Nov. 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP breaks news on Justice Department election investigations

both delivered scoops on the U.S. Department of Justice and election investigations.Balsamo kept hearing rumors of the DOJ looking into election cases, but he knew there were rules prohibiting such investigations during an ongoing election. He kept asking until a source revealed a memo Attorney General William Barr had sent to prosecutors nationwide authorizing federal prosecutors across the U.S. to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the election is certified, despite the fact there was no evidence of widespread fraud giving prosecutors the ability to go around the longstanding policy. The scoop reverberated nationwide, especially as concerns grew over Trump’s ability to use the levers of government to hang on to power. The story was widely used, with Politico, Axios and NBC citing AP in their coverage of Barr’s memo. AP’s alert and a full story were on the wire more than 40 minutes before other major news organizations obtained a copy of the memo.Meanwhile, Las Vegas reporter Michelle Price was digging into how the DOJ was pursuing allegations from the Trump campaign that voters may have cast improper ballots in Nevada. Price and Balsamo teamed up with voting reporter Anthony Izaguirre to report out two ongoing investigations, and how they may not hold up to scrutiny. Price used her contacts to get exclusive first-person accounts from U.S. military members who thought they’d been wrongly accused of fraud for voting by mail from out of state by Nevada authorities and DOJ officials.https://bit.ly/2Kqu09ehttps://bit.ly/3lOlxKR

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP breaks news on the opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma, with focus on victims

AP reporters from three different teams broke distinctive, significant stories on the continuing drug overdose crisis in the U.S., which has been overshadowed this year by the coronavirus pandemic:

— A state-level report showing that overdose deaths are on pace to reach an all-time high this year, and that overdoses increased after the virus began spreading in the U.S.— An accountability story on President Donald Trump’s handling of the opioid crisis, and how the issue has been overlooked in the presidential race.— A major scoop on a settlement between the federal government and Purdue Pharma, complete with details of criminal charges and the $8 billion settlement. 

But the depth of coverage didn’t end with the major news beats. All three stories put victims at the center of the reporting. 

For revealing stories that broke news and provided a powerful reminder of an ongoing epidemic that has contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans, Mike Stobbe, Adrian Sainz, Farnoush Amiri, Geoff Mulvihill, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Balsamo win this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 29, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Immigration: Back-to-back scoops by investigative teams, Washington reporters

The disturbing stories of more than 2,000 kids caught up in the U.S. immigration system – including babies and toddlers forcibly separated from their parents – dominated headlines and led newscasts around the world.

AP reporters, working across the country, in Washington, D.C., Latin America and along the U.S.-Mexican border led the coverage of the impact of the zero tolerance immigration policy. Their work produced a series of scoops that set the agenda, alerting Capitol Hill leaders to a major White House order, leaving an MSNBC anchor in tears and generating action by politicians.

For their work, the Beat of the Week is shared by investigative reporters Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza, Michael Biesecker and Jake Pearson, and Washington reporters Jill Colvin and Colleen Long. The award also recognizes an outstanding company-wide effort that included reporting from numerous locations and across formats, putting the AP repeatedly in front of a major global story.

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Feb. 05, 2021

Best of the States

AP months ahead of New York state in identifying undercount of nursing home deaths

When AP reported exclusively last August that New York state was undercounting its COVID nursing home death toll by thousands, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped the story as part of a politically motivated “blame game.”

But the state’s own investigation, announced last week, reached a nearly identical conclusion, affirming AP’s reporting.

AP’s 2020 investigation had seized on the fact that New York counts just residents who died at nursing homes, not those who were transported to hospitals and died there. AP’s analysis of federal data indicated that the state’s official toll was undercounted by 65%, or well over 4,000 deaths. 

For sharp reporting that led the media pack, withstood criticism from the governor and months later was vindicated, this week’s Best of the States award goes to Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Meghan Hoyer (now data director at The Washington Post).

