Sept. 17, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation reveals pattern of beatings, shrouded in secrecy, by Louisiana State Police

Law enforcement reporters Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg built on their previous reporting to document a devastating pattern of violence and secrecy at the Louisiana State Police, identifying at least a dozen beating cases over the past decade in which troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct.

Their exclusive investigation stems from the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene — initially blamed on a car crash. That case was blown open this spring when the AP published long-withheld video showing state troopers stunning, punching and dragging the Black motorist as he pleaded for mercy. Mustian and Bleiberg proceeded to scour investigative records and work sources, finding a disproportionate use of force against Louisiana’s Black population and an absence of transparency and accountability in the agency.

Impact from this latest story was swift, from the head of the state police to a Louisiana congressman and others calling for investigation and reform.

For dogged reporting that peeled back the layers of case after case to reveal a pattern of abuse — and is effecting change in Louisiana — Mustian and Bleiberg earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Latest on New York COVID policy: State sent more than 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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April 09, 2021

Best of the States

Exclusive data analysis, reporting on child abuse reveal worrying pandemic trend, heartbreaking tale

A true multiformat team of AP journalists produced this Only on AP piece by tracking down data on child abuse from every state to reveal a worrying trend: Reports of abuse are down while signs of severity are up. The team complemented that dogged data work and hard news with the tragic story of one girl who fell through the cracks during the pandemic. 

Acting on information sourced by video journalist Manuel Valdes, Seattle reporter Sally Ho coordinated the 50-state data survey and an ambitious analysis with data journalist Camille Fassett. Ho also read through hundreds of child abuse reports to find the case of 9-year-old Ava Lerario, killed by her father in a small Pennsylvania town. Ho worked with Philadelphia photojournalists Matt Rourke and Matt Slocum, and New York video journalist David Martin, to tell the story of about how the system failed Ava. 

The team’s deeply reported package drew remarkably high reader engagement, and many news outlets localized the work using AP’s data distribution.

For exposing another disturbing inequality stemming from the pandemic, Ho and colleagues Valdes, Fassett, Rourke, Slocum and Martin share this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 17, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP explores El Salvador’s strict abortion ban through the voices of women who lived it

As the U.S. Supreme Court considers overturning the constitutional right to abortion, reporter Luis Henao and video journalist Jessie Wardarski provided a compelling account of what can happen under a total abortion ban, through the testimonials of women who were raped or suffered miscarriages in El Salvador — where the country’s harsh anti-abortion law committed them to long prison terms.

Henao and Wardarski traveled to rural El Salvador to meet women willing to share on camera their harrowing stories of being imprisoned under the law. To these Salvadoran women, their plight should serve as a cautionary tale for Americans.

The AP pair also sought the views of a Catholic cardinal and a lawmaker who defended the ban on abortion. The resulting all-formats package was used by hundreds of news outlets, was widely praised by experts on the issue and generated impassioned commentary on social media.

For engaging, insightful coverage that gives voice to women who have suffered the consequences of an abortion ban, and shedding light on an issue that sharply divides opinions in the U.S. and beyond, Henao and Wardarski earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Nov. 25, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Monthslong investigation weaves sordid tale of debauchery within DEA

"The drug war is a game,” José Irizarry told two AP reporters during his final moments of freedom. “It was a very fun game that we were playing.”

Irizarry’s decision to spend some of his last few hours before beginning a 12-year federal prison sentence with two AP reporters in early 2022 was a moment years in the making that yielded a bombshell bacchanal of a story -- itself months in the making.

Four years ago, just before starting at The Associated Press, New York-based investigative reporter Jim Mustian received a tip about a DEA investigation into one of the agency’s own agents in Colombia. That spiraled into a string of AP scoops by Mustian and Miami-based Latin America correspondent Joshua Goodman on DEA corruption in Latin America, including an exclusive on the arrest of that agent. Irizarry had been accused of conspiring with Colombian drug cartels to divert millions from DEA money laundering stings in what prosecutors called one of the worst betrayals in DEA history.

For a deeply reported and compelling investigation, telling the tale of a former war-on-drugs warrior who crossed multiple boundaries, Mustian and Goodman earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Oct. 07, 2016

Best of the States

Why is Chicago a murder capital? Clues from a bloody month

As Chicago’s homicide rate has surged throughout the year, the police department’s tally of the previous month’s body count has taken on an air of the routine. Even as the city’s murder rate has passed new milestones, the figures have provided little more than a headline. And little insight into the causes and victims of the city’s violence.

Chicago reporter Don Babwin set out to shed light on that violence in the wake of the announcement that August was the deadliest month in the city in two decades.

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July 10, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: China forces Uighurs to cut births with IUDs, abortions, sterilization

The shocking story exposed a serious human rights issue: The Chinese government has forced the use of IUDs, abortions and sterilization on members of China’s Muslim minority in an apparent effort to reduce its population. 

The piece, which ran without a byline for security reasons, established that China is imposing birth control on Uighurs and other Muslims in a far more widespread and systematic way than previously known. The exclusive reporting drew on Uighur and Kazakh sources, research by a prominent China scholar and hours-long interviews with ex-detainees, family members and even a former detention camp instructor. 

