Nov. 15, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: At least 1,680 aging US dams pose a risk to thousands

Severe storms, extreme flooding and aging infrastructure present a rising peril throughout much of the U.S., but trying to assess the risks has been extremely difficult. The reason: The federal agency overseeing the nation’s dams has sealed off the most essential information about their condition and the potential threats to those living downstream.

Prying that information loose took the kind of dedicated, 50-state effort that the AP is uniquely positioned to pursue. Data journalist Michelle Minkoff and Northern New England correspondent Michael Casey, collaborating with state government team member David Lieb and a visual team led by video journalist Allen Breed – as well as a cast of AP state reporters, photographers and data journalists – produced a deeply reported and visually stunning package revealing the dangers of nearly 1,700 aging dams, from Hawaii to Massachusetts.

Some two years in the making, the package resulted in explosive play – more than 100,000 page views on AP News and more than 80 front pages. 

For their exhaustive efforts to unlock critical public information and relay the findings in an engaging fashion, Minkoff, Casey, Lieb and Breed win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 01, 2019

Best of the Week

AP investigation: Ukraine’s Zelenskiy pressured by Trump months before call

Desmond Butler and Michael Biesecker, global investigations reporters in Washington, wanted to fill out the timeline of the diplomatic scandal at the heart of House impeachment inquiry. While Biesecker worked sources in Washington, Butler traveled to Ukraine to meet with associates of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and with other sources developed over years of investigating wrongdoing in the former Soviet Union.

What they learned moved the needle on a complex narrative — associates of the Ukrainian leader said that pressure from the Trump White House started much earlier than was known previously, dating from shortly after Zelenskiy’s election in April, and before he took office as president. 

The scoop was the latest in a series of breaking stories and exclusives by the pair that have defined coverage of the impeachment investigation and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s role in it.

For meticulous work that led to a major scoop and widened the horizons of the ongoing Ukraine-Trump story, Butler and Biesecker share AP’s Best of the Week award. 

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Oct. 25, 2019

Best of the Week

AP’s Brexit team delivers ambitious, insightful coverage during crucial week

The Brexit break-up has dominated Europe for months. Audience demands are high for each development, yet it’s hard for any news organization to stand out because so many media outlets are pursuing the same stories.

But AP’s Brexit team rose to the occasion by combining exceptional planning and reporting skills to deliver extraordinary coverage in every format during a crucial week in which the European Union and the British Parliament were set to decide the UK’s future in Europe. In the process, they dominated on a very competitive story with ambitious and comprehensive coverage from the UK to Brussels and Northern Ireland.

For collaborating in all formats to deliver lively, ambitious, insightful and comprehensive coverage of the Brexit drama and its broader implications, the team of Jill Lawless, Danica Kirka, Greg Katz, David Keyton, Raf Casert, Virginia Mayo, Sylvain Plazy, Martin Cleaver and Susie Blann earn AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Sept. 20, 2019

Best of the Week

AP offers compelling takes on two oft-reported crises: Migrant rescues and opioid trafficking

They are crises that have received significant attention while playing out in different parts of the world, but the efforts of a trio of AP journalists have shed new light on both the perilous journey of migrants in the Mediterranean and the opioid epidemic in America.

The work of the journalists, Renata Brito aboard the Ocean Viking humanitarian ship sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, and Lindsay Whitehurst and Claire Galofaro in the U.S., tells the respective stories with a captivating clarity that resonated with readers and earned a rare tie in the Best of the Week contest. Each story demonstrated the profound storytelling power the AP can bring to complex stories with ingenuity, smart planning and teamwork.

Barcelona-based Brito wins for a story that she’s still living, and telling, from the Ocean Viking. Embedded with a ship that last week rescued 50 migrants fleeing violence in Africa, her dispatch, “Migrant escaping Libya torture: We will go to Europe or die,” showed in stark terms the journey that for many has ended in death.

Galofaro and Whitehurst, meanwhile, share the win with a very different but no-less-gripping tale: “The rise and fall of an Eagle Scout’s deadly fentanyl empire,” about a millennial who built a million-dollar empire of mail-order fentanyl-laced pills.