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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work breaks news of attorney general nominee

had been asking around for weeks about President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for attorney general. They pressed their sources inside the transition once it became clear that the decision came down to just a few names.Finally, Tucker scored — a transition source gave AP the entire slate of nominees for the department, and not just the stunning choice of Merrick Garland, the former candidate for the Supreme Court who had been spurned by Republicans during the Obama administration. Also included were names for the second in command and leaders of top offices at the Department of Justice.Tucker had prepped for this and gathered his material while Balsamo checked in with another source and came back with confirmation. They swiftly filed a news alert and story, beating major news outlets by a solid half-hour. This all came two hours before the Capitol siege. The pair’s story was still picked up 580 times with some 200,000 pageviews — especially strong considering the U.S. Capitol was ransacked by rioters the same day. https://bit.ly/2XCjOOe

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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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July 30, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

50 years after the US declared war on drugs, AP examines racial disparities

used data and on-the-ground reporting to explore the fallout of America’s war on drugs, launched 50 years ago this summer by President Richard Nixon.Race and ethnicity reporter Morrison, joined by data journalist Kastanis and multiformat journalist Breed, set out to tell a story of the toll that harsh prison sentences and lifetime restrictions post-release have taken on Black and Latino Americans, their families and their communities.To do so, the AP reviewed federal and state data, finding that the Black incarceration rate in America surged from about 600 per 100,000 people in 1970 to 1,808 in 2000, and the rate for the Latino population grew from 208 per 100,000 people to 615, while the white incarceration rate grew at a more modest rate, from 103 per100,000 people to 242.But beyond the data, the AP trio put names and a face to those caught up in this grinding war with no clear winners but many losers. The story’s lead subject, Alton Lucas, could have had a life of touring nationally and internationally with his DJ friend, but instead discovered drugs and the drug trade at the height of the war on drugs. As a crack cocaine addict involved in trafficking, the North Carolina man faced decades in prison at a time when the drug abuse and violence plaguing Black communities were not seen as the public health issue that opioids are today. The combination of Morrison’s deep reporting, Breed’s photos and video, and Kastanis’ data analysis, accompanied by graphics, resulted in a newsy, nuanced package, rich with historical context.https://aplink.news/k6jhttps://aplink.video/017

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June 24, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: FDA skipped most baby formula plant inspections in 2020

turned seemingly mundane testimony of a legislative hearing into a timely scoop, breaking the news that the Food and Drug Administration had skipped nearly all its inspections of baby formula plants during the first year of COVID, likely contributing to the severe shortage of formula in the U.S. and raising questions about what the federal government could have done to prevent it.Using information he gleaned from Capitol Hill testimony by the three top baby formula manufacturers, Washington-based health writer Perrone identified the companies’ plants in the FDA’s online database and discovered the agency hadn’t inspected Abbott’s plant — responsible for a recall of formula that exacerbated the nationwide shortage — for two years between 2019 and 2021. In fact, the FDA later acknowledged only three of the nation’s 23 formula plants were inspected in the first year of the pandemic.Read more

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Feb. 23, 2018

Best of the States

AP collaboration exposes unequal lending practices across the country

When editors with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting approached AP with a story on unfair lending practices, data editor Meghan Hoyer and data journalist Angel Kastanis saw an opportunity to use AP’s reach to expand the story and generate real impact.

Starting with 31 million records, representing nearly every mortgage loan application submitted in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, they found that 50 years after the federal Fair Housing Act, people of color are still denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts. The analysis found a pattern of denials across the country, including in major metropolitan areas.

While Reveal took the lead on the national story, Kastanis and Hoyer took the story deeper. The data distribution they prepared and shared with AP reporters and members showed 61 metro areas where applicants of color were more likely to be denied a conventional home purchase mortgage, even controlling for factors such as income, loan amount and neighborhood.

For taking the story to the next level in a way only AP can, Kastanis and Hoyer receive this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.

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July 30, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

As Herschel Walker eyes US Senate run, AP reveals a turbulent past

broke news on former football star Herschel Walker, who is said to be considering a run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. The Georgia Senate race may be the most competitive in the nation next year and Walker, a former University of Georgia star and a friend of former President Donald Trump, would be an appealing Republican candidate. But Walker also has a history of mental illness and a tell-all book with extraordinary details about his troubled past.The tales in Walker’s 2008 book would have been enough for a good story, but Washington-based reporter Slodysko and his colleagues, Atlanta’s Barrow and Dallas’ Bleiberg, wanted to know more.The trio turned up records that had never been reported on, including claims by Walker’s ex-wife that he threatened her life, concerns by his business partners about his behavior; and evidence that he had exaggerated the size of his company in federal filings.Knowing that several other outlets were also working the story, the reporters wrote quickly from a strong paper trail and good source reporting that added important political context about Walker’s deliberations. They wrote carefully and precisely about Walker’s illness. The result was an extraordinary read that may influence the Georgia race for U.S. Senate. The piece was the most-read story on AP News last week — a stunning feat for a story that ran midday on a summer Friday. https://aplink.news/frs