The story elicited a strong global response from government officials, news media and the public.

For uncovering another major chapter on the plight of the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China, the unidentified AP reporter wins this week’s Best of the Week award.

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March 09, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​Ex-sect members tell AP that prosecutors obstructed abuse cases

It’s one of the most important lessons of investigative journalism: One good story can lead to another. Don’t give up after the first round. Keep digging.

That’s what Mitch Weiss of the national investigative team did after his explosive first story on the Word of Faith Fellowship. His follow-up story earns the Beat of the Week.

It took Weiss many months to persuade 43 former members of the Fellowship to open up – on the record and identified – with stories of adults and children being slapped, punched, choked and slammed to the floor in the name of the Lord. But getting so many of the reluctant ex-congregants to talk was only the start of his journalistic journey.

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March 27, 2020

Best of the States

Fast, definitive work on US price gouging complaints amid coronavirus crisis

When reporters Justin Pritchard and Reese Dunklin were asked to look into price gouging and profiteering off the coronavirus crisis, they  sought to go deeper by employing a key part of their investigative reporting toolkit: a systematic reporting strategy.

The pair quickly executed a plan to question attorneys general in all 50 states, resulting in the most comprehensive look yet at the problem across the nation. In just two days of reporting, Pritchard and Dunklin uncovered more than 5,000 reports of everything from price gouging on toilet paper and masks, to scams offering tests and even cures for the illness. 

Their brightly written story won strong play on a busy day of coronavirus news, hitting the wire hours before Attorney General William Barr announced new actions against such crimes.

For fast, aggressive work that tapped into a topic on the public’s mind, AP recognizes Pritchard and Dunklin with this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 01, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Fast response, resourceful work breaks news on Nashville’s Christmas Day bombing

When a bomb exploded in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, early on Christmas morning, AP’s local staff upended their holiday plans and sprang into action. They were soon joined by colleagues, many working remotely, who jumped in to help coordinate coverage and piece together what had happened. 

The team overcame severely limited access and communications to quickly deliver photos and break stories over several days, including the news that human tissue had been found at the explosion site, and the bomber’s chilling prediction of fame. 

The outstanding work attracted heavy play and readership. 

For mobilizing quickly and resourcefully over the Christmas holiday, Kimberlee Kruesi, Mark Humphrey, Eric Tucker, Mike Balsamo, Denise Lavoie and Mike Kunzelman share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the last full week of 2020.

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June 22, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP first with news of 2,000 kids separated from families at US border

It was the answer to the question everyone was asking, about the biggest story in the world. Just how many children had been separated from their parents at the U.S. border as a result of the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance immigration policy?

Colleen Long, newly arrived on her Washington beat, got the hugely important scoop, beating all of her seasoned competitors with that very number: nearly 2,000.

Long had just moved to the nation’s capital after more than a decade covering law enforcement in New York, assigned to the Department of Homeland Security. She went right to work grilling sources – anybody she could find.

After speaking to some two dozen people, Long hit pay dirt. A source called and said, “I'm going to give you a big scoop.”

The information put AP more than an hour ahead with the news that, at that point, nearly 2,000 children had been forcibly removed from their families at the border over a six-week period. Long’s competitors – including reporters who have been covering the beat for years – had to wait for the numbers to be released on a conference call later in the day.

For determined, aggressive reporting that yielded a huge payoff, Long wins the Beat of the Week award.

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July 27, 2018

Best of the States

Private messaging apps used for official business test open records laws

Smart phone private messaging apps are great for keeping secrets. The apps delete messages almost immediately and do not allow them to be saved, copied or captured with a screenshot.

But what about use of the apps by government officials and elected representatives? State Government Team reporter Ryan Foley spotted a trend of public officials increasingly using such apps for official business. It’s a trend that alarms advocates for open government, who say it undermines state laws designed to ensure transparency and access to records.

Foley’s research was based in large part on use of a new legislative tracking tool called the Sunshine Hub that was developed by AP Data Team members Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen. The tool allowed Foley to see whether bills addressing the trend were being introduced in state legislatures across the country. And indeed they were.

The resulting story won play on more than two dozen front pages and prompted several editorials, including one in The Columbus Dispatch warning that officials’ use of message-vanishing apps was the same as destroying public records.

For their efforts in exposing a potentially dangerous anti-transparency trend among government officials, and developing a unique tool to track it, Foley, Tumgoren and Rasmussen win the Best of the States award.

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July 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork delivers standout AP coverage of July 4 mass shooting

mobilized on July Fourth to deliver fast, multiformat coverage of the mass shooting at a parade in Highland Park, Illinois, that ultimately resulted in seven deaths and dozens wounded. Local and regional staffers responded quickly with all-formats coverage in the Chicago suburb while colleagues across the U.S. and into Mexico stepped in to assist with reporting, writing and editing.Monday’s efforts laid the groundwork for coverage in the days that followed, including more breaking news updates, victim profiles, a narrative on how the events unfolded, explainers, an investigative piece on how the suspect was able to get weapons despite Illinois’ red flag law and more.The mainbar story trended near the top on AP platforms for much of the week and made the front page of newspapers across the country.Read more

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June 02, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

As Olympics loom, violence flares in Rio's slums, even those termed ‘pacified’

Ahead of the Olympics, an AP team in Rio wanted a close look at the city's slums, which have long been plagued with violence, to learn whether high-profile community policing programs are working in areas deemed `pacified.' Braving gunfire in what is considered a no-go area for reporters, AP produced up-close, all-formats coverage showing deadly violence continues to flare.

