Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds diversity of politics and religion among West Virginia evangelicals

A tweet was the seed for this illuminating story. “Most people in my rural, Appalachian hometown are being radicalized at church by their pastor, which is the person they trust the most,” it read. AP’s Global Religion team ran with it.

Reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski visited the parishioners of three churches in Bluefield, West Virginia, including one pastor who had attended the Jan. 6 Washington rally that degenerated into a riot. The AP pair spent weeks convincing him to sit down for an interview. The result was an all-formats package of diverse congregations seeking common ground, even as they are divided on the role of evangelical Christianity in American politics. 

For applying gentle persuasion and balanced reporting to produce a nuanced look at religion and politics in one West Virginia town, Henao and Wardarski win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Feb. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: COVID job cuts widen economic inequality

crunched federal economic data for his exclusive report that Americans as a whole are now earning the same amount in wages and salaries that they did before the viral pandemic struck — even with nearly 9 million fewer people working.The main reason? The job cuts of the past 11 months have fallen overwhelmingly on lower-income workers across the economy’s service sector — from restaurants and hotels to retail stores and entertainment venues. By contrast, tens of millions of higher-income Americans, most of whom have been able to work from home, have managed to keep or acquire jobs and to continue to receive pay increases.Rugaber independently verified the story’s premise by comparing multiple federal data sets, then interviewed a number of economists to gain deeper insights into the trend. “Pretty remarkable” is how one economist described the findings. The exclusive work provided stark evidence of the nation’s widening economic inequality. https://bit.ly/3atLOed

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Feb. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work reveals push for diversity in climate fight

worked sources on Stafford’s newly expanded beat to land an exclusive on the launch of a climate justice campaign.The effort by the group Donors of Color Network would shift millions in funding toward environmental and justice groups led by Black Americans, other people of color and Indigenous people and came on the heels of President Joe Biden pledging to make environmental justice central to the fight against climate change. Stafford, AP investigative race writer, brought the story to life by taking readers on a tour of neighborhoods in Detroit’s 48217 ZIP code, where residents live against the backdrop of heavy industrial sites that have long been a major concern in the nation’s largest Black-majority city. Baltimore-based photographer Julio Cortez’s photos of Donors of Color co-founder Ashindi Maxton, the story’s lead character, rounded out the package. https://bit.ly/3d4zfaP

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Feb. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Data analysis exposes racial inequity in vaccinations

collaborated on a piece that exposed racial disparities in the early rollout of the vaccine, with African Americans lagging behind the rest of the country in getting shots. The team was initially stymied by a lack of comprehensive national data and scattered figures from state to state and city to city. But they were able to piece together data from 17 states and two cities to make a powerful, data-driven statement on the issue.The story showed that Black Americans were getting shots at rates dramatically below their share of the population, a disturbing development considering how much of a role race has played in disproportionately affecting people of color in the pandemic. The analysis put the AP out front on a critical issue, two days before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out its own analysis of the issue. https://bit.ly/39OwuIQ

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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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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Dr. Birx in violation of government’s COVID guidelines

unraveled some messy decisions by Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, that appeared to contradict the government’s own COVID-19 safety guidelines.When it was first reported that Birx was angling for some kind of role on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team, one of her relatives reached out to Madhani and suggested he look into Birx, who spent Thanksgiving weekend at a Delaware beach house with extended family, and who also made many visits to a multigenerational family home in Maryland between her widespread travels to coronavirus hotspots for the government.Madhani and Slodysko contrasted Birx’s activity with her warnings to Americans to “be vigilant” and limit celebrations to “your immediate household,” and with CDC guidelines to avoid travel for the holidays. The two Washington reporters also discovered that while Birx was in Delaware, she conducted an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” in which she noted some Americans “went across the country or even into the next state” for the holiday weekend. Birx declined to be interviewed for the story but provided a statement acknowledging she went to her Delaware property, insisting she was there to winterize the property.The story received strong play and reader engagement, and continued to generate discussion on cable TV well beyond its weekend release.Birx has a since said she plans to retire, but is willing to first help President-elect Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response as needed.https://bit.ly/38sWmb7https://politi.co/2WFxDeh

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Dec. 18, 2020

Best of the Week

AP analysis and reporting: Millions of hungry Americans turn to food banks for 1st time

Long lines of people and traffic seemed to indicate that dependency on food banks was on the rise in the U.S. as the COVID-19 pandemic hit home. But a team of AP journalists set out to know the facts and tell the stories of those relying on handouts — many accepting the aid for the first time.