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Jan. 28, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats team reveals Brazil’s alleged Bitcoin pyramid schemes

traveled to Cabo Frio, a tourist city a couple hours north of Rio de Janeiro which has been wracked with problems and violence following a surge of Bitcoin pyramid schemes. Reporting in all formats, their trip followed Brazil’s federal police bust last April of three people loading a chopper with $1.3 million in neatly packed bills.Brazil-based text stringer Jeantet obtained hundreds of police and prosecutors’ reports regarding the alleged pyramid scheme run by the town’s top dog, Glaidson dos Santos. She sorted through the reports, crafting a gripping narrative of the man's rise to power and fortune, and his eventual imprisonment. But she also discovered the story was more complex, with many of dos Santos’ former clients swearing that he was being wrongly accused for having the audacity to beat a rigged financial system at its own game.Such nuance gave the reader an inside look at why Bitcoin has become hugely popular in Brazil. Senior cameraman Lobão delivered video footage produced by Tatiana Pollastri, and photo freelancer Prado made the stills. The text story was published in English, Spanish and Portuguese, picked up by publications from USA Today to The Times of India.https://aplink.news/j5xhttps://aplink.video/5s2

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Jan. 21, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation reveals global market for illegal Brazilian gold

teamed up to expose those involved in Brazil's illegal gold trade, from the illicit mining on Indigenous lands to the global market.Mining on Indigenous lands in Brazil is not new. Numerous stories have been done on the practice, detailing the environmental and cultural impact of the illegal gold mining. But the AP investigation went a step further, naming those involved in the practice and tracing how the precious mineral travels from the mines of Brazil to global brands.For their widely read investigative stories, published in English, Spanish and Portuguese, Brazil News Director Biller, Latin America correspondent Goodman and freelance journalist Cowie obtained dozens of documents and conducted interviews with prosecutors, federal law enforcement agents, miners and industry insiders.Cowie and photographer Penner trekked hundreds of miles into the Amazon to report comprehensively on those engaged in the illegal mining and those involved in the illegal gold trade — a cross section of individuals and companies ranging from shady fly-by-night operators to legitimate businesses.Among their findings: Brazil is investigating an air taxi company contracted by the country’s health mionistry that transports Indigenous people and medical equipment. The company is also suspected of using its planes to bring in prospectors and supplies for illegal mining.And a thorough AP review of public records revealed that Marsam, a refinery that provided minerals for Brazil’s 2016 Olympic gold medals and now processes gold ultimately purchased by hundreds of well-known publicly traded U.S. companies — among them Microsoft, Tesla and Amazon — is linked to an intermediary accused by prosecutors of buying gold mined illegally on Indigenous lands and other areas deep in the Amazon rainforest.https://bit.ly/3HWThQDhttps://bit.ly/3qnwc3Nhttps://bit.ly/3FzcFSb

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Aug. 27, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Vivid package examines wild horse conflict amid Western drought

collaborated on an evocative, in-depth examination of the U.S. government’s roundups of wild horses on the arid plains of the American West. The roundups have expanded during this year’s megadrought. Federal land managers say they are increasing the number of horses removed from the range to protect the parched land and the animals themselves, but wild-horse advocates accuse the government of using the conditions as an excuse to move out the iconic animals to preserve cattle grazing.Photographer Bowmer and Salt Lake City colleague Whitehurst attended a July roundup on the plains west of Salt Lake City and watched from a mountaintop perch as about 300 horses were corralled to be adopted or kept in captivity. Bowmer’s striking images include helicopters swooping low to corral the horses as the mustangs gallop away, and horses gathered around watering holes against a mountain landscape. Whitehurst and Denver reporter Anderson weaved color into the story, describing the horses’ high-pitched whinnies rising into the dry air, while explaining how the summer roundups have escalated tensions between government officials and the horse advocates. The package was used by countless members in the West and elsewhere in the country.https://aplink.news/7ulhttps://apnews.com/hub/drought...

