Feb. 26, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Executioners sanitized official reports of federal inmates’ last moments

AP legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm witnessed 10 of the unprecedented 13 federal executions in the final months of the Trump administration, diligently taking notes on what he saw in the chamber, from the inmates’ last words to their last breaths. 

But weeks after the last execution in mid-January, something nagged at him: The executioner’s official account did not jibe with what he had observed during the execution. Tarm went back, looking through hundreds of filings and court transcripts. His reporting resulted in a stunning exclusive on how the executioners all used euphemisms like “snored” and “fell asleep” while Tarm and other witnesses saw inmates’ stomachs dramatically shuddering and jerking in the minutes after lethal injections.

The sanitized accounts, Tarm realized, raised serious questions about whether officials misled courts to ensure the executions would be completed before Joe Biden, a death penalty foe, took office. His story — the latest exclusive in AP’s coverage of the federal executions — received prominent play and reader engagement.

For backing up his own observations with rigorous reporting to hold the federal government accountable for its official accounts of the executions, Tarm earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds diversity of politics and religion among West Virginia evangelicals

A tweet was the seed for this illuminating story. “Most people in my rural, Appalachian hometown are being radicalized at church by their pastor, which is the person they trust the most,” it read. AP’s Global Religion team ran with it.

Reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski visited the parishioners of three churches in Bluefield, West Virginia, including one pastor who had attended the Jan. 6 Washington rally that degenerated into a riot. The AP pair spent weeks convincing him to sit down for an interview. The result was an all-formats package of diverse congregations seeking common ground, even as they are divided on the role of evangelical Christianity in American politics. 

For applying gentle persuasion and balanced reporting to produce a nuanced look at religion and politics in one West Virginia town, Henao and Wardarski win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the Week

Latest on New York COVID policy: State sent over 9,000 virus patients to nursing homes

For nine months, AP has led all media on the story of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial directive to return recovering coronavirus patients from hospitals to nursing homes during the pandemic.

Last week, reporters Bernard Condon and Jennifer Peltz added to that record. Using data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, they reported exclusively that more than 9,000 patients in New York were released under the state’s policy, amid criticism that it accelerated nursing home outbreaks. The latest AP scoop has helped put Cuomo and his administration on the defensive at home and nationally.

For keeping AP at the forefront of this accountability story for the better part of a year — including their latest break documenting the release of COVID patients into nursing homes — Condon and Peltz earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 05, 2021

Best of the States

AP months ahead of New York state in identifying undercount of nursing home deaths

When AP reported exclusively last August that New York state was undercounting its COVID nursing home death toll by thousands, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped the story as part of a politically motivated “blame game.”

But the state’s own investigation, announced last week, reached a nearly identical conclusion, affirming AP’s reporting.

AP’s 2020 investigation had seized on the fact that New York counts just residents who died at nursing homes, not those who were transported to hospitals and died there. AP’s analysis of federal data indicated that the state’s official toll was undercounted by 65%, or well over 4,000 deaths. 

For sharp reporting that led the media pack, withstood criticism from the governor and months later was vindicated, this week’s Best of the States award goes to Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Meghan Hoyer (now data director at The Washington Post).

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Jan. 29, 2021

Best of the Week

AP delivers unmatched all-formats coverage as Russians protest jailing of Navalny

The moment opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested upon his return to Moscow, AP’s Russia team knew the weekend’s protests would be big.

Working in sub-zero temperatures, AP teams in every format, from the Russian Far East to the big cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, delivered exceptional work capturing the scale and intensity of the protests — and the violent crackdown by police.

Excellent planning, experience and a wide network of freelancers across the country’s 11 time zones were among the factors that gave AP the edge over the competition. 

For determined, insightful coverage that captured the scope and political significance of the movement, the team of Tanya Titova, Alexander Zemlianichenko, Mstyslav Chernov, Kostya Manenkov, Dmitri Lovetsky, Pavel Golovkin, Daria Litvinova, Jim Heintz, Kirill Zarubin and Yulia Alekseyeva wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Jan. 22, 2021

Best of the States

AP investigation: Capitol rioters included highly trained ex-military, law enforcement

AP reporters Michael Biesecker Jake Bleiberg and James LaPorta joined with colleagues across the country to reveal the influence of current and former members of the military or law enforcement on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The AP team surveyed public records, social media posts and videos, and the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, finding at least 22 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement have been identified as part of Capitol riot, with more under investigation. The story gave specific examples of how such training played out in rioters’ tactics and equipment during the attack.

