Best of the AP

Best of the Week - First Winner March 01, 2024

A leaked trove of documents opens a rare window into Chinese hacking practices

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China has long used hacking as a political and law-enforcement tool to put eyes on dissidents, governments and other people it wants to watch. Because of Associated Press reporting efforts, the picture of how that is done — and what it might mean — is a bit clearer now. On Feb. 19, multiple sources alerted China investigative correspondent Dake Kang to a newly discovered leak of documents from a Chinese police contractor that revealed the company was hacking the networks of over a dozen foreign governments for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. The documents revealed how these hackers-for-hire operations worked, which systems they targeted, what tools they used and how they assisted police in the surveillance and harassment of dissidents and oppressed ethnicities even outside China’s borders. The documents had been published online by an unknown source, and no other major media outlet had picked up on it yet. But how to verify? Kang, who at the time happened to be in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, was en route to the airport to return to Beijing when he was browsing the contractor’s website. One of their addresses was right there, just a 40-minute drive from the airport. Kang canceled his flight, hopped into a cab and headed to the company’s offices. U.S.-based technology reporter Frank Bajak simultaneously jumped on the story, contacting cybersecurity analysts, many of whom said they thought it was authentic. The following morning, Kang returned to the company where two employees confirmed the leak. With effective communication and swift editing, the story made it to the wire during U.S. daytime.  

The cross-continental teamwork and speed paid off. The AP was first among major competitors to put the story out, with others following hours later — some of them using AP’s exclusive photos.  

For a quick and concerted scramble that leveraged differing forms of AP expertise, touched multiple continents and delivered precision on deadline, Kang and Bajak are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Best of the Week - Second Winner March 01, 2024

Insightful Ukraine package marks second anniversary of war

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Working under pressure amid the crush of breaking news, the team in Kyiv led by coordinator Susie Blann was determined to come up with an anniversary package that offered clients a distinctive mix of stories that both informed and explained the state of Russia’s war in Ukraine two years on — but also highlighted the incredible toll on the people living it.

The coverage was rich and included deeply reported stories paired with strong photos and video. A story by Hanna Arhirova and Vasilisa Stepanenko highlighting one family’s incredible story before and after the war offered a poignant snapshot of the shattered lives of Ukrainians, and it resonated with readers. Samya Kullab and Susie Blann anchored an all-formats package about Ukraine’s unpopular plan to expand the draft, explaining why many men are now evading it — exacerbating shortages in manpower along frontlines. The story was picked up in the Drudge Report, boosting clicks.

As full-scale war by Russia in Ukraine enters its third year, AP’s hardworking team of experts in all formats succeeded in finding fresh and engaging angles and portraits, earning Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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