June 05, 2020

Best of the States

AP takes an in-depth look at the life of Ahmaud Arbery, killed while running

When smartphone video emerged more than two months after Ahmaud Arbery was killed by a white father and son while running through a Georgia neighborhood, the case burst into the national consciousness. AP race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison headed to Brunswick, Georgia, seeking to tell the full story of the 25-year-old’s life. 

Morrison and video journalist Sarah Blake Morgan interviewed Arbery’s mother on the road where her son was killed. That conversation became a centerpiece of the text and visual package, with further reporting by Russ Bynum and Kate Brumback completing the picture. 

For a nuanced and unflinching profile of Arbery’s life that spotlights the racism experienced by many young black men and captures the pain of a grieving family, Morrison, Morgan, Bynum and Brumback share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 12, 2021

Best of the States

AP analysis: In the US, a centuries-old race war continues to rage against people of color

As AP race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison covered the protests that grew out of the 2020 killings of George Floyd and others, he also saw President Donald Trump on TV, trying to undermine the racial reckoning at every turn.

Fast forward to Jan. 6, when a mob of mostly white rioters, upset that Trump wasn't reelected, violently breached the U.S. Capitol. Morrison connected the dots of what he described as a war of white aggression. “A war rages on in America,” Morrison wrote in this analysis piece, “It started with slavery and never ended ...” 

With powerful video by Noreen Nasir, portraits by Chris Carlson and presentation by Alyssa Goodman, the package received prominent play and sparked discussion both online and within the AP.

For a timely, compelling package that looks at the state of race relations with historical context and thoughtful analysis, the team of Morrison, Nasir, Carlson and Goodman earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 04, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

'They kept us as slaves': AP Exclusive reveals abuse claims against church

"They kept us as slaves."

One man's tearful revelation to AP national investigative reporter Mitch Weiss helped unravel a horrible secret – the former congregant of the World of Faith Fellowship sect was among hundreds who'd been dispatched from the church's two Brazilian branches to the U.S., where many say they were forced to work for little or no pay and physically or verbally assaulted.

Dozens of former congregants told similar stories of abuse and exploitation in an exclusive AP multi-format story that earns Weiss, national investigative reporter Holbrook Mohr, and Peter Prengaman, news director in Rio de Janeiro, the Beat of the Week.

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July 10, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation details hollowed-out US public health departments

While it is widely understood that U.S. public health departments have suffered budget cuts over the years, a collaborative AP/Kaiser Health News team used data and deep reporting to show exactly how expansive those cuts have been.

The investigation by AP’s Michelle Smith, Meghan Hoyer and Mike Householder, teamed with KHN’s Lauren Weber, Laura Ungar, Hannah Recht and Anna Maria Barry-Jester, drew on data from disparate sources and interviews with more than 150 people to reveal a system starved of money and staff for years, and facing more cuts amid the worst health crisis in a century. 

The team’s all-formats package drew kudos and high-profile reaction from health officials, to the halls of Congress, to editorial pages.

For an ambitious story that laid bare the state of America’s public health system, the joint AP/KHN team of Smith, Hoyer, Householder, Weber, Ungar, Recht and Barry-Jester shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 20, 2017

Best of the States

Lie detectors trip up border agency applicants

San Diego correspondent Elliot Spagat was chatting with a longtime government source and she mentioned her son applied to Customs and Border Protection but was rejected after failing a polygraph test. She and her son were mystified by the result. Soon after, a member of Spagat’s running group – a military veteran with a stellar resume – told the same story of a failed Border Patrol test.

Intrigued, Spagat brought up the issue during a regular check-in call with an official involved in recruiting for the Border Patrol. The official told him the polygraph failure rate was very high. Spagat knew he was on to something and kept pressing, next talking to Border Patrol Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, who gave him a failure rate – 65 percent.

But Kerlikowske didn’t see the number as a negative – it meant the agency was applying tough standards to find its officers. Still, a two-thirds failure rate struck Spagat as abnormal but how could he prove it? Comparable data was hard to find.

So Spagat set about creating it.

