Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP breaks news on the opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma, with focus on victims

AP reporters from three different teams broke distinctive, significant stories on the continuing drug overdose crisis in the U.S., which has been overshadowed this year by the coronavirus pandemic:

— A state-level report showing that overdose deaths are on pace to reach an all-time high this year, and that overdoses increased after the virus began spreading in the U.S.— An accountability story on President Donald Trump’s handling of the opioid crisis, and how the issue has been overlooked in the presidential race.— A major scoop on a settlement between the federal government and Purdue Pharma, complete with details of criminal charges and the $8 billion settlement. 

But the depth of coverage didn’t end with the major news beats. All three stories put victims at the center of the reporting. 

For revealing stories that broke news and provided a powerful reminder of an ongoing epidemic that has contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans, Mike Stobbe, Adrian Sainz, Farnoush Amiri, Geoff Mulvihill, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Balsamo win this week’s Best of the States award.

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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: Vaccine ‘cold chain’ will be crucial to the most vulnerable

took what sounded like a potential yawn of a story and instead turned it into a compelling and surprising read that revealed how a lack of refrigeration could leave 3 billion people around the world without access to a coronavirus vaccine. The story clearly laid out the concept of a “cold chain” – the need to keep vaccines cold throughout the process of delivery. The story’s conclusion: Impoverished people around the world, already among the hardest hit by the virus pandemic, are also likely to be the last to recover from it.

The story included input from around the world. Bogota, Colombia, regional news editor Christine Armario contributed a feed from Venezuela, and Aniruddha Ghosal reported from India, while Mednick’s reporting and photos were complemented by the work of Burkina Faso video journalist Ludivine Laniepce. And Stockholm-based video journalist David Keyton organized exclusive access to the world's largest humanitarian aid warehouse run by UNICEF. https://bit.ly/37PIFVehttps://bit.ly/35KI8Bc

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In AP interviews, Mayflower’s legacy includes pride, prejudice

marked the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival in 1620 by interviewing descendants of the Pilgrims and the Indigenous people who helped them survive – all discussing the legacy of the Pilgrims’ arrival and how it manifests in today’s world confronting racial and ethnic injustice.This was supposed to be the year for lavish celebrations of the Mayflower’s arrival in 1620, with President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and other dignitaries in attendance. The pandemic foiled those plans. But AP launched a transatlantic effort to track down descendants of the Pilgrims and the Indigenous tribe that helped them survive, only to suffer disease and persecution in the long run. Goldman conducted the interviews in the U.S.; Barker contributed from the U.K.; and Richer pulled it all together in an illuminating text story that also featured a photo gallery of Goldman’s elegantly composed stills, complemented with work from photographers Matt Dunham in London and Brynn Anderson in Atlanta. One Mayflower descendant, 19-year-old Olivia Musoke, whose father is Black, said the pride she feels in coming from people who helped settle this country “gets diminished by the role they played in kind of manipulating and terrorizing people of color, which trickled down to the structures we have today.”https://bit.ly/35tTPMghttps://bit.ly/2TxfKwP

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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

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documents reveal alleged links between Trump 2016 and PAC

exclusively obtained documents from a former Cambridge Analytica insider revealing what an election watchdog group claims was illegal coordination between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and a billionaire-funded pro-Trump super PAC. The cache of previously unreleased emails, presentations and slide decks was provided to the AP by Cambridge Analytica’s first business development director, Brittany Kaiser. Burke’s story detailed how Trump’s 2016 campaign coordinated behind the scenes with the political action committee, and provided rich detail on how some key 2016 staffers are involved in the president’s current re-election campaign.In a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center says the now-defunct British data analytics firm violated election law by ignoring its own written policy, blurring the lines between work performed for Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Make America Number 1 political action committee, largely funded by billionaire Robert Mercer. https://bit.ly/3dINJvqhttps://bit.ly/31tUnAy

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Oct. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP breaks news on suspension of C-SPAN’s Scully

was first to report that C-SPAN’s Steve Scully had been indefinitely suspended for lying about a tweet in which he consulted with a former Trump administration official about how to deal with social media criticism from the president. Bauder reported that Scully falsely blamed a hacker for the controversial tweet to former White House press secretary Anthony Scaramucci ahead of the second presidential debate, which Scully was to moderate.

