April 13, 2018

Best of the States

AP tracks record number of women running for US House seats

The Women’s March shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration energized its backers with a message to get politically engaged. The emergence of the #MeToo movement later that year provided even more momentum. But would women follow through? At the start of 2018, a midterm election year, the state government and data teams decided to find out.

The goal was ambitious: Track every woman running for Congress, statewide office and state legislature in the country, get historical numbers for comparison and follow their electoral fates through Election Day to see if the movements had led to real change. That effort, which will be ongoing throughout the year, produced its first scoop last week when AP declared a record number of women running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

For breaking significant news on one of the most dominant political trends of the year, state government team reporters Christina Cassidy and Geoff Mulvihill, and data team visual journalist Maureen Linke share this week’s Best of the States.

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March 31, 2017

Best of the States

Coal ash: "Why would we be importing it?"

AP Richmond reporter Sarah Rankin learned from a state lawmaker that Chinese coal ash was being imported into Virginia, despite millions of tons of ash already stored near power plants, threatening surface and ground water with contamination by heavy metals. Like other states, Virginia is struggling with how to dispose of its existing waste.

Her story pinpointed where the overseas ash was coming from: China, India and Poland over the past two years. While the foreign shipments of the industrial byproduct were moving through Virginia to Wisconsin and Ohio, interviews with concrete producers and coal ash recyclers and sellers showed more ash was being imported into Virginia from other states.

One environmentalist raised the irony of the situation: "We have millions of tons of this sitting along our riverbanks. Why in the world would we be importing it from other states and countries?"

For exposing a problematic industry practice with statewide environmental and health implications, Rankin's story wins this week's Best of the States.

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June 22, 2018

Best of the States

Chicago gangs embrace social media – often with deadly results

Chicago legal affairs writer Michael Tarm had been anticipating the release of a 400-page report on gangs, compiled about once every six years by the Chicago Crime Commission. He touched base with the commission every few months for years, asking for advanced access to the documents.

It paid off.

Tarm obtained exclusive access to new law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, then he spent weeks going through police and court records to find a gang-related killing to serve as a narrative of the findings. He uncovered the case of Lamanta Reese, a story illustrating how social media is transforming the city’s street-gang culture with deadly consequences. Gang member Reese, 19, had posted a smiley-face emoji on Facebook in response to an off-color joke about the mother of a rival gang member. Days later, that rival crossed the street between their gang factions, sneaked up on Reese and fatally shot him 11 times.

The story got strong play, with more than 10,000 page views on AP’s site the first day – almost 17,000 overall. The main story was published by 220 sites, including The New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the hometown Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. The Sun-Times and Daily Herald also ran it in their papers.

For obtaining exclusive access to law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, poring over police and court records, and drawing on in-depth sourcing to produce a multiformat, compelling narrative, Tarm wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 03, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Governor saw Greene arrest video months before prosecutors

scored their latest in a string of exclusives on the deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene, finding that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards watched a key video of Greene taking his final breaths — a full six months before prosecutors were aware the footage even existed.While the Democrat has distanced himself from allegations of a cover-up in the explosive case by contending evidence was promptly turned over to authorities, AP’s monthslong investigation involving dozens of interviews and hundreds of pages of documents found that wasn’t the case with the 30-minute video he privately viewed in the fall of 2020.Response to the story was swift. A bipartisan legislative committee investigating the case in response to AP’s previous reporting indicated that it would move quickly to call Edwards and key members of his staff to testify under oath.Read more

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Aug. 12, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deep sourcing and sensitive reporting deliver blockbuster on Mormon sex abuse cover-up

AP investigative reporter Mike Rezendes’ years of source work led him to a stunning discovery: a so-called help line that enabled a cover-up of sex abuse in the Mormon church community, including the case of a 5-year-old Arizona girl, molested by her father for seven years while church leaders were aware of the abuse.

Rezendes, video journalist Jessie Wardarski and photographer Dario Lopez met with victims and their families, earning their trust and telling the story in the victims’ own voices. The resulting package, including illustrations by Peter Hamlin, was one of AP’s most-viewed investigative projects of the year, protecting the victims even as it revealed a systemic effort to cover up horrific child sex abuse.

For deep sourcing and commitment to report a story with both impact and sensitivity, Rezendes, Wardarski, Lopez and Hamlin earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Oct. 27, 2017

Best of the States

​APNewsBreak: Mike Pence's brother plans to run for Congress

Indiana political reporter Brian Slodysko knew Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother Greg, who for months had been eyeing a run for Congress, would soon announce that he was jumping into the race for his brother’s old seat.

Slodysko wanted to get the news out first and had been pushing Greg Pence’s advisers. But Slodysko became increasingly concerned the campaign would seek to bypass the media with an announcement directly to their supporters.

Looking for another way to get at the story, Slodysko found an IRS form submitted just days before to establish the Greg Pence for Congress political organization. Armed with that info, Slodysko was able to pull together a story, drawing not only on the IRS filing, but also his own in-depth research of the Pence family.

