Jan. 22, 2021

Best of the Week

Trust in AP: Unmatched sourcing delivers scoop on fears of National Guard insider attack

On the news-heavy weekend between impeachment and inauguration, Lolita Baldor broke a story that became the dominant item for news organizations across platforms: Top military officials feared insider attacks from National Guardsmen activated to protect the inauguration, prompting the FBI to vet all 25,000 troops sent to the city.

And officials weren’t whispering their concerns anonymously; Baldor quoted the Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy. That was no fluke; Baldor has built trust with McCarthy and other top officials at the Pentagon. The Army granted her exclusive, off-the-record access to an inaugural planning session, then arranged on-the-record interviews with a number of leaders.

Baldor’s scoop immediately lit up social media and was picked up by some 330 news outlets, including networks and major publications.

For impressive source work that produced a major scoop in the intensive buildup to the inauguration, Baldor wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Criminal charges for ex-governor in Flint water crisis

worked sources to report exclusively that criminal charges would be filed against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and others in the Flint water crisis, one of the worst human-made environmental disasters in U.S. history.White was reporting an unrelated story when he asked a source about any developments in the Flint investigation. That paid off with a tip — confirmed with a second source by Eggert — about the imminent charges.The bombshell exclusive hit a full two days before the official announcement and was AP’s most-used story by customers online that day, widely credited by local and national news outlets, including the Detroit Free Press and the New York Times. https://bit.ly/35T67z6

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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work breaks news of attorney general nominee

had been asking around for weeks about President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for attorney general. They pressed their sources inside the transition once it became clear that the decision came down to just a few names.Finally, Tucker scored — a transition source gave AP the entire slate of nominees for the department, and not just the stunning choice of Merrick Garland, the former candidate for the Supreme Court who had been spurned by Republicans during the Obama administration. Also included were names for the second in command and leaders of top offices at the Department of Justice.Tucker had prepped for this and gathered his material while Balsamo checked in with another source and came back with confirmation. They swiftly filed a news alert and story, beating major news outlets by a solid half-hour. This all came two hours before the Capitol siege. The pair’s story was still picked up 580 times with some 200,000 pageviews — especially strong considering the U.S. Capitol was ransacked by rioters the same day. https://bit.ly/2XCjOOe

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Jan. 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP documents China’s clampdown on hunt for virus source

investigated why, for almost a year, little information has come out of China on the source of the coronavirus pandemic.The Associated Press learned what was behind the lack of transparency. In a rare leak of thousands of pages of government documents, Beijing correspondent Kang found that President Xi Jinping issued orders to clamp down on any research that put China in an unfavorable light. The country also denied entry to international scientists.Through dozens of interviews and a review of documents and emails both public and private, Kang and London reporter Cheng reported on the hidden hunt for the virus — and where that work had been shut down. This kind of narrative is especially difficult to report from China, given the difficult access and the constant threat of reprisals.In a key element of the story, Beijing video journalist McNeil and photographer Ng experienced firsthand the kind of obstruction AP was writing about — the pair was tailed by multiple cars, chased and ordered to leave as they tried to visit the bat caves of Yunnan province. Despite the intense pressure, they managed to get into a bat cave, adding some critical color to the story.Taken together with AP’s earlier stories, the riveting story completed the picture of how China’s culture of secrecy and top-down management had allowed the virus to spread faster.https://bit.ly/3nmzcIOhttps://bit.ly/2XuCJKR

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Jan. 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing lands exclusive on pardoned Blackwater contractor

scored an exclusive interview with one of the four former Blackwater security contractors pardoned by President Donald Trump for a shooting rampage in Iraq that killed more than a dozen civilians. The interview, the only one granted by any of the contractors, was the result of years of ongoing source work with the contractors’ legal team, who knew that Tucker would be fair and accurate, and that he was intimately familiar with the case from having covered it extensively.

