April 16, 2021

Best of the States

AP team embeds in West Virginia city seeing a resurgence of addiction amid the pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic killed more than a half-million Americans, it also quietly inflamed what had already been one of the country’s greatest public health crises: addiction. 

To tell that story, a multiformat AP team — writer Claire Galofaro, photographer David Goldman and video journalist Mike Householder — spent time in Huntington, West Virginia, exploring the resurgence of addiction in a community that had made progress against drug abuse. The AP team embedded with the city’s Quick Response team for a week, providing a unique window into the suffering those with addiction have endured as the pandemic brought despair and cut off access to support systems and health care resources.

The evocative package resonated with readers, and the story’s main subject said she was “ecstatic” over how well the story captured the world she sees every day.

For sensitive and compelling coverage that furthers the AP’s efforts to explore the rippling consequences of COVID-19, the team of Galofaro, Goldman and Householder wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP documents evidence of Tigray ethnic cleansing by Ethiopia

teamed up to present the strongest case yet that Ethiopia has conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing against its Tigray minority, who have claimed for months that thousands are being killed, raped and starved by the Ethiopian government and its allies.East Africa correspondent Anna and Cairo-based photographer El-Mofty conducted meticulous interviews with 30 refugees in Sudan who had fled their homeland, as well as aid workers and officials. Person after person described multiple killings, and several women and medical workers described mass rapes. Many warned that deliberate starvation had already started. The journalists also documented hard evidence of the ethnic cleansing, in the form of an identity card that completely removed all references to the Tigray minority. “I kept it to show the world,” one refugee said.El-Mofty’s photos were stunning, and a freelancer joined the team to take video footage. The package included an animated graphic of the identity cards by Peter Hamlin, and presentation by Natalie Castañeda.The deeply reported story sparked immediate reaction, and the Ethiopian government was provoked to reply, criticizing “the rush to accuse the government” and calling Tigray forces “a criminal enterprise.” But one researcher told Anna, “You just wrote the most harrowing report about Tigray to date.” Even the bureau chief of a major competitor called the story “beautifully written,” saying he was “super jealous.”https://bit.ly/3aaiLLVhttps://bit.ly/2ORR2ILhttps://bit.ly/3dk9Idu

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April 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Catholic nuns share their loss and pain of the pandemic

gave voice to the intense emotion within communities of Catholic nuns that have experienced devastating losses from outbreaks of the coronavirus. The Felician Sisters alone lost 21 of their own from four U.S. convents, a remarkable blow for a community of about 450 women. This intimate look within the cloister showed the lasting effects of what the pandemic wrought — in this case, the most reverent found themselves questioning faith and how one might continue living when so many nuns didn’t.After initial difficulty connecting with receptive sources, national writer Sedensky found Sister Mary Jeanine Morozowich in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, who had a level of introspection and eloquence that would help drive this story. That opened the doors to St. Anne Home in Greensburg. Sedensky and video journalist Wardarski, both compassionate listeners, encouraged the openness of the sisters, helping introduce the pair to others at the ministry. “By the time Jessie and I paid a visit there, we were able to share moments and conversations with all of them,” Sedensky said. Along the way, a couple of sisters told him that they felt better after their conversations.The package, including Wardarski’s poignant visuals, found a receptive audience. The AP pair received innumerable emails expressing how much the story moved readers. One was headlined: “My tears flowed as I read your article.” Another said: “Your article about the loss of these beautiful women will stay with me always. ... You wrote it so beautifully and with such respect.”https://bit.ly/3g8vYsGhttps://bit.ly/3gdjJeh

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April 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Gaza man tells AP he was tortured by Hamas, forced to divorce

reported exclusively on the imprisonment, torture and lost love of Palestinian activist Rami Aman, who spent months enduring brutal interrogations in a Hamas prison but was offered an unconventional proposition: Divorce your wife and you are free to go. Aman had recently signed a marriage contract with the daughter of a Hamas official, but the ruling Islamic militant group apparently wanted to dispel any hint that it supported Aman’s outreach to Israeli peace activists. He eventually caved to the pressure and now the love of his life has been whisked out of Gaza against her will. Akram, AP Gaza City correspondent, started reporting the all-formats exclusive a year ago when he met Aman after his release from the Hamas prison. They stayed in touch and Akram slowly learned the chilling details of the torture and forced divorce. Akram spent months persuading Aman to share his story on the record, and he spent an additional two months fact-checking the story, including a conversation with Aman’s ex-wife who confirmed the account. Aman also agreed to go on camera and share his story for AP’s video clients. https://bit.ly/3mti4SV

