Nov. 20, 2020

Best of the Week

‘We went straight to the border’: AP documents Armenians burning their homes in conflict zone

For more than a month, video journalist Mstyslav Chernov and photographer Dmitri Lovetsky tirelessly documented fierce fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Then, as they were wrapping up their assignment, Armenia signed an agreement ceding the territory to Azerbaijan, triggering protests in Armenia and an exodus of ethnic Armenians from the region now falling into enemy hands. When Chernov and Lovetsky learned that Armenians were burning their own homes as they fled the region, the AP pair repeatedly made risky and arduous trips into the territory, producing powerful, emotionally charged reporting and images, including the moving story of a family abandoning its home.

For displaying exceptional commitment and courage in their coverage of last week’s dramatic developments — as they have throughout this weekslong story — Chernov and Lovetsky earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Nov. 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Courageous AP duo delivers Nagorno-Karabakh coverage

continued their exceptional coverage of the toll that conflict has taken on residents and combatants in Nagorno-Karabakh, as Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over the separatist region. Highlights of their work have included vivid storytelling from inside a hospital overwhelmed by both the war and the pandemic, desperate residents fleeing the fighting and an intimate ritual of young Armenian recruits being baptized before deployment to the battlefield.Reporting from the heart of the region, video journalist Chernov and photographer Lovetsky have worked resourcefully without the assistance of fixers or translators, braving many nights during which the regional capital Stepanakert came under a barrage of Azerbaijani shelling and missile strikes. Their coverage provided the AP, its clients and readers with unique insight into life in Nagorno-Karabakh during the six weeks of the biggest escalation of a decades-old conflict between the two ex-Soviet nations.Since last week’s coverage, Armenia and Azerbaijan have announced an agreement to halt fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh under a pact signed with Russia that calls for deployment of nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers and territorial concessions that triggered protests in Armenia.https://bit.ly/2IlNQlshttps://bit.ly/2GSRdiZ

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive access to medics treating coronavirus – and war wounds

secured exclusive international agency access to a hospital battling coronavirus and casualties in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.Chernov and Lovetsky had been on the front line of the disputed region within Azerbaijan for more than a week when they began to see increasing numbers of people becoming sick with the coronavirus. Repeated requests to document the hospitals and clinics were rebuffed until Chernov tracked down the region’s health minister to personally request access. The minister granted permission.Wearing full protective gear carried with them from previous reporting in the Ukraine, the pair visited the main hospital in Stepanakert and found terrible scenes of suffering as coronavirus patients mixed with the war-wounded – while doctors and nurses continued to treat people despite suffering from the virus themselves. Their on-the-ground reporting was crafted into a powerful text story by Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and the story moved as cross-format agency exclusive the next day.https://bit.ly/3oCN57Ohttps://bit.ly/34BY9Kp

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Oct. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP secures video exclusive as French police shoot beheading suspect

teamed up to obtain exclusive video of police confronting a beheading suspect outside Paris.

Macpherson, senior field producer, Paris, was coordinating video coverage Saturday after the horrific news that a teacher had been beheaded the previous day. She was working with AP freelance video journalist Patrick Hermansen, who had been sending live video all morning outside the school where teacher Samuel Paty had held a class discussion about the Charlie Hebdo-published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

Juggling live and edited coverage, Macpherson saw that phone video had surfaced in local French media, shot from a home, on which police can be heard screaming at the beheading suspect to throw down his weapon and get down. A short time later, you can hear, but not see, police shooting the man and killing him.

Macpherson knew instinctively that our best chance to get this video was through old-fashioned shoe leather reporting. She had Hermansen stop everything he was doing to try to pinpoint the the house from which the amateur video was shot. Going house-to-house, Hermansen eventually found the the right one and put the owner of the video on the phone with Macpherson, where they negotiated an agency exclusive for AP.