For packages that brought new insight and perspective to heavily covered stories with significant global impact, Brito, Galofaro and Whitehurst win AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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June 21, 2019

Best of the States

25 years after unresolved killings, O.J. Simpson tells AP: ‘life is fine’

Two weeks before the 25th anniversary of the killings that led to O.J. Simpson’s “Trial of the Century,” special correspondent Linda Deutsch was summoned from retirement to try to coax an interview from the fallen football star. Simpson hadn’t submitted to an interview since being released from prison in 2017, and he turned down an interview request from Deutsch last year. But Deutsch tried again, this time by phone. O.J. didn't want to talk, but he relented after Deutsch reminded him that if he spoke to her, AP’s story would reach all media.

Simpson wouldn’t discuss the crime, but he provided a glimpse into a life now very much outside the public eye, telling Deutsch “life is fine,” a quote that stung any who believed he got away with murder.

Deutsch’s story, including two photos of Simpson at home that were exclusive to the AP, was the day’s top-read AP story online, and the centerpiece of a multi-story package looking back at Simpson’s trial, its key figures and its impact.

For a timely, exclusive interview with a man who remains the focus of intense public interest, Linda Deutsch receives AP’s Best of the States award.

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May 17, 2019

Best of the Week

AP examines patient consent before pelvic exams; states, med schools split on legislation

“Don’t dismiss a [story] idea just because it’s unfamiliar. Pelvic exams aren’t exactly in the wheelhouse of the State Government Team, but it turned out to be a really terrific and distinctive topic.”

That’s one editor’s takeaway from a story by Providence, Rhode Island, reporter Jennifer McDermott and Seattle medical writer Carla Johnson, both of whom, acting on a heads-up from New York photo editor Jenny Kane, found that it’s common practice for medical students to perform a pelvic exam on women under anesthesia as part of their training. Whether the patients have given consent for that exam is not clear, drawing the interest of state lawmakers.

The pair faced multiple obstacles in reporting the story, including initial reluctance by doctors and harried legislators to discuss the issue, but McDermott and Johnson succeeded in defining the conflict between medical schools and elected officials seeking to protect patient rights. Their efforts resulted in a unique story that received heavy play among major AP customers, both online and in print.

For their teamwork, execution and sensitive handling of a complex topic, McDermott, Johnson and Kane win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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April 12, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Embattled Montenegro president urges Balkans into EU

for securing a rare, all-formats interview with Montenegro's long-time leader Milo Djukanovic at the time when his 30-year-rule is being most seriously threatened by massive street protests. The pro-Western president has defied Russia to steer his small country into NATO, warning that the integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union is crucial for the bloc to protect itself from growing Russian and Chinese influence in the region.https://bit.ly/2UtHNjHhttps://bit.ly/2WPVZ2Q

Feb. 15, 2019

Best of the States

Freeze frames: Resourceful, creative visuals of old-school ice harvesting

It doesn’t get much cooler than this.

Portland, Maine-based photographer Bob Bukaty’s captivating video and photos bring to life the 120-year-old tradition of ice harvesting, a process that yields ice used for cooling beverages at a New Hampshire summer resort. Using a variety of techniques, equipment, angles, reflections and vantage points, Bukaty took the readers onto the ice on Squam Lake in Holderness, N.H.

Concord correspondent Michael Casey originated the story and wrote the text, while East digital presentation editor Samantha Shotzbarger adapted Casey’s text story into an audio script, voiced by broadcast journalist Warren Levinson.

Bukaty spent most of a frigid day on the lake, using a GoPro camera in a waterproof housing to record the activity under and over the 13-inch-thick ice. He also recorded interviews of group members who used chain saws, ice picks and a massive sled-mounted saw to harvest the blocks of ice from the lake surface.

The striking visuals were the talk of newsrooms in New England and at New York headquarters. By week’s end the story had nearly 30,000 page views, and the video spent three days among AP’s top U.S. newsroom-ready videos – even while competing against State of the Union coverage.

