July 14, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Follow-up reporting after Texas mass shooting reveals long-standing complaints about police response

When a Texas sheriff’s story about a mass shooting didn’t add up, Dallas-based reporter Jake Bleiberg dug in.  

During the four-day search for a man accused of fatally shooting five of his neighbors in April, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told a crush of reporters that his deputies got to the scene in 11 minutes, but the suspect had vanished. Bleiberg was among the Texas reporters covering the shooting who heard from area residents that deputies rarely responded to calls faster than 30 minutes. As he worked the phone to get a fuller picture, Bleiberg connected with a source who provided him with the report of a police consultant who county officials hired to examine the sheriff’s office. Bleiberg quickly authenticated the document and headed down to the rural corner of East Texas to continue reporting along with video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi and freelance photographer Michael Wyke.  

They conducted more than 20 interviews with current and former deputies, county officials and residents. Bleiberg successfully pressed for the release of public records related to the shooting and obtained revealing court documents and evidence gathered in a whistleblower lawsuit against the sheriff. The reporting revealed that the latest inaccuracies were part of years’ worth of accusations against the sheriff, including neglecting basic police work, evidence of the improper seizure of tens of thousands of dollars of property, ignoring previous concerns over the alleged shooter, and his deputies failing to follow up on reports of 4,000 crimes — including sexual and child abuse.  

For a tireless effort to reveal years of corruption accusations and dysfunction previously unknown outside of the local area, Jake Bleiberg earns Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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June 02, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cross-format team delivers a comprehensive, data-driven project on Black Americans’ experiences with health disparities

National investigative race writer Kat Stafford had wanted to create a project about lifelong health disparities Black people face for quite some time. Taking inspiration from her reporting about the toll COVID-19 exacted upon Black Americans, she sharpened her idea and embarked on reporting a five-part series.     

Driven by data and the experiences of several families, individuals and communities across five states and life stages, “From Birth to Death” examines five health crises: infant and maternal health, childhood asthma, mental health, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s disease.       

Stafford, who is based in Detroit, teamed up with video journalist Noreen Nasir and photojournalist Maye-E Wong, both of New York, for the comprehensive project that captures the health journey of Black people in America over a lifetime. The trio — along with national education writer Annie Ma, data journalist Angeliki Kastanis, illustrator Peter Hamlin, project site creator Linda Gorman, and graphics journalist Kevin Vineys — told the stories in a compelling and human way using an innovative presentation. They centered the project around the often-underrepresented voices and perspectives of Black Americans — and not just the main characters, but also Black medical experts, researchers and historians. The families featured said they feel seen and heard for the first time.   

In addition, an extensive social promotion plan created by Ed Medeles, Elise Ryan and Almaz Abedje enticed readers to delve into the project.

For an innovative series that gives a fuller picture of the health disparities Black people experience in a way that resonates with a broader audience, this team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.   

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March 31, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years of source work in Texas leads to power narrative enterprise story

Jake Bleiberg spent years reporting on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, including an investigation in September into the dropped cases. That story caught the attention of Irma Reyes, a South Texas mother, who reached out to Bleiberg to say that something similar was probably about to happen in the cases of two men charged with sex trafficking her daughter. Bleiberg checked sources and records and then headed to court, where he and Eric Gay witnessed Reyes’s worst fears come to pass.    

The resulting story became the most engaged story of the week on APNews. It also received extensive play across Texas and national media outlets, and won praise from elected officials critical of Paxton, as well as from prosecutors, and even a lawyer for one of the men accused in the case.    

For their compelling all-formats narrative story that put a human face on the dysfunction in Texas that led prosecutors to drop human trafficking and child sexual abuse cases, writer Jake Bleiberg, photographer Eric Gay and video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi are the first winners of this week’s Best of the Week award. 

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Oct. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Standout coverage of mass shooting at rural Thailand day care center

coordinated with a cast of colleagues from Southeast Asia to Australia to London, delivering coverage impressive for its speed and scope after Thailand’s deadliest mass shooting — 36 people dead, most of them children, at a day care center in one of the county’s most remote areas. The ex-police officer responsible also killed his wife and child, and then killed himself.Read more

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Feb. 24, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team documents growth of landmines’ hidden toll in Myanmar

Months of reporting by Victoria Milko, David Rising and a colleague in Myanmar led to the most authoritative look yet at the problem of landmines in the country.

Their story recounted how a boy was maimed and teenagers killed. The team was also able to get military defectors and others in the country to share with AP how civilians are used as human shields and how groups reuse mines they claim to have cleared. The story demonstrates that this will be an issue in the country for years to come.

For their work documenting the horror of landmines in one of the world’s most isolated countries, we are honored to award Milko, our AP colleague in Myanmar and Rising this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 03, 2023

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Local church helps Norwegian Arctic mining community evolve amid climate-change impact

provided an intimate and visually captivating portrait of the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard as its residents persevered through the round-the-clock polar night.

