Feb. 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation: China, others spread theory that US created COVID

collaborated on a nine-month investigation of the AP’s investigative and fact-checking teams, in a joint effort with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Lab. They found that China, Russia, and Iran — drawing on one another’s online disinformation — amplified false theories that the COVID-19 virus was a U.S. bioweapon created in a military lab or was designed by Washington to infect their countries. The resulting in-depth investigation, bolstered by an immersive digital presentation and an explanatory video, provided a comprehensive look at the online battle between Washington, Moscow, Tehran and Beijing to control the narrative about the origins of the pandemic.The package of stories was widely used by news organizations around the world, including by the South China Morning News and Germany’s DW News.https://bit.ly/37L711shttps://bit.ly/2O2N1Awhttps://bit.ly/2MpNQ5S

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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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Dec. 11, 2020

Best of the Week

In exclusive AP interview, AG Barr says no evidence of widespread election fraud, undermining Trump

Justice Department reporter Mike Balsamo has spent months cultivating sources at the Department of Justice, earning a reputation as an objective journalist who reports fairly and accurately. 

His relationships paid off with an exclusive interview of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in which Barr said the DOJ could find no evidence of widespread voting fraud, dramatically undercutting President Donald Trump’s insistence to the contrary.

“I knew ... he had made probably the biggest news he has in his tenure as AG,” said Balsamo. His story topped the news cycle and resonated for days. No other news outlet could match it and AP was widely cited for the scoop.

For persistent, evenhanded reporting on the Justice Department beat resulting in the interview that netted one of AP’s most consequential news coups of the year, Balsamo wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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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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Nov. 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Dogged reporting, spycraft expose Texas attorney general scandal

used source work, non-public documents and a technique borrowed from spycraft to connect recent criminal allegations against the Texas attorney general to the conservative Republican’s previously unreported extramarital affair.In late September, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s top deputies accused him of criminally abusing his office to help a wealthy donor. Bleiberg spent weeks building sources in his aggressive pursuit of answers to what was behind these explosive, but unspecified, allegations.Those efforts paid off last week when Bleiberg was able to obtain a private transcript of real estate developer Nate Paul acknowledging that the attorney general recommended he hire a woman whom Paxton was rumored to have had an affair with. The sensitive document was picked up at a “dead drop” – a prearranged drop spot – by Austin reporter Paul Weber.Bleiberg then worked sources he’d developed while breaking earlier stories to identify people whom the attorney general may have told about his affair. His relentless outreach ultimately turned up two people with firsthand accounts of Paxton acknowledging the affair in 2018.The reporting allowed AP to draw back the curtain on one of America’s most prominent conservative legal crusaders and break major news on a highly competitive story. It revealed a relationship that’s almost certainly at the center of an ongoing federal public corruption probe. https://bit.ly/2UnuZc1

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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. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Feds probing in-custody death of Black man in Louisiana

reported exclusively on the launch of a federal investigation into the death last year of Ronald Greene, a Black man in Louisiana, following what state troopers say was a struggle at the end of a traffic chase. It is a long-simmering case in which police have refused to release any body camera video or records. Mustian’s deep reporting also included confirmation of a separate FBI civil rights investigation and the publication of graphic death photos. The probe has raised questions that the Louisiana State Police has so far refused to answer.https://bit.ly/33Zvf58https://bit.ly/33Z1yBd

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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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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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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 Week

AP Exclusive: China forces Uighurs to cut births with IUDs, abortions, sterilization

The shocking story exposed a serious human rights issue: The Chinese government has forced the use of IUDs, abortions and sterilization on members of China’s Muslim minority in an apparent effort to reduce its population. 

The piece, which ran without a byline for security reasons, established that China is imposing birth control on Uighurs and other Muslims in a far more widespread and systematic way than previously known. The exclusive reporting drew on Uighur and Kazakh sources, research by a prominent China scholar and hours-long interviews with ex-detainees, family members and even a former detention camp instructor. 

The story elicited a strong global response from government officials, news media and the public.

For uncovering another major chapter on the plight of the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China, the unidentified AP reporter wins this week’s Best of the Week award.

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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

June 14, 2019

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Navy reassigns unconventional war college head after AP reveals probe

“... Due to the distractions caused by the unfounded AP article last week, I am stepping down as President of YOUR college effective immediately.”

Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harley, head of the elite U.S. Naval War College, pushed the button on that all-staff missive Monday after the Navy announced it was reassigning him in the wake of exclusive reporting by Jennifer McDermott and Michelle R. Smith – reporting that produced two APNewsBreaks in 72 hours.

Their first NewsBreak moved Friday, confirming the military was investigating allegations that Harley spent excessively, abused his hiring authority and otherwise behaved inappropriately, including keeping a margarita machine in his office. Three days later, the AP team was first again with word that the Navy was removing Harley from his post pending the outcome of its probe.

Both stories gained huge traction with customers and on social media. The scoops by McDermott’s and Smith were “just the tip of the iceberg,” one source said, and they’ve since led to new tips.

For dogged and diligent reporting that exposed questionable leadership at the heart of the Navy’s brain trust, McDermott and Smith win this week’s Best of the States prize.

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