March 27, 2020

Best of the Week

AP is there: Exclusive access to the first human trial of coronavirus vaccine

The world had been waiting for this moment: the start of a clinical study searching for a vaccine for the new coronavirus – but no one knew when exactly the first shots would be given. AP reporters in Washington, D.C., learned where and when it would take place, laying the groundwork for an all-formats team to witness the start of the experiment in Seattle.

The result: AP was the only news organization present, sending updates in real time as the first participants received an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The newsroom at AP’s New York headquarters erupted in cheers when the exclusive crossed the wire; text, photos and video swept play worldwide.

For ensuring AP was the only news organization in the room at a critical juncture of the coronavirus pandemic response, and for delivering distinctive journalism to customers worldwide, the team of Lauran Neergaard, Ted Warren, Carla K. Johnson, Michael Ciaglo, Federica Narancio and Marshall Ritzel wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 27, 2020

Best of the States

Fast, definitive work on US price gouging complaints amid coronavirus crisis

When reporters Justin Pritchard and Reese Dunklin were asked to look into price gouging and profiteering off the coronavirus crisis, they  sought to go deeper by employing a key part of their investigative reporting toolkit: a systematic reporting strategy.

The pair quickly executed a plan to question attorneys general in all 50 states, resulting in the most comprehensive look yet at the problem across the nation. In just two days of reporting, Pritchard and Dunklin uncovered more than 5,000 reports of everything from price gouging on toilet paper and masks, to scams offering tests and even cures for the illness. 

Their brightly written story won strong play on a busy day of coronavirus news, hitting the wire hours before Attorney General William Barr announced new actions against such crimes.

For fast, aggressive work that tapped into a topic on the public’s mind, AP recognizes Pritchard and Dunklin with this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 20, 2020

Best of the States

‘He's an inmate’: Anguish mounts over nursing home at center of virus

The Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, has emerged as the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. At least 35 coronavirus deaths have been linked to the facility, and more than half of those inside have tested positive, leaving the remaining residents in a sort of purgatory that has anguished their relatives.

Photographer Ted Warren has spent much of his time recently outside the long-term care center, documenting in heartrending photos how people have tried to communicate with mothers, fathers and loved ones through windows because visitors are no longer allowed inside. 

Warren found an ideal subject for conveying this desperation in the story of 86-year-old Chuck Sedlacek. With reporting by Gene Johnson, the pair delivered a package that detailed the isolation and anguish faced by the nursing home residents and their families – a feeling of helplessness many more are likely to experience as the disease spreads across the country.

For compelling work that conveys the frustration and despair of families coping with the coronavirus at a facility in the glare of the media spotlight, Warren and Johnson earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

DC staff has to vacate bureau; doesn't miss a beat

moved at light speed with the announcement late Friday afternoon that “out of an abundance of caution,” the bureau was closing over coronavirus concerns. As desk editors coordinated staffing to keep copy moving, the technology team pulled marathon shifts through the weekend to get all radio and video staffs equipped with both the hardware and software needed to maintain their work, including retrofitting two D.C. hotel rooms into makeshift radio studios. Video staff were brought up one at a time to lock in functionality and training as that group moved to 100% remote editing and filing through tools that had still been in the trial phase. The net result: AP’s largest bureau transitioned seamlessly, maintaining coverage across all formats even as the severity of the coronavirus story was accelerating. https://bit.ly/3a4Mkg3

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March 13, 2020

Best of the Week

AP Decision Desk caps stellar Super Tuesday with instant call: California for Sanders

On Super Tuesday afternoon, AP’s Stephen Ohlemacher and Emily Swanson were locked away in a conference room – isolated from their colleagues in the Washington bureau – reviewing incoming results from AP VoteCast. AP’s survey – developed to be more accurate than traditional exit polling – was already revealing what was about to happen on the biggest night of the Democratic presidential primary campaign.