The scoop was an instant success online, viewed by more than 125,000 people on APNews in the first hour, and it became a trending topic on Twitter after Trump tweeted about it. https://bit.ly/35oh5eV

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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)

Sources: Anger, anxiety circulating in White House COVID zone

leveraged longstanding professional relationships to reveal fear and anger rampant among household workers and Secret Service agents working in the coronavirus hot zone of the White House.The story was challenging to report because personnel knew their jobs could be in jeopardy, but the AP team reached out to a broad range of sources and contacts to piece together a compelling story about the anxiety and antagonism pulsing through the White House. While competitors took smaller bites of the apple, the AP story wove together rich details about the workers’ worries and the lack of guidance from White House officials, as well as historical context stretching back to the flu pandemic of 1918.The morning after the story ran, former first lady Michelle Obama posted a tweet seemingly tailored to AP’s piece, voicing support for those working in the White House. And days later the story still had sky-high reader engagement. https://bit.ly/314XRt6

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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds diversity of US attorneys declining under Trump

used years of data on U.S. attorneys to reveal how any diversity gains made under previous administrations have faltered under President Donald Trump. AP’s analysis found the 85% of Trump’s Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys are white men, significantly more than the three previous administrations going back to 1993. But the numbers were just part of the story. The AP team reported on why it mattered in this moment of national reckoning over racial inequality and the fairness of the criminal justice system. The story articulated how Black and brown people are disproportionately imprisoned but underrepresented in the system that puts them there. The piece included an impressive photo combo of all the attorneys, showing row after row – predominantly of white men – and video interviews on the value of diversity in the U.S. attorney ranks.https://bit.ly/3drn6e6https://bit.ly/318gc8J

Attys Combo

Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the States

AP ties Supreme Court nominee to faith group said to subjugate women

When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Barrett and her supporters clearly did not want to discuss the nominee’s reported ties to a religious group called People of Praise.

Enter reporters Michelle Smith and Michael Biesecker. Using on-the-record interviews and an archive of deleted web pages, the pair documented Barrett's deep ties to the charismatic Christian group and painted a detailed picture of the organization’s beliefs and practices from its early days to the present. And the reporters went on to reveal how the organization had systematically deleted all mentions of Barrett and her family from its website.

For deep, resourceful reporting that sheds new light on the current Supreme Court nominee on the cusp of her confirmation hearings, Smith and Biesecker share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tip, source work reveal Pence immigration order to CDC

worked sources and turned a tip into an exclusive story detailing how Vice President Mike Pence ordered the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use the pandemic as justification to halt immigration into the U.S., over the objections of the agency's scientists who twice refused to take the action.

Burke notified Dearen, who started working CDC sources. After a couple of fruitless weeks, he succeeded in identifying a person close to the events who agreed to talk, and a former Pence aide who confirmed the story on the record.

Meanwhile Burke moved the story beyond politics to bring home the order’s human toll. She gathered data that showed nearly 150,000 people, including 8,800 migrant children, already had been expelled under the order, and she interviewed the father of a 16-year-old Honduran boy who had been held in government custody under the order.

Even on a weekend dominated by news of Trump’s hospitalization, the piece was the top story on AP News and was widely used and cited by local and national news outlets. https://bit.ly/2SvTB14

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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. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP takes readers on one man’s near-death journey with COVID

revealed in evocative text and photos the challenges of a severe COVID case and a long rehabilitation. Their compelling work was made possible by building trust and access with one Indiana man and his family. Murphy heard about Larry Brown, an Indianapolis man who finally came home after nearly 80 days in the hospital – some 50 of those days on a ventilator – and realized even local outlets had not done justice to the story.With expertise as a health writer, Murphy learned about the case and safely navigated spending time with Brown to see what his life is like now. Photojournalist Darron Cummings spent several days with the family, vividly capturing how Brown interacts with the kids, and how his hand therapy and neurology appointments work.Brown sometimes became apprehensive over the story; the AP pair earned his trust by explaining their plan and the importance of sharing his story of recovery and the long-term effects of COVID. https://bit.ly/3d6v1gOhttps://bit.ly/2FgorrM

