Jan. 10, 2020

Best of the States

Multiple investigations deepen AP’s coverage of ‘The Reckoning’ in the Catholic Church

The AP designated coverage of the Roman Catholic Church and its handling of sexual misconduct as a major focus in 2019, exploring myriad facets of the church’s greatest credibility crisis since the Reformation. That focus carried through the past two weeks, with three strong stories delving into various aspects of the church’s handling of abuse accusations:

– Reporter Claudia Lauer and data journalist Meghan Hoyer showed definitively that the church has failed to be fully forthcoming about the number of clergy members credibly accused of child sexual abuse. 

– Investigative reporter Michael Rezendes broke the news about a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by one of Mother Teresa’s key confidants.

– Global religion editor Gary Fields, photographer Maye-E Wong and reporter Juliet Linderman delved into how, almost without exception, the church does not track the number of minorities who have been victimized by predator priests.

For illuminating work that further deepens AP’s “Reckoning” reporting on the Catholic church, Lauer, Hoyer, Rezendes, Huh, Fields, Wong and Linderman share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 27, 2019

Best of the States

‘Sundays After’: Portraits of resilience in the wake of clergy abuse

Photographer Maye-E Wong wanted to find a new way to tell the stories of those who suffered from clergy abuse, emphasizing that they were survivors, not victims. 

Her plan: She would photograph them with a Polaroid camera, then soak the prints and release the thin fragile membranes that held the images. The images were imperfect – wrinkled and distressed – but they endure, a metaphor for the survivors they portrayed.

Wong and reporter Juliet Linderman traveled the country to interview and photograph survivors, spending days with them and listening to their stories. The result was a stunning presentation that set AP viewership records and earned praise from both the subjects and the public.

For an arresting package of inspired photography and sensitive, insightful reporting, Wong and Linderman receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 06, 2019

Best of the Week

AP all-formats crew provides unmatched coverage of Albania earthquake

Jolted out of bed by the 6.4-magnitude earthquake just before 4 a.m., correspondent Llazar Semini in Tirana knew immediately he was dealing with a major story. Communications networks were shaky, but he managed to reach colleagues in other formats by phone, triggering what would become a virtual sweep of the disaster coverage.

The quick decisions made in the early hours resulted in a compelling all-formats report and gave AP the clear advantage over competitive agencies. Nowhere was that advantage more evident than in live video – AP picked up live video within an hour of the quake, and several hours before any of the competition. 

Coverage was just as impressive in text, photo and video edits. AP’s dominance continued with drone video, and all-formats coverage of dramatic rescue efforts and anguished survivors. 

For resourceful work that powerfully conveyed the human toll and devastation while delivering a dominant competitive performance, the multinational all-formats team of Llazar Semini, Visar Kryeziu, Hektor Pustina, Amer Cohadzic, Erion Xhiabati, Florent Bajrami, Sylejman Klokkoqi and Petros Giannakouris shares AP’s Best of the Week.

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Dec. 02, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: Catholic review boards often fail sex abuse survivors

In addressing its clergy sex abuse crisis, the Catholic church has touted a key reform: independent review boards with lay people. 

But an exhaustive investigation by the AP team of Reese Dunklin, Matt Sedensky and Mitch Weiss methodically discredited that claim. 

The reporters unearthed dozens of cases nationwide in which review boards rejected complaints from survivors, only to have them later validated by secular authorities. They also found that bishops stacked the boards with their own aides and attorneys. In a few cases, board members were themselves clergy accused of sexual misconduct. 

The rock-solid reporting was brought alive by the storytelling, with revealing details down to the pink sweater one board member was knitting while listening to a survivor’s story of abuse. 

