Best of the AP

Best of the Week - First Winner Dec. 08, 2023

Investigation uncovers private school selling diplomas, no classes required


In a package featuring multiple scoops and exclusives, an AP team investigating Louisiana’s rise in unapproved private schools stumbled on a school selling diplomas to anyone whose parents said they had completed their education — even years later. That revelation rocked the state and reverberated across the nation.

Education data reporter Sharon Lurye partnered with Charles Lussier of The (Louisiana) Advocate to secure stunning interviews with an operator of the school defending the practice as an extension of parents’ rights and also met multiple graduates who had gained their diplomas. On the other side of the investigation Lurye and Lussier demonstrated the depth of the risks in sending a child to such a school, landing a rare interview with a mom who says a teacher offered her teen daughter money for sexually explicit photos and wanted to warn others against enrolling their kids in an unapproved school.

Lurye and Lussier were the first to quantify the rise in popularity among Louisiana’s unapproved schools — over 21,000 students, nearly double the number before the pandemic. Many of the families using unapproved schools are homeschooling. But 30 of the schools have more than 50 students.

The project ran on the front page in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Arcadiana. Lurye did radio interviews on WWL in New Orleans and for the “Louisiana Considered” program on the public radio stations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Prominent pickups included Fox News, Newser and ABC News. The project was named one of the best stories of the week by “The Grade,” a well-read education blog.

For a strong investigation, securing multiple exclusives while providing a public service to the people of Louisiana, Lurye wins this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Best of the Week - Second Winner Dec. 08, 2023

Exclusive reporting on indigenous women bringing a tiny tribe back from the brink of extinction in the Amazon


The AP exclusively told the story of what happened when three Indigenous Brazilian sisters decided to buck the patrilineal system and refused to let their tribe die out, by marrying outside of their tribe. Having their spouses live on their ancestral land protected it from deforestation, and made them members of their tribe.

Thanks to AP climate reporter Fabiano Maisonnave’s unmatched contacts in the Brazilian Amazon, the AP secured unique access to the remote and rarely covered Juma Indigenous territory. An all-format crew comprised of Maisonnave, Climate video editor Teresa de Miguel from Mexico City and Sao Paulo photographer André Penner shadowed the Juma people for three days, sleeping in hammocks and accompanying them on fishing trips, to document their traditional way of life.

De Miguel’s lens on the women encouraged them to discuss how they were treated as they became the first female chiefs in their region of the Amazon. Penner’s images offered an intimate look at the tribe and what these women’s efforts mean to their existence, with exquisite details of how they live, how they fish for food and even a beautiful image of dozens of butterflies setting sail along the river.

No other outlet has reported the story of courage and resilience of these women and focused on their fight to preserve their culture and their territory.

For this beautifully captured, exclusive enterprise, Maisonnave, de Miguel and Penner are highly deserving of this week’s Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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