April 07, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

3 days, 2 nights, 1 train: Kyiv team crosses Ukraine with Zelenskyy in unprecedented embed

Months of building trust with the Ukrainian government led to unmatched access to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his travels across Ukraine. It resulted in a powerful all-formats series of stories that made headlines across the world and gave an in-depth portrait of a wartime leader in perpetual motion. 

For months, The AP team has been working on improving our links with the Kyiv government. Persistence paid off. AP was offered an exclusive interview with the president, to be carried out by Executive Editor Julie Pace. She traveled into the country, accompanied by Europe and Africa News Director James Jordan and teamed up with Arhirova and Lukatsky and on-deployment Prague video journalist Adam Pemble for two nights and three days on the president’s train.  

For their herculean efforts to organize and deliver the meeting, engineering an opportunity for AP to conduct the most extensive embed with the Ukrainian president to date, Arhirova, Lukatsky and Pemble share Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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March 17, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP shows why young Americans are shunning college

News outlets had widely reported a drop in U.S. college enrollment, but nobody had really explained why. Education reporter Collin Binkley and Ohio-based video journalist Patrick Orsagos figured the best way to find out was to talk with young adults themselves.   

Binkley won a grant from the Education Writers Association and traveled with Orsagos to western Tennessee, where the pair conducted cross-format interviews with high school graduates whose stories exposed the reasons behind the trend: The high cost of higher education. Fear of student debt. A hot job market. General disillusionment with education after high school experiences disrupted by the pandemic and school closures.   

The story sparked wide discussion about the cost of college, the need for reform in higher education and the relevance of a bachelor’s degree in today’s economy. The day after publication the story landed on Reddit’s “popular” page, thanks to a post on the “Futurology” subreddit that received more than 25,000 upvotes and 3,000 comments. It appeared on at least 21 newspaper front pages, with good play on The Tennessean, The Jackson Sun, The Columbus Dispatch, The Roanoke Times and the Ithaca Journal, among others.

The story was tweeted by several members of Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio. Parents, professors and other readers reached out via email and social media, saying the story resonated with them and demonstrated the need for America’s colleges to offer something young people see value in. And the former admissions director at Jackson State Community College offered to advise one of the students in the story on her college options; that student said she plans to contact him.  

For going to the source to find the reasons behind a major trend, Binkley and Orsagos share this week’s Best of the Week — First Place honors.

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March 10, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Rehab on hold: COVID devastates prison learning programs

When COVID-19 hit, tearing through prisons and killing thousands, it severely disrupted or shut down the very programs prisoners desperately need to prepare them for eventual release. Trauma counseling, college courses, and job training in carpentry, masonry and barbering were slow to adjust to pandemic learning. Isolation and uncertainty replaced creative outlets and mental health therapies for months on end. National Writer Aaron Morrison and video journalist Noreen Nasir paired with Los Angeles photographer Jae C. Hong to explore the problem through a behind-the-scenes look at a California prison.

Visual access inside U.S. prisons is extremely rare; Morrison got the AP access using connections with sources. The team was particularly mindful of how to humanize the men beyond just their blue uniforms and tattoos, especially as they expressed themselves with such vulnerability through the intensive therapy work and programs.

For extraordinary work that allowed AP’s audience to see the impact of the COVID epidemic in prisons, Morrison, Nasir and Hong share Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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