As conflict unfolded night after night in Portland, Oregon, AP journalists spent a weekend both outside among the protesters, and inside the courthouse with rare access to federal agents, providing unmatched perspective from both sides of the political divide.
This week’s Best of the Week winner celebrates the work of a team of reporters, photographers and video journalists whose extensive coverage of the Portland protests against racial injustice culminated in an exclusive all-formats look at the conflict from the perspective of both demonstrators and federal law enforcement agents.
On the last weekend of July, federal law enforcement reporter Mike Balsamo embedded overnight Friday and Saturday with U.S. agents inside the downtown federal courthouse, where thousands of demonstrators gathered nightly to protest their presence, while Portland reporter Gillian Flaccus continued her coverage from the crowd massed outside the courthouse perimeter.
Visual journalists Noah Berger, Marcio Sanchez and Aron Ranen captured both sides of the conflict with exclusive access negotiated by Balsamo, who has developed sources and contacts within federal agencies.
Balsamo’s reporting and the visuals inside the courthouse provided context and perspective that no other news organization could match. The reporters and visual journalists, both inside and outside the courthouse, documented the pitched confrontations and chaos, as well as the human stories amid the nightly volley of fireworks and tear gas canisters, often at risk to themselves.
The AP team combined to produce a powerful, all-formats package of the weekend’s events, assisted by Sara Cline in Salem, Oregon, who tracked activities nightly via social media and her own reporting, and helped Flaccus compile a timeline, while video journalist Krysta Fauria produced the video pieces.
The defining all-formats feature that moved Sunday night was the most clicked/engaged online AP story for much of Monday, and was cited by commentators for its detailed, comprehensive and fair portrayal of a conflict that came to symbolize the current divisions in the United States.
For balanced and insightful coverage from both sides of the Portland divide, setting AP apart on a highly charged story, the team of Flaccus, Balsamo, Ranen, Sanchez, Berger, Cline and Fauria wins AP’s Best of the Week award.