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 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Trump administration spending millions on questionable research

followed the crumbs in a whistleblower complaint to detail how the Trump administration is spending millions on questionable coronavirus research with little basis in science. The two obtained additional internal government emails and documents showing scientists’ skepticism about a $21 million deal to assess whether the active ingredient in the heartburn-relief medication Pepcid could be an effective remedy for severely ill COVID-19 patients.https://bit.ly/338l3sA

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July 24, 2020

Best of the Week

Global package launches new multiformat AP series: ‘Small Business Struggles’

Small businesses – critical to the health of the global economy – are clearly being hit hard by the pandemic. Over the next six months to a year, Associated Press journalists around the world will chronicle their fight for survival, in an ambitious series called “Small Business Struggles.”

The first piece, anchored by national writer Adam Geller with a rich digital presentation by video editor Samantha Shotzbarger, got the project off to an incredible start. With contributions in all formats from more than two dozen staffers worldwide, the story brought readers into the agonizing decisions business owners face as they try to stay afloat. The package led the AP News site and was used by digital, print and video customers around the world. 

For pulling together the opening salvo in this immersive and significant global project, Geller and Shotzbarger share AP’s Best of the Week.

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July 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: US Catholic Church lobbies, gets windfall in federal PPP funds

Based on a tip following AP’s previous reporting on the Paycheck Protection Program, AP anticipated that the Roman Catholic Church might be one of the program’s biggest winners. 

Investigative reporters Reese Dunklin and Michael Rezendes started digging, first showing how the church had successfully lobbied for special treatment under the program, then, when the federal data dropped, the full extent of the church’s windfall. An analysis on deadline revealed $1.4 billion to $3.5 billion in forgivable loans, with many millions going to dioceses that paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy because of sexual abuse claims.

The story had an immediate impact with strong play and engagement in digital, print and broadcast outlets.

For being both first and authoritative on this highly competitive story, and for holding a remarkably powerful institution accountable, Dunklin and Rezendes share this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 17, 2020

Best of the Week

Houston team vividly documents the grim reality playing out inside a Texas hospital

With coronavirus cases surging in Texas and other states, AP journalists David J. Phillip, John Mone and Nomaan Merchant went beyond the daily numbers to show the reality inside a small Houston hospital. In a gut-punch story that landed in newspapers and on nightly newscasts, the trio’s work included the last moments of a woman’s losing battle with the coronavirus.

But the package – Phillip’s photos, Mone’s video and Merchant’s text story – captured more than just a moment. It showed, with sensitivity, the grim realities almost certainly facing frontline workers in hospitals around the country.

Reaction to the story was massive. It was widely used in all formats by broadcast, print and online outlets in the U.S. and beyond. The video alone was the most-used U.S. story of the day – to a degree rarely seen.

For compelling, empathetic and revelatory storytelling from the frontline of the coronavirus fight, Phillip, Mone and Merchant win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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July 02, 2020

Best of the States

AP scoops everyone on dramatic ouster of federal prosecutor

After a heads-up tip to Justice Department reporter Michael Balsamo, what unfolded on that Friday night was strange: The top Manhattan federal prosecutor – the one investigating President Donald Trump’s allies – was said to be resigning his job. 

The AP was out with the story for at least a half hour before the competition. But that was just the beginning, as U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman reported for work the next day, only to step down amid conflicting statements from the White House and Justice Department. Balsamo and Neumeister were out front again, making sense of the shifting story with well-sourced detail and context.

For work that put the AP way ahead with both the breaking news and the meaning of the maneuvering, Balsamo and Neumeister share this week’s Best of the States honors.

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June 26, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: COVID-19 takes a growing toll on Latino communities

reported on a disturbing trend: the disproportionate toll of the coronavirus in Latino communities. With COVID-19 spreading deeper into the U.S., the team told the stories of individuals impacted by the pandemic, vividly illustrating the data showing that Latinos make up large portions of infected patients even in areas where they were a relatively small share of the population. https://bit.ly/2Vetpd4

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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 15, 2020

Best of the Week

Blockbuster AP scoop reveals shelving of CDC guidelines on safe reopening

For weeks, critics had complained that the Trump administration was putting political concerns ahead of scientific recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

A blockbuster AP scoop amplified those complaints: Reporters Jason Dearen and Mike Stobbe worked sources to reveal that President Donald Trump’s administration shelved the CDC’s guidelines containing step-by-step advice to authorities on how and when to reopen businesses and other public places during the pandemic.

The story dominated news media and was by far the best-performing story on AP News for the week. And in a follow-up exclusive, Dearen reported on documents showing the decision to withhold came from the highest levels of the White House, and that the Trump administration ordered key parts of the CDC guidelines fast-tracked for approval after the AP’s story appeared.