Merging exclusive data analysis with in-depth personal reporting, the team delivered an accurate, powerful picture of food insecurity and economic distress in the U.S. AP’s analysis found a significant increase in food bank distribution during the pandemic, while all-formats AP journalists across the country reported from food lines and the homes of those relying on food aid.

For telling data analysis and on-the-ground coverage that harnessed AP’s national footprint to reveal the consequences of the pandemic economy, this AP team wins Best of the Week honors.

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP profiles some of the US jobless facing cutoff of aid

teamed up, giving voice to some of the millions of Americans whose unemployment benefits will run out by year’s end unless Congress reverses course and decides to act. The joint effort between Business News and AP’s Report for America state government reporters combined sensitive field reporting and expert handling of the most relevant data, producing a people-focused all-formats piece that highlights the human cost of government inaction as the virus surges anew amid a faltering job market.https://bit.ly/37OBcnzhttps://bit.ly/2LrfwXj

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP confronts network on Native American criticism of ‘Big Sky’

turned a routine feature into a news-breaking story by successfully pressing ABC to address Native American groups’ criticism that its show “Big Sky’ failed to acknowledge the problem of missing and abused women on native land. Few outlets had reported on it, and none had gotten a response from ABC.Elber spoke to native groups and pressed ABC, but was repeatedly told the network would have no response. But just before filing her story, Elber received a statement from ABC acknowledging the concerns and vowing to work with native groups to rectify them. The network gave the AP a day’s beat on all other outlets, and that night’s “Big Sky” episode carried for the first time a message about missing women and exploited children. https://bit.ly/39TR0YU

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Dec. 04, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats package reveals challenges of rural education during the pandemic

On the sparsely populated fringe of the Navajo Nation, AP Report for America journalist Cedar Attanasio saw a storytelling opportunity: the bus system used by the Cuba, New Mexico, school district to solve distance-learning challenges for some of the country’s most isolated, vulnerable students during the pandemic. 

Reporting for text, photos and video, Attanasio rode one of the school buses used to transport meals, assignments and counselors to remote students, a number of whom do not have electricity, let alone internet. When the bus driver was forced to quarantine, Attanasio took to his car, chasing buses on their routes and interviewing students and their families.

For delivering an insightful multiformat package that reveals the pandemic’s impact on education in a disadvantaged community — prompting one reader to donate $1000 to the school board — Attanasio earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Across the US, AP covers a Thanksgiving Day like no other

teamed up on Thanksgiving Day to deliver a standout package that showed the various ways that Americans observed the holiday in the year that COVID-19 upended tradition.Reporters and photographers fanned out to deliver intimate, heartbreaking and heartwarming tales from homes and dinner tables around America, the diverse elements coming together in a seamlessly edited narrative.Among the highlights: From New York, an elderly nursing home resident marking the holiday alone, and a family with an empty spot at the table to commemorate a mother lost to the virus. In Kansas City, a nurse who recently lost her mother and marked the holiday after completing an overnight shift at the hospital. A Florida woman who skipped the family gathering to write Thanksgiving notes to her loved ones. A Utah family of three, all of whom tested positive for COVID-19, who found boxes outside their home overflowing with canned goods, desserts and a turkey. And in Southern California, a man who spent $1,000 on rapid virus tests so he could share Thanksgiving Day with family. https://bit.ly/3lIUgZy

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive: Crew emerges after 8 months on COVID-free island

landed an all-formats exclusive with his story on four people who spent the last eight months restoring native species and cleaning shoreline on a remote and uninhabited Hawaiian island, and were just now returning to a world beset with the coronavirus.

Jones met with the four over several days, getting their stories on video and taking photos before they scattered after their quarantine period. He worked with top stories editor Chris Sundheim on the package’s text and with AP’s Phoenix crew on the video while handling his own photos. And he worked with the sources to ensure AP had the story exclusively, even though one of the four subjects was the son of a New Zealand radio reporter.https://bit.ly/2Vcnd5bhttps://bit.ly/3q68oiF

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work leads to scoop on largest US dam demolition

used strong source development to break news of plans for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, affecting four massive hydroelectric dams along the Oregon-California border. Native American tribes that have fought for decades to remove the dams and restore vital salmon habitat. Flaccus had reported from the region earlier, but the coronavirus and coverage of Portland’s racial justice protests kept her from returning during the summer. Still, she followed developments and kept in touch with the key players. Her sourcing paid off when she learned recently that an announcement was imminent on plans to demolish the dams. Flaccus pushed for an embargo, reporting and writing the story in advance with the understanding of tribal leaders and the governors of Oregon and California that she would hold her story until the official announcement.Her deeply reported APNewsBreak moved 15 minutes before the official news release, detailing the restructured deal that will almost certainly lead to the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, a first step in what would also be the largest salmon recovery project in history — a project that would also rejuvenate area tribes.Oregon’s biggest newspaper didn’t try to match the story; they used Flaccus’ story and photos in their entirety. https://bit.ly/3qaV8to

