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. 26, 2021

Best of the Week

Determined source work exposes horrific massacre in holy city of Ethiopia’s isolated Tigray region

Ethiopia’s military campaign in its defiant Tigray province has been shrouded in secrecy since the conflict started in November, but AP East Africa correspondent Cara Anna has been determined to report what happened in the virtually sealed-off region. She has chased every lead through relentless source work, building contacts and networks as she reported one exclusive after another.

For this latest exclusive, Anna had been hearing rumors of a massacre in the holy city of Axum. When phone service returned to the city recently, she was able to reach the deacon of the Axum church who described in disturbing detail the mass killings by Eritrean troops. He believes some 800 people were killed that weekend at the church and around the city, and that thousands in Axum have died in all. Anna found other survivors who corroborated the deacon’s story and offered additional details.

Her reporting scooped all other media and even human rights groups who had been investigating Axum. It also drew rare and surprisingly quick responses from the governments of both Eritrea and Ethiopia.

For determined and resourceful reporting to break through the secrecy surrounding the Tigray conflict and expose the atrocity at Axum, Anna wins AP’s Best of the Week 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 over 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. 05, 2021

Best of the States

AP months ahead of New York state in identifying undercount of nursing home deaths

When AP reported exclusively last August that New York state was undercounting its COVID nursing home death toll by thousands, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped the story as part of a politically motivated “blame game.”

But the state’s own investigation, announced last week, reached a nearly identical conclusion, affirming AP’s reporting.

AP’s 2020 investigation had seized on the fact that New York counts just residents who died at nursing homes, not those who were transported to hospitals and died there. AP’s analysis of federal data indicated that the state’s official toll was undercounted by 65%, or well over 4,000 deaths. 

For sharp reporting that led the media pack, withstood criticism from the governor and months later was vindicated, this week’s Best of the States award goes to Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Meghan Hoyer (now data director at The Washington Post).

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Feb. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Indian farmers storm Red Fort; AP visuals stand out

braved tear gas and sword-wielding Sikh protesters to capture dramatic live video and stunning images of angry and defiant farmers storming the iconic Red Fort as India celebrated its Republic Day. Farmers have been protesting for months over new agriculture laws, and AP reacted quickly when a group of farmers on tractors deviated from an orderly parade, breaking through barricades to storm the city’s emblematic 17th century landmark.Amid aggressive threats by protesters, the photographers and video journalists recorded the dramatic breach of the fort, a profoundly symbolic challenge to the Hindu-nationalist government. AP was live with video at key points and captured the extraordinary turn of events as protesters scaled the walls and hoisted a Sikh religious flag from the fort ramparts. In a sudden escalation, Ganguly was roughed up by an unruly mob, his camera cards snatched as outnumbered police watched. With the situation spiraling out of control the team was pulled out to ensure their safety.Despite the enormous challenges, AP had better competitive coverage thanks to preparation, smart coordination and decision making on the fly. We offered outstanding visuals, including faster video edits to our customers, and updates showing police trying to clear protesters from the fort.https://bit.ly/2YJx5Fphttps://bit.ly/36LpgU2https://bit.ly/3cH0Z5lhttps://bit.ly/2YIdm8U

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Feb. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work, teamwork net scoop on Biden-Putin call

teamed up to break news on one of the most highly anticipated moments early in President Joe Biden's term: the president’s first conversation with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Their scoop came together through a combination of collaboration and source work. It started with a tip to diplomatic writer Lee that the call between Biden and Putin would be coming soon. White House reporter Lemire confirmed the tip with other sources in the administration, then secured an exclusive interview with a senior administration official previewing the call and arranged to receive the first readout once it concluded. Within minutes of the call ending, AP was on the wire ahead of all U.S. competitors but also ahead of the Kremlin and Russian news services. https://bit.ly/3tqAgj7

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Feb. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Vaccination help wanted, logistics a plus

delivered a widely played national story about a pandemic phenomenon no other news outlet had reported: People with strong logistics skills, including fast food managers, concert promoters and even wedding planners, were being sought and pressed into service to help with COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs.Kole, AP’s New England editor, was intrigued after learning that the Boston Marathon race director had been hired to run mass vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park, and set out to find what other fields were being tapped to fight the pandemic. His story on the demand for operations and event experience was tweeted and retweeted several thousand times and played prominently across the U.S. https://bit.ly/3cFgb2I

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Jan. 29, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds exhausted chaplains comforting families, COVID patients in their final moments

Eugene Garcia, just two weeks into his job as the AP’s newest full-time video journalist, and photographer Jae Hong joined forces to tell the deeply touching and heartbreaking story of often unseen and unsung heroes of the pandemic — the clergy.

The pair approached the story with sensitivity and care, maintaining distance to give the families, patients and chaplains space, but close enough to bring the story to life even as their subjects drew their last breaths. The package, complemented by John Rogers’ moving text, shed light on exhausted and emotionally drained chaplains working in situations they had never experienced before. As one put it, “We weren’t trained for this.”

For an arresting package that explores the compassionate yet crushing work of front-line chaplains, Garcia, Hong and Rogers earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 29, 2021

Best of the Week

AP delivers unmatched all-formats coverage as Russians protest jailing of Navalny

The moment opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested upon his return to Moscow, AP’s Russia team knew the weekend’s protests would be big.

Working in sub-zero temperatures, AP teams in every format, from the Russian Far East to the big cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, delivered exceptional work capturing the scale and intensity of the protests — and the violent crackdown by police.

Excellent planning, experience and a wide network of freelancers across the country’s 11 time zones were among the factors that gave AP the edge over the competition. 

