May 20, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP documents North Dakota lawmaker’s taxpayer-funded travel

scooped North Dakota media by revealing just how extensively — and expensively — a state senator had traveled on the taxpayer’s dime.MacPherson obtained documents showing that Republican Sen. Ray Holmberg, who recently announced he would end his 46-year-career following a report that he had traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges, had run up more than 14 times the average travel expenses for the state’s lawmakers over the past decade, on trips that included China, Puerto Rico and New Orleans.Read more

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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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May 07, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Beat reporting uncovers U.S. Catholic bishops’ plan to confront Biden

reported exclusively that a group of U.S. Catholic bishops was working to pressure President Joe Biden to stop taking Communion due to his public advocacy for abortion rights.The story came together after Crary, New York-based national writer, decided to update his reporting on the uneasy relationship between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Biden, only the second Catholic president and the first to publicly support abortion rights in contradiction of church teaching. Early on in his reporting, Crary learned that the USCCB’s doctrine committee had been assigned to prepare a document addressing Biden. Using his contacts, Crary was able to arrange interviews with two archbishops, who made clear for the first time their goal to publicly confront Biden and urge that he refrain from receiving Communion. https://bit.ly/3elE27U

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May 27, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In-depth look at resisters committed to abortion access

set out to explore the abortion rights resistance — dedicated advocates for abortion access who are grappling with what is expected to be a wave of women seeking abortions as the U.S. Supreme Court takes aim at Roe v. Wade and states tighten restrictions, pushing pregnant people farther from home — some hundreds of miles away.After interviewing more than a dozen people, the pair reported for all-formats on a woman with a Midwest coalition providing “practical support” for women seeking abortions. Galofaro and Irvine spent days on her Missouri farm, shadowing Alison Dreith as she fielded calls on a hotline used by women desperate for help.And a companion story revealed the deeply religious employees of an Alabama abortion clinic who have no trouble reconciling their work with their religion, breaking preconceptions about the religious divide over abortion.Both stories won wide use and high reader engagement, prompting praise for balanced, nuanced coverage.Read more

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May 06, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Algorithm screening for child neglect raises bias concerns

teamed up on an exclusive package that revealed concerns over racial disparity in an algorithm used by one child welfare agency to help decide if a family should be investigated by child protective services.Long-term source work allowed the reporters to obtain research on the impact of the tool used to support social workers in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, who make split-second decisions meant to protect children from neglect. The research showed the algorithm flagging a disproportionate number of Black children for a “mandatory” neglect investigation when compared with white children, and that social workers disagreed with the risk scores the tool produced about one-third of the time.Read more

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March 18, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Liberal US cities change course, clearing homeless camps

Sara Cline documented how liberal cities from Seattle to Austin, Texas, to New York, are taking a far more aggressive approach in dealing with homelessness as they emerge from the pandemic.Cities that for years tolerated tent encampments in public parks and public spaces are responding to fed-up business owners and residents who say the levels of street disorder are too high. But people who work with the unhoused say newly elected mayors are targeting a vulnerable population to score political points, rather than dealing with the underlying issues of addiction and housing affordability.Cline, a Portland, Oregon-based Report For America AP fellow, worked with staff photographers Ted Warren in Seattle and Rich Pedroncelli in Sacramento, California, to document the increased camp sweeps and to highlight the issues of people living on the street. Her story was one of only two non-Ukraine stories in AP’s top 10 for reader engagement over the weekend. Read more

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March 30, 2018

Best of the States

Multi-format team dominates coverage of Austin serial bombing

Three previous bombings had put Austin on edge for weeks, triggering a manhunt involving 500-plus federal agents and prompting residents to flood 911 operators with calls about suspicious-looking packages. Reporters soon inundated Texas’ capital.

When emergency personnel reported another explosion late on a Sunday night, Austin correspondent Will Weissert quickly called sources and reported that the blast was a bomb. Newsman Paul J. Weber rushed to the scene and soon confirmed the same bomber had struck a fourth time.

In the days that followed, Weber and Houston video journalist John Mone drove continuous coverage across all formats as another bomb exploded inside a FedEx processing center, and Weber broke the news that authorities were predicting an imminent arrest. As authorities closed in, the suspected bomber blew himself up around 2 a.m. the following day. A coordinated effort by Weissert, Weber and Mone, joined by Austin newsman Jim Vertuno, San Antonio photographer Eric Gay, Fort Worth correspondent Emily Schmall and Iowa City's Ryan J. Foley continued to break news and dominate play.

Throughout the week, AP also produced nuanced, multi-platform reporting on how police track cell phones, shipping facilities screen packages and how the bombings shook Austin’s chill attitude.

For their tireless and aggressive efforts to break news by mining sources, searching records and knocking on countless doors, journalists Will Weissert, Jim Vertuno, Paul Weber, Eric Gay, John L. Mone, Emily Schmall and Ryan Foley share this week’s Best of the States.

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June 29, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Kobach sought pardon for VP of a corporate donor

Topeka correspondent John Hanna had been hearing hints for weeks that there might be something in Kris Kobach’s record that could cause trouble for the Kansas secretary of state and candidate for governor.

At first, it was just that: hints. The suggestions were so vague that Hanna set off to review the nationally known Republican’s statements, but Hanna, whose reporting sense is informed by 30 years of statehouse reporting, found nothing.

So he kept digging. Eventually a source suggested there might be something to do with a pardon, and Hanna filed a records request.

The governor’s office released a copy of its file on a pardon request for Ryan Bader, the vice president of TriStar Arms, a firearms importer. Bader had faced an aggravated robbery charge over a 2009 incident but agreed to a plea bargain and received a light sentence. Now he wanted a pardon so that he could buy a gun again and get the licenses needed to take over the family business.

