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)

Resourceful work breaks news on deadly Portland protest

teamed up to break news on the violent Portland, Oregon, protests that ended with the death of a man affiliated with Patriot Prayer, a Northwest right-wing organization. In the confusion after the fatal shooting it wasn't immediately clear what had happened or who the dead person was. Through sourcing and determined reporting, Flaccus was able to confirm key details and provide context on the ongoing violence. Using Bronstein’s photos and eyewitness account, Flaccus confirmed the victim was wearing a Patriot Prayer hat, then used her sourcing within that organization to be first to accurately report the victim’s name, while other media initially misidentified him.https://bit.ly/2Z1pfYdhttps://bit.ly/34YKi1a

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Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Online learning and sanctions lead to a laptop shortage

reported exclusively that the world’s three largest computer makers have told school districts nationwide that they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops – in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers – just as many districts move to online learning during the pandemic. AP bureaus across the country contributed by reaching out to some of the largest school districts in 15 states to assess the scope of the problem. https://bit.ly/3lkhPJb

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Aug. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, hustle put AP far ahead with story of Israel-UAE ties

dominated from the start with fast, comprehensive and nuanced reporting on the diplomatic ties initiated between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Lee had a heads-up that the deal was in the offing hours ahead of the announcement and obtained a copy of the forthcoming statement. That gave Federman and Gambrell time to prewrite a story and an alert ahead of the anticipated tweet from President Donald Trump. When Trump’s tweet duly landed, AP’s NewsAlert moved a minute later, just before White House reporters entered the Oval Office. And another minute later, a 1,000-word, triple-byline story hit the wire. Meanwhile AP broadcast colleagues, also alerted, were well ahead of the competition with coverage of developments and reaction from Middle East points. https://bit.ly/3ha2J6i

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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 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

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: California rejected 100,000 botched mail-in ballots

obtained state data showing 102,000 mail ballots for California’s March presidential primary were rejected for lateness or other mistakes. In his exclusive report, Blood showed that mail-in voting can be fraught with problems at a time when the pandemic is driving many states to gear up for near-universal vote-by-mail in November, and as President Trump casts doubt on the system’s validity. The story played widely online and The New York Times flagged the story on its live election briefing. https://bit.ly/2BmTfoF

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July 17, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Stone free; AP scoops White House and the competition

leaned on decades of source development, strong preparation and hustle to make AP the first mainstream news organization with word of President Donald Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s prison sentence. Knowing that a pardon or commutation was likely at any moment, Colvin reacted quickly when Stone’s friends started posting celebratory tweets. She reached Stone by phone and he walked her through the president’s call informing him of the commutation – while Colvin sent live quotes to AP’s Washington desk. AP’s alert moved ahead of the White House announcement, followed quickly by an 1,100-word story, first among mainstream outlets and the only one with same-day reaction from Stone. https://bit.ly/3eu561T

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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

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 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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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

Best of the Week

White House homecoming photo speaks volumes on Trump’s Tulsa rally

Washington-based photojournalist Pat Semansky was assigned weekend White House duty – a routine gig that meant waiting for President Donald Trump’s overnight return from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where his much-hyped rally didn’t meet expectations.

The president’s arrival rarely makes a memorable photo, but Semansky dutifully waited until well after 1 a.m., while many of AP’s competitors didn’t bother to cover. When Trump finally stepped off Marine One, Semansky proved the time well spent: His flash caught an atypically rumpled Trump crossing the South Lawn.

The photo quickly became the signature image of the night, capping days of smart AP coverage on the event itself. 

For making the most of a routine assignment to create what is likely to become an iconic photo of the Trump presidency, Pat Semansky wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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June 12, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: Little evidence of radical left in protests

analyzed all the arrests over the last two weeks in Washington and Minneapolis, concluding that there is little evidence of “antifa” or “radical left” protest groups provoking violence as President Donald Trump claimed. The story, rich with detail, described who the real protesters were. Among them: a balloon artist, a cellist and a law student. But it was the heft of the reporting – acquiring and scouring hundreds of records in a limited amount of time – that made the anecdotal aspects of the story all the more credible. https://bit.ly/3f80JtW

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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 15, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Only on AP: ‘Impossible’ access, stunning visuals of Ukraine hospitals

Video journalist Mstyslav Chernov and freelance photographer Evgeniy Maloletka used their extraordinary access to western Ukrainian hospitals to produce powerful images of medical workers desperately treating COVID-19 patients despite a medical system in crisis. They also visited one hospital’s makeshift morgue and a cemetery where families grieved over lost loved ones. Chernov had driven 2,500 kilometers (1,600 miles) across three countries, then worked tirelessly to earn the trust of medics who eventually gave him and Maloletka rare access to document the dire situation. The play was impressive among AP customers and across media in Ukraine. One foundation even reached out to the pathologist who had set up an outdoor morgue, supplying the medic with protective gear, disinfectants and a tent.https://bit.ly/2LmvBKuhttps://bit.ly/2WsZdvWhttps://bit.ly/2WwwUNb

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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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