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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Sept. 04, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigation: Thousands of environmental waivers granted amid pandemic

When the Trump administration waived enforcement of environmental protections because of the pandemic, a former EPA administrator called it a “license to pollute,” while public health officials told AP that it would be difficult to determine the impact.

At that, five AP reporters around the country embarked on a two-month, brute force effort to wrest loose state data on the suspended regulations.

They found more than 3,000 instances of environmental waivers to oil and gas companies, government facilities and other operations, with nationwide implications for public health. 

For deep reporting and painstaking analysis to document the potential consequences of relaxed environmental regulation, the team of Knickmeyer, Bussewitz, Flesher, Brown and Casey wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Brazil’s plan to protect rainforest has opposite effect

revealed the disturbing truth about environmental enforcement in Brazil’s Amazon. While reporting on the first days of the 2020 burning season they found that agents of Brazil’s environmental crime enforcement agency had gone almost totally inactive, and that since President Jair Bolsonaro put the army in charge of protecting the rainforest, Brazil’s once-effective investigation and prosecution of rainforest destruction has come to a virtual halt.Investigating on the ground and by phone with sources around Brazil, the team found that Brazil’s army is focusing on small road-and-bridge-building projects that allow exports to flow faster to ports and ease access to protected areas. Meanwhile, the enforcement agency has stopped using satellite maps to locate deforestation sites and fine their owners — a once-widely used technique — and is no longer penalizing illegal logging, mining and farming. On the heels of massive fires last year, this year’s burning season is on track to be as bad as 2019.The all-formats story received heavy play globally in broadcast, print and hundreds of online news outlets.https://bit.ly/3hWs3gKhttps://bit.ly/31U1fbnhttps://bit.ly/2YWpHXp

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Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation reveals why a SEAL unit was pulled out of Iraq

relied on strong document work and deep sourcing to report exclusively on the reason a Navy SEAL unit sent to fight ISIS was abruptly pulled out of Iraq last year without explanation. The Navy gave few details, but the monthslong investigation by LaPorta and Watson revealed that female intelligence staffers deployed with a platoon of SEAL Team 7 said they were constantly ogled and sexually harassed during their time in the country. The pair tracked down a female sailor who was deployed with the SEALs who had reported the allegations and who agreed to be quoted on the record in an exclusive interview. The reporting, which began with a Freedom of Information Act request, also uncovered a previously unknown allegation of sexual misconduct against the SEAL platoon chief. https://bit.ly/3gHgpod

Seals Hm

Aug. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop on Justice Department investigation of Yale discrimination

landed a scoop on a Justice Department investigation into higher education. Balsamo got word through sources that the two-year investigation was completed and had found something attention-grabbing: Yale University was illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants, in violation of federal civil rights law. Working with education reporter Collin Binkley, the pair scrambled to move a story that crushed other major news outlets by nearly an hour. Thanks to Binkley’s reporting, the AP was also first to get Yale’s statement on the probe, which it said was “hasty” and unfair. https://bit.ly/34cw1gT

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Aug. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals investigation into Venezuelan officials’ money laundering

used deep source reporting to uncover an international investigation into how the former treasurer of Venezuela, who had once served as nurse to then-President Hugo Chávez, used a network of offshore shell companies and dodgy Swiss bankers to loot millions from Venezuela, hiding much of her unexplained wealth in gold.

Goodman’s piece provided a rare look into how former officials in Venezuela used various money laundering schemes to raid the country’s coffers of an estimated $300 billion in two decades of socialist rule. An unexpected twist was the physical transfer of heavy gold bars — previously unmentioned in court records — underscoring the lengths to which some prominent Venezuelans have gone to hide stolen wealth. https://bit.ly/2PMX2iI

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Aug. 07, 2020

Best of the States

Players open up to AP, describe coach’s abusive practices at Oregon State

National sports writer Eddie Pells was first approached in February by the mom of a player who said she had some concerns about abuses going on in the volleyball program at Oregon State. 

Over the next five months, Pells conducted dozens of interviews both in and out of the program, and checked with experts to learn if volleyball coach Mark Barnard was over the line. Several athletes spoke to Pells, including a former OSU player who described how the coach’s abusive practices contributed to a suicide attempt. 

Pells’ exclusive led to immediate calls for the coach’s firing and questions about the university officials who didn’t take action after hearing complaints. 

For months of persistent and sensitive reporting despite uncertain prospects, resulting in an impressive story with impact, Pells wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 31, 2020

Best of the States

AP all-formats team delivers stunning coverage of Portland protests

When the arrival of militarized federal agents in Portland, Oregon, escalated tensions in the state’s largest city – energizing the racial justice movement and inflaming protests outside the federal courthouse – AP’s all-formats coverage shined all week. 

The AP team, often at risk themselves, delivered a steady stream of breaking news developments, searing images of nightly clashes involving lasers, fires, homemade bombs and tear gas, as well as exclusive coverage from inside the courthouse.

For a week’s worth of powerful, revealing stories and startling images that provided insight into the events in Portland, the team of Flaccus, Berger, Sanchez, Ranen, Balsamo, Selsky, Cline and Fauria wins AP’s Best of the States award.

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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)

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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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.

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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

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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 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

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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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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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