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June 25, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years in the making, AP’s ‘AWOL Weapons’ investigation prompts immediate Pentagon reaction

Ten years ago, Kristin M. Hall noticed several cases in which U.S. troops stole military guns and sold them to the public. Hall, a military beat reporter at the time, then fired off the first of many Freedom of Information Act requests. The Army, however, refused to release any records and the story could easily have ended there, with Hall moving on to become a Nashville-based entertainment video journalist focused on country music. Yet, she kept at it.

Last week, Hall’s decade-long journey — and the work of a host of others on the global investigations, data and immersive storytelling teams — paid off in “AWOL Weapons,” a multilayered, visually rich project revealing that at least 1,900 military weapons — from handguns to rocket launchers — had been either lost or stolen during the 2010s, with some used in street violence in America.

Two days after publication, the Pentagon’s top general and the Army each said they would seek systematic fixes for the missing weapon problem, and through a spokesman, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called AP’s investigation “another example of the free press shining a light on the important subjects we need to get right.”

With deep reporting and a riveting digital presentation, the multistory package saw outstanding customer use and reader engagement.

For remarkable persistence that revealed a problem the military wanted to keep quiet, generating immediate prospects for reform, Hall receives special distinction alongside colleagues Justin Pritchard, James LaPorta, Justin Myers and Jeannie Ohm as winners of AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 13, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive visuals, reporting distinguish Vegas shooting coverage

It was just one of the many mysteries surrounding the Las Vegas concert shooting: How did the gunman, perched up on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort, fire off as many as 90 rounds onto thousands of concert-goers in just 10 seconds, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds?

Reporters Sadie Gurman and Mike Balsamo found the answer. Through sourcework, they learned that Stephen Paddock was able to carry out his assault in moments because he had used two “bump stocks,” devices that allow a semi-automatic rifle to repeatedly fire like a machine gun.

The scoop was part of an impressive week of coverage by staff in the Las Vegas bureau and across the AP that also included photographer John Locher’s dramatic images of police screaming for people to take cover as the gunman sprayed the crowd with bullets.

For their work in bringing critical details and images of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Gurman, Balsamo and Locher win this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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Oct. 12, 2018

Best of the States

Staffers respond with multiformat report after limo crash kills 20

The short item that moved on the Associated Press’ New York state wire Saturday night about a two-car crash involving a limousine in the upstate town of Schoharie was hardly remarkable. It included the line: “State police said only that the crash happened just before 2 p.m. ... and caused “multiple fatalities.”

Then came the shocking update from the State Police the next morning: 20 people were killed in the crash, making it the deadliest traffic incident in the United States in more than a decade.

That triggered a coordinated multiformat response that leveraged the AP's resources in New York State and beyond, leading all coverage of the tragedy.

For outstanding breaking news work that lived up to the highest standards of the AP, Michael Hill, David Klepper, Hans Pennink, Bob Salsberg and Deepti Hajela win this week's Best of the States award.

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March 26, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sensitive reporting from Greece tells harrowing story of migrant father charged in son’s shipwreck death

Among the human tragedies stemming from irregular migration, an Afghan boy’s drowning leapt out at Athens-based bureau chief Elena Becatoros when Greek authorities took the unprecedented step of charging his father with child endangerment, for embarking on the perilous journey from Turkey to Greece with his son. 

Led by Becatoros, the AP’s all-formats team in Athens tracked down the father, then spent weeks using formidable people skills and patience to gently persuade the grieving man to recount how his 5-year-old son slipped from his arms and drowned when the boat carrying migrants smashed against rocks and broke in two. The journalists also overcame the father’s initial refusal to appear in photos or on video, while another survivor added depth and detail too painful for the father to describe.

For their dogged pursuit and sensitive telling of this heart-wrenching story that puts human faces to the grim statistics on migration, the team of Becatoros, senior producer Theodora Tongas, video journalist Srdjan Nedeljkovic, freelancer Michalis Svarnias, chief photographer Thanassis Stavrakis and newsperson Derek Gatopoulos wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Sept. 22, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cuba mystery deepens: AP first with details of 'health attacks' against US diplomats

When news first broke in early August about mysterious incidents involving U.S. diplomats in Cuba, the AP was all over the story, beating the competition to several key early details. These included talk among officials about a possible “sonic attack” and suspicions that ranged from Cuban culpability to possible intervention by an outside culprit like Russia.

But so many questions were left unanswered. And with the FBI deep into one of the most perplexing investigations in modern diplomatic history, U.S. officials in the State Department, White House and elsewhere were saying as little as possible about what they were learning.

That’s when the Washington bureau put together a multi-beat team of reporters to try to put the pieces together. Their comprehensive work wins Beat of the Week.

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