For a major scoop that resonated among customers and readers and finally brought to light the scientists’ suppressed guidelines for how the country should reopen, Dearen and Stobbe win AP’s Best of The Week award.

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May 08, 2020

Best of the States

Sourcing, records yield scoop: Texas AG helped donor fight Colorado lockout

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he’d sent a letter leaning on Gunnison County, Colorado, to end an order expelling non-residents during the pandemic, AP’s Paul Weber immediately wondered: Why was the top law enforcement official in Texas picking a fight with a remote county two states away in the middle of the crisis? And did Paxton have donors there? 

Weber and colleague Jake Bleiberg started combing campaign finance and property records, quickly finding that some of Paxton’s biggest donors have homes in the wealthy mountain resort town of Crested Butte, Colorado. 

Persistent reporting and extensive public records work revealed that Paxton’s push against the Gunnison health order stood to benefit an exclusive group of Texans, including campaign donors who gave the attorney general a total of nearly $2 million. AP Texas members jumped on the story, using it in print and online.

For alertly connecting the dots between a puzzling press release and a conflict of interest in the attorney general's office, Weber and Bleiberg earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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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)

US Muslim community adapts to Ramadan amid the pandemic

produced a rich, character-driven look at obstacles and opportunities for American Muslims observing Ramadan during the pandemic. Harnessing the power of the AP across the U.S., the team and their colleagues brought a complex subject to vivid fruition with a nuanced, intimate look at the Muslim community adjusting and improvising during a more virtual and sometimes solitary holy month.https://bit.ly/2xFRrVXhttps://bit.ly/3ft7Xtm

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May 08, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis finds most states falling short on virus testing

analyzed data showing that most states are not meeting the minimum level of coronavirus testing suggested by the U.S. government. In the absence of comprehensive federal data, AP calculated the monthly testing rate for each state, along with a separate review by AP state reporters, to find that only 40% of states currently meet the Trump administration’s testing threshold. Those that don’t include several that have been moving quickly to reopen their economies. And some states with infection hot spots are not testing at a higher rate recommended by Harvard University. https://bit.ly/3fpF7ud

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May 01, 2020

Best of the Week

What went wrong: AP examines how COVID-19 swept Italy’s Lombardy region

A scathing letter sent in early April by doctors in Italy’s Lombardy region provided the first tangible inkling that something had gone terribly wrong in its fight against the coronavirus.

With Lombardy accounting for roughly half of Italy’s 27,000 deaths, chief Rome correspondent Nicole Winfield set out to document how the virus overwhelmed a medical system long considered one of Europe’s best.

Over the next three weeks, Winfield methodically collected details, conducted interviews, pored over government reports and briefings, and referenced AP’s vast reporting on the pandemic to craft the first explanatory account of the missteps and failures that allowed the virus to become so pervasive in northern Italy.

Winfield’s story quickly became one of the most-read on the AP News and was picked up by outlets globally.

For crafting a thorough, compelling and heartbreaking account of how COVID-19 got a pervasive, deadly grip on Lombardy, Winfield wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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May 01, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: All-formats access to a lifesaving New York emergency room

With coronavirus infection and death rates mounting, hospitals in the New York City area imposed strict guidelines allowing only a small handful of media outlets limited access. After weeks of reaching out to hospitals, St. Joseph’s in Yonkers agreed to give the AP access to its emergency room and screening tent. 

But only one journalist would be allowed into the hospital. Versatile New York staff photographer John Minchillo was an easy choice.

Once inside in full protective gear, Minchillo connected with the hospital staff, who also granted access to the intensive care unit. He made the most of the next four hours, working in all formats to capture the mundane and the extreme, including the dramatic moments when a COVID-19 patient in cardiac arrest was saved. Turned around virtually overnight, Minchillo’s all-formats package was heavily played by major media outlets.

For his powerful, comprehensive all-formats storytelling that takes us inside medical workers’ daily fight save lives against the coronavirus, John Minchillo wins AP’s Best of States Award.

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April 24, 2020

Best of the States

The cost of Trump environmental rollbacks: Health woes hit minority communities hardest

With African American and Hispanic communities in the Houston region already suffering higher rates of asthma and other diseases than the nation at large, AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer decided to focus on the area for a story on ordinary Americans living through the Trump administration’s public health and environmental rollbacks. 

The administration was cutting back on rules limiting and monitoring harmful industrial pollutants, slashing enforcement and weakening an industrial-disaster rule.

Knickmeyer, a Washington-based environmental issues reporter, spent months searching out Houston residents, telling their stories along with deep reporting on the regulatory actions and their consequences.

Former EPA Director Gina McCarthy was among many retweeting the story, calling it a “must read” article.

For a rich, insightful look at the consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks on vulnerable communities, Knickmeyer wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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