April 24, 2020

Best of the States

The cost of Trump environmental rollbacks: Health woes hit minority communities hardest

With African American and Hispanic communities in the Houston region already suffering higher rates of asthma and other diseases than the nation at large, AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer decided to focus on the area for a story on ordinary Americans living through the Trump administration’s public health and environmental rollbacks. 

The administration was cutting back on rules limiting and monitoring harmful industrial pollutants, slashing enforcement and weakening an industrial-disaster rule.

Knickmeyer, a Washington-based environmental issues reporter, spent months searching out Houston residents, telling their stories along with deep reporting on the regulatory actions and their consequences.

Former EPA Director Gina McCarthy was among many retweeting the story, calling it a “must read” article.

For a rich, insightful look at the consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks on vulnerable communities, Knickmeyer wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 12, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

With immigration leading the news cycle, AP team scores three impressive scoops

Homeland Security reporter Colleen Long and White House reporter Jill Colvin have repeatedly put the AP ahead on immigration coverage, but they outdid themselves during an intensely competitive week on the topic.

With President Donald Trump stepping up his threats to shut down the border amid a record surge of migrant families coming to the country, the pair dove into their source reporting, scoring three major scoops by the end of the week:

– Long and Colvin were first to report that Trump was contemplating naming a “border czar” to oversee immigration issues at the border. – They broke the news that the White House had withdrawn the nomination of its pick to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, one day before he was scheduled to travel to the border with Trump. The scoop was so far ahead, and the news so perplexing, some in the Trump administration assumed it was a mistake. – A few days later, they delivered a smart piece pulling together the various actions surrounding Trump’s border troubles, suggesting that more personnel shakeups were expected. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned the next day.

The stories all received wide play by major outlets, and the weekender on Trump’s growing problem on the border scored in newspapers around the country, landing on the front page of Sunday papers in 20 states.

For their outstanding work to break multiple stories on a subject that dominated the news cycle, Long and Colvin win AP’s Best of the Week.

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Jan. 15, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Riot in America: Compelling and courageous coverage of the insurrection at the US Capitol

The AP team arriving on Capitol Hill expected to cover history on Jan. 6: an unprecedented challenge from Republicans lawmakers to the outcome of the election. Within hours, however, those staffers found themselves covering an insurrectionist mob storming the U.S. Capitol.

As angry supporters of President Donald Trump descended on Capitol Hill, confronting police, breaking down barricades and smashing through windows, AP journalists working in all formats documented the chaotic scenes inside and outside the Capitol.

Despite orders to evacuate, trashed equipment and a vicious attack on one of our staffers, the team on the ground kept words and images moving throughout the day, highlighted by stunning visuals. The work continued into the early hours of the next morning, when Congress finally the certified election results.

For their riveting real-time coverage as U.S. history unfolded, the courageous and dedicated staff on Capitol Hill earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 05, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Innovative AP team sheds light on methane ‘super emitters’ — invisible and virtually unregulated

It’s difficult to write a compelling story about a highly technical subject, harder still to produce a rich visual package on a literally invisible threat — but this all-formats AP team rose to the challenge, delivering an engaging package on “super emitters” of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

The journalists took the coordinates of 533 known sites along the Texas-New Mexico border and painstakingly cross-referenced them with public documents to piece together the corporations most likely responsible. And because methane is invisible, AP used a specialized infrared camera to make mesmerizing still and video images of the gas spewing into the sky.

The package, as distinctive as it is alarming, received heavy play and readership, and had impact: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was launching an enforcement action.