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Jan. 31, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Coordinated effort delivers strong, quick all-formats coverage of migrant caravan

From the moment a caravan of Central American migrants set out from Honduras and crossed through Guatemala toward a series of standoffs with Mexican authorities, the AP was there, documenting every step. 

Knowing that Mexican authorities were determined not to let the migrants pass, editors deployed cross-format teams to cover the caravan from both the Guatemalan and the Mexican sides of the border. That effort put the AP far ahead of the competition when the migrants started to cross the Suchiate River into Mexico.

In a coordinated effort, AP staffers and stringers shared information and skills to deliver dramatic coverage, including live video, as people waded across the river and scuffled with Mexico’s National Guard. The all-formats coverage was among AP’s top stories for Jan. 22.

For following the story early and then collaborating closely to produce dominant images and stories of the latest chapter in the migrant saga from Central America, the team of Moisés Castillo, María Verza, Sonia Pérez D., Marco Ugarte, Peter Orsi, Diego Delgado, Marcelo Viaño and Santiago Billy share AP’s Best of the Week honors.  

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Sept. 30, 2016

Best of the States

Lead crisis in housing project was actually no surprise

The down-at-the-heels industrial city of East Chicago, Indiana, made headlines around the world in August after the mayor ordered 1,000 people to get out of a 40-year-old public-housing complex because of lead contamination.

Many residents and observers expressed surprise: How could such a problem go overlooked for so many decades?

The Chicago bureau’s Sara Burnett and Jason Keyser teamed up for several weeks of intensive document and street reporting. What they found was as disturbing as the original news: The hazard shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone – because the housing complex had been built on the former site of a lead-products factory.

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April 30, 2021

Best of the States

A photographer’s affecting portrait of Korean American seniors, fearful amid anti-Asian violence

The Koreatown area of Los Angeles can be a challenging place to report — many residents are hesitant to speak to the press. That makes what Los Angeles-based photographer Jae Hong pulled off that much more impressive. 

Hong, a Korean American who moved to LA as a teenager, had recently spent a year on assignment in Tokyo. When he returned to the U.S., he was astonished by the increased aggression he saw toward Asian Americans, who were being blamed by some for COVID-19. 

After much outreach and many conversations with the local Korean community, he found a few families willing to let him into their lives. The end result — Hong’s somber photos and poignant text — is a compelling portrait of a community experiencing very real fear amid attacks targeting Asians. 

For timely, revealing enterprise reporting in both text and photos, Jae Hong wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 17, 2017

Best of the States

AP dominates coverage of Charlottesville violence

Sarah Rankin and Steve Helber were covering a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia when chaos broke out. The marchers and counter protesters – Rankin’s words – ‘’threw punches, screamed, set off smoke bombs. They hurled water bottles, balloons of paint, containers full of urine. They unleashed chemical sprays. Some waved Confederate flags. Others burned them.’’

Rankin and Helber were the first of many AP colleagues to cover the story, and their initial work paid off in significant ways.

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Sept. 25, 2020

Best of the States

AP’s portrait of a family forced into tough choices during the pandemic

As stories with impact go, this one stands out: The lead subject of the piece, struggling to feed her family during the pandemic, was tracked down on social media and hired by a reader for a job. 

The all-formats package by reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski chronicled the struggle of Sharawn Vinson and her Brooklyn family as they coped with a shortage of food and other crises, taking readers into the lives of a family that was forced to separate to keep everyone fed. The details shared by the family give readers a better understanding of the issues confronting many of the nation’s most vulnerable during the pandemic.

For a rare, intimate look at a family on the front lines of food insecurity brought on by the coronavirus, documented with riveting photos and video, Henao and Wardarski share this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 30, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP gets first look inside China’s largest detention center, breaks news on Uyghur incarceration

The sprawling Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Xinjiang, China, is the largest such facility in China (possibly the world), holding perhaps 10,000 or more and embodying the plight of the Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities. Western news organizations have only been able to report from the outside. But the Beijing-based team of enterprise journalist Dake Kang, photographer Mark Schiefelbein and news director Ken Moritsugu managed to get a tour, making the AP the first Western news organization to report inside the facility.