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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

Best of the States

Amid heightened racial tensions, ‘Looking for America’ series examines ‘sundown towns’

Many white Americans have likely never heard of “sundown towns,” where Black people were once forbidden after dark. So Tim Sullivan, Noreen Nasir and Maye-E Wong visited one such town, Vienna, Illinois, on the second stop in AP’s “Looking for America” series, to see how it is faring in a year marked by racial protests.

While there is no longer a rule against Black people in Vienna after sunset, the habit persists for many out of fear and tradition. With deep reporting and compelling visuals, the AP team captured a lingering racial divide that is obvious to some people but virtually invisible to others. 

For a probing but nuanced package that speaks to a thread of systemic racism, the all-formats team of Sullivan, Nasir and Wong earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In AP interview, #MeToo leadership speaks to marginalized voices

delivered an all-formats package based on the first joint interview with #MeToo founder Tarana Burke and the organization’s new CEO Dani Ayers. They told Stafford that the movement’s original intent was to focus on marginalized voices and experiences, and that people have failed to acknowledge that the #MeToo movement was started and led by Black women and people of color.The multiformat project included Ruark’s portraits of Burke in Baltimore, and Bazemore’s images of Ayers in Atlanta. New York video producer Vanessa Alvarez created a video piece from the interview and file footage of some key #MeToo moments.https://bit.ly/35drj1ihttps://bit.ly/2FQQyhu

Metoo Combo

Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the Week

AP launches ‘Looking for America’ series with an immersive trip into Appalachia

Assignments don’t come much more challenging or ambitious: Take a road trip across the nation to see how Americans in different regions and are facing the confluence of COVID-19, economic meltdown, racial protests and a tumultuous presidential election. The first installment of the project had to both launch the series and hold its own as a story, and this AP all-formats team came through beautifully.

The story focuses on Ohio communities in the much-maligned Appalachian region, thoughtfully acknowledging both the truths and the enduring stereotypes so often associated with it. The resulting package resonated for days with readers.

For compelling journalism that speaks to core issues affecting Americans in a turbulent year, the team of enterprise reporter Tim Sullivan, enterprise photographer Maye-E Wong and video journalist Noreen Nasir earns AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Oct. 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Surge of mail-in voting could mean surge of ballot-marking errors

used her deep expertise on voting procedures, along with strong source work, to report that poorly marked ovals or boxes on mail-in ballots could become this year”s version of the hanging chads from the disputed 2000 presidential election.With tens of millions of Americans filling out their ballots at home and voting by mail for the first time this year, experts anticipate that many of those voters will make mistakes marking ballots, forcing election workers to try to discern their intent. As Cassidy noted, states with a long history of voting by mail have detailed guidelines for processing and interpreting such ballots. But states that ramped up their vote-by-mail efforts this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic do not have that experience, potentially leading to confusion and disputed vote counts. https://bit.ly/3jii45V

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Oct. 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP data analysis finds poor mail delivery in battleground states

revealed that Postal Service districts across the nation are missing the agency’s own standards for on-time delivery as tens of millions of Americans prepare to vote by mail – and the lag times are especially pronounced in key regions of some battleground states.Postal Service delivery times, some of them obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, indicate that the district covering Detroit and the eastern third of Michigan, the part of the state that is being most heavily contested politically, has the worst on-time delivery in the nation. Regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania show similar underperformance. In fact, the data showed that no Postal Service region is meeting the agency’s target of delivering more than 95% of first-class mail within five days. https://bit.ly/2GecGlX

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Sept. 25, 2020

Best of the States

AP’s portrait of a family forced into tough choices during the pandemic

As stories with impact go, this one stands out: The lead subject of the piece, struggling to feed her family during the pandemic, was tracked down on social media and hired by a reader for a job. 

The all-formats package by reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski chronicled the struggle of Sharawn Vinson and her Brooklyn family as they coped with a shortage of food and other crises, taking readers into the lives of a family that was forced to separate to keep everyone fed. The details shared by the family give readers a better understanding of the issues confronting many of the nation’s most vulnerable during the pandemic.

For a rare, intimate look at a family on the front lines of food insecurity brought on by the coronavirus, documented with riveting photos and video, Henao and Wardarski share this week’s Best of the States award.

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