For finding a way to break a competitive story, Slodysko wins this week’s Best of the States prize.

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May 20, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork, sourcing put AP ahead on Buffalo mass shooting

teamed up to deliver fast, factual breaking coverage of Saturday’s racist mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket, then turned to stories of the victims and a community in mourning.In the chaotic first hours after the shooting, AP avoided the erroneous reporting of other outlets, including false reports that the gunman was dead. Sharp source work had AP accurately reporting the death toll ahead of the official news conference, and that authorities suspected the shooter was driven by racism.The all-formats coverage was AP’s top-performing story of the day, by far, widely used and credited by AP customers and drawing more than 1 million pageviews on AP News.Read more

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Dec. 11, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

In exclusive AP interview, AG Barr says no evidence of widespread election fraud, undermining Trump

Justice Department reporter Mike Balsamo has spent months cultivating sources at the Department of Justice, earning a reputation as an objective journalist who reports fairly and accurately. 

His relationships paid off with an exclusive interview of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in which Barr said the DOJ could find no evidence of widespread voting fraud, dramatically undercutting President Donald Trump’s insistence to the contrary.

“I knew ... he had made probably the biggest news he has in his tenure as AG,” said Balsamo. His story topped the news cycle and resonated for days. No other news outlet could match it and AP was widely cited for the scoop.

For persistent, evenhanded reporting on the Justice Department beat resulting in the interview that netted one of AP’s most consequential news coups of the year, Balsamo wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Jan. 12, 2017

Best of the States

No family immune: A top US prosecutor talks exclusively to the AP about a heroin death: his son’s

In the course of source-building in early 2016, northeastern Pennsylvania correspondent Michael Rubinkam had lunch with a local lawyer. The lawyer mentioned that a member of the U.S. attorney's office had lost a son to heroin but had never spoken publicly about it.

Intrigued, Rubinkam asked the lawyer to approach the then-assistant prosecutor, Bruce Brandler, about an interview. Rubinkam had been looking for fresh ways to write about the scourge of heroin, and saw the prosecutor’s story as a powerful new example of how no family is immune.

But Brandler, he learned, was adamantly against going public with his family’s – and his son’s – story. It was too painful.

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Dec. 02, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Source development leads to two sharply different beats – on Henderson’s death and truck safety

The auto industry and Hollywood entertainment could hardly be more different worlds. But for AP reporters covering them, they have this in common: Building sources is essential.

Last week, Tom Krisher, a Detroit-based auto writer, and Lynn Elber, the TV writer in Los Angeles, demonstrated the value of great beat reporting. Both scored scoops that left competitors scrambling. Their stories also created a very unusual situation: A tie for Beat of the Week honors.

Krisher was the first to report the U.S. government was taking the unusual step of allowing General Motors to delay a large recall of potentially defective air bags, giving the automaker time to prove the devices are safe and possibly avoid a huge financial hit.

Elber broke the news of the death of Florence Henderson, "The Brady Bunch" star, about an hour after the beloved TV mom passed away in Los Angeles.

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Feb. 28, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

With speed and smarts, AP Germany team dominates mass shooting coverage

As news of a racially motivated café shooting started trickling out shortly before midnight on Feb. 19, the AP team in Germany burst into action with an all-hands-on-desk effort that dominated coverage of this major story. 

AP’s success included a huge win on live video coordinated by Kerstin Sopke, brisk filing of the breaking story by Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans, and Michael Probst’s photos from the scene that landed on the front pages of major publications.

Their effort was supplemented by a strong effort from other corners of the AP as journalists interviewed survivors and members of the immigrant community, wrote about the rise of far-right violence in Germany and followed the written trail left by the killer. Play for the story was phenomenal. 

For their speed, smart news judgment and superior coordination that gave AP a massive lead on a big story as it broke, Probst, Moulson, Sopke and Jordans are AP’s Best of the Week winners.

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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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March 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: Toxic chemicals lie beneath Fort Ord

spent a year investigating the possible health effects of groundwater and soil contamination under Fort Ord, a decommissioned U.S. Army base on the central California coast. A tip led AP to a Facebook group of hundreds of soldiers who had lived at the base and developed rare forms of cancer they believe were caused by contamination.The complex, all-formats story included in-depth interviews with those likely suffering health consequences of exposure at the base, which is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the most polluted places in the nation. The team revealed a discredited 25-year-old study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found no “likely” risk at the site, and documents showing the Army knew toxic chemicals had been improperly dumped at Fort Ord for decades, but took pains not to let that information become public. Read more

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May 08, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exclusive reveals ex-Green Beret’s failed Venezuelan coup plot

In a gripping exclusive that reads like the plot of a Hollywood film, Latin America correspondent Josh Goodman revealed the failed plot to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro by a ragtag group of 300 volunteers led by a former U.S. Green Beret. The ill-conceived plan called for the group to invade Venezuela from Colombia and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in Maduro’s arrest.

