Nov. 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Dogged reporting, spycraft expose Texas attorney general scandal

used source work, non-public documents and a technique borrowed from spycraft to connect recent criminal allegations against the Texas attorney general to the conservative Republican’s previously unreported extramarital affair.In late September, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s top deputies accused him of criminally abusing his office to help a wealthy donor. Bleiberg spent weeks building sources in his aggressive pursuit of answers to what was behind these explosive, but unspecified, allegations.Those efforts paid off last week when Bleiberg was able to obtain a private transcript of real estate developer Nate Paul acknowledging that the attorney general recommended he hire a woman whom Paxton was rumored to have had an affair with. The sensitive document was picked up at a “dead drop” – a prearranged drop spot – by Austin reporter Paul Weber.Bleiberg then worked sources he’d developed while breaking earlier stories to identify people whom the attorney general may have told about his affair. His relentless outreach ultimately turned up two people with firsthand accounts of Paxton acknowledging the affair in 2018.The reporting allowed AP to draw back the curtain on one of America’s most prominent conservative legal crusaders and break major news on a highly competitive story. It revealed a relationship that’s almost certainly at the center of an ongoing federal public corruption probe. https://bit.ly/2UnuZc1

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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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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Collaboration reveals racial divide in US schools reopening plans

collaborated with Chalkbeat, a non-profit that reports on U.S. education, to reveal that schools serving primarily students of color were far more likely to start the year online than schools serving mostly white students – a divide that threatens to further exacerbate inequities in education.Fenn and Hoyer gathered and analyzed the data from hundreds of school districts, while Rubinkam and Vertuno interviewed school administrators, parents and educators to learn about the pressures that shaped districts’ choices. The all-formats story was co-reported and co-written with Chalkbeat. https://bit.ly/2Rwwxirhttps://bit.ly/2FHfNCwhttps://bit.ly/3iAuaa8https://bit.ly/3iF2KQo

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Sept. 11, 2020

Best of the States

AP examines troubling trend of women dropping out of the workforce

As parents scramble to manage their own work and their kids’ remote learning during the pandemic, AP business reporters Alexandra Olson and Cathy Bussewitz wanted to know how that shift impacted the careers of mothers and fathers. 

They dug into the data, finding that in order to tend to their children, working mothers were giving up their careers more so than working fathers. And they tapped into parenting networks to find families in this situation. What emerged was evidence of a trend that threatens decades of hard-fought gains by working women, who are still far from achieving labor force parity with men.

For timely reporting that documents a disturbing social and economic trend brought on by the pandemic, Olson and Bussewitz win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 21, 2020

Best of the States

Inside the reopening debate: Local school boards face ‘impossible’ decisions

With school districts nationwide wrestling with tough decisions on reopening amid the pandemic, South Carolina reporter Jeffrey Collins wanted to show that process at work.

When several districts rebuffed his efforts at behind-the-scene access, Collins took another approach. He started reporting by watching a school board’s meetings online, taking voluminous notes. Demonstrating a thorough understanding of what the district was facing, he was finally granted in-person access to the district’s meetings and discussions for a revealing all-formats package. 

For finding a way to delve into a local school board’s deliberations, and providing insight into conversations happening nationally, Collins wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team dominates coverage of controversial Belarus vote

overcame a beating at the hands of police and an internet blackout to deliver compelling footage and images, including exclusive interviews, throughout the disputed Belarus presidential election. When the state-run exit poll was announced after the vote, showing longtime authoritarian president President Alexander Lukashenko with 80% of the vote, thousands took to the streets. They were met with force by riot police as the government shut down the internet and tried to close the country off from the rest of the world. Video journalist Mstyslav Chernov was among those beaten and detained as police clashed with protesters.Despite the obstacles, AP outperformed the competition, working around the blackout to transmit strong all-formats coverage to the world ahead of other agencies.https://bit.ly/31PWEWahttps://bit.ly/2DCMZKNhttps://bit.ly/2XSMuCYhttps://bit.ly/3kysJdT

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July 31, 2020

Best of the Week

AP exclusive leads to release of migrant kids held in US hotels for deportation

Earmarked for deportation, the immigrant children, some mere toddlers, were parked in nondescript hotels – out of sight and, the Trump administration thought, out of mind.  But not out of reach of an Associated Press exclusive.