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April 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive interview with Swiss banker in Venezuela corruption

spent months gaining the trust of Matthias Krull, a press-shy convicted felon, but the payoff was an exclusive story of how the Swiss banker facilitated the looting of Venezuela’s state coffers. Krull’s government testimony is credited with boosting multiple criminal investigations against corrupt allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. During a series of off-the-record meetings over 10 months, Latin America correspondent Goodman developed a rapport with Krull, allaying concerns of the former banker and his attorney. Krull shared documents bolstering his claim that his former firm, driven by profits, ignored indications of money laundering by its clients. And at one point Krull allowed Miami-based video journalist Cody Jackson to record the removal of his court-ordered ankle monitor. The access and trust were key in helping Goodman stave off major competitors also chasing the interview.On a busy news day, Goodman’s story — just his latest exposing corruption in Venezuela — was the most-read on apnews.com, with remarkable reader engagement. Social media in Venezuela buzzed, while a leading Swiss website for financial news, competing against Goodman on this story, even put it atop their “Best of the Month” selections.https://bit.ly/3wAch2Khttps://bit.ly/3fRD7gD

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April 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, viral video sets AP apart on women’s NCAA tournament

used his access to newsmakers in women’s basketball to deliver powerful multiplatform coverage of AP’s coach and player of the year, including video that has topped a half-million views and counting.Feinberg, the preeminent sports writer in women’s hoops, continues to separate AP’s coverage from the competition. While anchoring coverage of the women’s NCAA Tournament, Feinberg was able to get the parents of University of Maryland’s Brenda Frese to surprise her with the coach of the year news via a Zoom call during a team practice, with AP video recording the moment. And he arranged for UConn coach Geno Auriemma to surprise Bueckers, presenting her with the player of the year award in front of the team. Said AP Global Sports Editor Michael Giarrusso: “It’s (Doug’s) source-building that gets us this kind of access. Everyone is sharing the video ... including some of our biggest customers and competitors.”https://bit.ly/3uKVEQjhttps://bit.ly/3t0PISEhttps://bit.ly/2Q3vvguhttps://bit.ly/3mr6acq

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April 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals lack of coaching diversity in women’s college hoops

took a deep look into a diversity issue in women’s college basketball that has been mostly overlooked — of the 65 Power Five head coaches, only 13 are Black women.Walker, who is helping cover the tournament remotely, stepped away from the action on the court to highlight the low number of Black women in the top coaching jobs. She interviewed coaches and administrators to get answers as to why so few and what needs to happen for that to change. And she led off the story with a telling anecdote -- when Dawn Staley and Joni Taylor met up in the Southeastern Conference Championship, it was the first time in 41 years that teams led by Black women had faced off in a tournament championship. After the story was published, a Vanderbilt official summed up the responses to the article in a note to Teresa saying, “Crushed it!” https://bit.ly/3wfqMc3

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March 26, 2021

Best of the Week

Sensitive reporting from Greece tells harrowing story of migrant father charged in son’s shipwreck death

Among the human tragedies stemming from irregular migration, an Afghan boy’s drowning leapt out at Athens-based bureau chief Elena Becatoros when Greek authorities took the unprecedented step of charging his father with child endangerment, for embarking on the perilous journey from Turkey to Greece with his son. 

Led by Becatoros, the AP’s all-formats team in Athens tracked down the father, then spent weeks using formidable people skills and patience to gently persuade the grieving man to recount how his 5-year-old son slipped from his arms and drowned when the boat carrying migrants smashed against rocks and broke in two. The journalists also overcame the father’s initial refusal to appear in photos or on video, while another survivor added depth and detail too painful for the father to describe.

For their dogged pursuit and sensitive telling of this heart-wrenching story that puts human faces to the grim statistics on migration, the team of Becatoros, senior producer Theodora Tongas, video journalist Srdjan Nedeljkovic, freelancer Michalis Svarnias, chief photographer Thanassis Stavrakis and newsperson Derek Gatopoulos wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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March 12, 2021

Best of the Week

Solid sourcing leads to AP’s most-used story of 2021: 6 Dr. Seuss books retired for racist images

Mark Pratt, a breaking news staffer in Boston, has written several stories exploring the complicated past of Theodor Seuss Geisel — Dr. Seuss. The company that preserves and protects the author’s legacy knew it could trust him.

So Dr. Seuss Enterprises gave Pratt early word on a story that would become a global bestseller for AP, generating off-the-charts customer use for three days and eventually becoming the single most-used AP story of 2021 to date: The company was ceasing publication and sales of six Seuss books because of their offensive imagery.

Pratt’s story instantly rocketed to the very top of a hectic news cycle, touching off a firestorm of commentary and conservative claims of “cancel culture.” The piece exceeded 2.5 million pageviews — catapulting it past the Capitol insurrection coverage in terms of customer use and clicks.