The VoteCast data revealed trends in absentee voting and shifting preferences as Democratic candidates dropped out of the race, giving AP the evidence it needed to call California for Bernie Sanders as the state’s polls closed at 11:00 Eastern. News outlets relying on exit polls would not make that call for more than a week. 

Meanwhile, Seth Borenstein was crunching the numbers on the all-important delegate count, a task that required days of painstaking analysis of incomplete data to reach this conclusion: Joe Biden won more delegates on Super Tuesday than did Sanders.

Like the Caliofornia race call, news of Biden’s delegate victory rocketed around the world. 

For completing in-depth, accurate analysis of election data on deadline, enabling AP to tell the complete story of Super Tuesday before all others, Swanson, Ohlemacher and Borenstein win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 13, 2020

Best of the States

Tennessee team does double duty when tornadoes strike on Super Tuesday

When tornadoes tore through Middle Tennessee in the early-morning hours of Super Tuesday, AP’s staff deftly pivoted from preparing for the state’s primary to covering a natural disaster. 

From first light on Tuesday and throughout the day, Nashville and Memphis staffers delivered compelling all-formats coverage of the devastation that left at least 24 dead statewide. The team also connected the disaster to the primary, monitoring the impact on voting.

Strong aftermath coverage followed, including a presidential visit on Friday and well-received pieces on recovery efforts and a worship service at a damaged church. With out-of-state staffers and the entire South Desk contributing to the coverage, the sustained effort showed the AP at its best.

For proving nimble, responsive and collaborative coverage on a major breaking news story under chaotic conditions, the multiformat Tennessee team of Travis Loller, Kristin Hall, Kimberlee Kruesi, Mark Humphrey, Jonathan Mattise, Adrian Sainz and Teresa Walker shares this week’s Best of the States award. 

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March 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exclusives stand out in COVID-19 coverage

New York-based health and science reporter Mike Stobbe and Rome video journalist Trisha Thomas delivered two very different exclusives that stood out amid the week’s impressive range of AP coronavirus coverage.

Stobbe was the first to report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wanted to tell a wide swath of Americans that they shouldn’t get on commercial flights because of the virus. But the agency was overruled by the White House. Instead, federal officials settled on softer, less direct language. Realizing the significance, Stobbe pressed multiple sources until he had confirmation of the White House action.

Meanwhile, continents away, Rome visual journalist Trisha Thomas was visiting Padua when she learned the Italian city was about to be locked down. After making frantic arrangements to leave by train, she turned her personal odyssey into a cross-format package, producing a first-person essay and video story that gave a human face to Italy’s virus emergency.https://bit.ly/2TUgQCohttps://bit.ly/2W6dxL8

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March 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source: ‘You'll never believe it, we found the gun.’

delivered back-to-back scoops on the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the jail where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, that is billed as one of the most secure in America.Balsamo and Sisak first learned through sources that the jail was on lockdown because of a report of a possible gun that had been smuggled inside. Next, they had a scoop when investigators looking for the gun found contraband instead, including cellphones, narcotics and homemade weapons. The spot news died down, but they stayed focused on the story and it paid off: A source called Balsamo and said off the record: “You'll never believe it, we found the gun!” The smuggled items marked a massive breach of prison protocol and raised serious questions about the security practices in place at the Bureau of Prisons.AP’s exclusive was used by virtually every major outlet. https://bit.ly/3aRDLVW

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March 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: How Bloomberg’s largesse built his campaign

revealed how Michael Bloomberg built a foundation of political goodwill across the U.S. for his 2020 campaign with years of political and charitable giving. The AP team compiled data on Bloomberg’s contributions over the last six years, then cross-referenced that with the names of politicians and activists who had endorsed him to create a comprehensive look, including a localizable data distribution and graphic elements. https://bit.ly/2PR1ZHF

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Feb. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Despite ‘infrastructure weeks,’ there’s no $1 trillion

for a story of national interest about President Donald Trump’s administration, reported not from Washington but from the nation’s heartland. After the president released his latest budget proposal, Lieb revealed that Trump has failed to deliver on his promise of a $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan. He has so far been unable to persuade Congress to pass anything like that, even when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. https://bit.ly/2T38OrE

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Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the States

Records reveal Virginia attorney-lawmaker privilege that delays court proceedings

Sometimes accountability stories are hiding in plain sight, but getting to them requires first recognizing the potential and then doing a whole lot of digging. Virginia reporter Sarah Rankin did both of those things. 

