Oct. 16, 2020

Best of the States

11 weeks in the bubble: AP writer’s exhaustive NBA report goes well beyond the games

Through 78 days at Walt Disney World, basketball writer Tim Reynolds proved himself virtually unstoppable, turning out game stories on deadline while also spinning insightful pieces that examined the major topics of 2020, from coronavirus concerns to racial injustice issues and the presidential election – not to mention the league’s work stoppage. The so-called bubble may have confined him to an arena in central Florida, but Reynolds’ relentless NBA coverage reminded readers that sports illuminate our lives in ways big and small.

In all, Reynolds wrote an eye-popping 200-plus stories, collecting exclusives along the way. He capped his efforts with his insightful analysis of LeBron James’ legacy after James led the Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA title. 

For his exhaustive, and exhausting, work that went well beyond the games in the NBA bubble, Reynolds wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP story gets stranded Easter Islanders home after 6 months

reported exclusively on 25 Easter Islanders who were stranded far from home for more than six months because their flights had been canceled during the coronavirus. Within two weeks of AP’s story, authorities in France, French Polynesia and Chile repatriated the travelers on a French military plane.Perry in New Zealand learned about the group and their situation on a French Polynesia Facebook page he monitors. He collaborated with colleague Vergara in Santiago, Chile, who was able to conduct interviews in Spanish and provide context from the Chilean side.The repatriation of the islanders was more rewarding than story metrics or a win over the competition, providing a welcome moment of brightness during the global pandemic.https://bit.ly/34L0mSFhttps://bit.ly/3lBwaQz

Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

NFL scrambles to restart disability benefits after AP reporting

Eddie Pells, Denver-based national sports writer, reported exclusively that a fund jointly run by the NFL and the players union had given out $127 million in health benefits to disabled retired players in 2019, but had gone completely dormant since March, approving no applications and not reimbursing any medical bills. The source for the story, a former player, contacted AP because he was familiar with Pells’ previous reporting and wanted the story to have as wide an audience as possible. Within a day of getting questions from Pells, the NFL scrambled to send a letter to all applicants saying approvals would restart soon. AP was alone with the story, which played on ESPN’s SportsCenter and was used on the crawls of all the major sports networks. https://bit.ly/3c4yFr2

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Aug. 07, 2020

Best of the States

Players open up to AP, describe coach’s abusive practices at Oregon State

National sports writer Eddie Pells was first approached in February by the mom of a player who said she had some concerns about abuses going on in the volleyball program at Oregon State. 

Over the next five months, Pells conducted dozens of interviews both in and out of the program, and checked with experts to learn if volleyball coach Mark Barnard was over the line. Several athletes spoke to Pells, including a former OSU player who described how the coach’s abusive practices contributed to a suicide attempt. 

Pells’ exclusive led to immediate calls for the coach’s firing and questions about the university officials who didn’t take action after hearing complaints. 

For months of persistent and sensitive reporting despite uncertain prospects, resulting in an impressive story with impact, Pells wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 07, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation pays off as NBA player chooses to stand for anthem

used access and anticipation to set up and deliver an exclusive multiformat package from inside the NBA bubble. When Miami Heat forward Meyers Leonard stood during the national anthem while his teammates knelt before their season’s reopening game, Reynolds had his full story on the wire within five minutes of the end of the anthem, and his interview package, including video, was hours ahead of other outlets, who credited AP.https://bit.ly/2DuUNxThttps://bit.ly/2Psz7oA

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June 19, 2020

Best of the States

AP teams deliver a deeply reported all-formats profile of George Floyd

The story of George Floyd’s death will likely endure as a pivotal moment in civil rights and police accountability, but his life – from a start in Houston public housing to his death in Minneapolis, where he hoped to start a new chapter – wasn’t lived in a spotlight. 

In a uniquely AP collaboration across states and disciplines, AP journalists turned to people who knew Floyd from his childhood through his adult years, weaving together his story in all formats, enhanced by existing video of the man. The result was a revealing, deeply reported profile, including Floyd’s brief turns as a football player, rapper and bouncer, time in prison and days spent trying to help mentor kids to avoid his mistakes. 

For persistent, collaborative and creative storytelling that goes to the heart of the tragedy that unfolded in Minneapolis, the multiformat team of Luis Andres Henao, Juan Lozano, Nomaan Merchant, Adam Geller, John Mone, David Phillip and Aaron Morrison shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 19, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

After AP’s analysis, a FIFA softens policy on activist protest

studied how soccer has applied rules against activist protest without considering the impact of major issues outside of sports. Harris wrote his analysis after a player for Borussia Dortmund, Jason Sancho, received a yellow card for showing his undershirt with a handwritten message of support for the George Floyd protests, contrary to the rule for players not to lift their jerseys in celebration. “Rarely has a rule looked so out of touch,” Harris wrote, noting that the killing of Floyd had resonated far beyond the United States. After the piece, FIFA reconsidered its policy and urged organizers to show common sense. The AP story was widely cited in other media.https://bit.ly/30VeCI4https://bit.ly/30VeQ1S