The plot was uncovered and dismantled with barely a whisper, but a cryptic tip to the well-sourced Goodman planted the seed of the story. Over the next several months he reviewed documents and interviewed more than 30 Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters with knowledge of the plot, piecing together the narrative with a strong assist from investigative researcher Randy Herschaft.

Goodman’s story broke and reaction was strong: International media struggled to catch up and authorities in the U.S. and Colombia launched investigations. Senate Democrats have sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding answers.

For his impressive scoop on the failed coup that has been dubbed “The Bay of Piglets,” Goodman and Herschaft win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Nov. 21, 2016

Best of the States

Innocent suspects face terrible choice: plead guilty or risk life in prison

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit. But as Richmond-based reporter Alanna Durkin Richer and Miami legal affairs reporter Curt Anderson found, it happens more often than you might think.

Digging through publicly available data on exonerations, they found alarming statistics: More than 300 of the roughly 1,900 people who have been exonerated in the U.S. since 1989 pleaded guilty. So Richer and Anderson set out to explain why anyone would plead guilty to a crime he or she didn’t commit ...

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Nov. 11, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Melania Trump modeled in US prior to getting work visa

The exclusive story's foundation was laid months ago, when questions arose about Melania Trump's immigration history and AP contacted employees at the modeling firm where she worked in the 1990s. No office records from the time were found at first. But AP's questions were asked, and one ex-worker kept searching through storage.

Finally, the documents turned up, and when the worker pointed AP to them, they became the basis of a story showing that the future wife of Donald Trump, who has taken strict stands on immigration enforcement, was paid for modeling jobs worth tens of thousands of dollars before she had permission to work in the U.S.

The AP's investigation, by Alicia Caldwell, Chad Day and Jake Pearson, earns the Beat of the Week.

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May 22, 2020

Best of the States

Inside the Navajo Nation as it endures the coronavirus outbreak

If the Navajo Nation were its own state, it would have the second highest per-capita rate of coronavirus cases in the United States, trailing only New York. 

AP’s Felicia Fonseca, one of the preeminent reporters covering Native issues for any news organization, and photographer Carolyn Kaster reported from the heart of the crisis. Donning full protective gear and a healthy measure of courage, they documented families, doctors and volunteers, while national writer Tim Sullivan added further reporting and masterful writing assistance from afar. 

The story and photos capture the vast beauty of the land and the intimate grief of the people, including one family that has lost four members to the virus. The package played heavily in the Southwest U.S. and was among AP’s most downloaded and viewed for several days.

For a revealing look at a Native community in the midst of the health crisis, Fonseca, Kaster and Sullivan share this week’s Best of the States honors.

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Nov. 01, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation: Ukraine’s Zelenskiy pressured by Trump months before call

Desmond Butler and Michael Biesecker, global investigations reporters in Washington, wanted to fill out the timeline of the diplomatic scandal at the heart of House impeachment inquiry. While Biesecker worked sources in Washington, Butler traveled to Ukraine to meet with associates of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and with other sources developed over years of investigating wrongdoing in the former Soviet Union.

What they learned moved the needle on a complex narrative — associates of the Ukrainian leader said that pressure from the Trump White House started much earlier than was known previously, dating from shortly after Zelenskiy’s election in April, and before he took office as president. 

The scoop was the latest in a series of breaking stories and exclusives by the pair that have defined coverage of the impeachment investigation and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s role in it.

For meticulous work that led to a major scoop and widened the horizons of the ongoing Ukraine-Trump story, Butler and Biesecker share AP’s Best of the Week award. 

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Nov. 02, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Staffers respond to synagogue shooting with coordinated multiformat coverage

News of a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue broke on a Saturday morning with first word of the attack reaching AP at around 10:30 a.m., just as many staffers were still covering the spate of pipe bomb attacks against prominent critics of President Trump.

Within minutes Pittsburgh photographers Gene Puskar and Keith Srakokic rushed to the scene, providing some of the first images and text feeds.

Meanwhile, with spotty early reports on the extent of casualties – and competitors reporting various numbers – Washington law enforcement reporter Eric Tucker and Harrisburg reporter Marc Levy worked sources. Between them, they enabled the AP to break word that at least 10 had died – the final toll would be 11 – in what would become the worst attack on Jews on American soil.

It was just one highlight of a seamless and extraordinary effort by colleagues around the country, resulting in impressive customer engagement with AP text, photos and video. Though the shooting happened on a Saturday, it accounted for three of the top dozen video downloads of the week, highlighted by a chilling interview by New York videographer Robert Bumsted and Philadelphia newswoman Maryclaire Dale with a survivor who hid in a closet.

Photos received wide use as well, including a poignant series of images by Philadelphia photographer Matt Rourke who raced to cover the first vigil for victims that night, while AP’s strong relationship with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ensured the hometown paper shared its strongest images from the scene.

For headlining an extraordinary multiformat collaboration that kept the AP in a commanding position on a second straight major breaking story, Puskar, Srakokic, Rourke, Tucker, Levy, Dale and Bumsted share Best of the Week honors.

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