Dozens of customers used the exclusive video, including some key clients such as EuroNews, Sky News, Al Jazeera and Russia Today. https://bit.ly/3jiJAzghttps://bit.ly/2ITiz9r

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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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July 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Chinese company claims it tested vaccine on employees

revealed that in the global race to find a COVID-19 vaccine, SinoPharm, a state-owned Chinese company, claimed it gave experimental shots to top pharma executives and employees, raising ethical concerns. The all-formats coverage examining the ethics of researchers testing vaccines and remedies on themselves was a global effort, with contributions from AP journalists in China, the U.S., Indonesia and Russia. The story appeared on more than 500 online sites, and the package received more than 100,000 page views on AP News. https://bit.ly/3htDPOG

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May 15, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Even Trump claims surprise after AP bombshell on Flynn case

scooped everyone with news that the Justice Department was moving for dismissal of the case against Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Balsamo, acting on a tip, worked sources and obtained exclusive access to court documents showing the case was being dropped, before they were even filed in court. Tucker, AP’s Mueller investigation expert, drafted the story, pulling together details and information from other sources on how this case could have ended in such a spectacular and unusual way.The AP exclusive forced virtually every major news outlet to use the story, including CNN. Even Trump proclaimed he didn’t know it was coming – and he’d been railing for weeks about the case, mulling whether to pardon Flynn.https://bit.ly/2ArlBNRhttps://bit.ly/2WRm8Ae

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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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June 21, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Breaking news from Sweden on secret Venezuela talks, sanctions

for teaming up to score two exclusives related to Venezuela, breaking the news that secret talks were underway in Sweden, and that European countries were readying sanctions against the Maduro regime. The pair used their vast network of sources on both sides of the Atlantic to confirm vague rumors that diplomats from Russia, the U.N., Cuba and the EU were meeting in Sweden, a scoop that stunned even Swedish media. Two days later they followed up with the scoop on potential EU sanctions, including a preliminary list of Venezuelan officials that would be targeted.https://bit.ly/2Y0gV8khttps://bit.ly/2MV4l9j

April 26, 2019

Best of the Week

AP dominates all-formats coverage of historic release of Mueller report

The AP bulletin rocketed around the world just minutes after the release of the much-anticipated report by special counsel Robert Mueller:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mueller’s report reveals Trump's efforts to seize control of Russia probe and force the special counsel’s removal.

That set the tone for a day of dominant AP coverage in every format on the historic findings in the Mueller report.

The success was the result of planning and deep knowledge of the subject matter by AP’s Russia team – Eric Tucker, Mike Balsamo, Chad Day and Mary Clare Jalonick – along with lightning-fast speed and precision execution by White House news editor Nancy Benac and the entire Washington bureau.

As soon as they were allowed to open the report, Tucker and Balsamo called the Washington bureau and kept two open lines to the newsroom, where they fed material Day and Jalonick, while Benac began crafting the story that hit the wire right after the report was posted online.

By then, the AP was off and running with outstanding all-formats coverage, including sharp handling of photos and live video. Our speed was so impressive that clients were able to get a complete set of critical and comprehensive edits by mid-afternoon. Our interactive had unheard-of play for a non-election story, while the Trump Investigation hub on APNews more than doubled its previous high pageviews. The standout coverage also ran on front pages of newspapers around the country.

“While we were sending bulletins saying that Trump had tried to stop the investigation, everyone else was still saying, ‘We have the report, we’re reading it, we’ll get back to you,’” Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said.

For their efforts, Balsamo, Tucker, Day, Jalonick and Benac win AP’s Best of the Week.

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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

March 29, 2019

Best of the Week

Planning, execution and teamwork deliver outstanding coverage of Mueller report

For weeks, journalists in Washington had been chasing tips that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 race for the White House was winding down. Knowing that appetite for the story was huge, our Washington team created a comprehensive coverage plan for the day the report would be delivered to Attorney General William Barr.

Eric Tucker, Justice Department reporter, and Chad Day, Trump investigations reporter, kicked off the coverage with “Mueller in Plain Sight,” a sweeping narrative of everything that had already been revealed by Mueller in his public indictments.

As speculation intensified, Tucker and law enforcement reporter Mike Balsamo alternated shifts at the Justice Department, while AP photographers and videojournalists staked out Mueller and Barr. Photographer Andrew Harnik scored with images of Mueller arriving at the Justice Department, the first image of Mueller by a news photographer in more than a year.