For their comprehensive investigation into the Catholic church’s deeply flawed system for addressing claims of abuse, Dunklin, Sedensky and Weiss earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 01, 2019

Best of the States

Experience, persistence pay off with breaking news: US to collect asylum seekers’ DNA

Immigration and Homeland Security reporter Colleen Long’s ears perked up in early October when she heard agency officials mention “CODIS” as they briefed reporters on the likelihood they would expand their practice of collecting DNA from migrants. 

CODIS, she knew from experience, was an FBI database usually associated with violent crimes, so Long was surprised to hear of its use in connection with migrants whose only crime was crossing the border illegally. Long followed up with detailed questions at the briefing but didn’t get answers, so she kept pressing officials.

Her persistence was rewarded with an advance briefing on the new rule, and additional details about how the DNA policy would be implemented. Long’s story moved hours ahead of the official announcement, becoming one of the most-read stories of the day. 

For making the early connection to the policy implications of the DNA database, then pressing the issue with officials until she had the exclusive details, Long earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 11, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: Priests accused of abuse have access to children, dozens commit crimes

As the ranks of dioceses promising to release lists of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse began to mushroom at the beginning of this year, Philadelphia reporter Claudia Lauer and Washington-based data editor Meghan Hoyer started to strategize: How could they leverage the information on a scale never before accomplished? 

After months of systematic, dogged work, the result was “Where Are They Now,” a blockbuster investigation that found almost 1,700 priests and other clergy members living with little to no oversight, many with positions giving them access to children. Dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault. 

The story received exceptional play online and in print, and AP Managing Editor Brian Carovillano called it, “One of the most monumental pieces of AP journalism in my memory.” 

For a stunning investigation that breaks new ground in the already impressive body of work that is “The Reckoning” series, Lauer and Hoyer win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 20, 2019

Best of the States

Going to extremes to tell the story of sexual violence and shortcomings of enforcement

In western Alaska, rape survivors and their supporters say Nome’s police department has often failed to investigate sexual assaults, especially when the victims are Alaska Native women.

Delivering sensitive-but-powerful coverage from a challenging environment, enterprise photographer Maye-E Wong and freelance correspondent Victoria Mckenzie tell the story of average Americans struggling with sexual violence and law enforcement in small communities. Their work made clear that Nome’s struggles don’t represent an isolated case; it is a microcosm of how police and towns and cities across the U.S. have failed survivors of sexual assaults.

For going to extremes – literally and figuratively – to shed light on a remote corner of the larger issue of sexual violence and enforcement, Wong and Mckenzie share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 06, 2019

Best of the States

In Mississippi Delta, Catholic abuse cases settled on cheap

As allegations of sexual abuse by clergy have proliferated across the Catholic Church, millions of dollars in settlement money has been paid to victims. Some have received as much as $500,000 apiece.

Not La Jarvis D. Love.

At an IHOP in the Mississippi Delta, a white official from the Franciscan religious order offered to pay him just $15,000 to keep years of alleged abuse secret.

“He said if I wanted more, I would have to get a lawyer and have my lawyer call his lawyer,” Love told The Associated Press. “Well, we don’t have lawyers. We felt like we had to take what we could.”

The story, the latest in AP’s investigation into abuse in the Catholic Church, revealed deals struck with two black men for abuse they said happened in grade school that represent far lower amounts than what other clergy abuse survivors have received. It also revealed the men had been asked to sign nondisclosure agreements, which had long been banned by U.S. Catholic leaders.

Despite the challenges, the team – investigative reporter Mike Rezendes, photographer Maye-E-Wong, video journalist Sarah Blake Morgan, digital storytelling producer Samantha Shotzbarger and researcher Randy Herschaft – produced extraordinary work. Herschaft discovered several critical threads that showed an alleged abuser was working with children even after the church had known about one of the men’s allegations.

For their sensitive work on a complex, emotional and previously untold story, the team of Rezendes, Morgan, Wong, Shotzbarger and Herschaft win this week’s Best of the States.