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Oct. 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP pauses to get story of ‘discarded’ Trump ballots right

resisted competitive pressure, holding off on a Department of Justice press release on an investigation into “discarded” military ballots for President Donald Trump, instead taking the time to do a more deeply reported story.Most media rushed to publish when a U.S. attorney in the battleground state of Pennsylvania took the unusual step of announcing the ongoing investigation, saying nine mail-in ballots for the president had been “cast aside” in a county elections office. The county manager later blamed the incident on confusion over the appearance of the envelopes, but conservative social media quickly seized on the initial announcement while the Trump campaign blamed Democrats for “trying to steal the election.”The original press release, however, was short on details and no one, federal or local, was talking. Pennsylvania news editor Christina Paciolla brought the story to the attention of AP’s voting team, and a deeper examination began.The AP drew on expertise across the organization to produce a far more well-informed story the following day, providing essential context and new information, including the U.S. attorney defending his announcement of the votes for Trump, and that Attorney General William Barr had previously briefed the president on the case. https://bit.ly/3if2LJZ

May 12, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​AP reveals hidden horror of school sex assaults

The email to AP confided: “Up until reading your article I believed that my daughter's assault was an anomaly. It's not something that is talked about. School officials must take immediate and proactive steps to protect students from being assaulted on school grounds. The first step is to bring it out in the open.”

The anguished mother was responding to the first installment of an Associated Press series running through May exploring the untold story of student-on-student sexual assaults, not on college campuses but in U.S. elementary and secondary schools. The result of a yearlong investigation, the expose by Emily Schmall, Reese Dunklin, Robin McDowell and Justin Pritchard earns the Beat of the Week.

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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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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds diversity of US attorneys declining under Trump

used years of data on U.S. attorneys to reveal how any diversity gains made under previous administrations have faltered under President Donald Trump. AP’s analysis found the 85% of Trump’s Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys are white men, significantly more than the three previous administrations going back to 1993. But the numbers were just part of the story. The AP team reported on why it mattered in this moment of national reckoning over racial inequality and the fairness of the criminal justice system. The story articulated how Black and brown people are disproportionately imprisoned but underrepresented in the system that puts them there. The piece included an impressive photo combo of all the attorneys, showing row after row – predominantly of white men – and video interviews on the value of diversity in the U.S. attorney ranks.https://bit.ly/3drn6e6https://bit.ly/318gc8J

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Nov. 15, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: At least 1,680 aging US dams pose a risk to thousands

Severe storms, extreme flooding and aging infrastructure present a rising peril throughout much of the U.S., but trying to assess the risks has been extremely difficult. The reason: The federal agency overseeing the nation’s dams has sealed off the most essential information about their condition and the potential threats to those living downstream.

Prying that information loose took the kind of dedicated, 50-state effort that the AP is uniquely positioned to pursue. Data journalist Michelle Minkoff and Northern New England correspondent Michael Casey, collaborating with state government team member David Lieb and a visual team led by video journalist Allen Breed – as well as a cast of AP state reporters, photographers and data journalists – produced a deeply reported and visually stunning package revealing the dangers of nearly 1,700 aging dams, from Hawaii to Massachusetts.

Some two years in the making, the package resulted in explosive play – more than 100,000 page views on AP News and more than 80 front pages. 

For their exhaustive efforts to unlock critical public information and relay the findings in an engaging fashion, Minkoff, Casey, Lieb and Breed win this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 15, 2017

Best of the States

Only on AP: Countless inland bridges being raised to prepare for climate change floods

Des Moines News Editor Scott McFetridge was out on his daily run one morning when he discovered that a pedestrian bridge he often crossed was blocked off for reconstruction. He was mystified. Why did a fancy bridge that had been rehabilitated only recently need another overhaul?

The answer put him onto a fascinating story.

This Iowa bridge, and countless others far from the coasts, had to be raised because higher river levels expected from more rain caused by climate change might inundate them. New bridges and old bridges, major multi-lane spans and small rural ones, were in danger. And in not a few cases, this was happening in states where many in government question the validity of climate change.

For discovering something that was in plain sight but no one had noticed, McFetridge wins this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.

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July 26, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats coverage of new mother and baby in flood-ravaged India

for his exclusive all-formats coverage of a young mother and her just-delivered infant as she and her family were flooded out of their village.

Nath traveled solo – first by road and then by boat – to remote, flooded areas of Assam state in northeastern India, where he persuaded a doctor to let him accompany a medical team that was going to visit a newborn delivered while the mother was trying to reach a hospital by boat. She had given birth before being forced back to her own flooded village. After a risky ride through swollen waters, Nath and the medics reached 20-year-old Imrana Khatoon and her infant daughter, and the decision was made to move them both by boat to another nearby hospital.

Despite challenging logistics, including no power, Nath shot photos and video of the entire sequence as the team worked in candlelight. Then, once back in communication, he coordinated text, photos and video with editors. The result was an exclusive, visually-driven package of determination, hope and new life in the flood-ravaged region.https://bit.ly/2ZaJNeQhttps://bit.ly/2GtReX3https://bit.ly/2YjvWWr

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