July 10, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation details hollowed-out US public health departments

While it is widely understood that U.S. public health departments have suffered budget cuts over the years, a collaborative AP/Kaiser Health News team used data and deep reporting to show exactly how expansive those cuts have been.

The investigation by AP’s Michelle Smith, Meghan Hoyer and Mike Householder, teamed with KHN’s Lauren Weber, Laura Ungar, Hannah Recht and Anna Maria Barry-Jester, drew on data from disparate sources and interviews with more than 150 people to reveal a system starved of money and staff for years, and facing more cuts amid the worst health crisis in a century. 

The team’s all-formats package drew kudos and high-profile reaction from health officials, to the halls of Congress, to editorial pages.

For an ambitious story that laid bare the state of America’s public health system, the joint AP/KHN team of Smith, Hoyer, Householder, Weber, Ungar, Recht and Barry-Jester shares this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20142182554301 2000

July 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Investigation: Trump briefed on bounties in 2019

worked sources to reveal that a year earlier than originally believed, officials briefed President Donald Trump on intelligence reports of Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. Coming on the heels of The New York Times scoop on the reported bounties, Laporta's reporting dramatically changed the story’s timeline. He further advanced the story with news that then-National Security Advisor John Bolton told colleagues that he personally briefed Trump on the matter, and Laporta also broke the news that the military was investigating the death of three Marines killed in an ambush last year. https://bit.ly/2O3FtKn

Ap 20165565835800 Hm Bounties

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. 

Ap 20148630922030 2000

May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP spots, tracks counterfeit N95 masks from China

spotted something unusual about the N95 mask shipment they were shown in Southern California in early April – the eagerly awaited masks matched those on the counterfeit warning page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pair spent the next few weeks contacting U.S. importers and distributors who were selling and giving away the same Chinese-made masks, informing them the masks were fake while reviewing shipping records, broker contacts, invoices and packaging. Their story about how one brand of counterfeits infiltrated the U.S. supply chain served as an example of how the lack of coordination amid massive shortages plunged the country’s medical system into chaos. https://bit.ly/2XgMxHU

Ap 20132693210540 Masks1

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

Ap 19253616903064 Hm Flynn

May 08, 2020

Best of the Week

AP exclusive reveals ex-Green Beret’s failed Venezuelan coup plot

In a gripping exclusive that reads like the plot of a Hollywood film, Latin America correspondent Josh Goodman revealed the failed plot to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro by a ragtag group of 300 volunteers led by a former U.S. Green Beret. The ill-conceived plan called for the group to invade Venezuela from Colombia and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in Maduro’s arrest.

The plot was uncovered and dismantled with barely a whisper, but a cryptic tip to the well-sourced Goodman planted the seed of the story. Over the next several months he reviewed documents and interviewed more than 30 Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters with knowledge of the plot, piecing together the narrative with a strong assist from investigative researcher Randy Herschaft.

Goodman’s story broke and reaction was strong: International media struggled to catch up and authorities in the U.S. and Colombia launched investigations. Senate Democrats have sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding answers.

For his impressive scoop on the failed coup that has been dubbed “The Bay of Piglets,” Goodman and Herschaft win AP’s Best of the Week award.

Ap 20046637221721 2000

May 08, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive: SEALs tried to locate US captive in Afghanistan

conducted an exclusive investigation into an attempt by Navy SEALs to locate Mark Frerichs, an American contractor kidnapped in Afghanistan by a Taliban-linked militant network. The story, based on conversations with multiple U.S. officials, included sensitive details of the military operation, and revealed the growing exasperation of Frerichs’ family with the U.S. government for not including him in a recent peace deal with the Taliban. https://bit.ly/3do2Wkg

Ap 20118656226150 Hm Afghan

May 01, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Wealthy US church ran Haiti orphanage where 13 died

conducted a two-month investigation exposing the long, troubled history of a wealthy U.S. church running the Haitian orphanage where 13 children and two adult caretakers died in a preventable February fire. Richly detailed text and heart-wrenching photos and video tell grieving families’ accounts of victimization by the church, and the disturbing history of the Church of Bible Understanding.https://bit.ly/3f0ocOphttps://bit.ly/2ySfJfG

Ap 20045663362118 Haiti Fire

April 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: US wasted months before preparing for pandemic

examined weeks of federal procurement records, including a thorough review of federal purchasing contracts, to create a detailed timeline of events related to the spread of COVID-19 and the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak. The records show that the U.S. wasted two months when it could have been preparing to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Federal agencies largely waited until mid-March – when hospitals in several states were already treating thousands of infected patients – to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers.