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May 01, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP examines states’ readiness for contact tracing

led a team of AP reporters to determine if state governments are prepared to conduct contact tracing, a key requirement for restarting state economies. They began by putting a series of detailed questions to state health officials. The AP review found a patchwork of systems around the country, with many states unable to keep up with caseloads and scrambling to hire and train enough people to handle the task for the months ahead. https://bit.ly/35jbrdk

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April 03, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Young Italian man describes desperate effects of virus

conducted a gripping video interview with a 33-year-old Italian lawyer and water polo player about the man’s battle with COVID-19, underscoring how the disease not only hits the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. Santalucia interviewed Andrea Napoli by Skype and filmed him waving from a hotel that is being used for patients recovering from the coronavirus. The video and a text story by Milan correspondent Colleen Barry won widespread play. https://bit.ly/39x7cLX

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Aug. 23, 2019

Best of the Week

Chance encounter, tenacious reporting reveal harassment allegations against Placido Domingo

Jocelyn Gecker’s bombshell investigation of sexual harassment allegations against opera superstar Placido Domingo started with a song.

San Francisco-based Gecker was at a party about 18 months ago when she noticed the beautiful voice of the woman next to her singing “Happy Birthday,” and complimented her. The woman was a former opera singer who confided that the industry had a dark underbelly, offering her assessment that “Placido Domingo is the Bill Cosby of the opera world.”

The discussion sparked months of work by Gecker to publicly reveal what many said had been an open secret in the opera world. In all, Gecker would find nine women who accused Domingo of sexual harassment and a half-dozen more who said the star made them uncomfortable. Getting people to go on the record proved challenging, but a breakthrough came when one of Domingo’s accusers agreed to tell her story on camera. The resulting 5,200-word story – and Domingo’s response – commanded instant attention and heavy engagement in global media.

For finding a major international story in an unlikely setting, and her care in dealing with sources while reporting tenaciously on a sensitive topic, Gecker earns AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Aug. 09, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Agency exclusive, all-formats interview with Indonesian president

for the first agency interview with Indonesian President Joko Widodo since his re-election last April. Wright pressed his contacts at the palace until they agreed to the interview, and when the palace requested that someone with Middle East expertise conduct the interview, Laub joined the Jakarta team for a wide-ranging interview. The all-formats package put AP ahead, especially in the eyes of Southeast Asian clients who are eager for stories about neighboring countries and their leaders.https://bit.ly/2YwTC9Qhttps://bit.ly/2TimhKS

Feb. 08, 2019

Best of the Week

Exclusive AP analysis: The NFL keeps getting younger and cheaper

The unusually short careers of NFL players have long been a thorny issue among the players, the league and even fans of one of the most injury-prone leagues in sports. A pair of high-profile contract disputes during the 2018 season placed the topic front-and-center yet again.

But what more was there to say?

Denver-based national sports writer Eddie Pells and Global Sports Editor Michael Giarrusso came up with the idea of mining data to illustrate how average experience on NFL rosters has changed since 2011, when the league and players agreed to a contract designed in part to help veterans get a bigger share of revenue.

Pells was joined by New York-based data journalist Larry Fenn who started digging. After scouring season-opening rosters from the last 14 years, Pells and Fenn had the data: Average experience in the league was going down consistently as every team chose younger players over veterans who would earn more – even if the veterans were better players.

Pells then asked more than a dozen AP writers in the field for reaction from key players on the teams they covered, while Fenn worked with Top Stories designer Phil Holm, who produced insightful illustrations of the data. Pells also collaborated on videos that were used on social media and embedded in the story.

Other stories in the package included a profile of a typical 4-year player who is cut just as he became eligible for a larger contract, a piece on shortened careers at the center position, and a column foreshadowing collective-bargaining hurdles. Pells also did a story looking at how Super Bowl champions shed expensive players after winning the title.

The package was released in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, commanding attention across the football landscape and getting about double the usage of typical top sports stories. Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee called it a blueprint for how to plan coverage around big events by timing enterprise and breaking news when attention is high.

For using data and creative storytelling to quantify one of the NFL’s central issues and break news during the biggest sports week of the year, Pells, Fenn and Holm share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 27, 2018

Best of the States

Private messaging apps used for official business test open records laws

Smart phone private messaging apps are great for keeping secrets. The apps delete messages almost immediately and do not allow them to be saved, copied or captured with a screenshot.

But what about use of the apps by government officials and elected representatives? State Government Team reporter Ryan Foley spotted a trend of public officials increasingly using such apps for official business. It’s a trend that alarms advocates for open government, who say it undermines state laws designed to ensure transparency and access to records.

