, photos and wrote the story, which received strong play in all formats.

For a compelling story of recovery that also broke medical news, Antlfinger receives this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 17, 2019

Best of the Week

AP examines patient consent before pelvic exams; states, med schools split on legislation

“Don’t dismiss a [story] idea just because it’s unfamiliar. Pelvic exams aren’t exactly in the wheelhouse of the State Government Team, but it turned out to be a really terrific and distinctive topic.”

That’s one editor’s takeaway from a story by Providence, Rhode Island, reporter Jennifer McDermott and Seattle medical writer Carla Johnson, both of whom, acting on a heads-up from New York photo editor Jenny Kane, found that it’s common practice for medical students to perform a pelvic exam on women under anesthesia as part of their training. Whether the patients have given consent for that exam is not clear, drawing the interest of state lawmakers.

The pair faced multiple obstacles in reporting the story, including initial reluctance by doctors and harried legislators to discuss the issue, but McDermott and Johnson succeeded in defining the conflict between medical schools and elected officials seeking to protect patient rights. Their efforts resulted in a unique story that received heavy play among major AP customers, both online and in print.

For their teamwork, execution and sensitive handling of a complex topic, McDermott, Johnson and Kane win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 25, 2019

Best of the States

AP first with on-the-record report of Michigan State interim president’s resignation

In the wake of offensive and insensitive comments about victims of ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar, calls for the resignation or firing of interim Michigan State University President John Engler reached a crescendo.

As the fast-moving story developed, multiple outlets cited anonymous sources in reporting his imminent departure, but Detroit reporter Corey Williams and Lansing, Michigan, correspondent David Eggert scored significant beats on the story, all of them solidly sourced.

Williams successfully reached two MSU trustees – one who said the board had the votes to oust Engler and another saying he was expected to resign later that day, while Eggert contacted Rachael Denhollander, the first victim of Larry Nassar to have gone public, for exclusive early reaction.

And finally, working his sources, Eggert exclusively obtained a copy of Engler’s 11-page resignation letter, which the university’s board was refusing to release. The AP was alone with the letter for at least an hour, posting the document online so we could link to it from our breaking story.

The AP’s story and reporting were widely used, including by The Detroit News – where Engler’s offensive comments had appeared, setting the series of events in motion.

For solid on-the-record reporting that put the AP far ahead on a highly competitive story, Williams and Eggert win this week’s Best of the States.

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Jan. 04, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Local data, deep reporting on declining US lifespans

The nation’s health isn’t improving. In some key measures, it’s getting worse. How is that even possible in an era of genetic medicine and other advances? And how could the AP connect that story to our customers’ own neighborhoods?

AP medical writer Mike Stobbe and data journalist Nicky Forster started with those questions and delivered a winning package on why American life expectancy is getting shorter.

The package ran shortly after the release of the CDC’s annual mortality report which found that U.S. life expectancy had declined again. To find out what was behind the numbers, Stobbe returned to West Virginia, a place he declared the unhealthiest place in America 10 years ago. He connected with people trying to get healthier, witnessed the headwinds of the opioid crisis and explained how difficult it is to improve health en masse.

Forster, meanwhile, assembled an array of data that explained what was happening around the U.S. He matched longevity estimates for more than 65,000 neighborhoods with demographics, and found striking connections to income, race and education. He then built an interactive that allowed readers to see life expectancy in their own neighborhood and wrote a sidebar on the AP’s findings.

For getting beyond the numbers for a richer understanding of why American lifespans are shrinking, and giving AP customers the data to localize their stories, Stobbe and Forster win the week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 30, 2018

Best of the Week

AP Exclusive: Chinese researcher claims first gene-edited babies

When a source told AP’s chief medical reporter Marilynn Marchione that a Chinese researcher had edited the DNA of several human embryos and implanted two into a woman, their conversation launched an aggressive but delicate reporting effort by AP journalists in the U.S. and China. That reporting led to the AP’s exclusive coverage of one of the most important and controversial claims in medical and science history. It was nothing less than an attempt to alter the trajectory of human heredity.

Science writer Christina Larson, videographer Emily Wang, researcher Fu Ting and photographer Mark Schiefelbein set out to interview the researcher and his colleagues in Shenzhen and Beijing, while Marchione and videographer Kathy Young worked the story from the U.S.

He's claim raised a laundry list of concerns. After talking with current and former colleagues and outside scientists, it became clear that his claim, while unverifiable, was plausible. AP knew it would be worthwhile reporting the claim, because the claim itself would be major scientific news. And it was – AP's exclusive on He's claim of the world’s first gene-edited babies made headlines worldwide.

The response from readers, customers and other scientists was immediate and intense. The inventors of the gene-editing technology He used condemned the claim. U.S. and Chinese universities that He was affiliated with launched investigations, and more than 100 Chinese scientists called for a ban on work of this kind in China.

AP’s reporting was credited or linked to by at least 44 media outlets and generated numerous downloads. At more than half a million page views it was by far the most read story on APNews for the week.

For responsibly breaking a story in all formats of a major scientific claim while exploring the ethical quandaries that He’s research has raised, Marchione, Larson, Wang, Young, Ting and Schiefelbein earn AP's Best of the Week.