When AP White House reporter Kevin Freking attempted to ask Trump about the issue at Sunday’s briefing, the president angrily cut off the question, helping drive readers to Biesecker’s story, which was widely shared on social media.https://bit.ly/3aVhmavhttps://bit.ly/3aZdLby

Ap 20097011849300 Hm Trump Briefing

March 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: US opera union finds Placido Domingo abused power

obtained exclusively the results of the opera union’s investigation of sexual harassment accusations against superstar Placido Domingo, revealing that 27 people told investigators that they either had been harassed or had witnessed inappropriate behavior by Domingo. AP was also the first to report Domingo’s apology. Gecker’s story moved about nine hours before the union released an extremely brief description of its findings, offering few details. As a result of her reporting, a new accuser came forward to speak to the AP on the record, and a cascade of performance cancellations began among music companies in Domingo’s native Spain, where he previously had been staunchly defended. https://bit.ly/2Io9lOEhttps://bit.ly/2Io9amIhttps://bit.ly/2Q4TER1https://apnews.com/PlacidoDomingo

Ap 19354770591875 Hm Domingo

Feb. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Vatican envoy knew of offer to bribe abuse victim

for teaming up in a new investigation into the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order, revealing that the pope’s own envoy knew about a sex abuse settlement offer that is the subject of an obstruction of justice and extortion trial in Italy. AP scored the first-ever interview with the victim’s mother and obtained her wiretapped conversation with the Vatican cardinal running the Legion who was utterly unfazed that the order wanted to pay her son to lie to prosecutors and deny he had been abused.https://bit.ly/2TftYlihttps://bit.ly/2VpMJVI

Ap 20037595932431 Hm Regnum

Dec. 20, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Accidental shootings show nationwide gap in police training

A mother shot fatally shot in front of her 3-year-old son. A suspect killed while an officer tried to handcuff him. A Homeland Security agent was shot at a Texas high school by a U.S. marshal fumbling with equipment. These are among the more than 1,400 unintentional discharges found by Seattle reporter Martha Bellisle in an investigation that highlights the shortcomings of police weapons training.

No agency tracks how often local, state and federal officers accidentally fire their weapons. Over the course of more than a year, Bellisle exhaustively documented 1,422 unintentional discharges by 258 law enforcement agencies since 2012.

With contributions from colleagues in photo and video – including the story of an Iowa woman who was killed when an officer’s gun discharged, leaving her husband and children still scarred by the tragedy – the all-formats package received prominent play.

For an exclusive that sheds light on a virtually undocumented area of firearms safety, Bellisle earns this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 19340692278711 1920

Dec. 13, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP way ahead on coverage of Pensacola base shooting

for a series of scoops in the investigation of the Pensacola naval station shooting, keeping AP ahead of national and local media in the days that followed. From Farrington’s report that investigators believed the shooter hosted a dinner party where participants viewed videos of mass shootings, to Balsamo’s confirmation of the shooter’s nationality and name, the three led coverage of one of the week’s top stories. On Monday, at least 10 Florida newspapers had the AP coverage on their front pages, including the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and Orlando Sentinel. https://bit.ly/35leT6o

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.

Ap 19320766913233 1920

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.

Ap 19275730757951 1920

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. 

Ap 19268660278887 1920

Oct. 18, 2019

Best of the Week

Anatomy of a phone call: New details of Trump’s Ukraine call revealed

President Donald Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president, and the ensuing impeachment investigation, has been the hottest story in Washington for weeks. It’s extremely challenging to find new ways to report on the conversation and gather new details of how a rough transcript of the call was created and handled. 

Deb Riechmann managed to do it all, with a deeply reported 1800-word story that laid out everything we know about who was on the call, how such conversations are memorialized and what happens to the rough transcripts once they are created.

For uncovering tantalizing new details about Trump’s fateful phone call with the Ukraine president, AP’s Best of the Week citation goes to White House reporter Deb Riechmann.

Ap 19284818530169