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Aug. 16, 2019

Best of the Week

AP investigation: Guam’s ex-archbishop protected culture of clergy sex abuse of children

Knowledge of clergy sex abuse is widespread on the mainland of the United States. But it has long been a secret in the small, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic U.S. territory of Guam.

Washington-based investigative reporter Michael Biesecker, working with Atlanta-based enterprise photographer David Goldman and Seattle video journalist Manuel Valdes, helped to puncture that veil of silence when AP examined thousands of pages of court documents in lawsuits brought by abuse victims and then conducted extensive interviews.

The AP team detailed a pattern of repeated collusion among predator priests, with abuse that spanned generations and reached all the way to the top of the territory’s church hierarchy, ruled over by then-Archbishop Tony Apuron, who himself had been accused of the rape of a 13-year-old choir boy when Apuron was a parish priest.

The care and sensitivity of the reporting and images were essential to the project’s power. “To see my story told in this way gives me a lot of peace, that I have a purpose,” said Walter Denton, a former U.S. Army sergeant and survivor of abuse nearly 40 years ago.

For telling a sensitive and little-known story of systemic clerical abuse dating from the 1950s to as recently as 2013, Biesecker, Goldman and Valdes share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 16, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Former classmates say Ohio shooter kept a 'hit list' and a 'rape list'

for reporting that the gunman in the Dayton, Ohio, shooting that killed nine people had significant red flags in his background.Following up on a thinly sourced local news report that Ohio shooter Connor Betts had a hit list in high school, Biesecker and Dunklin began calling dozens of former classmates, particularly those who may have had a chance of knowing Betts well. They struck paydirt with a former track teammate and a classmate who gave firsthand accounts of knowing not only about the hit list of people Betts wanted to kill, but also a rape list of girls he wanted to sexually assault. Both students had knowledge of separate high school suspensions of Betts, and with help from Smyth and others on the ground in Dayton, AP found more people who could confirm the accounts. https://bit.ly/2YIUEQg

Aug. 02, 2019

Best of the States

A century after hundreds of black killings, AP explores the enduring impact of ‘Red Summer’

While conducting research for another potential project, Jesse J. Holland, race and ethnicity reporter based in Washington, read about the upcoming anniversary of the “Red Summer” of 1919 and noticed a startling fact: Few people seemed to know that more than 200 African Americans died at the hands of white rioters across the country 100 years ago. The stream of violence that stretched from February to October that year, most of it in the U.S. South and Northeast, eluded history books and was largely forgotten.

Holland presented the information to the larger team, and the project took flight. The all-formats series ultimately included work by staffers Cedar Attanasio, El Paso, Texas; Russell Contreras, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Noreen Nasir, Chicago; and Rodrique Ngowi, Boston. AP was largely alone in its coverage and the team’s efforts were rewarded with prominent use by national outlets and strong engagement.

For taking a little-known event and turning it into a dynamic project with powerful historic and present-day context that no other news outlet could match, Attanasio, Contreras, Holland, Nasir and Ngowi win this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 21, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

‘Betrayed’: Student who reported rape says university failed to protect her

for a compelling, sensitively handled interview with a woman who said she’d been raped on the campus of Marshall University, revealing the extent of personal damage inflicted when the man, who was convicted of battery, was allowed to remain on campus. Alicia Gonzales, who allowed Izaguirre to use her name, described how her friends warned her about the man’s whereabouts. She would retreat to her dorm room to avoid him, and on the occasions when she did see him, he and his friends taunted her. She now has a federal lawsuit against the university. https://bit.ly/2FkYWSN

June 07, 2019

Best of the States

Teamwork and drone visuals lead coverage after tornadoes rip western Ohio

There’s a real difference between straight aerial photography and the bird’s-eye view that AP’s audience had of the destruction after a series of tornados touched down in western Ohio late on Memorial Day. Using a drone, Cincinnati photographer John Minchillo and video journalist Angie Wang provided those images from a rare perspective – both still photos and video – showing residents coping with the wreckage and sorting through their gutted homes.

