July 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: US Catholic Church lobbies, gets windfall in federal PPP funds

Based on a tip following AP’s previous reporting on the Paycheck Protection Program, AP anticipated that the Roman Catholic Church might be one of the program’s biggest winners. 

Investigative reporters Reese Dunklin and Michael Rezendes started digging, first showing how the church had successfully lobbied for special treatment under the program, then, when the federal data dropped, the full extent of the church’s windfall. An analysis on deadline revealed $1.4 billion to $3.5 billion in forgivable loans, with many millions going to dioceses that paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy because of sexual abuse claims.

The story had an immediate impact with strong play and engagement in digital, print and broadcast outlets.

For being both first and authoritative on this highly competitive story, and for holding a remarkably powerful institution accountable, Dunklin and Rezendes share this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 26, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Coronavirus test yields rare coverage during Beijing outbreak

turned an unpleasant task into a unique coverage opportunity last week. He had been identified as someone who had been in the vicinity of a market at the center of a new coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese capital, and a local official told him to report for coronavirus testing.AP and other foreign media had been barred from the site, so when Schiefelbein reported for testing, he began discreetly taking photos and reporting a first-person account from the Beijing’s testing program. The story and photo gallery, including the voices of others who were summoned for testing, gave AP’s audience a distinctive look inside the testing process as the Beijing outbreak drew global attention. https://bit.ly/2Vh0xRL

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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

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Data: Most California health volunteers not eligible

obtained data revealing that more than 85% of the 93,000 people who signed up for the California Health Corps either didn't have the required medical license or failed to fill out an application. Gov. Gavin Newsom had described the program as an army of volunteers to accommodate the expected massive surge of COVID-19 cases. Thompson found only about 5% of the sign-up total had been cleared to participate, and that 233 were being paid to staff an emergency hospital established in a vacant arena with no patients.https://bit.ly/2WyP53Khttps://bit.ly/3fkJvKV

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May 01, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: VA struggles to protect patients, staff from virus

studied internal Veterans Affairs documents and inspector general reports, and worked sources among VA nurses and on Capitol Hill to report that the agency responsible for the health care of 9 million veterans was struggling to deal with the coronavirus. VA nurses were going to work without adequate protection against the virus and some 1,900 VA health care workers have contracted the coronavirus, according to agency documents obtained by the AP. Twenty have died. https://bit.ly/35msqLY

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April 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP traces black Americans’ history of mistrust toward the medical field

As New York, Chicago, New Orleans and other cities with large black populations began to emerge as hot spots for COVID-19, reporters Aaron Morrison and Jay Reeves decided it would be relevant to examine how black Americans have historically mistrusted the medical field.

The pair connected the skepticism in the black community in part to the aftermath of the notorious “Tuskegee Study,” in which roughly 600 poor black Alabama men were left untreated for syphilis to track the disease’s progress. The secret program was exposed in 1972 and ended, but its effects linger, well beyond Alabama.

With photography by Bebeto Matthews, the story received heavy play as the nation wrestled with the high rate of coronavirus infections among the black community.

For setting the AP apart with a timely examination of black Americans’ mistrust of the medical field, Morrison, Reeves and Matthews win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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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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March 27, 2020

Best of the Week

AP is there: Exclusive access to the first human trial of coronavirus vaccine

The world had been waiting for this moment: the start of a clinical study searching for a vaccine for the new coronavirus – but no one knew when exactly the first shots would be given. AP reporters in Washington, D.C., learned where and when it would take place, laying the groundwork for an all-formats team to witness the start of the experiment in Seattle.

The result: AP was the only news organization present, sending updates in real time as the first participants received an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The newsroom at AP’s New York headquarters erupted in cheers when the exclusive crossed the wire; text, photos and video swept play worldwide.

For ensuring AP was the only news organization in the room at a critical juncture of the coronavirus pandemic response, and for delivering distinctive journalism to customers worldwide, the team of Lauran Neergaard, Ted Warren, Carla K. Johnson, Michael Ciaglo, Federica Narancio and Marshall Ritzel wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 28, 2020

Best of the States

Be Prepared: Source work, planning deliver top coverage of Scouts’ bankruptcy

David Crary heard from his legal sources that something big was coming for the Boy Scouts of America, which has been besieged by sexual abuse lawsuits: a bankruptcy filing.

Weeks before the paperwork was filed, Crary, who has been covering the organization for 20 years, set into motion plans to ensure the AP was well-covered. When the Scouts’ filing finally came out late on a holiday, his sharply written prep had the story on the wire within minutes, explaining the gravity of the filing and the reasons behind it.

AP journalists around the country pitched in, including Brady McCombs who gathered reaction from Scouts and local councils, spinning it into an engaging follow-up, and correspondent Randall Chase who attended the Scouts’ first bankruptcy hearing in a Delaware court. Their efforts were rewarded with outstanding play.

For their careful planning and flawless execution of coverage of the Scouts’ bankruptcy filing, Crary, McCombs and Chase win this week’s Best of the States award.

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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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Oct. 04, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: California prisons ending program to make peace among gangs

for reporting exclusively that the California prison system was ending a controversial program in which it had attempted to get inmates who were members of rival gangs to meet and mingle in outdoor recreation areas. Thompson documented a series of fights, brawls and riots in the prison system, and officials decided to suspend the program, acknowledging that it had not worked as intended. https://bit.ly/2AFGQrX