The AP team established a close rapport with the pastor in the community, joined the church’s children’s choir on a trip to a Russian/Ukrainian village, and spent a day at a century-old coal mine threatened with closure in two years. The trip had extra challenges for photo and video because it took place in mid-winter. For Cole, it meant developing a special sensitivity for light – from the glow of the aurora to the beam of a headlamp. Read more.

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Dec. 23, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sources give AP tech team a beat on a critical Twitter story

Matt O'Brien and Barbara Ortutay anticipated that Elon Musk might disband Twitter's Trust and Safety Council, a group of external advisors who helped the platform with complicated content moderation -- and they broke the story as a result.

O'Brien, based in Providence, and New York-based Ortutay concluded after billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion that the trust council’s future was in doubt.

They kept contact with members of the group, which included around 100 independent civil, human rights and other organizations, and noted the date when the council was next scheduled to meet.

When the council finally was disbanded via email, their multiple sources reached out with a copy, and AP was first with the story.

For foresight and source work that made the scoop possible, O’Brien and Ortutay are Best of the Week – 1st Winner.

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Nov. 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive AP analysis reveals pandemic learning setbacks

used AP’s exclusive access to the first district-by-district breakdown of pandemic test scores to report on massive learning setbacks during the pandemic.The pair, both members of AP’s Education team, previewed their analysis for AP members who could tailor their stories for local and statewide audiences — it was precisely that reach into local newsrooms around the U.S. that led researchers to share their data exclusively with AP.Lurye’s analysis required tremendous speed and accuracy, as data was delayed or updated on deadline. And Toness incisively summarized the national implications of the data: the scope of the pandemic’s disruption in kids’ lives, from the shortcomings of online learning to the trauma many American kids lived through, especially poor children.Read more

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Nov. 04, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

At the edge of the world, AP reports on resilient, defiant Alaska Native islanders facing climate change

More than 600 Inupiat Natives live in the village of Shishmaref, just a few miles from the Arctic Circle, watching climate change slowly shrink their small Alaskan island home. In early October, reporter Luis Andres Henao, video journalist Jessie Wardarski and photographer Jae Hong visited the village to document how the warming world inexorably threatens their way of life.

With advance outreach, and tactful overtures after their arrival, the journalists earned the trust of residents and civic leaders who have sometimes been wary of visitors. The ultimate result: a moving tribute to the villagers’ resilience and community spirit, rendered in striking visuals and poignant, insightful text.

The package — the first major look at how Shishmaref is determined to stay put as long as possible — earned prominent online display by major news outlets in the U.S. and abroad, including Spanish and French translations.

For an all-formats project vividly evoking the tenacity of a Native village threatened by climate change, the team of Henao, Wardarski and Hong is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Nov. 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Only on AP: No US-born Black players in the World Series

noticed at the 2005 World Series that the Houston Astros fielded a team without any U.S.-born Black players, prompting the AP baseball writer to wonder when he would cover a World Series without such a player on either team. The answer: 2022.Leaning on his previous reporting, reaching out to sources and working closely with Race and Ethnicity reporter Aaron Morrison for precise language about Black identity in baseball clubhouses, Walker and AP were alone in reporting that this year’s Astros-Phillies Fall Classic would be the first since 1950 without any U.S.-born Black players.In a World Series full of big names and rich storylines, Walker’s piece was undoubtedly the buzz of baseball in the days before Game 1. It was the top Google result for searches of “World Series,” “MLB” and “baseball” for several days, and it was cited widely even outside the sports world, by NPR, CNN and others.Read more

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Oct. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Joint reporting reveals hidden suspensions of students with disablities

set out to document ways students with disabilities are excluded from the classroom — and from learning. Their reporting led to advocates who described working with families whose children were essentially kept out of school, with none of the records that come with formal suspensions. The families claimed their schools couldn’t or wouldn’t accommodate their students’ disabilities — a violation of federal law — and said the practice had gotten worse during the pandemic.Ma, race and ethnicity reporter in Washington, partnered with Kolodner, of the nonprofit Hechinger Report, who had been pursuing the same topic. Together, they interviewed 20 families in 10 states, and a top Department of Education official. Read more

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Oct. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Story of town employee who reduced fluoride in water goes national

teamed up on a story examining the controversy over a Vermont town employee who secretively reduced the fluoride in the town’s water supply for years.Rathke reported from the town’s water commission meeting and the trio fleshed out the story with background and context on the health benefits of fluoride and some of the persistent misinformation around it.The final story — among the most-viewed on AP News last week — used the small-town flare-up to tap into the larger interest in fluoride and offered yet another example of how misinformation is impacting even at a local level. It was also a textbook example of elevating a local story to one of interest nationally.Read more

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