June 26, 2020

Best of the Week

White House homecoming photo speaks volumes on Trump’s Tulsa rally

Washington-based photojournalist Pat Semansky was assigned weekend White House duty – a routine gig that meant waiting for President Donald Trump’s overnight return from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where his much-hyped rally didn’t meet expectations.

The president’s arrival rarely makes a memorable photo, but Semansky dutifully waited until well after 1 a.m., while many of AP’s competitors didn’t bother to cover. When Trump finally stepped off Marine One, Semansky proved the time well spent: His flash caught an atypically rumpled Trump crossing the South Lawn.

The photo quickly became the signature image of the night, capping days of smart AP coverage on the event itself. 

For making the most of a routine assignment to create what is likely to become an iconic photo of the Trump presidency, Pat Semansky wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 12, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: Little evidence of radical left in protests

analyzed all the arrests over the last two weeks in Washington and Minneapolis, concluding that there is little evidence of “antifa” or “radical left” protest groups provoking violence as President Donald Trump claimed. The story, rich with detail, described who the real protesters were. Among them: a balloon artist, a cellist and a law student. But it was the heft of the reporting – acquiring and scouring hundreds of records in a limited amount of time – that made the anecdotal aspects of the story all the more credible. https://bit.ly/3f80JtW

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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP spots, tracks counterfeit N95 masks from China

spotted something unusual about the N95 mask shipment they were shown in Southern California in early April – the eagerly awaited masks matched those on the counterfeit warning page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pair spent the next few weeks contacting U.S. importers and distributors who were selling and giving away the same Chinese-made masks, informing them the masks were fake while reviewing shipping records, broker contacts, invoices and packaging. Their story about how one brand of counterfeits infiltrated the U.S. supply chain served as an example of how the lack of coordination amid massive shortages plunged the country’s medical system into chaos. https://bit.ly/2XgMxHU

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May 08, 2020

Best of the States

Sourcing, records yield scoop: Texas AG helped donor fight Colorado lockout

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he’d sent a letter leaning on Gunnison County, Colorado, to end an order expelling non-residents during the pandemic, AP’s Paul Weber immediately wondered: Why was the top law enforcement official in Texas picking a fight with a remote county two states away in the middle of the crisis? And did Paxton have donors there? 

Weber and colleague Jake Bleiberg started combing campaign finance and property records, quickly finding that some of Paxton’s biggest donors have homes in the wealthy mountain resort town of Crested Butte, Colorado. 

Persistent reporting and extensive public records work revealed that Paxton’s push against the Gunnison health order stood to benefit an exclusive group of Texans, including campaign donors who gave the attorney general a total of nearly $2 million. AP Texas members jumped on the story, using it in print and online.

For alertly connecting the dots between a puzzling press release and a conflict of interest in the attorney general's office, Weber and Bleiberg earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 08, 2020

Best of the Week

AP exclusive reveals ex-Green Beret’s failed Venezuelan coup plot

In a gripping exclusive that reads like the plot of a Hollywood film, Latin America correspondent Josh Goodman revealed the failed plot to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro by a ragtag group of 300 volunteers led by a former U.S. Green Beret. The ill-conceived plan called for the group to invade Venezuela from Colombia and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in Maduro’s arrest.

The plot was uncovered and dismantled with barely a whisper, but a cryptic tip to the well-sourced Goodman planted the seed of the story. Over the next several months he reviewed documents and interviewed more than 30 Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters with knowledge of the plot, piecing together the narrative with a strong assist from investigative researcher Randy Herschaft.

Goodman’s story broke and reaction was strong: International media struggled to catch up and authorities in the U.S. and Colombia launched investigations. Senate Democrats have sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding answers.

For his impressive scoop on the failed coup that has been dubbed “The Bay of Piglets,” Goodman and Herschaft win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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April 24, 2020

Best of the Week

AP gets ‘blockbuster’ scoop on China’s delay in warning of the coronavirus

What and when did authorities in China know about the coronavirus’ initial spread and did they react fast enough? Those have become burning questions as COVID-19 tears a deadly and destructive path across the globe.

Among the toughest to answer, too. 

The Associated Press cracked open China’s lockdown on information with an exclusive story – based on internal documents and expert testimony – revealing that top officials in Beijing knew about a likely pandemic, but held off on warning the public for at least six days – while tens of thousands attended a banquet in Wuhan and millions more travelled for Lunar New Year festivities.