Bader’s attorney for the pardon request? Kobach. The records showed Kobach did not provide a key police affidavit that was later released by the office of GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer – whom Kobach is challenging. But there was more. Campaign finance records showed that TriStar had donated at least $7,000 to Kobach’s campaigns for secretary of state and governor. The company also helped sponsor a fundraiser with Donald Trump Jr.

Hanna’s APNewsBreak was well used, including a post on the homepage of a member that is usually hesitant to showcase work done outside its newsroom. It also became a topic of a gubernatorial debate, with Kobach defending the pardon request.

For smart digging and use of public records that helped drive the news agenda and political conversation, Hanna wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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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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May 17, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Russian hackers posed as Islamic State to harass US military wives

The threat over her phone to Army wife Angela Ricketts was terrifying. “Dear Angela!” it said. “Bloody Valentine’s Day!”

“We know everything about you, your husband and your children,” it continued, claiming that Islamic State militants had penetrated her computer. “We’re much closer than you can even imagine.”

More than three years after Ricketts and four other military wives received this and other alarming messages, AP London-based cybersecurity reporter Raphael Satter unraveled the secret behind it all. Satter drew on a massive hit list of Russian hacking targets, focusing on a group of five women whose names were clustered together on the list. All reported having received death threats from a mysterious group calling itself CyberCaliphate back in 2015.

The threats were not from Middle Eastern terrorists at all, but hackers from the Russian group widely dubbed Fancy Bear – the same gang who later broke into the Democratic Party’s emails and interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

For revealing the latest wrinkle in the Russian hacking story, Satter earns the Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 23, 2016

Best of the States

Deep-sea volcano a hotspot for mysterious life

When the World Conservation Congress came to Honolulu, Correspondent Caleb Jones did what any good AP reporter would. He sized up potential news and obtained releases early, including ones about the Great Elephant Census in Africa and a gorilla subspecies being classified as critically endangered.

But, while planning for an interview with Conservation International CEO Peter Seligman, Jones learned something that would take AP’s coverage to another level – and take him to the bottom of the sea – while other reporters sat through speeches and presentations. Scientists with the conservation group and the University of Hawaii were about to embark on the first-ever submarine exploration of two ancient undersea volcanoes 3,000 feet beneath the Pacific and 100 miles off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.

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Aug. 09, 2019

Best of the States

AP mobilizes cross-formats response to deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio

AP’s U.S. staff has a lot of practice in responding to mass shootings. But two major events in 24 hours tested even the most experienced staff.

They rose to the challenge.

Soon after noon Central time on Saturday, Aug. 3, reports began to surface about an active shooter at an El Paso, Texas, mall. A local news station initially reported that 18 people were shot inside a Walmart – a number which by Monday would rise to 22 dead and two dozen injured.

The quick reaction of AP staff around the country and beyond – in the office, at home and even on vacation – ensured the AP was fast, accurate and leading the way on what would become one of the biggest stories of the year. Text, photo and video staffers converged on El Paso, while colleagues around the country worked sources, contributed to the stories and managed the coverage.

Among the standout reporting was an early interview with a woman who told the heartbreaking story of her sister who died while shielding her 2-month-old son – just a small part of the terrific cross-format continuing coverage.

As the Texas team was just catching its breath, reports of another massacre emerged overnight, this time in Ohio. AP’s initial alert was followed four minutes later by the alert that a shooter killed nine people, including his own sister, before police shot him dead. The East Desk immediately dispatched Ohio staff and others to Dayton.

AP beat competitive agencies with photos and numerous live shots, as well as an incredibly compelling interview with a man who watched his father die in his arms. Elsewhere, many of the same supporting cast already working the El Paso story from afar stepped in on Ohio as well, complementing the coverage on the ground.

For its quick, nimble response, precise reporting and robust, cross-format content on two highly competitive breaking stories, the U.S. staff is recognized with this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 19, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reports on consequences of shrinking US police ranks

spent weeks finding and reporting on real people across the country affected by the trickle-down effects of a shortage of police offers.Instead of focusing solely on the police, whose ranks are thinning because of burnout and other issues, Portland, Oregon-Based Flaccus, working with photographer Mitchelldyer, gave voice to the parents of a cold-case victim whose case was pushed aside because of rising gun homicides.In Philadelphia, Lauer and photographer Rourke showed how complaints have swelled over abandoned cars and other quality-of-life issues in low-income areas. And in Los Angeles, Dazio, video journalist Garcia and photographer Dovarganes found the problem has deeply impacted police homeless outreach.Read more

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March 18, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Aggressive AP coverage as Venezuela releases 1 of 6 US oil executives

A team of AP reporters delivered two straight days of deeply reported, distinctive and aggressive coverage on the release by Venezuela of two American detainees, including one of the group of oil executives known as the Citgo 6 — an internationally competitive story.AP’s coverage depended on cross-border coordination between Goodman in Miami, Garcia Cano in Caracas and Tucker in Washington, all leaning on sources and hustling to track fast-moving developments in Venezuela. Read more

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May 20, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Amid controversy, Black Lives co-founder gives rare interview

used years of source building and a reputation for fair and accurate reporting to land an interview with Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who acknowledged that she and the organization had struggled to handle their sudden prominence — and $90 million in donations — in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, though she denied allegations of improprieties.Cullors had not given any interview of this sort, though BLM’s purchase of a $6 million LA compound in 2020 has drawn scrutiny and heavy criticism. Morrison’s interview was cited widely and picked up by outlets across the spectrum.Read more

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