They delivered a vivid package on life inside the detention center, from numbered and tagged Uyghurs sitting ramrod straight to the instructions on force-feeding in the medical room. The journalists also revealed a disturbing new trend: China is moving from the temporary detention of Uyghurs to more permanent mass incarceration of people who have committed no real crime.

The story topped AP’s reader engagement for the week and drew comment from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who called China’s repression of the Uyghurs “horrific.”

For bringing the world rare insight into the detention centers where China holds Uyghurs, the team of Kang, Schiefelbein and Moritsugu earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 27, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Ex-congregants reveal years of ungodly abuse

This story begins in 2014, when five members of Word of Faith Fellowship, an evangelical congregation in western North Carolina, were indicted for beating a young man because they thought he was gay. Mitch Weiss, an investigative reporter based in Charlotte, reached out to the man, Matthew Fenner, who told a harrowing tale.

For Weiss, that conversation was the beginning of a nearly two-year quest to tell the story of Word of Faith and its controlling leader, Jane Whaley, a 77-year-old petite former math teacher with a thick Southern accent. Working alongside Atlanta-based video journalist Alex Sanz, Weiss eventually pieced together a startling and comprehensive look at a religious community that promised its members peace and prosperity. What they got was violence and abuse, administered in the name of God, former followers told him.

Part one of that series, published this week, wins Best of the States, and there is more to come.

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May 05, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

At middle-of-the-night removal of Confederate statue in New Orleans, AP offers exclusive

AP’s race and ethnicity beat writer Jesse J. Holland was on vacation in Mississippi when a source called with a tip: New Orleans’ mayor was ordering the removal of the first of four Confederate-related statues in the middle of the night to avoid a racially-charged scene in the city.

Holland’s quick work to negotiate an exclusive on the monument’s removal, including an interview with the mayor, and photographer Gerald Herbert’s dramatic pre-dawn photos and video, earn the Beat of the Week.

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Oct. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP teams examine vaccine hesitancy, inequality in Africa

delivered two distinctive packages from Africa on vaccine hesitancy and gender inequality in the pandemic response on the continent — bolstering AP’s strong record of reporting on global inequity during the coronavirus outbreak.Teamwork and deep reporting from Gambia resulted in a visually stunning package that revealed Africa’s women as being the least vaccinated population in the world and explained why, bringing readers and viewers into the women’s lives.West Africa bureau chief Larson, senior producer Fisch and photographer Correa first focused on an oyster and fishing collective to better understand the women’s precarious financial position and why that makes them hesitant to get vaccinated. The team also trekked into Gambia’s interior, gaining the trust of a village chief who assembled his community to come talk to the AP about their fears and concerns around vaccination.The stunning package featured the women’s own voices and striking portraits, underscoring the cultural pressures the women face and the power of misinformation. A sidebar by Cheng expanded on the international scale of the problem, reinforcing AP’s commitment to covering global vaccine inequality as a major theme for 2021.Thousands of miles to the south, Zimbabwe stringer Mutsaka and photographer Mukwazhi worked relentlessly to build trust with one of Zimbabwe's leading churches, producing the first in-depth story from Africa on the role of the church in promoting vaccines. The Apostolic Christian Church has a strong distrust of modern medicine and is among the most skeptical churches in the country when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.Mukwazhi and Mutsaka made contacts, including a church leader who was encouraging worshippers to get vaccinated, and the AP pair was permitted to cover an outdoor service where vaccinations were discussed, the congregants wrapped in white robes. The resulting all-formats package, compelling and sensitively reported, tenderly illustrated the dilemma confronting many Zimbabwean churches regarding COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.https://aplink.news/mrwhttps://aplink.news/oalhttps://aplink.news/dlrhttps://aplink.video/8nqhttps://aplink.photos/jnuhttps://aplink.news/oryhttps://aplink.video/2bp

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May 24, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP offers rare glimpse into world of China's political indoctrination camps

Last year, when Beijing correspondent Gerry Shih was working on a series of stories about the Uighurs in China, he learned that a number of citizens from Kazakhstan had been ensnared in a crackdown in the Xinjiang region where Muslims were being indoctrinated in a network of internment camps.