For smart, innovative journalism, and above all teamwork, Michael Biesecker, Helen Wieffering, David Goldman, Mike Pesoli and Dario Lopez earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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May 06, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation reveals traumatic backlog of Mississippi autopsies

investigated Mississippi’s massive autopsy backlog for more than a year, gathering new data and personal stories revealing the terrible cost of the backlog which has traumatized families and jeopardized investigations.The state’s public officials had talked previously about understaffing in the medical examiner’s office, but Willingham’s reporting went much further, revealing a system long operating outside of accepted national standards for death investigations. She found that coroners were waiting years — and in some cases more than a decade — for autopsy reports. District attorneys and coroners who trusted Willingham told her about specific cases and connected her to families who told deeply personal accounts of waiting a year or more for results on loved ones.Read more

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Oct. 13, 2017

Best of the States

Only on AP: Family – and journalist – rewarded with answers in 40-year-old cold case

Resolving cold cases can be thankless work for law enforcement – and an endless emotional journey for the families affected. Tamara Lush used the lens of one Florida cold case, and the relatives of a long-missing woman, to give life to the backlog of such cases nationwide.

After the publication of her first big takeout on an exhumation in a cold case, Lush turned her attention to two sisters who played just a small role in that piece. Lush met with the family numerous times – she was with them every step of the way through the drawn-out process of DNA tests, results, periods of silence from police, the day they finally got some answers about their missing family member, and the moment they shared that news with the woman's mother. The narrative story, teeming with emotion and details, can't be matched by any competitor.

For her Only on AP story that gave a face to the national backlog of cold cases, Lush wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 21, 2017

Best of the States

AP investigation reveals federal judge impaired by alcoholism

Baton Rouge-based reporter Michael Kunzelman was reporting on the police killing of a black man outside a convenience store last summer when a source called to encourage him to look into a case in front of a federal judge that had been mysteriously reassigned. It wasn’t the easiest time to be chasing down tips: the Alton Sterling shooting was swiftly followed by the killings of three law enforcement officials and then catastrophic flooding in Louisiana’s capital.

But Kunzelman didn’t forget about it.

When he was free, he began an investigation into the performance of U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi, work that would take months and aggressive use of public records. It culminated with the discovery last week she’d been ordered to seek treatment for alcoholism so severe that a colleague believed she couldn’t take care of herself. For his work Kunzelman wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 24, 2018

Best of the States

“I just don't want to be forgotten”: Student starts a new school year at Stoneman Douglas

Charlie Shebes had too much anxiety to sleep the night before the first day of his junior year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the Parkland, Florida, school where 17 people were shot to death in February.

But Charlie was willing to share his morning routine with AP thanks to the relationship video journalist Josh Replogle had cultivated with students, starting nearly six months earlier. Replogle and his Miami colleague, photographer Wilfredo Lee, were there as Shebes rubbed his eyes, hugged his mother goodbye and brooded in the car before he skateboarded to class.

The short but poignant photo essay, along with text and an accompanying video piece, had an emotional impact, and the package received prominent play in Florida outlets, as well as nationally and even on some websites overseas.

For developing a compelling package from the unique perspective of a student returning to the scene of one the country's worst school shootings, Josh Replogle and Wilfredo Lee win this week's Best of the States award.

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Aug. 06, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deep reporting on a failed KKK murder plot reveals white supremacists working in Florida prison

Some stories just stick with a journalist. For AP investigative reporter Jason Dearen, a sparse 2015 announcement — three currrent or former Florida prison guards, identified by the FBI as Ku Klux Klansmen, had been arrested for plotting a former inmate’s murder — sparked a yearslong reporting effort.

Dearen’s big break came last summer when trial transcripts revealed an FBI informant was the star witness against the KKK members, his secret recordings providing a rare, detailed look at the inner workings of the klan cell and the domestic terrorism probe. Dearen and visual journalist David Goldman retraced the klansmen’s steps through Palatka, Florida, then producers Marshall Ritzel, Samantha Shotzbarger and Peter Hamlin stepped in to create a riveting online presentation.

The resulting all-formats package had immediate impact, with Florida papers featuring it on home pages and front pages, and prompting calls for investigations into white supremacy among prison workers. The story found 360,000 readers on AP News and kept them there for an average of more than five minutes — longer than any other AP story in memory.

For dogged reporting and an immersive all-formats narrative that exposes a salient, timely issue, Dearan, Goldman, Ritzel, Shotzbarger and Hamlin win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 04, 2021

Best of the States

Multiformat team delivers expansive AP coverage during centennial of Tulsa Race Massacre

With the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre months away, text and visual journalists from AP’s Race and Ethnicity, Central Region and Enterprise teams embarked on a plan to dig deeper into the story of the atrocity, well beyond just covering the centennial events.