The all-formats package received prominent play from AP customers and was the top offering on the AP News app on a busy news day. 

For timely and insightful reporting that sheds light on the backgrounds and capabilities of Capitol Hill rioters, Biesecker, Bleiberg and LaPorta win AP’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP goes live from Navalny’s flight back to Moscow

gave AP unprecedented access to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s return to Moscow, ensuring AP was the only news agency broadcasting live the moment Alexey Navalny stepped onto a plane in Berlin for the flight returning him to Moscow, where he would be arrested.

The moment Navalny announced his decision to go home, AP senior producer Tatiana Titova had arranged a ticket to put Berlin-based video journalist Chernov on the same flight. On Sunday, Chernov was ready, transmitting live from his phone as soon as he stepped inside the plane cabin.

When Navalny showed up alongside his wife, lawyer and associates, AP clients worldwide got their first glimpse of a remarkable journey taken by the man who was poisoned for challenging President Vladimir Putin’s rule. Chernov also shot still images that were well used, including the front page of Monday’s New York Times.https://bit.ly/39PcTGXhttps://bit.ly/3qEAFMD

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Jan. 15, 2021

Best of the Week

Riot in America: Compelling and courageous coverage of the insurrection at the US Capitol

The AP team arriving on Capitol Hill expected to cover history on Jan. 6: an unprecedented challenge from Republicans lawmakers to the outcome of the election. Within hours, however, those staffers found themselves covering an insurrectionist mob storming the U.S. Capitol.

As angry supporters of President Donald Trump descended on Capitol Hill, confronting police, breaking down barricades and smashing through windows, AP journalists working in all formats documented the chaotic scenes inside and outside the Capitol.

Despite orders to evacuate, trashed equipment and a vicious attack on one of our staffers, the team on the ground kept words and images moving throughout the day, highlighted by stunning visuals. The work continued into the early hours of the next morning, when Congress finally the certified election results.

For their riveting real-time coverage as U.S. history unfolded, the courageous and dedicated staff on Capitol Hill earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 15, 2021

Best of the States

AP reporting reveals some front-line health care workers balking at COVID vaccine

The AP team of Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Carla K. Johnson assembled the most detailed national look yet at one of the most vexing snags in the coronavirus vaccine rollout: Surprising numbers of health care workers — who have seen firsthand the misery inflicted by COVID-19 — are refusing the shots.

The deep reporting, with contributions from colleagues across the country, found the paradox occurring in nursing homes and hospitals, with some individual facilities seeing a refusal rate as high as 80%. The story, one of AP’s most-read on an extremely busy news week, quoted both health workers expressing fears of vaccine side effects and frustrated facility administrators.

For bringing to light an important part of the stumbling early rollout of the much-anticipated vaccine, Condon, Sedensky and Johnson win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Records confirm Trump devotees fueled US Capitol riot

led an effort to dig into the backgrounds of more than 120 people who were either arrested or emerged on social media after storming the U.S. Capitol, finding they were overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, including Republican Party officials and donors and far-right militants.AP’s fast-breaking team effort to review social media posts, voter registrations, court files and other public records was the most comprehensive look yet at those involved in the riot, giving lie to claims by right-wing pundits that the violence was perpetrated by left-wing antifa infiltrators. The detailed background work included calls, and in some cases even doorknocks, to nearly all whose names emerged from the Jan. 6 takeover.The AP found that many of the rioters were adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory as well as claims by Trump that the vote had been stolen. Several had openly threatened violence against Democrats and Republicans they considered insufficiently loyal to the president.The team’s story, accompanied by AP photos taken inside the Capitol, scored huge play and was featured prominently on major websites. It stayed among the top stories on AP News for two straight days. https://bit.ly/2Kd7Tn1

