The plot was bold: Fuel a military uprising in Venezuela by shifting the loyalty of key leaders, putting them in opposition to President Nicolas Maduro. But the plan to help the U.S.-backed opposition leader backfired at the moment of truth, prompting an understandable reaction from press to find out what went wrong.
While most other media speculated, AP Andean News Director Joshua Goodman used dogged reporting to break the untold story of how the Obama and Trump administrations missed golden opportunities to woo two generals that the White House said were central to the plan. His AP exclusive detailed how the Trump administration balked at helping the head of Venezuela’s military intelligence and presidential guard get visas for his 3-year-old son to be treated for a brain tumor in Boston. It also revealed that under Obama, the American government cut off a potential line of communication with Venezuela’s defense minister after he expressed interest in opening a communication channel between Maduro’s opponents and the U.S.
Goodman’s scoops were built on aggressive reporting and years of source development:
Using a key tip from a Venezuelan exile, Goodman pressured a reluctant former U.S. official to reveal how the White House in 2017 turned down the humanitarian visa request. Another source involved in those talks produced a document from the hospital backing up the claim. In addition, Goodman was able to show how Venezuela’s defense minister was also turned away when he sent an emissary to speak to U.S. intelligence agents in 2016 – a lapse that some say in hindsight cost the Americans dearly.
The story garnered major play both among customers and APNews users, generating seven times the normal engagement time for stories on social media, and nearly 11 times the traffic from visitors who actively searched for the story. It also was used online by more than 230 news outlets. Goodman was interviewed on air about the scoop by Colombia's largest radio network, and the story also earned the attention of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a driver of U.S. policy toward Venezuela, who praised Goodman on Twitter as a “very good” reporter and called the story “enlightening.”
For his work unearthing pivotal clues around a shadowy turn of international events, Goodman wins AP’s Best of the Week.