The team started arriving in Tulsa weeks ahead of the anniversary to explore the city and meet descendants of massacre survivors, who opened up about the horrific event and how it continues to impact their families and the community. Among those they met was the family of Ernestine Alpha Gibbs, who survived the massacre and died 18 years ago at age 100.

Their efforts resulted in a comprehensive package of enterprise stories, from the lost wealth and racial inequality that Black Tulsans have endured, to the descendants of Black victims preparing to resume a search for mass graves, to an examination of how history books and law enforcement have depicted the massacre, and much more. 

The coverage was not without breaking news. In addition to a visit by President Joe Biden, AP learned that the weekend’s headline event was canceled because of a disagreement over payments to three survivors for their appearance at the event. 

For sweeping enterprise and spot coverage that raises awareness of this grim milestone in American race relations, this multiformat team earns AP’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sources: Anger, anxiety circulating in White House COVID zone

leveraged longstanding professional relationships to reveal fear and anger rampant among household workers and Secret Service agents working in the coronavirus hot zone of the White House.The story was challenging to report because personnel knew their jobs could be in jeopardy, but the AP team reached out to a broad range of sources and contacts to piece together a compelling story about the anxiety and antagonism pulsing through the White House. While competitors took smaller bites of the apple, the AP story wove together rich details about the workers’ worries and the lack of guidance from White House officials, as well as historical context stretching back to the flu pandemic of 1918.The morning after the story ran, former first lady Michelle Obama posted a tweet seemingly tailored to AP’s piece, voicing support for those working in the White House. And days later the story still had sky-high reader engagement. https://bit.ly/314XRt6

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May 08, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exclusive reveals ex-Green Beret’s failed Venezuelan coup plot

In a gripping exclusive that reads like the plot of a Hollywood film, Latin America correspondent Josh Goodman revealed the failed plot to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro by a ragtag group of 300 volunteers led by a former U.S. Green Beret. The ill-conceived plan called for the group to invade Venezuela from Colombia and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in Maduro’s arrest.

The plot was uncovered and dismantled with barely a whisper, but a cryptic tip to the well-sourced Goodman planted the seed of the story. Over the next several months he reviewed documents and interviewed more than 30 Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters with knowledge of the plot, piecing together the narrative with a strong assist from investigative researcher Randy Herschaft.

Goodman’s story broke and reaction was strong: International media struggled to catch up and authorities in the U.S. and Colombia launched investigations. Senate Democrats have sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding answers.

For his impressive scoop on the failed coup that has been dubbed “The Bay of Piglets,” Goodman and Herschaft win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 24, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Inside the first major outbreak at an ICE detention center

The reason the warden at a large San Diego detention center gave for not wearing masks amid the pandemic was astonishing – and likely helped fuel a large outbreak.

“Well, you can’t wear the mask because we don’t want to scare the employees and we don’t want to scare the inmates and detainees,” a guard recalled being told.

That’s just the lead of the story by AP’s Elliot Spagat, who landed the first detailed interviews with employees and detainees about the situation at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. Spagat also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and government data to provide the most complete account yet of the first major outbreak at a U.S. immigration facility.

For giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the factors that surely contributed to the virus outbreak, and for holding the warden and other officials accountable, Spagat wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Enterprising reporters reveal another China far from Olympic bubble

delivered two compelling stories far from the hermetically sealed and officially sanctioned Olympic bubble, focusing on marginalized people in Chinese society and official efforts to suppress unflattering media.Resourceful reporting by Kang and McNeil revealed the success of Chinese government efforts to subdue unrest in Tibet, the site of violent protests during the 2008 Summer Games hosted by China.And Wu reported the story of a chained woman 500 miles from Beijing who was shown in a viral video with a chain around her neck, her circumstances unclear. Chinese authorities tried to block the video but Wu revealed another side of China, where creative netizens stay one step ahead of the censors to keep injustices from obscurity.AP’s Tibet story was unmatched in any format. Other Chinese and foreign outlets covered the chained woman story, but not with the depth and detail of AP. Read more