For determined, insightful coverage that captured the scope and political significance of the movement, the team of Tanya Titova, Alexander Zemlianichenko, Mstyslav Chernov, Kostya Manenkov, Dmitri Lovetsky, Pavel Golovkin, Daria Litvinova, Jim Heintz, Kirill Zarubin and Yulia Alekseyeva wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Jan. 29, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reporting prompts release of California virus data

wanted to know the reasoning behind California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s sudden and unexpected lifting of the stay-at-home order for a 13-county region amid a surge in the pandemic. That the state wouldn't make the data available after days of inquiries struck the pair as the latest example of Newsom not delivering on a promise of transparency during the pandemic.The preporters, based in Sacramento, proceeded to deliver a story with experts criticizing the secrecy, from public health authorities to government accountability advocates. Their story received enormous attention and was widely cited, intensifying criticism and pressure on the state.Three days after the story ran, Newsom held a news conference to announce the stay-at-home order was being lifted for the rest of the state’s regions. Under questioning from Ronayne, the state’s health director promised some of the relevant data would be released; later in the day the specific regional projection numbers were revealed to the public for the first time.https://bit.ly/3qMydnmhttps://bit.ly/3ccMHZF

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Jan. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP goes live from Navalny’s flight back to Moscow

gave AP unprecedented access to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s return to Moscow, ensuring AP was the only news agency broadcasting live the moment Alexey Navalny stepped onto a plane in Berlin for the flight returning him to Moscow, where he would be arrested.

The moment Navalny announced his decision to go home, AP senior producer Tatiana Titova had arranged a ticket to put Berlin-based video journalist Chernov on the same flight. On Sunday, Chernov was ready, transmitting live from his phone as soon as he stepped inside the plane cabin.

When Navalny showed up alongside his wife, lawyer and associates, AP clients worldwide got their first glimpse of a remarkable journey taken by the man who was poisoned for challenging President Vladimir Putin’s rule. Chernov also shot still images that were well used, including the front page of Monday’s New York Times.https://bit.ly/39PcTGXhttps://bit.ly/3qEAFMD

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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

Best of the States

AP reporting reveals some front-line health care workers balking at COVID vaccine

The AP team of Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Carla K. Johnson assembled the most detailed national look yet at one of the most vexing snags in the coronavirus vaccine rollout: Surprising numbers of health care workers — who have seen firsthand the misery inflicted by COVID-19 — are refusing the shots.

The deep reporting, with contributions from colleagues across the country, found the paradox occurring in nursing homes and hospitals, with some individual facilities seeing a refusal rate as high as 80%. The story, one of AP’s most-read on an extremely busy news week, quoted both health workers expressing fears of vaccine side effects and frustrated facility administrators.

For bringing to light an important part of the stumbling early rollout of the much-anticipated vaccine, Condon, Sedensky and Johnson win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Standout visuals mark a year since eruption in Philippines

had a vision for a visually-driven package to mark the year since the violent eruption of the Taal volcano in the Philippines.With his newly acquired drone pilot license, the Manila-based AP photographer knew that aerial photography would make unique still and video images of the ash-covered ghost town. He also learned that many residents of the volcanic island still remained homeless in a temporary tent city.After getting approval for the project, he set out to deliver all-formats coverage. He did extensive research, then drove to the volcano, where a local fisherman ferried him to the island that is home to the volcano.The drone app warned him it was too windy to fly, but Favila knew the visuals would be strong — and it might be his only chance. He launched the drone and kept receiving strong wind warnings during the flight, but he kept the drone airborne long enough to get stunning photos and video.Next, he explored the ash-covered island, visiting an area where people still live in tents. Residents of the island, which is a popular tourist destination, lost their livelihood: livestock animals and the farmland where they grow vegetables. Favila interviewed people who have had to live in the tents through typhoons, excessive heat and even the pandemic, capturing their touching accounts on video, humanizing the story for an impressive one-person package.https://bit.ly/35At6yLhttps://bit.ly/3bIsUB4https://bit.ly/38DyX8a

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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Brazilian women seek now-legal abortions in Argentina

teamed up to make AP the first news organization to report the extremely sensitive and timely story of Brazilian women starting to travel to Argentina for now-legal abortions.The complex all-formats story required coordination between Brazilian and Argentine bureaus to follow individuals crossing the border, and awareness of the shifting legal issues in both countries. The staffers had to ensure that AP was presenting the story and its protagonists in a way that was fair, useful to clients, and — most importantly — minimized risks of our interviewees facing backlash.The AP had unique access to a 20-year-old woman traveling to Argentina who agreed to show her masked face and be quoted by her first name. They had worked diligently to cultivate her trust and that of the nongovernmental agency assisting her, repeatedly addressing concerns without applying pressure.Ultimately, both the woman and the agency were comfortable with the result: The package offered a uniquely intimate perspective into this highly controversial issue that disproportinately affects women from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. https://bit.ly/3bws3nd

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Jan. 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Fact-check team dissects Trump’s Georgia phone call

teamed up to fact-check President Donald Trump’s hour-long call to Georgia officials, producing an annotated transcript of the conversation. The goal was to ensure that we weren’t just putting out disinformation and unfounded claims; we wanted all of the president’s statements to be bracketed with factual information.Washington reporter Hope Yen led the fact-checking effort, with colleagues Eric Tucker, Mike Balsamo, Jeff Amy and Mark Sherman contributing reporting. Atlanta’s Sophia Tulp took on the herculean task of compiling the transcript for publication while visual journalist Francois Duckett set off on building the template for the annotated transcript, a format the AP hasn’t often used.The 24-hour effort paid off: By Monday afternoon, the team had produced a fully annotated version of the transcript, in addition to a separate fact-check story that offered readers clear and concise facts about the U.S. election.https://bit.ly/3hO3LGohttps://bit.ly/3s5AvQfhttps://bit.ly/397SmgJ

Fact Check

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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