Evan Liberty revealed he was not remorseful for his actions, believed that he had “acted correctly,” and shared details about the moment he learned he had received a pardon, including the three personal items he took with him when he left prison. Tucker made clear the pardons inspired broad condemnation in the U.S. and Middle East and included the perspective of the prosecutors who charged him, the jury who convicted himand the judge who sentenced him. https://bit.ly/3okz4et

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Jan. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work pays off on Federer’s Australia withdrawal

has known Roger Federer’s agent since 2005 and kept in touch with him in recent months amid fevered speculation on social media about the tennis star’s return from two knee operations that sidelined him for most of 2020.The source development paid off: When Federer told his agent that he had decided not to compete in the Australian Open in early 2021, the agent texted Fendrich to give him the news first — even before Federer formally withdrew. Fendrich’s exclusive moved 2 1/2 hours before the tournament director announced Federer’s withdrawal, generating worldwide play. AP was widely credited, including by a leading competitor. https://bit.ly/3niLfak

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation, sourcing pay off with standout vaccine coverage

worked nonstop for weeks to gain access to the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine campaign, the largest vaccination program in U.S. history. They reached out to old sources and spent weeks cultivating new ones, breaking down barriers to ensure that AP was positioned to cover the story – from trucks rolling with vaccine deliveries to the first jabs in arms.The source reporting paid off. Tips were aggressively followed and coordination between video, photo and regional news desks led to robust back-to-back all-formats pieces on the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, including healthcare workers receiving injections. Video went live from several hospitals that were among the first to vaccinate front-line workers.Play was unmatched. The vaccine shipment story appeared appeared on more than 2,500 news sites and landed on at least 69 front pages including the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit News, the Kansas City Star and others.The story of the initial vaccinations appeared on at least 1,300 news sites and 64 front pages, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Orange County Register and others. And The New York Times used AP photos as its lead image on consecutive days.https://bit.ly/3nYf15rhttps://bit.ly/3hdKNIUhttps://bit.ly/3mKf57o

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals sexual misconduct charges against FBI leadership

used interviews, public records requests and court papers to exclusively confirm at least six sexual misconduct allegations against senior FBI officials over the past five years, and that each avoided discipline. Several were quietly transferred or retired with full benefits, even when probes substantiated the claims.Starting with a single tip from a longtime FBI source, Mustian chipped away for months to reveal the previously undisclosed names of most of those senior officials as well as the details of the allegations against them. He used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain inspector general reports, one of which confirmed the identity of an assistant FBI director who had been credibly accused of of drunkenly groping a female subordinate in a stairwell. The assistant director left the bureau without discipline.Mustian also found a civil rights lawyer in Washington who was preparing two lawsuits by women accusing senior officials. Mustian negotiated both for an exclusive interview with one of the plaintiffs, and to be the first reporter to write about those cases, including one woman’s claim of being blackmailed into sexual encounters for years.Mustian’s story received heavy play and elicited a strong reaction from readers, particularly those inside the FBI. Several women emailed Mustian to say his count was just the beginning; that they too were victims of senior agents while at the FBI. A California congresswoman says she is considering hearings into the FBI’s handling of sexual misconduct. https://bit.ly/3h15d7R

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Breaking news on US ramp-up of federal executions

have broken exclusives on this year’s resumption of federal executions following a 17-year hiatus, and the accelerated pace of executions during President Donald Trump’s lame-duck period. They have also witnessed every federal execution.Their stories have revealed that the Justice Department considered using firing squads or borrowing electric chairs due to a possible shortage of drugs used for lethal injection, and that the execution team at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where the executions are carried out, was sickened with COVID-19, even as they planned more deaths.But above all, the AP witnesses have risked their own health to enter the federal prison in Terre Haute to attend every execution. The team has been unstoppable, delivering fast, accurate reporting that has made AP the definitive source for news on this topic.https://bit.ly/3nlUxTHhttps://bit.ly/2ITQTkShttps://bit.ly/3ahw91Lhttps://bit.ly/3h13Shl

