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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March 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Conspiracy, lies and social media: AP finds state, local GOP officials promoting online disinformation

After the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, investigative reporters Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza and Juliet Linderman wanted to know if local, county and state Republican officials across the country were continuing to amplify online messages similar to those that had inspired the riot, and what they hoped to accomplish by doing so.

The trio turned to data journalist Larry Fenn, AP statehouse reporters and a comprehensive archive of the Parler social media platform. A third-party algorithm matched public officials to their Parler accounts, allowing an unprecedented look at GOP officials’ unfiltered posts on the right-wing aligned site. The analysis of Parler and other alternative platforms identified a faction of lower-level Republican officials that have pushed lies, misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories echoing those that fueled the violent U.S. Capitol siege.

For harnessing the power of social media analysis, data science and AP’s state-level expertise to reveal how lies and misinformation from the 2020 election have reached deep into the GOP’s state apparatus, Burke, Mendoza, Linderman and Fenn win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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March 06, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP’s tour de force coverage of Weinstein verdict sweeps all formats

Coverage by an Associated Press team dominated the closely watched Harvey Weinstein verdict, delivering wins in all formats with speed, depth and exclusivity. Superior planning and preparation, and outstanding coordination on the day of the verdict, gave AP the edge.

Highlights included the breaking news story moving on the wire within a minute of the verdict, exclusive video of Weinstein leaving the courthouse by ambulance, and an enterprising behind-the-scenes photo essay on the women journalists covering the trial that earned remarkable play.

For quick, comprehensive and distinctive coverage that kept the AP ahead on one of the biggest trials of the year so far, Mary Altaffer, Michael R. Sisak, Tom Hays, David Martin, Ted Shaffrey, Robert Bumsted, John Minchillo, Craig Ruttle and Sophie Rosenbaum win AP’s Best of the Week award.

 

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Dec. 31, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘This is Joseph Moore’: FBI informant inside KKK reveals himself in riveting AP interview

AP investigative reporter Jason Dearen received a curious email on Dec. 1, claiming to be from Joseph Moore, a man Dearen had written about months earlier. Moore was an FBI undercover informant who had infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Florida and disrupted a murder plot by three klansmen working as prison guards.

Dearen and AP visual journalist Robert Bumsted soon found themselves in Florida interviewing Moore about his years in the klan.

Moore said he’d identified dozens of law enforcement officers who were either sympathetic to the klan, or active members, telling AP, “It is more prevalent and consequential than any of them are willing to admit.” Dearen also came away with details to further challenge Florida officials’ claims that they have no indication of wider klan or other criminal gang activity among their prison guards.

The “must read” story, accompanied by Bumsted's video, lit up online and numerous film producers inquired about film rights.

For chasing the story so long and covering it so well that it brought an underground FBI informant out of the shadows, Dearen and Bumsted earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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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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Aug. 09, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigative team reveals how Michigan-based group quietly helped abusive priests

It was a piece of investigative journalism that yielded stunning revelations about the role of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a small nonprofit in Michigan that has been quietly providing money, shelter and legal help to hundreds of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse.

Investigative reporters Martha Mendoza, Garance Burke and Juliet Linderman launched an aggressive effort using shoe leather and Freedom of Information requests to unravel the story behind the organization. Photographer Paul Sancya told the story through a powerful set of images, while videographer Mike Householder produced his own compelling piece.

The riveting story received prominent play and gathered growing interest as it was translated and published in predominantly Catholic countries around the world.

For a story that revealed a startling but little-known group in the shadows of the church’s sexual abuse scandals, Mendoza, Linderman, Burke, Householder and Sancya win AP’s Best of the Week.

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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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June 07, 2019

Best of the States

Teamwork and drone visuals lead coverage after tornadoes rip western Ohio

There’s a real difference between straight aerial photography and the bird’s-eye view that AP’s audience had of the destruction after a series of tornados touched down in western Ohio late on Memorial Day. Using a drone, Cincinnati photographer John Minchillo and video journalist Angie Wang provided those images from a rare perspective – both still photos and video – showing residents coping with the wreckage and sorting through their gutted homes.

The resulting video coverage was our overall top U.S. video story for the week, and Minchillo’s still photos were widely played, including front pages of the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Two of his photos appeared in NBC’s The Week in Pictures.

From small details to sweeping landscapes of destruction, their dedication, teamwork and speed of delivery make John Minchillo and Angie Wang this week’s Best of the States winners.

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June 12, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: WHO’s behind-the-scenes frustration to get virus info from China

China and the Trump administration had opposing narratives about the early days of the new coronavirus epidemic: China bragged about providing information quickly to the world through the World Health Organization, while the Trump administration accused China and WHO of colluding to hide information.

It took The Associated Press – drawing on recordings, documents and interviews – to tell the definitive story: Rather than colluding with China, WHO itself was being kept in the dark, praising China in public to shake loose information while expressing considerable frustration in private.