The resulting video coverage was our overall top U.S. video story for the week, and Minchillo’s still photos were widely played, including front pages of the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Two of his photos appeared in NBC’s The Week in Pictures.

From small details to sweeping landscapes of destruction, their dedication, teamwork and speed of delivery make John Minchillo and Angie Wang this week’s Best of the States winners.

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June 07, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Survivors of sex abuse by Boy Scout leaders tell their stories

for wrenching stories from survivors of sex abuse carried out by Boy Scout leaders. Changes in statute-of-limitation laws in various states have triggered a new wave of litigation against the Boy Scouts by men who said they were abused by unit leaders decades ago. What was missing from those stories were detailed accounts from abuse survivors – a gap filled by a powerful all-formats package that received tremendous play. https://bit.ly/2EU7ekq

May 31, 2019

Best of the States

The one that got away: Survivor of serial killer adds emotion, depth to execution coverage

Execution coverage often focuses on the condemned inmate or the manner of death. So, faced with covering his eighth execution – a Florida serial killer – Tallahassee correspondent Brendan Farrington told the extraordinary personal story of a victim who escaped and helped police find the man after he raped her decades ago. That woman had chosen to witness the man’s execution.

Farrington doggedly tracked down the woman, now a sheriff’s deputy, who finally agreed to an interview on the eve of the execution. Her compelling story resonated with readers everywhere.

For his persistence and sensitivity in telling a personal and emotional victim’s story in what could have been a rote story on a serial killer’s execution, Farrington wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 10, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Lawmakers target loopholes for spouses who drug, rape their partners

for a distinctive and deeply reported legislative story on the so-called “marital rape exemption” or “spousal defense,” a legal loophole in many states that allows spouses to escape criminal prosecution for raping partners who are drugged, unconscious or otherwise incapacitated. Smyth and Karnowski reported that previous state legislative attempts to remove those exemptions have a mixed record, but that’s starting to change. https://bit.ly/2vLmScQ

May 10, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Emails reveal lobbyist pushing legislation to help expelled son

for using an open records request to reveal behind-the-scenes maneuvering by a Missouri lobbyist who promoted a measure that would help college students – like his son – who have been disciplined for sex-discrimination complaints. Emails obtained by Ballentine showed the lobbyist strategizing to make the ruling cover his son’s situation, and pushing the idea that the real problem on campuses is not rape but women regretting casual sex. https://bit.ly/2VlNS22

April 26, 2019

Best of the States

A powerful retrospective and breaking news, 20 years after Columbine mass shooting

Twenty years have passed since the Columbine high school massacre, which was, to many people, the beginning of school shootings as we know them. In those years, life has changed: Mass shootings happen again and again, schoolchildren participate in lockdowns instead of fire drills, and many reflect on the moment in time when two young men took 13 lives with them on their suicidal quest.

AP was uniquely positioned to cover the two decades since the massacre, with journalists who were there, those who cover the Colorado community every day, and experts in polling, education and guns. Stories by Denver reporter Kathleen Foody and videojournalist Peter Banda led a deep all-formats package by dozens of journalists across the AP telling not just of the carnage but of those who survived it, their struggle, and the future.

But all the planning couldn't prepare anyone for this spot development: Early in the week, Sol Pais, a young Florida woman, prompted panic over a possible attack at Columbine, later taking her own life near the Colorado school. Miami reporter Kelli Kennedy tracked down a good friend of Pais who not only filled in personal details about her in an exclusive interview, but supplied photos of Pais and cast doubt on the official narrative about her friend.

The overarching theme of the spot and enterprise coverage focused on the short and long-term mental health issues from school shootings. The result was a unique, meaningful package that received impressive play nationally – online and in print. The video was among the top-used AP videos of the week.

For their work spearheading the package, and breaking news, Foody, Banda and Kennedy win this week’s Best of the States.

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