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Putting people before politics in Brexit trade coverage

delivered a unique story on the people directly affected by the high-stakes trade talks reaching a crescendo in Brussels. While competitive news organizations focused on the post-Brexit political wrangling, AP took an exclusive look at struggling French fishing crews and overwhelmed British truck drivers stuck in traffic jams at the English Channel. Thanks to years of source building in the region, the journalists were able to identify subjects that provided strong visuals, capturing the attention of AP clients and the public.https://bit.ly/382rj5Ghttps://bit.ly/3gQud1Fhttps://bit.ly/387pGnn

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds rural hospital running out of staff during surge

acted on a source’s tip to reveal the pandemic’s toll on rural Midwestern hospitals during the current case surge. She told the story of a tiny Kansas hospital, full of patients and struggling to function as much of its own staff was sidelined with COVID-19. At one point a doctor and physician assistant tested positive on the same day, briefly leaving the hospital without anyone who could write prescriptions or oversee patient care. Hollingsworth spoke with hospital staff, including the radiology technician who slept in an RV in the parking lot for more than a week because his co-workers were out sick and there was no one else available to take X-rays.A medical staffing agency saw the story and responded by offering to send nurses to the town to help out, a sign of the power and reach of the AP. https://bit.ly/34gVpl1

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sources: Trump liaison banned from Justice Department

delivered a widely read scoop after working their sources to confirm a curious rumor: An official serving as President Donald Trump’s eyes and ears at the Department of Justice was banned from the building after pressuring Justice Department staffers to reveal insider information about ongoing cases and the department’s work on election fraud.Heidi Stirrup, an ally of top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, had also extended job offers to political allies for positions at some of the highest levels of the DOJ without consulting senior department officials or the White House counsel’s office, and also attempted to interfere in the hiring process for career staffers, a violation of the government’s human resources policies, a source told the AP. https://bit.ly/374EDaH

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Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Back-to-back scoops on US oil execs jailed in Venezuela

used months of source development and dogged reporting to break two same-day scoops for AP on the sensitive case of six U.S. oil executives who have spent the last three years jailed in Venezuela on charges of corruption and embezzlement.

Denied access to the men’s trial, Smith met regularly with their attorneys, sent a letter to the “Citgo 6” and was put in touch with the family of Tomeu Vadell, one of the jailed men.

His persistence led to two news breaks: the release of an exclusive letter by Vadell — the first words by any of the men since their 2017 arrest — and later that day, the judge’s decision finding them guilty of corruption. https://bit.ly/3ogHwuE

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP catches Georgia presidential certification announcement error

alertly caught a discrepancy in an official news release announcing that the Georgia secretary of state had certified the state’s election results, naming Joe Biden as the winner. As other news organizations rushed to publish, Brumback sought confirmation and learned that the release had been sent in error — Georgia hadn’t certified its results yet. AP quickly reported the mix-up and others had to update their stories; one major publication needed 90 minutes to correct its reporting.Catching the mistaken announcement was just the latest example of Brumback’s outstanding coverage of Georgia’s closely contested election. She relied on her deep understanding of Georgia’s voting system and a strong source network built over years. https://bit.ly/39keohM

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work leads to scoop on largest US dam demolition

used strong source development to break news of plans for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, affecting four massive hydroelectric dams along the Oregon-California border. Native American tribes that have fought for decades to remove the dams and restore vital salmon habitat. Flaccus had reported from the region earlier, but the coronavirus and coverage of Portland’s racial justice protests kept her from returning during the summer. Still, she followed developments and kept in touch with the key players. Her sourcing paid off when she learned recently that an announcement was imminent on plans to demolish the dams. Flaccus pushed for an embargo, reporting and writing the story in advance with the understanding of tribal leaders and the governors of Oregon and California that she would hold her story until the official announcement.Her deeply reported APNewsBreak moved 15 minutes before the official news release, detailing the restructured deal that will almost certainly lead to the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, a first step in what would also be the largest salmon recovery project in history — a project that would also rejuvenate area tribes.Oregon’s biggest newspaper didn’t try to match the story; they used Flaccus’ story and photos in their entirety. https://bit.ly/3qaV8to

