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. 13, 2020

Best of the States

Tenacious source work leads to national newsbreak on census fraud

The on-the-record accounts from two census workers were stunning: Under pressure from supervisors amid the Trump administration’s push to bring the census to an end, they were encouraged to falsify records in the 2020 headcount.

Whom did they reveal this to? Not surprisingly, they spoke to Mike Schneider, AP’s authority on the census, who leveraged months of source development and reporting to break the story. Posted just an hour before the presidential race was called for former Vice President Joe Biden, the story still broke through with strong play and reader engagement.

For keeping the AP ahead in a critical coverage area with a terrific scoop, Schneider wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Use of racial slurs not ‘isolated’ at Louisiana State Police

reported exclusively on a string of racial slurs used by Louisiana State Police troopers, both in their official emails and spoken on the job, refuting the contention of the agency’s superintendent that the use of such demeaning language was just “isolated.”Mustian reviewed hundreds of police records and found at least a dozen instances over a three-year period in which employees forwarded racist emails or demeaned minority colleagues with racist nicknames. He also exclusively obtained documents of an accidental “pocket-dial” of sorts in which a white trooper sent a voice mail to a Black trooper that blurted out his name and then a vile racist slur. The state police superintendent made an abrupt retirement announcement in the midst of Mustian’s reporting, which follows weeks of his coverage on the still-unexplained death of Ronald Greene, a Black motorist taken into custody last year following a police chase. Reeves faced criticism for his secretive handling of the case, including the refusal to release body-cam video that, according to those who have seen it, shows troopers beating, choking and dragging Greene. The case is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation. Mustian’s story on the racial slurs received strong play, including on the front page of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune/Advocate. https://bit.ly/34VHCkp

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Nov. 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

City interrupted: A portrait of San Francisco amid the pandemic

offer a unique look at how their city has been dramatically altered amid the coronavirus pandemic, with tech workers fleeing for cheaper climes and businesses standing empty.As San Francisco once again received plaudits for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, getting the green light to open more businesses, the AP pair set out to document the evolution they have been seeing in their city: apartment buildings emptying out, moving trucks lining up and a vacant downtown core. With photos by Noah Berger, the result was a well-balanced portrait of a city interrupted. Many of the young tech workers who have helped remake San Francisco in the last few years have fled, after tech companies said they won’t return until mid-2021. The story combined the voices of some who’ve left and some who’ve stayed, as well as business owners and the views of historians and demographers. https://bit.ly/38cpIw6

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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 analysis: Most arrested in US protests aren’t leftist radicals

set out to determine who had actually been arrested in the protests that have rocked the U.S. since the killing of George Floyd in May. They scrutinized the arrest records of every person charged in federal court with protest-related crimes, delivering an important accountability story that showed the Trump administration’s claims of leftist-incited violence during racial unrest were overblown. The trio read through thousands of pages of court documents and sifted through 286 federal cases where people were charged with federal crimes of violence. They found only one mention of antifa and very few cases of organized extremism.They also called dozens of lawyers, activists and sources to determine what was going on behind the numbers, finding an effort by the Department of Justice to pursue cases that normally would be handled in the state systems, and exaggeration by the president of the danger posed to the public. The team’s reporting undercut claims that left-wing extremists were running rampant in American cities. On a busy news day, the story received outstanding play online and in print. https://bit.ly/2HMltwl

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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)

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. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation, teamwork, sharp reporting on COVID-stricken Trump

leveraged preparation, source reporting and probing questions to set the standard for coverage of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.AP’s White House crew was already juggling news about a new Supreme Court nominee, revelations about Trump’s tax records, a chaotic presidential debate and controversy over the president’s stand on white supremacy, when word came Thursday night that top adviser Hope Hicks had tested positive for the coronavirus. The reporting team sprang into action to develop the story and explore the implications for Trump and those around him. By 12:30 a.m., they’d pushed the story as far as they could, and the White House gave no guidance on when test results for the president and first lady would be known.Colvin was still up, though, when Trump tweeted just before 1 a.m. that he and Melania had tested positive. The APNewsAlert moved at 1:02 a.m., and a full writethru packed with context – drawing heavily on AP’s preparedness for just this scenario – was out a minute later, giving newspaper editors around the country time to frantically remake the next day’s front pages. Over the next three days, through two dozen news alerts and more than 100 writethrus, the three reporters collaborated on sharp reporting and probing questions to tell the remarkable story of a president in both a health crisis and a credibility crisis of his own making. The team’s work broke news and dominated play throughout the weekend. https://bit.ly/3d6bJIqhttps://bit.ly/36GP04thttps://bit.ly/3ntDyiEhttps://bit.ly/2SyroGX