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation, sourcing pay off with standout vaccine coverage

worked nonstop for weeks to gain access to the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine campaign, the largest vaccination program in U.S. history. They reached out to old sources and spent weeks cultivating new ones, breaking down barriers to ensure that AP was positioned to cover the story – from trucks rolling with vaccine deliveries to the first jabs in arms.The source reporting paid off. Tips were aggressively followed and coordination between video, photo and regional news desks led to robust back-to-back all-formats pieces on the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, including healthcare workers receiving injections. Video went live from several hospitals that were among the first to vaccinate front-line workers.Play was unmatched. The vaccine shipment story appeared appeared on more than 2,500 news sites and landed on at least 69 front pages including the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit News, the Kansas City Star and others.The story of the initial vaccinations appeared on at least 1,300 news sites and 64 front pages, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Orange County Register and others. And The New York Times used AP photos as its lead image on consecutive days.https://bit.ly/3nYf15rhttps://bit.ly/3hdKNIUhttps://bit.ly/3mKf57o

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: States spent billions on medical supplies

took the lead in obtaining and analyzing public records that disclosed state coronavirus-related spending that had largely been kept from the public. The reporters filed Freedom of Information Act requests in all 50 states seeking purchase order records to determine how much was being spent on what items, which suppliers the states were using and how the spending compared across the states.The findings revealed that overall the states spent at least $7 billion on medical gear in the first few months of the pandemic, a massive amount that had not been reported until AP’s investigation. Even lawmakers in most states did not know the scope of spending, much of which was inflated by competition between states and huge price markups for routine items.The project reflected a signature goal of the AP news department this year: to “connect the dots” across the states for our U.S. customers in a way that only AP can. After months spent analyzing the state-by-state information, the data team made all the information available in an easy-to-use format for AP members and for our own state reporters. In addition to the national stories, more than a dozen AP reporters wrote state sidebars, receiving prominent play online and in print. https://bit.ly/37HJS07

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Dr. Birx in violation of government’s COVID guidelines

unraveled some messy decisions by Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, that appeared to contradict the government’s own COVID-19 safety guidelines.When it was first reported that Birx was angling for some kind of role on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team, one of her relatives reached out to Madhani and suggested he look into Birx, who spent Thanksgiving weekend at a Delaware beach house with extended family, and who also made many visits to a multigenerational family home in Maryland between her widespread travels to coronavirus hotspots for the government.Madhani and Slodysko contrasted Birx’s activity with her warnings to Americans to “be vigilant” and limit celebrations to “your immediate household,” and with CDC guidelines to avoid travel for the holidays. The two Washington reporters also discovered that while Birx was in Delaware, she conducted an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” in which she noted some Americans “went across the country or even into the next state” for the holiday weekend. Birx declined to be interviewed for the story but provided a statement acknowledging she went to her Delaware property, insisting she was there to winterize the property.The story received strong play and reader engagement, and continued to generate discussion on cable TV well beyond its weekend release.Birx has a since said she plans to retire, but is willing to first help President-elect Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response as needed.https://bit.ly/38sWmb7https://politi.co/2WFxDeh

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Putting people before politics in Brexit trade coverage

delivered a unique story on the people directly affected by the high-stakes trade talks reaching a crescendo in Brussels. While competitive news organizations focused on the post-Brexit political wrangling, AP took an exclusive look at struggling French fishing crews and overwhelmed British truck drivers stuck in traffic jams at the English Channel. Thanks to years of source building in the region, the journalists were able to identify subjects that provided strong visuals, capturing the attention of AP clients and the public.https://bit.ly/382rj5Ghttps://bit.ly/3gQud1Fhttps://bit.ly/387pGnn

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Dec. 11, 2020

Best of the States

True West: Enterprise reporting reveals lurid story that led to Idaho cold case arrest

An arrest in a decades-old Idaho cold case started Boise correspondent Rebecca Boone digging, aiming to tell a broader story about the victim, the suspect and the colorful — and at times shady — pro rodeo and gambling circuit. 

Forty years ago, Dan Woolley was shot in the parking lot of a small-town bar in the Idaho mountains. The shooter crossed the street to the only other bar in town, ordered a drink and declared, “I just killed a man.” Then he disappeared. But late last year an 87-year-old man was arrested in Texas for the slaying — a former pro rodeo rider.