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Nov. 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: White House election party under scrutiny for virus cases

used dogged source work to report on COVID infections among guests at President Donald Trump’s election night party. Election night eventually stretched into five long days in AP’s Washington bureau, leaving political journalists exhausted, but Colvin wasn’t done. She circled back on the East Room party meant to celebrate a Trump victory that never came. Colvin described the event as a classic case of the White House flouting coronavirus guidelines that were drawing new scrutiny after chief of staff Mark Meadows turned out to be among the guests who had tested positive for COVID-19. The story required determined reporting because, as Colvin wrote in the story, “the White House has been increasingly secretive about outbreaks. Many White House and campaign officials, as well as those who attended the election watch party, were kept in the dark” about who had contracted the virus. But within hours, the story proved prophetic as word surfaced that two more prominent attendees, Housing Secretary Ben Carson and campaign adviser David Bossie had also tested positive. In coming days, even more guests at the event tested positive. https://bit.ly/2Hm7Une

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Nov. 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP breaks news on Justice Department election investigations

both delivered scoops on the U.S. Department of Justice and election investigations.Balsamo kept hearing rumors of the DOJ looking into election cases, but he knew there were rules prohibiting such investigations during an ongoing election. He kept asking until a source revealed a memo Attorney General William Barr had sent to prosecutors nationwide authorizing federal prosecutors across the U.S. to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the election is certified, despite the fact there was no evidence of widespread fraud giving prosecutors the ability to go around the longstanding policy. The scoop reverberated nationwide, especially as concerns grew over Trump’s ability to use the levers of government to hang on to power. The story was widely used, with Politico, Axios and NBC citing AP in their coverage of Barr’s memo. AP’s alert and a full story were on the wire more than 40 minutes before other major news organizations obtained a copy of the memo.Meanwhile, Las Vegas reporter Michelle Price was digging into how the DOJ was pursuing allegations from the Trump campaign that voters may have cast improper ballots in Nevada. Price and Balsamo teamed up with voting reporter Anthony Izaguirre to report out two ongoing investigations, and how they may not hold up to scrutiny. Price used her contacts to get exclusive first-person accounts from U.S. military members who thought they’d been wrongly accused of fraud for voting by mail from out of state by Nevada authorities and DOJ officials.https://bit.ly/2Kqu09ehttps://bit.ly/3lOlxKR

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Nov. 13, 2020

Best of the States

Tenacious source work leads to national newsbreak on census fraud

The on-the-record accounts from two census workers were stunning: Under pressure from supervisors amid the Trump administration’s push to bring the census to an end, they were encouraged to falsify records in the 2020 headcount.

Whom did they reveal this to? Not surprisingly, they spoke to Mike Schneider, AP’s authority on the census, who leveraged months of source development and reporting to break the story. Posted just an hour before the presidential race was called for former Vice President Joe Biden, the story still broke through with strong play and reader engagement.

For keeping the AP ahead in a critical coverage area with a terrific scoop, Schneider wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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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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Nov. 06, 2020

Best of the States

AP explores impact of Trump immigration policies; rare interviews with Stephen Miller, migrants

President Donald Trump has altered the immigration system arguably more than any U.S. president, meaning this year’s election could have major implications for future immigration policy and for those trying to enter or stay in the U.S. In the run-up to the election, AP’s immigration team unraveled four key policies that have upended lives: reduced refugee numbers, restrictions on international students, a virtual shutdown of asylum and the curbing of legal immigration. 

The journalists used unmatched source work, data reporting and AP’s global footprint, scoring key on-the-record interviews, from would-be refugees stuck overseas to Stephen Miller, Trump’s lead immigration adviser.

For timely, in-depth coverage of immigration issues that likely hang in the balance as the election is decided, the team of Spagat, Tareen, Snow, Watson, Bull and Akour wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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