With an investigation based on source work, court records and witness accounts, immigration reporter Nomaan Merchant exposed how the Trump administration held children in hotels despite federal anti-trafficking laws and court rulings that mandate child-appropriate facilities.

Merchant’s exclusive sparked outrage and accusations of child abuse. Five days later, the Trump administration said it would not expel 17 people, including children, detained at one Texas hotel, and the hotels pledged to stop allowing the practice.

For his investigative story that punctured layers of secrecy and changed the fortunes of all-but-invisible immigrant children, Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award. 

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July 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tough calls for US families as school year looms

turned a spotlight on the stress parents are feeling as they consider the reopening of schools and weigh competing concerns – the health of their children, the burden of extended quarantine, the need to have children cared for as parents get back to work. Exploring the impact of these factors on working parents, Loller sorted through the nuanced implications for parents from New York to Texas as they react to the pivotal decisions being made by elected officials about when kids should return to school. https://bit.ly/2ZSnqO3

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July 17, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exposing how ‘desperation science’ slows the race for a remedy

revealed how pressure and politics have corrupted and delayed the scientific process, slowing the development of effective treatments against the coronavirus pandemic.Marchione reviewed studies that are underway and interviewed dozens of doctors, researchers, patients and policy experts as she looked at organizations trying to do rigorous science, as well as the issues undermining that research. Young found creative ways to tell the story visually, including a GoPro mounted on a medical cart. Together they document a Pennsylvania COVID-19 patient enrolled in a clinical trial.The story – challenging to report because of the fluid and chaotic nature of the subject itself – attracted readers and generated interest on social media, a strong showing for non-breaking news.https://bit.ly/2B1uyxRhttps://bit.ly/2CFLpqo

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June 26, 2020

Best of the Week

White House homecoming photo speaks volumes on Trump’s Tulsa rally

Washington-based photojournalist Pat Semansky was assigned weekend White House duty – a routine gig that meant waiting for President Donald Trump’s overnight return from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where his much-hyped rally didn’t meet expectations.

The president’s arrival rarely makes a memorable photo, but Semansky dutifully waited until well after 1 a.m., while many of AP’s competitors didn’t bother to cover. When Trump finally stepped off Marine One, Semansky proved the time well spent: His flash caught an atypically rumpled Trump crossing the South Lawn.

The photo quickly became the signature image of the night, capping days of smart AP coverage on the event itself. 

For making the most of a routine assignment to create what is likely to become an iconic photo of the Trump presidency, Pat Semansky wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 12, 2020

Best of the Week

AP Exclusive: WHO’s behind-the-scenes frustration to get virus info from China

China and the Trump administration had opposing narratives about the early days of the new coronavirus epidemic: China bragged about providing information quickly to the world through the World Health Organization, while the Trump administration accused China and WHO of colluding to hide information.

It took The Associated Press – drawing on recordings, documents and interviews – to tell the definitive story: Rather than colluding with China, WHO itself was being kept in the dark, praising China in public to shake loose information while expressing considerable frustration in private.

AP’s widely praised story, months in the making, was so sensitive that we did not name the two main journalists to avoid blowback in China and to prevent anyone from identifying our sources.

For in-depth reporting that drew back the curtains and punctured the preferred narratives of China, WHO and the Trump administration at the same time, the AP reporters who produced this stunning piece earn Best of the Week honors. 

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May 29, 2020

Best of the States

AP takes a rare behind-the-scenes look into the complex world of contact tracing

With contact tracing in the spotlight as one of the keys to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, journalists across the AP have sought access to the investigators, only to be rebuffed for privacy concerns. But Utah-based correspondent Brady McCombs convinced a county health department that he and photographer Rick Bowmer could show the world how contact tracing is conducted, while protecting private details. 

Once they were in the door, the curtain rolled back. The pair spent parts of five days shadowing investigators as they talked, commiserated and cajoled people to comply with tracing – something simply unseen in other coverage or descriptions of contact tracing. 