Foley’s research was based in large part on use of a new legislative tracking tool called the Sunshine Hub that was developed by AP Data Team members Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen. The tool allowed Foley to see whether bills addressing the trend were being introduced in state legislatures across the country. And indeed they were.

The resulting story won play on more than two dozen front pages and prompted several editorials, including one in The Columbus Dispatch warning that officials’ use of message-vanishing apps was the same as destroying public records.

For their efforts in exposing a potentially dangerous anti-transparency trend among government officials, and developing a unique tool to track it, Foley, Tumgoren and Rasmussen win the Best of the States award.

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June 22, 2018

Best of the Week

AP first with news of 2,000 kids separated from families at US border

It was the answer to the question everyone was asking, about the biggest story in the world. Just how many children had been separated from their parents at the U.S. border as a result of the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance immigration policy?

Colleen Long, newly arrived on her Washington beat, got the hugely important scoop, beating all of her seasoned competitors with that very number: nearly 2,000.

Long had just moved to the nation’s capital after more than a decade covering law enforcement in New York, assigned to the Department of Homeland Security. She went right to work grilling sources – anybody she could find.

After speaking to some two dozen people, Long hit pay dirt. A source called and said, “I'm going to give you a big scoop.”

The information put AP more than an hour ahead with the news that, at that point, nearly 2,000 children had been forcibly removed from their families at the border over a six-week period. Long’s competitors – including reporters who have been covering the beat for years – had to wait for the numbers to be released on a conference call later in the day.

For determined, aggressive reporting that yielded a huge payoff, Long wins the Beat of the Week award.

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May 04, 2018

Best of the States

FOIA reveal: Governor shields ally and agency in alleged harassment case

When Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds abruptly fired a longtime friend and political ally last month, she said it was due to “credible” sexual harassment allegations. But her staff said no other information would be available about the behavior of Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison.

Statehouse reporter Barbara Rodriguez and Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley knew there was more to the story, but after filing FOIA requests, the governor's office told them there were no such records, prompting a rare case where reporting the denial would be newsworthy: that there was no evidence, correspondence or investigation into the allegations before Jamison was terminated.

Hours after that story moved, the governor’s office acknowledged they had made a mistake. There was a written detailed complaint against Jamison, but the office insisted it was exempt from FOIA.

Rodriguez and Foley didn’t stop there. They appealed the denial, leading the governor’s office to reverse course again and release the document, which immediately caused a firestorm.

It showed that Jamison had allegedly been harassing female subordinates for years, and that senior officials in the agency were aware of his behavior but apparently didn’t report it – which led to calls for an independent investigation. The governor initially rejected those calls but as pressure built, she announced she had hired a prominent outside lawyer to conduct such an investigation.

For aggressive reporting that shed light on accusations of sexual misconduct by a public official – including the lack of transparency surrounding the charges – the pair shares this week's Best of the States award.

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Feb. 16, 2018

Best of the Week

AP staffers on three continents scramble to fact-check the pope on Chile abuse

Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield sensed a potentially explosive development in Chile's long-running sex abuse and cover-up scandal when she noticed a cryptic tweet from a former member of the Pope Francis' abuse advisory board.

Board member Marie Collins had tweeted that Francis was well aware that victims of Chile's most infamous predator priest had placed Bishop Juan Barros at the scene of their abuse. Collins herself had been involved in relaying those concerns to him.

Intrigued and sensing an important twist in a story that AP has already dominated, Winfield and Santiago correspondent Eva Vergara kicked off an extraordinary effort that would culminate in a three-day, multinational, cross-format papal fact-check, prompting calls for the pope to come clean about a scandal that now threatens his legacy.

Over the course of one frantic weekend the enterprise involved a Paris airport stakeout by senior TV producer Jeff Schaeffer, a missed Super Bowl party hosted by Philadelphia-based TV producer Yvonne Lee and a surreal TV interview conducted by AP reporters on three continents.

For teamwork that spanned the globe, in service of a story of immense global interest, Winfield, Vergara, Schaeffer and Lee are recognized with Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 29, 2017

Best of the States

The Next One? Sports launches hub and multiyear plan for exclusive reporting on top hoops prospect

While books and movies have shed light on the world of big-time amateur basketball, no one has published stories along the way – until now. With the first story in a series, Detroit sportswriter Larry Lage and others in a team from Sports established AP as the authority on news about Emoni Bates, a 13-year-old who stands at 6-foot-7, just started the eighth grade and is primed to be the biggest basketball prospect in the United States. The goal is to understand the high-pressure world of college basketball recruiting by following a single promising player’s path.

Lage, hybrid video journalist Mike Householder and photographer Paul Sancya of Detroit reported with the specific intent of presenting the stories in multiple ways, then worked with Chicago sports writer Jim Litke and east regional sports editor Oskar Garcia to craft the hub presentation of the text, photos, video and audio.

For their strong, revealing work, Lage, Householder, Sancya and Litke share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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