When one of them, Omir Bekali, decided to speak out about his eight-month ordeal in detention and in a so-called re-education center where hundreds of thousands of Muslims are being indoctrinated to disavow their religion, Shih, video journalist Dake Kang and China chief photographer Ng Han Guan traveled 2,000 miles to Almaty to interview him.

Their in-depth, all-formats report on the physical and psychological torment Bekali endured earns the Beat of the Week.

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Nov. 22, 2019

Best of the States

LA photographer’s son locked down in school shooting; team coverage stands out

AP staffers displayed remarkable professionalism and composure under extraordinary circumstances in their coverage of the Nov. 14 mass shooting at Saugus High School in a Los Angeles suburb.

LA photographer Marcio Sanchez found himself in a nearly unfathomable position: He was making news photos outside a high school where a gunman had opened fire while one of his sons was locked down inside. Later, when Sanchez was safely home with his 15-year-old son Noah, his longtime LA colleague, reporter Brian Melley, did a sensitive interview with the teenager about his experience during the shooting and lockdown.

Meanwhile, veteran breaking news staffer John Antczak in the LA bureau reported the shifting numbers of casualties with careful sourcing and attribution, anchoring the coverage and avoiding the false reports put out by some media. 

AP’s full complement of all-format coverage was the product of excellent reporting and editing by staffers in the field and in the bureau. That team effort was highlighted by the remarkable work of Sanchez, Antczak and Melley, who earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 06, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

4 Hours in Huntington: how the heroin epidemic choked a city

The scene, presented in the most vivid close-up, shows a paramedic frantically pushing an IV full of an opioid blocker into the vein of a woman turning blue and barely breathing. Then the radio squawks: Two more overdoses just reported. Where will Claire Galofaro’s riveting narrative go from here?

“The woman’s eyes blinked open” she writes next. Then: “Red lights on the phone at the 911 dispatch center flashed faster and faster until all 16 lines were screaming. They called from the dining room of a rickety house, the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, the bathroom of a gas station. `People are dying everywhere,’ one caller said.”

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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. 19, 2016

Best of the States

Libraries cope with patrons visiting them to use heroin

The stories of heroin addicts overdosing in unusual places have become numbingly familiar: a McDonald’s play area, inside a children’s hospital, even while driving down the highway.

But it was another odd location -- the restroom of a library -- that drove Columbus reporter Kantele Franko to identify an additional, tragic twist to these stories. Franko learned over several weeks of reporting that the same qualities that make libraries ideal for studying and reading — unfettered public access, quiet corners and nooks, minimal interaction with other people — also make them appealing places to shoot heroin.

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April 19, 2019

Best of the States

FOIA checklist enables reporter to break news in case of missing boy’s impostor

Knowing what information can be obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs) from various public agencies is critical to breaking news. And keeping a checklist of those information gold mines is key to accessing that knowledge, Columbus, Ohio-based reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins has found.

Welsh-Huggins used those skills to great effect in the case of the man accused of pulling a cruel hoax by pretending to be a long-missing Illinois boy. The story captured the nation’s attention and set reporters in motion trying to flesh out the background of a 23-year-old ex-con who Ohio authorities say faked being Timmothy Pitzen. Pitzen was 6 years old when he disappeared in 2011.

Welsh-Huggins’ checklist for enterprise off the news includes FOIAs to all agencies a suspect has had contact with. He filed a FOIA with the Ohio corrections department to obtain access to the disciplinary records of suspect Brian Rini, knowing from experience that the agency would release them.

A few days later the agency handed him 15 disciplinary reports showing that Rini was someone who liked to fabricate stories – including things as mundane as being short of toilet paper and as serious as being raped by a guard.

The AP was alone with the story, which got strong play in Ohio and across the country.

For using his knowledge of FOIA to break news on this highly competitive story, Welsh-Huggins wins this week’s Best of the States.

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