Jan. 05, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

36 days at sea: How castaways survived hallucinations, thirst and desperation

In a partner story to “Adrift,” an AP team tracked down migrants who survived 36 days and told the story of their journey.

When video journalist Renata Brito saw the news of the rescue of several dozen men who survived 36 days at sea, she was shocked. Brito has been covering migrant crossings for years and had never heard of people on the route from West Africa to the Canary Islands surviving that long. She wondered what they might have endured during those 36 days, and so, she and photographer Felipe Dana set out to find out.

When the survivors were rescued, they were taken to Cape Verde and locked up in a school. A few days later, Brito and Dana were on a plane to Cape Verde’s Sal Island. Access to survivors, who were essentially detained, was restricted and authorities announced they would fly them back to Dakar in a few hours.

Brito and Dana followed them there, working with AP Dakar colleague Ndeye Sene Mbengue to make contacts with survivors and their families in Fass Boye but found many of the survivors had gone into hiding after returning to Senegal.

Together with Ndeye, they drove to more than five towns across different regions to meet with them. With Ndeye’s help they translated hours of on- and off-camera interviews. Brito kept in touch with survivors after leaving Senegal and obtained the contact of one of the rescuers who had made several cellphone videos the day they were found and brought on board.

The AP got strong user-generated content that showed what the survivors looked like when they were found, barely alive. The result was an all-formats story, complete with an immersive presentation that included creative motion graphics and illustrations.

For powerfully telling an exclusive story that otherwise might not have been told, Brito and Dana win Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 22, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Team shines spotlight on underage Rohingya girls forced into abusive marriages

Underage Rohingya girls are forced into abusive marriages in Malaysia so their families in Bangladesh can eat. In safehouses, AP met with child brides who managed to get unlocked from their bedrooms to share their plights.

Human rights workers warned it would be almost impossible to track the girls down. Yet an AP team not only found them, but interviewed them without putting them at risk of reprisal.

Investigative correspondent Kristen Gelineau, based in Sydney, Australia, tracked down an advocate in Malaysia who was herself a Rohingya child bride and carefully coordinated a plan with each girl. Some concocted an excuse to leave their homes and met with AP at safehouses. Many simply could not get unlocked.

The team coordinated interview times with the girls so they could arrive at their homes after their husbands had left for work and leave well before they returned.

Indonesia video journalist and business correspondent Victoria Milko filmed in their dark and claustrophobic apartments, capturing both the youth and isolation of the girls while protecting their anonymity.

McKinnon de Kuyper made a heartbreaking edit of the video, taking advantage of previous filming of Rohingya families who were victims of a boat drowning by video journalist Garjon Al-emrun.

For allowing the AP to be the first media to give these girls a voice, Gelineau, Milko, de Kuyper and Al-emrun are Best of the Week — First Winners.

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Dec. 15, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Former career US diplomat charged with secretly spying for Cuban intelligence for decades

Relying on relentless source work and their joint years of experience, Joshua Goodman and Eric Tucker landed twin scoops on the arrest and indictment of a former career American diplomat charged with being a secret agent for communist Cuba for decades.

Manuel Rocha, who was formerly ambassador to Bolivia, was accused of engaging in “clandestine activity” on Cuba’s behalf since at least 1981, the year he joined the U.S. foreign service. While the case was short on specifics of how Rocha may have assisted the island nation, it provided a vivid case study of how Cuba and its sophisticated intelligence services seek to target, and flip, U.S. officials.

First word came to Latin America correspondent Goodman from a trusted source who called on a Friday evening to say the FBI had arrested Rocha earlier that day at his home in Miami but details were under seal. He enlisted Washington-based Tucker to see if his national security sources could help shake anything loose about the case.

Their break came Sunday — with the case still sealed — when sources gave them enough information to report that Rocha was arrested on federal charges of being an agent of the Cuban government. Their urgent story, which included extensive background on Rocha’s diplomatic stops in Bolivia, Argentina, Havana and elsewhere, staked out AP’s ownership of the case.

More details followed the next morning with another AP break, when Goodman and Tucker obtained the sealed case affidavit from highly placed sources nearly an hour before it was filed, allowing them to trounce the competition with a fast news alert and urgent series.

For putting AP far ahead in revealing what the Justice Department called one of the highest-reaching infiltrations of the U.S. government by a foreign agent, Goodman and Tucker are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 08, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Investigation uncovers private school selling diplomas, no classes required

In a package featuring multiple scoops and exclusives, an AP team investigating Louisiana’s rise in unapproved private schools stumbled on a school selling diplomas to anyone whose parents said they had completed their education — even years later. That revelation rocked the state and reverberated across the nation.

Education data reporter Sharon Lurye partnered with Charles Lussier of The (Louisiana) Advocate to secure stunning interviews with an operator of the school defending the practice as an extension of parents’ rights and also met multiple graduates who had gained their diplomas. On the other side of the investigation Lurye and Lussier demonstrated the depth of the risks in sending a child to such a school, landing a rare interview with a mom who says a teacher offered her teen daughter money for sexually explicit photos and wanted to warn others against enrolling their kids in an unapproved school.

Lurye and Lussier were the first to quantify the rise in popularity among Louisiana’s unapproved schools — over 21,000 students, nearly double the number before the pandemic. Many of the families using unapproved schools are homeschooling. But 30 of the schools have more than 50 students.

The project ran on the front page in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Arcadiana. Lurye did radio interviews on WWL in New Orleans and for the “Louisiana Considered” program on the public radio stations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Prominent pickups included Fox News, Newser and ABC News. The project was named one of the best stories of the week by “The Grade,” a well-read education blog.

For a strong investigation, securing multiple exclusives while providing a public service to the people of Louisiana, Lurye wins this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 01, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP lives from Gaza, Israel, West Bank, Egypt, Lebanon border provide footage for media around the world

Since the beginning of the war, maintaining live coverage from Gaza, Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and the Israel-Lebanon border has been challenging. But our journalists in the region have risen to the challenge, using creative solutions to provide customers with round-the-clock coverage.

Once the ground operation started and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians evacuated northern Gaza, including our own crew, having a live of the north of the Gaza Strip where much of the fighting was taking place was key from a journalistic and competitive point of view.

With no options inside of northern Gaza, the team secured a position in southern Israel, from which it was possible to see the airstrikes, the destruction of buildings and the devastating effects of the war in Gaza. The live has remained up 24/7 for more than a month.

In recent days, when the ceasefire and exchange of hostages for prisoners began, the crews in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel were deployed to cover all possible points to be able to see the live release of hostages/prisoners and reunions with families.

The video team in Cairo also convinced a local television network to allow the AP to broadcast their images from Rafah Crossing on direct and show the world the moment the hostages left the Gaza Strip and entered Egypt. Those efforts in Gaza, Egypt, the West Bank and Israel allowed AP to provide more than seven live shots almost simultaneously using Live U and Bambuser.

While attention has been heavily focused on the Israel-Hamas war, tension also ratcheted up in northern Israel as near-daily shelling between Israeli military and Hezbollah killed several civilians. The crew in Lebanon moved to the south of the country from where they provided live coverage of the strikes on both sides of the border.

For dedication and creativity in providing invaluable eyes on the Israel-Hamas war, the teams in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, Egypt and Lebanon win this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner

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