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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 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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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 reveals Walmart, Amazon donations to Q-linked lawmaker

reviewed campaign finance records and social media posts, finding that Walmart, Amazon and other corporate giants donated to the reelection campaign of a Tennessee lawmaker who had amplified and promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory. Milligan helped compile and review Federal Election Commission data for 81 current or former congressional candidates who have expressed support for or interest in QAnon. The AP analysis showed that dozens of QAnon-promoting candidates have run for federal or state offices during this election cycle. Collectively, they have raised nearly $5 million from thousands of donors. Individually, however, most of them have run poorly financed campaigns with little or no corporate or party backing. Kunzelman’s story showed up in more than 200 news outlets with strong engagement, including Hollywood director Judd Apatow, who tweeted a link to his 2.4 million followers. https://bit.ly/3j0AnfH

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Feds probing in-custody death of Black man in Louisiana

reported exclusively on the launch of a federal investigation into the death last year of Ronald Greene, a Black man in Louisiana, following what state troopers say was a struggle at the end of a traffic chase. It is a long-simmering case in which police have refused to release any body camera video or records. Mustian’s deep reporting also included confirmation of a separate FBI civil rights investigation and the publication of graphic death photos. The probe has raised questions that the Louisiana State Police has so far refused to answer.https://bit.ly/33Zvf58https://bit.ly/33Z1yBd

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive analysis of 300 federal arrests leads to DOJ scoops

analyzed hundreds of federal arrest records to determine how U.S. Department of Justice officials are handling protester arrests nationwide. The Trump administration has used the arrests to argue there is extreme violence in some cities. The AP team combed through arrest records and created a database of some 300 arrests – some were serious, but others raised questions about their validity. Others were not related to left-wing violence at all, but rather right-wing or racist acts against the demonstrators themselves.The Only-on-AP examination was followed hours later with a pair of scoops by Balsamo – that the Justice Department had eyed possibly charging Portland officials with crimes, and that federal prosecutors had put together a memo on how to charge Americans with sedition.https://bit.ly/3kEavqqhttps://bit.ly/35ZsJia

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: Mexico diverted development funds under US pressure

used public records requests and persistent reporting to scoop the competition on Mexico’s diversion, under U.S. pressure, of more than $4 million from a fund meant to address the root causes of migration. The money was instead used to bus asylum seekers away from the U.S. border and renovate immigration detention centers. Former officials and experts reacted to the story with harsh criticism of the administration of President Andrés Manual López Obrador. https://bit.ly/33Dn5iK

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Sept. 04, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigation: Thousands of environmental waivers granted amid pandemic

When the Trump administration waived enforcement of environmental protections because of the pandemic, a former EPA administrator called it a “license to pollute,” while public health officials told AP that it would be difficult to determine the impact.

At that, five AP reporters around the country embarked on a two-month, brute force effort to wrest loose state data on the suspended regulations.

They found more than 3,000 instances of environmental waivers to oil and gas companies, government facilities and other operations, with nationwide implications for public health. 

For deep reporting and painstaking analysis to document the potential consequences of relaxed environmental regulation, the team of Knickmeyer, Bussewitz, Flesher, Brown and Casey wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Records show businesses swayed governors on reopening

worked with his AP statehouse colleagues in every state to reveal how businesses influenced governors’ decisions on when to reopen state economies during a critical period of the coronavirus pandemic. AP obtained thousands of pages of emails through public record requests filed over several months in all 50 states. In a number of those states, governors overruled public health recommendations at the behest of business interests, only to have to reverse those decisions as COVID cases flared. The story received heavy play, and some AP bureaus added state-specific sidebars for their AP members. https://bit.ly/3hN27UN

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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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