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May 04, 2018

Best of the Week

CDC director accepts pay cut after AP examines his salary

A small reference to a big number in a Wall Street Journal story about the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caught medical writer Mike Stobbe’s attention. It reported that Dr. Robert Redfield’s salary was $375,000.

That seemed like a large sum, much more than previous CDC directors had been paid, thought Stobbe, who has covered the nation’s top public health agency for more than 12 years.

His hunch proved correct. His subsequent reporting showed that Redfield’s compensation was nearly double that of the previous Trump administration nominee, who resigned after six months, and more than the government’s other top health officials.

The scoop – which led Redfield to later ask for a pay cut – nets Stobbe this week’s Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 01, 2017

Best of the Week

AP releases mini-documentary package about the US opioid crisis

How best to capture the story of recovering opioid users?

Chicago-based medical writer Lindsey Tanner and Atlanta-based photographer/videographer David Goldman teamed up to produce an intimate look at a diverse group of people – among them, a lawyer, a businessman and a trucker – who got caught up in the worst opioid epidemic in U.S. history.

Their illuminating package – combining Tanner's powerful text and Goldman's photos with a haunting mini-documentary – earns the Beat of the Week.

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Nov. 24, 2017

Best of the States

​APNewsBreak: Patients in three states accuse prominent Philadelphia doctor of sexual abuse

After a prominent Philadelphia neurologist was charged with groping several patients at his clinic, Pennsylvania reporter Michael Rubinkam began digging into the neurologist's past to see if he had been accused of wrongdoing elsewhere.

Reviewing documents in three states, and checking with medical centers and law enforcement, he was able to determine that at least 17 women in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have stepped forward to accuse Cruciani of sexual misconduct that goes back at least a dozen years. Two days after Rubinkam’s story ran, Cruciani pleaded guilty to groping seven patients.

For reporting exclusively that Cruciani has left behind a trail of sex abuse claims in at least three states, and obtaining powerful accounts of how he was able to prey on vulnerable patients, Rubinkam wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 24, 2017

Best of the Week

AP Exclusive: US scientists try first gene editing in the body

Brian Madeux made medical history on Nov. 13 when he became the first person to have his genes edited inside his body in an attempt to cure a genetic disease. And the Associated Press was the only news organization to document this experiment, which could advance medicine by giving a potentially safer, more precise and permanent way to do gene therapy.

Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione got word earlier this year that the gene editing work would soon begin. She negotiated exclusive rights to the story, giving AP sole access to the patient, doctors and scientists involved. She spent six months reporting the story, teaming with journalists in three cities through several false starts and twists and turns to deliver an all-formats package.

For their enterprising work on a groundbreaking story, the team of Marchione, Kathy Young, Terry Chea, Eric Risberg and Marshall Ritzel wins Beat of the Week.

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Nov. 17, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Minnesota widow meets man who received her husband’s face via transplant

When a Minnesota woman was preparing to meet the man who received her dead husband’s face in a transplant operation, the hospital that performed the surgery – the Mayo Clinic – immediately recommended that The Associated Press be the news organization to tell their story.

In early 2016 AP national writer Sharon Cohen, video journalist Teresa Crawford and photographer Charlie Neibergall had been first with the tale of Andy Sandness and Calen “Rudy” Ross. The AP team's sensitive portrayal of two men who had each attempted suicide, with the one who lived (Sandness) ultimately receiving the face of the one who did not (Ross), had been well-regarded by Sandness and by Ross’ widow, Lilly.

In the months following, Mayo was besieged with requests from news outlets to cover the first meeting between Andy and Lilly, but when the pair began making plans to meet in fall 2017, they wanted only AP in the room.

For their exclusive coverage of that poignant meeting, Crawford, Neibergall and correspondent Kyle Potter win this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 19, 2017

Best of the States

Eligible Wisconsin voters turned away by strict voter ID law

Republicans in Wisconsin had pledged that no eligible voter would be disenfranchised when they passed a strict voter ID law in 2011. After it was used for the first time last year in a presidential election, a group of AP reporters sought to put that promise to the test.

Weeks of research and source work led them to a retired Milwaukee resident who had voted for years and brought to the polls her Social Security card, Medicare card and county-issued bus pass with photo ID; a Navy veteran whose Illinois driver's license was good enough to board a plane and open checking account; an 85-year-old man who had voted in the same small town for years; and a recent college graduate who went to the polls with her three forms of identification – her student ID, copies of her lease and utility bill, and her ID from her home state of Ohio.

In the end, all were turned away or had to cast provisional ballots that were never counted.

For exposing the practical effects of the ID law on Wisconsin citizens, the team of Cassidy, Moreno and Antlfinger wins this week's Best of the States award.

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Feb. 24, 2017

Best of the Week

AP Exclusive: Twin tragedies give survivor a new face

A face transplant: It’s one of the rarest of surgeries, a medically complex, emotionally fraught procedure – and a challenge to cover as a truly revealing news story and not just a sensational headline.

That’s why AP National Writer Sharon Cohen’s narrative of the first face transplant performed at the renowned Mayo Clinic was so remarkable, combining detailed reporting on state-of-the-art medical science with a unique tragedy-to-triumph human story. The narrative, Andy’s New Face, which engaged readers and commanded front pages for days after its release, earns the Beat of the Week.

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