The story’s byline – “By The Associated Press” – testified to the risks run by the reporter who secured and developed the major scoop.

For breaking through China’s tightly policed walls of information control about the critical first days of the pandemic, with a scoop secured in one of the world’s toughest media environments, the unnamed but not unsung AP reporter is this week’s Best of the Week laureate.

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Why dozens died inside Virginia nursing home

teamed up to report what went wrong inside a Virginia long-term care center where COVID-19 killed 45 residents, surpassing the Kirkland, Washington, nursing care center that became the nation’s initial hotspot. The pair reviewed records and developed sources, including patients’ families and the center’s medical director, who described the desperate situation inside the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center as a “virus’s dream.” https://bit.ly/3by5RGs

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April 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: US wasted months before preparing for pandemic

examined weeks of federal procurement records, including a thorough review of federal purchasing contracts, to create a detailed timeline of events related to the spread of COVID-19 and the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak. The records show that the U.S. wasted two months when it could have been preparing to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Federal agencies largely waited until mid-March – when hospitals in several states were already treating thousands of infected patients – to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers.

When AP White House reporter Kevin Freking attempted to ask Trump about the issue at Sunday’s briefing, the president angrily cut off the question, helping drive readers to Biesecker’s story, which was widely shared on social media.https://bit.ly/3aVhmavhttps://bit.ly/3aZdLby

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April 03, 2020

Best of the States

Surviving the coronavirus upheaval may depend on your paycheck – a tale of 2 families

California's Bay Area is full of extremes: poverty and wealth; homelessness and opulence; high-end industry and the service workers who support it. Those extremes matter when it comes to weathering the shutdown in response to the coronavirus.

 Jocelyn Gecker and Olga Rodriguez set out to show how that divide plays out, telling the stories of Rebecca Biernat, a San Francisco attorney, and Sonia Bautista, a hotel worker, and their families. With photographer Jeff Chiu they developed an intimate portrait of the two families – what they have in common and the differences in how they are adjusting to the shutdown.

 For doggedly seeking out the right subjects, overcoming distancing restrictions and expertly weaving together two tales to tell a deeper story about inequality amid turmoil, Gecker, Rodriguez and Chiu earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 03, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Some national parks insist on staying open

were out front with widespread coverage as many national parks insisted on remaining open during the COVID-19 pandemic, triggering health concerns in neighboring towns. Seattle photographer Ted Warren showed visitors enjoying Mount Rainier National Park, and while some parks closed, others remained open with entrance fees waived by the Trump administration and promised federal guidelines still in limbo.https://bit.ly/2UCB1Xbhttps://bit.ly/2xFR3qa

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March 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exclusive interview with world’s foremost collector of Picasso

convinced David Nahmad, a publicity-shy billionaire art dealer who has accumulated over decades the world’s largest private collection of works by Pablo Picasso, to throw open his luxury Monaco home for an exclusive and rare all-formats interview about why he is selling one of his paintings for charity. Nahmad had spoken briefly to a French radio station about raffling of “Nature Morte,” painted by Picasso in 1921, but Leicester proposed that for international audiences, the billionaire should speak exclusively to AP, surrounded by some of his art collection, estimated to be worth $3 billion. The story managed to elbow its way into the news agenda dominated by virus coverage, rising to No. 8 on the list of most-viewed AP stories.https://bit.ly/3dcJoQihttps://bit.ly/2Uo8T8Zhttps://bit.ly/2WyX2Yp

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March 13, 2020

Best of the States

Tennessee team does double duty when tornadoes strike on Super Tuesday

When tornadoes tore through Middle Tennessee in the early-morning hours of Super Tuesday, AP’s staff deftly pivoted from preparing for the state’s primary to covering a natural disaster. 

From first light on Tuesday and throughout the day, Nashville and Memphis staffers delivered compelling all-formats coverage of the devastation that left at least 24 dead statewide. The team also connected the disaster to the primary, monitoring the impact on voting.

Strong aftermath coverage followed, including a presidential visit on Friday and well-received pieces on recovery efforts and a worship service at a damaged church. With out-of-state staffers and the entire South Desk contributing to the coverage, the sustained effort showed the AP at its best.