And in a major break, McCombs used social media to identify one of the subjects of tracing, getting exclusive all-formats access to tell the story of a family on the other end of a tracer’s call.

For a timely and revealing package on a vital element of the pandemic response, McCombs and Bowmer share this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 22, 2020

Best of the Week

A matter of trust: Covering a remarkable funeral in the midst of the pandemic

Thousands upon thousands of funerals, many not related to COVID-19, are being held during the global pandemic. Washington photographer Jacquelyn Martin provided a very personal look at one of them. 

Martin spent weeks getting to know the family whose mother had died, gaining their trust. But the family’s plans for an elaborate funeral were interrupted by the pandemic and social distancing rules. More weeks passed before the funeral home said it could go ahead. Martin was ready, poised with her camera and notebook, given extraordinary access to a family’s very private moment.

Her moving text and photos captured the essence of the funeral and the family's grief – and its celebration of a life. “Beautiful images shown with so much dignity,” one person wrote.

For her heartfelt account and elegant images, Jacquelyn Martin receives AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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March 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exclusive interview with world’s foremost collector of Picasso

convinced David Nahmad, a publicity-shy billionaire art dealer who has accumulated over decades the world’s largest private collection of works by Pablo Picasso, to throw open his luxury Monaco home for an exclusive and rare all-formats interview about why he is selling one of his paintings for charity. Nahmad had spoken briefly to a French radio station about raffling of “Nature Morte,” painted by Picasso in 1921, but Leicester proposed that for international audiences, the billionaire should speak exclusively to AP, surrounded by some of his art collection, estimated to be worth $3 billion. The story managed to elbow its way into the news agenda dominated by virus coverage, rising to No. 8 on the list of most-viewed AP stories.https://bit.ly/3dcJoQihttps://bit.ly/2Uo8T8Zhttps://bit.ly/2WyX2Yp

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Feb. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Greyhound reverses bus policy after AP story

for reporting that Greyhound will stop allowing Border Patrol agents without a warrant to board its buses for routine immigration checks. The announcement by the nations’s largest bus company came a week after the Johnson reported on a leaked Border Patrol memo confirming that agents can’t board private buses without the consent of the bus company. Greyhound had previously insisted that even though it didn’t like the immigration checks, it had no choice under federal law but to allow them. https://bit.ly/2VDpTKH

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Jan. 31, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: NFL’s Saints allegedly do damage control for Catholic Church on abuse crisis

New York-based federal law enforcement reporter Jim Mustian never gives up on a story.

Sticking with a case he began covering at another news organization in another state more than two years ago, Mustian landed a jaw-dropping exclusive for the AP: That a trove of hundreds of confidential emails has surfaced allegedly showing executives of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints doing public relations damage control for the area’s Roman Catholic archdiocese amid its clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The story had an immediate, visceral impact with readers and earned praise from fellow journalists.

Mustian will continue to chip away at this story and, hopefully, reveal more about the Saints and their involvement with the church. But for now, Mustian’s sticktoitiveness and tough accountability reporting earns him this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP reveals chronic problems, personal stories behind a deadly period in Mississippi prisons

The Associated Press began chronicling rising violence across Mississippi’s troubled prison system in late 2019, but after four deaths in four days it became clear that something bigger was going on.

Reporters Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus explored the history of underfunding and other problems in the state’s prison system. In addition to official documents describing understaffing, the pair obtained photos and video shot by a prisoner that showed the conditions inside the infamous penitentiary at Parchman. 

AP also published all-formats interviews with grieving mothers of prisoners killed, and reported on the state’s decision to house inmates at a private prison.

For bringing much-needed insight and context to a chaotic, evolving situation and giving voice to those affected by the deadly violence, Amy and Wagster Pettus receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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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. 15, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Abusive S. Korean facility exported children for profit

for building on their previous reporting about the Brothers Home, where some of the worst human rights atrocities in modern South Korean history had taken place. Kim and Klug have now revealed that the notorious facility was part of an orphanage pipeline feeding the demand of private adoption agencies. A former U.S. diplomat specializing in the Koreas said the story shows “The AP continues to be second to none in South Korea-based investigative reporting.” https://bit.ly/2KkAe7C

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