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Oct. 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP pauses to get story of ‘discarded’ Trump ballots right

resisted competitive pressure, holding off on a Department of Justice press release on an investigation into “discarded” military ballots for President Donald Trump, instead taking the time to do a more deeply reported story.Most media rushed to publish when a U.S. attorney in the battleground state of Pennsylvania took the unusual step of announcing the ongoing investigation, saying nine mail-in ballots for the president had been “cast aside” in a county elections office. The county manager later blamed the incident on confusion over the appearance of the envelopes, but conservative social media quickly seized on the initial announcement while the Trump campaign blamed Democrats for “trying to steal the election.”The original press release, however, was short on details and no one, federal or local, was talking. Pennsylvania news editor Christina Paciolla brought the story to the attention of AP’s voting team, and a deeper examination began.The AP drew on expertise across the organization to produce a far more well-informed story the following day, providing essential context and new information, including the U.S. attorney defending his announcement of the votes for Trump, and that Attorney General William Barr had previously briefed the president on the case. https://bit.ly/3if2LJZ

Oct. 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork delivers sweeping coverage of Supreme Court nomination

coordinated their reporting to deliver smooth, comprehensive coverage – and exclusives – as the death and memorial of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg transitioned to the rollout of President Donald Trump’s nomination for the now-vacant seat: Judge Amy Coney Barrett.The AP team focused on Barrett as the front-runner for the nomination and had a robust package ready for Trump’s formal announcement. Coverage of the nomination included a revelatory biography of “Scalia’s heir,” how the nomination came about, how Barrett could be the polar opposite of Ginsburg on the court and how the GOP was investing some $10 million in a digital ad blitz to promote Barrett as the next justice on the nation’s highest court.https://bit.ly/2GgS506https://bit.ly/34e1EoMhttps://bit.ly/34gKhUChttps://bit.ly/33gm7u6

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Pence planned to attend event hosted by QAnon supporters

teamed up to break an exclusive: Vice President Mike Pence planned to attend a Montana fundraiser hosted by a couple that has expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. After other news organizations matched AP’s reporting, Pence revised his schedule and did not attend.Slodysko used his source network and background research, and Kunzleman contributed his deep knowledge of extremist groups and movements to not only break news of the fundraiser and its hosts, but also provide context about how the fringe QAnon theory is gaining a foothold in the Republican Party. https://bit.ly/3cbzwGE

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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. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team documents accounts of Belarus election fraud

gained the trust of poll workers in Belarus who gave exclusive, on-camera interviews detailing extensive fraud in the Aug. 9 election. Protesters and opposition politicians have called the election rigged since the moment the results were announced showing authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko won with 80% support. Reports of fraud at the polls have appeared on social media and in some local independent media, but often featured anonymous interviews and piecemeal accounts. Litvinova and Manenkov wanted to go deeper. They reached out to poll workers who at first were too afraid to speak on-the-record and on camera – especially since protesters had been beaten by police and arrested. The pair worked tirelessly to gain the trust of several poll workers, eventually convincing several poll workers to share their stories with the AP, on camera and with still photos by Grits.What the workers told them was stunning: One said she was asked to sign a document summing up the results with the vote totals blank before voting ended for the day. Another who pointed out violations during the vote counting was fired on the spot. A third said he falsified results to favor Lukashenko and was now overcome with guilt for betraying the trust of the voters.

As they worked on this story and continued to cover the protests, Manenkov and AP Russia-based photographer Dmitri Lovetsky were arrested and ordered out of Belarus. Minsk-based photographer Grits and reporter Yuras Karmanau also were arrested and had their press credentials revoked. As a result, the two made the decision to leave Belarus.https://bit.ly/32dyjv0https://bit.ly/2RczmoF

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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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