AP’s widely praised story, months in the making, was so sensitive that we did not name the two main journalists to avoid blowback in China and to prevent anyone from identifying our sources.

For in-depth reporting that drew back the curtains and punctured the preferred narratives of China, WHO and the Trump administration at the same time, the AP reporters who produced this stunning piece earn Best of the Week honors. 

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April 01, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

F1 races in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia; AP raises human rights

continues to hold Formula One accountable for racing in countries where human rights are routinely trampled. While covering the exceptionally intense and challenging kickoff to the F1 racing season in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Pugmire, AP’s Paris-based auto racing writer, held exclusive interviews with a released torture survivor and the 12-year-old son of a man on death row, and pressured Formula One heavyweights to advocate for human rights in both countries.Pugmire’s persistence led seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to tell him, “You sure don’t make it easy for me.” To which Pugmire replied, “That’s because you’re the only one who doesn’t duck questions.” In the private conversation that followed, the two shared experiences of meeting released prisoners, and Hamilton complimented Pugmire on his commitment to the issue. Read more

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Oct. 16, 2020

Best of the States

11 weeks in the bubble: AP writer’s exhaustive NBA report goes well beyond the games

Through 78 days at Walt Disney World, basketball writer Tim Reynolds proved himself virtually unstoppable, turning out game stories on deadline while also spinning insightful pieces that examined the major topics of 2020, from coronavirus concerns to racial injustice issues and the presidential election – not to mention the league’s work stoppage. The so-called bubble may have confined him to an arena in central Florida, but Reynolds’ relentless NBA coverage reminded readers that sports illuminate our lives in ways big and small.

In all, Reynolds wrote an eye-popping 200-plus stories, collecting exclusives along the way. He capped his efforts with his insightful analysis of LeBron James’ legacy after James led the Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA title. 

For his exhaustive, and exhausting, work that went well beyond the games in the NBA bubble, Reynolds wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 06, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘I want to be with Carrie’: At Reynolds and Fisher deaths, AP gets exclusives

When Carrie Fisher died, generations lamented the loss of their Princess Leia. But when actress Debbie Reynolds died a day later, the near-simultaneous passings of mother and daughter were seen worldwide as an epic tragedy.

It was AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen who first reached Fisher’s brother, Todd, to confirm that his sister had been hospitalized. Days later, it was AP Television Writer Lynn Elber who first reached Todd Fisher to confirm the unthinkable -- that his mother had died, as well. Their sterling work is the Beat of the Week.

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Aug. 13, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP story resonates globally: New Hampshire hermit loses home, finds himself back on the grid

The vividly told AP story of an 81-year-old man’s quest to remain in an isolated New Hampshire cabin hooked readers around the world, led to an outpouring of support and eventually prompted the man to reconsider his hermit lifestyle.

Reporter Kathy McCormack had begun by looking into a legal fight involving David Lidstone, a spritely man known locally as “River Dave.” He’d been living peacefully in a makeshift home for 27 years when the property owner moved to evict him. Lidstone refused to leave and was jailed in July; while he was in jail, his cabin burned to the ground.

McCormack’s reporting turned Lidstone’s difficulties into a powerful story, fleshing out the details of his life and the local efforts to help him stay put. The piece was an immediate hit, ultimately capturing more than a half million pageviews on AP News, making it the site’s most popular story of the week. McCormack and colleagues followed up with subsequent developments, including the groundswell of international attention Lidstone received and his move away from the reclusive life.

For bringing this engaging story to life and her persistence in following it through, McCormack wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 04, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Two AP exclusives: China’s forced labor and US detention of migrant youths

Welcome to the first Best of the Week of 2019. Among a series of very strong end-of-the-year nominations, the judges have selected two winners from opposite sides of the world.

A sweeping AP investigation by California-based investigative reporters Garance “Poppy” Burke and Martha Mendoza found that the U.S. is once again institutionalizing thousands of migrant children in crowded shelters, despite warnings that the experience could lead to lifelong trauma. Their national story, complemented with a comprehensive data package by Washington-based data editor Meghan Hoyer and NY-based data journalist Larry Fenn, was the first to provide shelter-by-shelter detention statistics, numbers the government had been withholding all year.

Our other winner comes from an equally impactful AP investigation by Beijing-based video journalist Dake Kang, newsperson Yanan Wang and Mendoza, again, which showed that clothing made inside a Chinese internment camp housing Muslim Uighurs is being shipped to a U.S. company that supplies sportswear to American schools and universities.

To do this, they cross-referenced satellite imagery, Chinese state media reports and the address of a Chinese supplier on bills of lading destined for Badger Sportswear in North Carolina. Kang then travelled to Kazakhstan to get multiple on-camera accounts of forced labor in the Chinese camps.

For enterprising, important work, the team of Burke, Mendoza, Hoyer and Fenn, and the team of Kang, Wang and Mendoza share AP’s Best of the Week.

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