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May 27, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sweeping, sensitive coverage in aftermath of Buffalo shooting

led AP’s comprehensive all-formats coverage in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. In the week that followed the racist attack, the team on the ground captured the sorrow and outrage of the city’s Black community, even as they reported on court appearances and press briefings.The team delivered sensitive and compelling enterprise pieces, including a chronicle of the victims’ last day, personal stories of grief and anger, how residents might find healing, and what the loss of the area’s only supermarket means to the fabric of the community.That work by the Buffalo team was complemented by a sweeping array of insightful stories from AP journalists around the country.Read more

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

States, feds pressured to reveal nursing home outbreaks

used the power of the AP to highlight an almost unfathomable fact – the federal government and many states have not publicly tracked coronavirus infections and deaths in individual nursing homes – and their story was followed very quickly by policy changes. A day after their story appeared, New York announced it would indeed release a list of individual nursing homes and how many deaths each one had. And less than a week later, the federal government announced it would begin the same process.https://bit.ly/2VRcP2Khttps://bit.ly/2yAhgaf

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Nov. 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Dogged reporting, spycraft expose Texas attorney general scandal

used source work, non-public documents and a technique borrowed from spycraft to connect recent criminal allegations against the Texas attorney general to the conservative Republican’s previously unreported extramarital affair.In late September, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s top deputies accused him of criminally abusing his office to help a wealthy donor. Bleiberg spent weeks building sources in his aggressive pursuit of answers to what was behind these explosive, but unspecified, allegations.Those efforts paid off last week when Bleiberg was able to obtain a private transcript of real estate developer Nate Paul acknowledging that the attorney general recommended he hire a woman whom Paxton was rumored to have had an affair with. The sensitive document was picked up at a “dead drop” – a prearranged drop spot – by Austin reporter Paul Weber.Bleiberg then worked sources he’d developed while breaking earlier stories to identify people whom the attorney general may have told about his affair. His relentless outreach ultimately turned up two people with firsthand accounts of Paxton acknowledging the affair in 2018.The reporting allowed AP to draw back the curtain on one of America’s most prominent conservative legal crusaders and break major news on a highly competitive story. It revealed a relationship that’s almost certainly at the center of an ongoing federal public corruption probe. https://bit.ly/2UnuZc1

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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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May 17, 2018

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Texas biker accused of killing man who was shot by police

In the three years since the deadliest biker shooting in U.S. history, Fort Worth correspondent Emily Schmall has meticulously gathered documents, reports and court records to put together a spreadsheet that integrates autopsy reports, firearms analyses and ballistics evidence, including the names and serial numbers of the weapons, to whom they were traced, where they were recovered from and whether they were linked to a death or injury.

Her work paid off last week when prosecutors handed down the first murder charges in the case. Schmall was able to exclusively report that prosecutors had charged one of the bikers for murdering a man who was shot twice by a SWAT officer.

For persistent, investigative reporting that exclusively illuminated potential problems with a shifting strategy in a closely-watched case, Schmall wins this week’s Best of the States.

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July 08, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Unserved 1955 arrest warrant discovered for woman at center of Emmett Till case

“And I do not say this lightly: Holy shit.” That, from producer and Black List founder Franklin Leonard, sums up the collective reaction to the scoop by AP’s Jay Reeves and Emily Wagster Pettus: Searchers in Mississippi had discovered the nearly 70-year-old unserved warrant for the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman whose unproven accusation against Emmett Till led to the Black teenager’s lynching, a horror that galvanized the civil rights movement.

Reeves had reported previously that relatives and activists were still seeking the long-lost warrant, and years of source work paid off with a tip: The document had been found in the basement of a Mississippi courthouse. He confirmed it and teamed up with Wagster Pettus, contacting law enforcement officials and legal experts on what the discovery means to the case, which had been considered closed.

The resulting story made waves, scoring heavy play with customers and on AP platforms.For breaking news on one of the country’s most notorious civil rights cases, Reeves and Wagster Pettus share this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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