For proving nimble, responsive and collaborative coverage on a major breaking news story under chaotic conditions, the multiformat Tennessee team of Travis Loller, Kristin Hall, Kimberlee Kruesi, Mark Humphrey, Jonathan Mattise, Adrian Sainz and Teresa Walker shares this week’s Best of the States award. 

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March 06, 2020

Best of the States

AP looks at race in Baltimore through the lens of ‘squeegee kids’

Reporter Regina Garcia Cano took what could have been a dense, pro forma story on complaints about Baltimore’s “squeegee kids” and turned it into a layered piece about inequality in post-Freddie Gray Baltimore. The timing was perfect, as a way for AP to mark the end of 2020’s Black History Month. 

She reviewed figures related to reports on the practice and found one squeegee kid in particular who was willing to open up about the daily grind of dashing into intersections to wash windshields, and how it helped him support his family. 

For her keen eye, and a deft hand, on a complicated topic that would have most likely gone overlooked, Garcia Cano wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: IOC member says 3 months to decide on Tokyo Olympics

landed an exclusive interview with Dick Pound, the senior member of the International Olympic Committee, changed the conversation around the Tokyo Olympics. After organizers had been saying for months that the Games would not be affected by the coronavirus, Pound spoke frankly about the risks facing the Olympics, estimating there is a three-month window to decide the fate of the Tokyo Games, which open July 24. The comments were picked up and analyzed by thousands of outlets, all of whom had to credit AP. https://bit.ly/2wwaQrs

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Feb. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Trump story on veteran’s comeback was not true

for exclusively reporting that President Donald Trump greatly exaggerated his State of the Union story about a homeless veteran who turned his life around thanks to a job at a company using Opportunity Zone tax breaks. Condon used federal records and interviews with both veteran Tony Rankins and his employer to show that although the man has recovered from poor circumstances, the central point of Trump’s story – that Rankins turned his life around because of investment in the tax incentive program – was false. Rankins does not work at a site taking advantage of the program and never has done so. https://bit.ly/2HBuF2L

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Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the Week

AP Exclusive: Locusts swarm East Africa as a new wave forms in the Somali desert

After its shocking Jan. 25 report on the locust swarms devastating agriculture in Kenya, AP’s Nairobi team came through with another truly striking package on the worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years. This time, Nairobi staffers Ben Curtis and Josphat Kasire obtained exclusive coverage of the next wave of young locusts now bulking up in Somalia’s desert.

The story posed multiple challenges, not the least of which was the very real threat of al-Shabab extremists in the area. And the young insects were relentless. “If you put anything down on the ground for a minute, you’d find a bunch of bugs crawling over it,” Curtis recounted.

Despite the obstacles, the team produced stunning images and vivid reporting from the source of the widespread outbreak, proof that the region’s infestation was far from over.

For resourceful and determined work that resulted in an only-on-AP direct look at the ravages of a veritable Biblical plague of locusts, Kasire and Curtis win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the States

Records reveal Virginia attorney-lawmaker privilege that delays court proceedings

Sometimes accountability stories are hiding in plain sight, but getting to them requires first recognizing the potential and then doing a whole lot of digging. Virginia reporter Sarah Rankin did both of those things. 

After seeing a one-sentence mention in a legal trade publication, Rankin began the hunt for a deeper story about a continuance privilege granted to lawyer-legislators, and how one Virginia lawmaker used the privilege to consistently delay court hearings. 

Rankin plowed through records of cases that involved Virginia lawmaker Jeff Campbell, the defense attorney for a one-time NASCAR race driver accused of domestic violence. She found that Campbell had employed the continuance privilege at least 30 times over three years, more than double any other lawyer-legislator.

For seizing on the brief mention, then following up with determined reporting that revealed a potential for abuse by lawyer-lawmakers in Virginia and elsewhere, Rankin wins the week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 07, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigates a teen’s life sentence – and the role of Amy Klobuchar

On the campaign trail, presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has often cited a case – a life sentence given to black teen for killing a young girl – as proof of her tough-on-crime bona fides as a former prosecutor. 

Over the course of a year, Minnesota-based investigative reporter Robin McDowell examined the case against Myon Burrell, who was 16 when he was sentenced to life in prison for the 2002 death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards. 

McDowell found major irregularities, including inconsistent evidence and questionable police tactics. The resulting package had impact, forcing new scrutiny of the case and Klobuchar’s handling of it. 

For dogged reported that shed new light and focused attention on the case against a man who has long said he was wrongfully convicted, McDowell wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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