For nurturing trust with a newsmaker that yielded an AP exclusive still resonating with customers and news consumers, Pratt wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 12, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Hundreds claim abuse by staffers at New Hampshire youth detention facility

Concord-based reporter Holly Ramer, who has owned the story of abuse allegations at New Hampshire’s state-run youth detention center for more than a year, used source work to break news once again: A lawsuit filed in early 2020 has grown to include 230 men and women who say they were abused as children by 150 staffers over the course of six decades.  

Ramer’s story was based on exclusive interviews with the plaintiffs’ attorney and three victims, who described sickening allegations including broken bones, gang rape and impregnation. Powerful images by Boston photographer Charlie Krupa and video journalist Rodrique Ngowi complemented the piece.  

AP’s coverage prompted three Democratic lawmakers to call on Gov. Chris Sununu to shut down the center, and at least 40 more victims have come forward since the story ran. 

For this latest example of impactful storytelling that has helped expose a grave scandal at the state’s youth detention center, Ramer, Krupa and Ngowi earn Best of the States honors. 

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March 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: One man’s fight against an oil pipeline on his land

reported on a land grab for a proposed oil pipeline, conveying the news in the most compelling way possible, from the perspective of the people involved. The story is told largely through the eyes of Clyde Robinson, a 80-year-old Memphis, Tennessee, landowner fighting against larger forces to keep his land in what advocates say is textbook environmental racism.Robinson, who is Black, compared the effort to seize his land through eminent domain to slavery, when members of his own family were not compensated for their work. He vowed that no amount of money would convince him to change his mind.Environmental lawyers who have taken up Robinson’s cause say there’s no public interest that would justify seizure of the land for a business project, while a spokeswoman for the pipeline project walked back a statement by a land agent that the company had chosen “a point of least resistance” for the pipeline's proposed path. That statement was interpreted by the project’s opponents as having discriminatory undertones. https://bit.ly/3bDr1VZ

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March 05, 2021

Best of the Week

Conspiracy, lies and social media: AP finds state, local GOP officials promoting online disinformation

After the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, investigative reporters Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza and Juliet Linderman wanted to know if local, county and state Republican officials across the country were continuing to amplify online messages similar to those that had inspired the riot, and what they hoped to accomplish by doing so.

The trio turned to data journalist Larry Fenn, AP statehouse reporters and a comprehensive archive of the Parler social media platform. A third-party algorithm matched public officials to their Parler accounts, allowing an unprecedented look at GOP officials’ unfiltered posts on the right-wing aligned site. The analysis of Parler and other alternative platforms identified a faction of lower-level Republican officials that have pushed lies, misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories echoing those that fueled the violent U.S. Capitol siege.

For harnessing the power of social media analysis, data science and AP’s state-level expertise to reveal how lies and misinformation from the 2020 election have reached deep into the GOP’s state apparatus, Burke, Mendoza, Linderman and Fenn win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documents expose misconduct by elite federal prosecutors

started digging after federal prosecutors in New York took the unusual step last spring of abruptly dismissing all charges against a banker convicted of evading U.S. sanctions by funneling $115 million to his family’s business in Iran. Goodman’s curiosity was rewarded with an exclusive.Goodman worked with AP assistant general counsel Brian Barrett to convince a court to release internal communications within the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York detailing how the elite unit tried to conceal their mishandling of evidence in the botched prosecution. A plethora of private correspondence between prosecutors showed a coordinated effort to mislead the court. In one exchange of text messages, supervising prosecutors admitted “we lied” to the defense during the trial. “This is going to be a bloodbath,” one wrote, anticipating the judge’s reaction to the disclosure. https://bit.ly/30bwLzEhttps://bit.ly/30aQmAf

Feb. 26, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Executioners sanitized official reports of federal inmates’ last moments

AP legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm witnessed 10 of the unprecedented 13 federal executions in the final months of the Trump administration, diligently taking notes on what he saw in the chamber, from the inmates’ last words to their last breaths. 

But weeks after the last execution in mid-January, something nagged at him: The executioner’s official account did not jibe with what he had observed during the execution. Tarm went back, looking through hundreds of filings and court transcripts. His reporting resulted in a stunning exclusive on how the executioners all used euphemisms like “snored” and “fell asleep” while Tarm and other witnesses saw inmates’ stomachs dramatically shuddering and jerking in the minutes after lethal injections.

The sanitized accounts, Tarm realized, raised serious questions about whether officials misled courts to ensure the executions would be completed before Joe Biden, a death penalty foe, took office. His story — the latest exclusive in AP’s coverage of the federal executions — received prominent play and reader engagement.

For backing up his own observations with rigorous reporting to hold the federal government accountable for its official accounts of the executions, Tarm earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds diversity of politics and religion among West Virginia evangelicals

A tweet was the seed for this illuminating story. “Most people in my rural, Appalachian hometown are being radicalized at church by their pastor, which is the person they trust the most,” it read. AP’s Global Religion team ran with it.

Reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski visited the parishioners of three churches in Bluefield, West Virginia, including one pastor who had attended the Jan. 6 Washington rally that degenerated into a riot. The AP pair spent weeks convincing him to sit down for an interview. The result was an all-formats package of diverse congregations seeking common ground, even as they are divided on the role of evangelical Christianity in American politics. 

For applying gentle persuasion and balanced reporting to produce a nuanced look at religion and politics in one West Virginia town, Henao and Wardarski win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the Week

Latest on New York COVID policy: State sent more than 9,000 virus patients to nursing homes

For nine months, AP has led all media on the story of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial directive to return recovering coronavirus patients from hospitals to nursing homes during the pandemic.

Last week, reporters Bernard Condon and Jennifer Peltz added to that record. Using data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, they reported exclusively that more than 9,000 patients in New York were released under the state’s policy, amid criticism that it accelerated nursing home outbreaks. The latest AP scoop has helped put Cuomo and his administration on the defensive at home and nationally.

For keeping AP at the forefront of this accountability story for the better part of a year — including their latest break documenting the release of COVID patients into nursing homes — Condon and Peltz earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, analysis expose allegations against Lincoln Project

used a network of sources and financial records to break news on sexual harassment accusations and questionable financial practices inside the Lincoln Project, a high-powered anti-Trump organization founded by prominent Republican consultants and known for its slick, sophisticated ads attacking Trump.Relying on deep sourcing, political reporter Peoples learned that one of the Lincoln Project’s co-founders, Jeff Weaver, faced a far more expansive range of sexual harassment accusations than previously known, with some of the accusations coming from staff inside the Lincoln Project who informed senior leaders the allegations. Yet the leaders did nothing.On a separate track, Washington-based congressional reporter Slodysko dug into financial records that suggested there was a reason the Lincoln Project leadership didn’t want to shake things up: They were making a ton of money. By sifting through dozens of documents, Slodysko learned that of the $90 million the group raised, $50 million went to firms controlled by Lincoln Project leaders. The pair’s story had immediate impact. By the end of the day, the Lincoln Project announced it would hire an outside firm to review the allegations and encouraged potential victims of sexual harassment to reach out to the organization. https://bit.ly/2OIYFk9

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Feb. 12, 2021

Best of the States

AP analysis: In the US, a centuries-old race war continues to rage against people of color

As AP race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison covered the protests that grew out of the 2020 killings of George Floyd and others, he also saw President Donald Trump on TV, trying to undermine the racial reckoning at every turn.

Fast forward to Jan. 6, when a mob of mostly white rioters, upset that Trump wasn't reelected, violently breached the U.S. Capitol. Morrison connected the dots of what he described as a war of white aggression. “A war rages on in America,” Morrison wrote in this analysis piece, “It started with slavery and never ended ...” 

With powerful video by Noreen Nasir, portraits by Chris Carlson and presentation by Alyssa Goodman, the package received prominent play and sparked discussion both online and within the AP.

For a timely, compelling package that looks at the state of race relations with historical context and thoughtful analysis, the team of Morrison, Nasir, Carlson and Goodman earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work reveals push for diversity in climate fight

worked sources on Stafford’s newly expanded beat to land an exclusive on the launch of a climate justice campaign.The effort by the group Donors of Color Network would shift millions in funding toward environmental and justice groups led by Black Americans, other people of color and Indigenous people and came on the heels of President Joe Biden pledging to make environmental justice central to the fight against climate change. Stafford, AP investigative race writer, brought the story to life by taking readers on a tour of neighborhoods in Detroit’s 48217 ZIP code, where residents live against the backdrop of heavy industrial sites that have long been a major concern in the nation’s largest Black-majority city. Baltimore-based photographer Julio Cortez’s photos of Donors of Color co-founder Ashindi Maxton, the story’s lead character, rounded out the package. https://bit.ly/3d4zfaP

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Feb. 05, 2021

Best of the Week

With sourcing, preparedness, AP breaks news on death of pioneering actress Cicely Tyson

AP national writer Hillel Italie took a call Thursday evening from a longtime source with an unexpected tip: Groundbreaking actress Cicely Tyson, known for her roles playing strong, fiercely dignified Black women, was dead. 

Italie set off to get the news on the wire quickly, while also alerting colleagues. That included entertainment writer Mark Kennedy who had met Tyson years earlier. Kennedy had decided that when the time came, the AP obituary would have to capture the breadth and achievement of her life and career. And he had prepared just that.

The AP story moved at least 15 minutes before other outlets, earning more than 265,000 page views and front page headlines.

Celebrity obituaries are intensely competitive; Italie and Kennedy kept AP well in front, through source work, commitment and solid preparation. For that, they win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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