After seeing a one-sentence mention in a legal trade publication, Rankin began the hunt for a deeper story about a continuance privilege granted to lawyer-legislators, and how one Virginia lawmaker used the privilege to consistently delay court hearings. 

Rankin plowed through records of cases that involved Virginia lawmaker Jeff Campbell, the defense attorney for a one-time NASCAR race driver accused of domestic violence. She found that Campbell had employed the continuance privilege at least 30 times over three years, more than double any other lawyer-legislator.

For seizing on the brief mention, then following up with determined reporting that revealed a potential for abuse by lawyer-lawmakers in Virginia and elsewhere, Rankin wins the week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Trump on trial: AP delivers coverage for the history books

for anchoring expansive and informative coverage of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial – just the third such trial in American history. Coverage of the trial in all formats showcased the AP’s unmatched ability to meet the call of history with sharp storytelling, delivered with speed but hanging on substance. The AP’s mainbar provided a definitive account of the trial for more than three weeks running. And as lawmakers weighed the ultimate judgment on a president, journalists in Washington carefully reported the arguments in real-time while churning out informative sidebars, fact-checks and explanatory guides. The final story alone, on the Senate vote to acquit Trump, appeared on more than 200 newspaper front pages across the country, and hundreds of websites. https://bit.ly/2UQ9EcK

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Feb. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Suspected El Paso Walmart shooter charged with hate crime

for strong source work to break the news that the man accused of killing 22 people and wounding two dozen more in an El Paso Wal-Mart was going to be charged with federal hate crimes. Balsamo's scoop, enhanced with further reporting by colleagues in Texas, was exclusive to AP for nearly three hours and most outlets didn't have it until an evening press conference. https://bit.ly/3bzhyNw

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Feb. 07, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigates a teen’s life sentence – and the role of Amy Klobuchar

On the campaign trail, presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has often cited a case – a life sentence given to black teen for killing a young girl – as proof of her tough-on-crime bona fides as a former prosecutor. 

Over the course of a year, Minnesota-based investigative reporter Robin McDowell examined the case against Myon Burrell, who was 16 when he was sentenced to life in prison for the 2002 death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards. 

McDowell found major irregularities, including inconsistent evidence and questionable police tactics. The resulting package had impact, forcing new scrutiny of the case and Klobuchar’s handling of it. 

For dogged reported that shed new light and focused attention on the case against a man who has long said he was wrongfully convicted, McDowell wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 31, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: NFL’s Saints allegedly do damage control for Catholic Church on abuse crisis

New York-based federal law enforcement reporter Jim Mustian never gives up on a story.

Sticking with a case he began covering at another news organization in another state more than two years ago, Mustian landed a jaw-dropping exclusive for the AP: That a trove of hundreds of confidential emails has surfaced allegedly showing executives of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints doing public relations damage control for the area’s Roman Catholic archdiocese amid its clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The story had an immediate, visceral impact with readers and earned praise from fellow journalists.

Mustian will continue to chip away at this story and, hopefully, reveal more about the Saints and their involvement with the church. But for now, Mustian’s sticktoitiveness and tough accountability reporting earns him this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: More than 100 state lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct

for tallying more than 100 state lawmakers across the U.S. who had been credibly accused of harassment in the #MeToo era in the past three years – and what actions, if any, states have taken to address the problem. After a Michigan state lawmaker was accused by a young reporter and a fellow lawmaker of sexual harassment, AP moved quickly to provide a completely distinctive story – as well as an exclusive data set that members could mine for their own use. https://bit.ly/2GBJLFb

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