For their story that generated national interest with compelling visuals, the team of Bukaty, Shotzbarger and Casey wins this week’s Best of the States.

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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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Jan. 25, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Europeans unravel massive tennis-fixing ring

for getting exclusive details from the French police on a growing tennis match-fixing scandal in Europe. Leicester revealed the names of four players being held and details of the investigation into the “Maestro,” an Armenian based in Belgium who is the alleged ringleader of a gambling syndicate suspected of fixing hundreds of matches and paying off more than 100 players from around Europe.https://bit.ly/2WiPfuShttps://bit.ly/2FNlJbV

Oct. 19, 2018

Best of the States

High-profile Georgia race focuses national attention on voter ID requirements

In the current political and media environment, it’s not often that a state politics story without President Donald Trump’s name in it drives a national political conversation for almost a week.

But that’s what happened when Atlanta-based newsperson Ben Nadler published a look at Georgia’s “exact match” voter registration verification process and other policies backed by Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Kemp, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, faces Democrat Stacey Abrams, vying to become the first black female governor of any state.

According to records obtained by Nadler from Kemps office through a public records request, 53,000 registrations – 70 percent of them from black applicants – were on hold with less than a month before the Nov. 6 election. Nadler also found that Kemp’s office has cancelled more than 1.4 million inactive voter registrations since 2012 – nearly 670,000 registrations in 2017 alone.

The story got tremendous play with AP customers over multiple news cycles and lit up social media.

For his deep look at a critical issue in Georgia’s high-stakes gubernatorial election and driving a national political discussion for days, Nadler wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 05, 2018

Best of the Week

Planning and preparation pay off in all formats at Bill Cosby sentencing

The two-day sentencing hearing and imprisonment of former TV star Bill Cosby ended a decades-long battle over sexual assault accusations against the comedian once known as “America’s Dad.” An AP team of reporters, photographers and video journalists drew on strong planning and coordination to excel in all formats while fending off a throng of competition.

The AP was ahead at all key moments in the sentencing, from a judge’s decision to label Cosby a sexually violent predator to the moment he handed down a sentence of 3 to 10 years and then denied bail. Staffers moved top photos to the wire almost instantly after they were shot, and provided live video of the scene.

For their excellent work in covering the Cosby sentencing, the team of Michael Sisak, Maryclaire Dale, Claudia Lauer, Pete Brown, Alyssa Goodman, Matt Rourke, Matt Slocum, Jackie Larma, Mike Householder and Joe Frederick share the Best of the Week award.

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Sept. 28, 2018

Best of the States

How 65 women came to Kavanaugh's defense in a matter of hours

Within hours of their high school friend being accused publicly of sexual assault against a young woman 36 years ago, 65 women stepped forward to sign a letter supporting Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was now at risk.

Many in newsrooms asked themselves, how was it possible that 65 people could be marshalled so quickly to attest to someone’s moral character, including people who may not have seen Kavanaugh in decades. Reporters in four states, Jennifer Peltz in New York, Michael Kunzelman in Baltimore, Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston and Dan Sewell in Ohio, set out to reach every single one.

They learned that the campaign had started with phone calls among several high-school friends of Kavanaugh, and organizers used social media to expand their search.

The story, demonstrating AP's ability to marshal staffers across state lines on a tight timeline, was the top non-spot story of the week.

For their efforts, Shafner, Peltz, Kunzelman, Richer and Sewell share this week's Best of the States award.

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March 16, 2018

Best of the States

AP analysis: NRA contributes to schools; few willing to decline the money

Major corporations were cutting ties with the National Rifle Association after the massacre at a Florida high school, but what about schools that had received grants from the gun organization? It was a natural follow to the Associated Press’ exclusive story that the alleged shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had belonged to a school JROTC program that received NRA grants.

Data journalist Meghan Hoyer dug through tax records to identify the schools that had received more than $7 million in NRA grants. Education beat team member Collin Binkley began calling recipients around the country to see if they would forgo the money. Few said they would.

For their work breaking news on a story that everyone is reporting and providing data that allowed AP members to localize the story, Binkley and Hoyer will receive this week’s Best of the States prize.

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