Boone spent months building trust with Woolley’s son and other sources, talking to long-time central Idaho residents and historians. All while juggling her state coverage of breaking news, the pandemic and the 2020 election.

The result of her efforts, an engaging 1,900-word Saturday piece, was among AP’s top stories for the weekend. For an absorbing read that is a textbook example of a general assignment reporter chipping away at a challenging enterprise piece, Boone earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP profiles some of the US jobless facing cutoff of aid

teamed up, giving voice to some of the millions of Americans whose unemployment benefits will run out by year’s end unless Congress reverses course and decides to act. The joint effort between Business News and AP’s Report for America state government reporters combined sensitive field reporting and expert handling of the most relevant data, producing a people-focused all-formats piece that highlights the human cost of government inaction as the virus surges anew amid a faltering job market.https://bit.ly/37OBcnzhttps://bit.ly/2LrfwXj

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Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP captures the essential work of Spain’s mortuary workers

produced a powerful set of images that captures the grim but essential work of mortuary workers collecting the bodies of COVID-19 victims from hospitals, nursing homes and private residences in Spain. Since the pandemic began in the spring, Morenatti has recorded the impact of the coronavirus on Spain with moving and sometimes jarring photo packages from spaces not often open to journalists: hospitals, funeral parlors and even private homes. While the images may shock, Morenatti consistently documents his subjects with sensitivity and respect. His latest package is no exception.After weeks of trying, Morenatti managed to embed with the Barcelona mortuary workers. His photos, accompanied by colleague Joe Wilson’s text, revealed the important work done by people in a profession that rarely makes headlines, and also captured the emotional toll on the workers. One image from a nursing home showed workers in protective suits removing the body of an elderly COVID victim as another resident slept in an adjacent bed. The images played widely, including the front-page of Spain’s leading daily, El Pais, and made The Guardian’s “20 Photographs of the Week.”https://bit.ly/36yJvVdhttps://bit.ly/36BFfnM

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Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Back-to-back scoops on US oil execs jailed in Venezuela

used months of source development and dogged reporting to break two same-day scoops for AP on the sensitive case of six U.S. oil executives who have spent the last three years jailed in Venezuela on charges of corruption and embezzlement.

Denied access to the men’s trial, Smith met regularly with their attorneys, sent a letter to the “Citgo 6” and was put in touch with the family of Tomeu Vadell, one of the jailed men.

His persistence led to two news breaks: the release of an exclusive letter by Vadell — the first words by any of the men since their 2017 arrest — and later that day, the judge’s decision finding them guilty of corruption. https://bit.ly/3ogHwuE

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Nov. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP documents the surge in non-COVID deaths due to nursing home neglect

An exclusive analysis conducted for AP showed that in the shadow of the pandemic, a quiet surge in non-COVID “excess deaths” in U.S. nursing homes could top 40,000 above and beyond what is normal. 

To find out why, the AP team of reporters Matt Sedensky and Bernard Condon, with video journalist Allen Breed and colleagues, interviewed nursing home authorities and family members, documenting severe cases of neglect and prolonged isolation for residents not infected with the virus, much of it due to chronic understaffing. The text story and video piece received prominent play and were among the most widely viewed on the AP News app on the day of publication. 

For exposing a grim consequence of the pandemic affecting an already vulnerable population, the team of Sedensky, Condon and Breed earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive: Crew emerges after 8 months on COVID-free island

landed an all-formats exclusive with his story on four people who spent the last eight months restoring native species and cleaning shoreline on a remote and uninhabited Hawaiian island, and were just now returning to a world beset with the coronavirus.

Jones met with the four over several days, getting their stories on video and taking photos before they scattered after their quarantine period. He worked with top stories editor Chris Sundheim on the package’s text and with AP’s Phoenix crew on the video while handling his own photos. And he worked with the sources to ensure AP had the story exclusively, even though one of the four subjects was the son of a New Zealand radio reporter.https://bit.ly/2Vcnd5bhttps://bit.ly/3q68oiF

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