Word finally came on Friday, March 22 that Mueller’s work had ended. Within minutes of moving an alert, the AP sent a series of richly reported stories by the team that led AP’s coverage for months: Tucker, Day, Balsamo and Congress reporter Mary Clare Jalonick.

And on Sunday morning AP scored another visual scoop when freelance photographer Cliff Owen learned that Mueller was at church. Owen’s photos of Mueller exiting St. John’s church ricocheted around the internet.

Later Sunday, when a Justice Department official handed reporters copies of Barr’s summary, Tucker calmly read the highlights over an open phone line to the bureau while Balsamo sent full quotes. AP’s first alert, that Mueller had not exonerated Trump on obstruction of justice, moved a full 10 minutes before the Washington Post and five minutes before the New York Times.

The video team also provided unmatched live coverage from a wide range of locations in Washington, at Mar-a-Lago in Florida and in New York throughout the weekend.

For exceptional planning, teamwork and execution, Eric Tucker, Chad Day, Mike Balsamo, Mary Clare Jalonick, Andrew Harnik and Cliff Owen win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 22, 2019

Best of the Week

AP breaks global news with unprecedented Maduro interview

“How quickly can you and your boss get here?”

The curt text message to Andean News Director Joshua Goodman from Venezuela’s normally evasive communications minister promised a tantalizing scoop. It set Goodman and Ian Phillips, vice president for international news, on an intercontinental dash to Caracas to secure embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s first-ever interview with an English-language news agency.

Among the exclusives from the interview, Maduro revealed that his foreign minister had twice met secretly in New York with a Trump administration envoy. It came against a tense backdrop as the U.S. joined other Latin American nations in calling for the leader’s ouster.

The unprecedented access came as the result of Goodman’s years of source development with the Venezuelan government, including cultivating pro-government sources and making sure cabinet ministers saw that AP’s coverage of the nation was fair and balanced.

The package was a dominating all-formats beat for the AP and a massive draw for customers, with video of the interview downloaded more than 840 by clients around the world. And in a surprise first, Venezuelan state TV also carried the 42-minute interview in its entirety in prime time.

For his masterful source development, resourcefulness and quick work to put the AP ahead, Goodman wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 27, 2018

Best of the Week

Reporter’s direct questions to Trump, Putin command center stage in Helsinki

“Who do you believe?”

In the defining moment of the US-Russia summit in Helsinki, President Donald Trump stood side-by-side with Russia's Vladimir Putin and appeared to side with Russian denials when asked whether Moscow meddled in the 2016 election.

The crystal-clear question came from AP White House reporter Jonathan Lemire, who asked Trump to choose between Putin and his own intelligence agencies.

The exchange, and an equally bold couple of questions to Putin, was the capstone of a grueling weeklong reporting effort by Lemire and fellow White House reporter Jill Colvin as they chronicled Trump’s tumultuous travels across Europe. The two, working in cooperation with colleagues in Europe and Russia, delivered smart spot reporting and strong enterprise at every stop on the president’s jaw-dropping trip.

For their exhaustive and highly impactful work, they win Beat of the Week.

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May 17, 2018

Best of the Week

Russian hackers posed as Islamic State to harass US military wives

The threat over her phone to Army wife Angela Ricketts was terrifying. “Dear Angela!” it said. “Bloody Valentine’s Day!”

“We know everything about you, your husband and your children,” it continued, claiming that Islamic State militants had penetrated her computer. “We’re much closer than you can even imagine.”

More than three years after Ricketts and four other military wives received this and other alarming messages, AP London-based cybersecurity reporter Raphael Satter unraveled the secret behind it all. Satter drew on a massive hit list of Russian hacking targets, focusing on a group of five women whose names were clustered together on the list. All reported having received death threats from a mysterious group calling itself CyberCaliphate back in 2015.

The threats were not from Middle Eastern terrorists at all, but hackers from the Russian group widely dubbed Fancy Bear – the same gang who later broke into the Democratic Party’s emails and interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

For revealing the latest wrinkle in the Russian hacking story, Satter earns the Beat of the Week.

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