March 01, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

A leaked trove of documents opens a rare window into Chinese hacking practices

China has long used hacking as a political and law-enforcement tool to put eyes on dissidents, governments and other people it wants to watch. Because of Associated Press reporting efforts, the picture of how that is done — and what it might mean — is a bit clearer now. On Feb. 19, multiple sources alerted China investigative correspondent Dake Kang to a newly discovered leak of documents from a Chinese police contractor that revealed the company was hacking the networks of over a dozen foreign governments for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. The documents revealed how these hackers-for-hire operations worked, which systems they targeted, what tools they used and how they assisted police in the surveillance and harassment of dissidents and oppressed ethnicities even outside China’s borders. The documents had been published online by an unknown source, and no other major media outlet had picked up on it yet. But how to verify? Kang, who at the time happened to be in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, was en route to the airport to return to Beijing when he was browsing the contractor’s website. One of their addresses was right there, just a 40-minute drive from the airport. Kang canceled his flight, hopped into a cab and headed to the company’s offices. U.S.-based technology reporter Frank Bajak simultaneously jumped on the story, contacting cybersecurity analysts, many of whom said they thought it was authentic. The following morning, Kang returned to the company where two employees confirmed the leak. With effective communication and swift editing, the story made it to the wire during U.S. daytime.  

The cross-continental teamwork and speed paid off. The AP was first among major competitors to put the story out, with others following hours later — some of them using AP’s exclusive photos.  

For a quick and concerted scramble that leveraged differing forms of AP expertise, touched multiple continents and delivered precision on deadline, Kang and Bajak are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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May 10, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exclusively breaks news that DEA moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug

White House Correspondent Zeke Miller, Latin America Correspondent Joshua Goodman, Investigative Reporter Jim Mustian and Washington Reporter Lindsay Whitehurst combined forces to exclusively break the news that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, a historic shift that could clear the way toward easing federal criminal penalties on pot at a time when President Joe Biden is seeking the support of younger voters.

The DEA’s biggest policy recommendation in its 50-year history had been highly anticipated and hotly contested by every major news organization. In the end, AP’s bombshell story last Tuesday left competitors scrambling to match AP’s reporting and give AP full credit for being first.

But AP wasn’t done. In the ensuing hours there was another APNewsAlert on Attorney General Merrick Garland endorsing the DEA proposal, a politics sidebar by Jonathan J. Cooper on how this is Biden’s latest attempt to reach out to younger voters and a “What It Means” glance by Jennifer Peltz and Whitehurst that unpacked the nuances of the order. That was also neatly presented in an AP video narrated by Whitehurst.

For strong, fast, exclusive reporting that put the AP out front to drive the conversation on a historic policy shift on pot, Miller, Goodman, Mustian and Whitehurst are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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April 19, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP hosts digital-first experience of total solar eclipse with livestream, blog and scenes from Mexico to Maine

In a large-scale, innovative and comprehensive work of journalism that required months of planning and precise execution, a core team from Health and Science conceived a digital-first experience of the total solar eclipse with a livestream, live blog and scenes along the path of totality from Mexico to Maine. Executing the plan successfully required coordination that extended across formats, countries and departments.

Coverage of the eclipse began in February with weekly all-formats storytelling by the Health and Science team, with contributions from Global Beats and U.S. News teams. Work also began to develop a livestream eclipse show, featuring Health and Science audience and social lead Kyle Viterbo; video journalists Mary Conlon and Laura Bargfeld; and aerospace writer Marcia Dunn, along with engineer Hugo Blanco.

In the control room, Global Beats video news editor Kathy Young, Entertainment video editor Brooke Lefferts and U.S. assignment manager Robert Bumsted worked with video operations manager Derek Danilko and broadcast engineer Rob Weisenfeld to produce the six-hour livestream. They worked with video journalists who went live along the path, including Alexis Triboulard, Lekan Oyekanmi, Nick Ingram, Teresa Crawford, Patrick Orsagos and David Martin, while video curation editor Francisco Guzman kept real-time track of audience engagement.

A live blog launched at 5:30 a.m. EDT with posts prepared by Health and Science editor Stephanie Nano, and deputy editor Jon Poet, live blog editor Emily Olson and digital editor Sophia Eppolito kept it running with fresh dispatches and visuals over 12 hours from journalists in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.

Unique and quickly filed images of the event were captured photojournalists Fernando Llano, Eric Gay, Mat Otero, Tony Gutierrez, Jeff Roberson, Michael Conroy, Carolyn Kaster, Jon Cherry, Matt Rourke and Bob Bukaty, with coordination by chief photographer Julio Cortez.

For conceiving a digital-first approach that caught the attention of our customers and our digital audience, the Health and Science team of Viterbo, Conlon, Bargfeld, Dunn and Nano are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 16, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

Up close to Iceland’s volcanic eruption, AP dominates with awe-inspiring visuals

When tremors struck in the early hours of Thursday morning, AP stringer Marco di Marco knew he didn’t have long to reach the scene of Iceland’s latest volcanic eruption before access would be limited by rescuers. His swiftness put the AP ahead of competitors with stunning photos and video coverage that amazed global audiences.

Iceland-based visual journalist Marco di Marco, a specialist in volcano photography and videography, has developed strong relationships with scientists, rescuers and local officials in his work with the AP. He was en route as soon as the eruption occurred, immediately alerting Stockholm-based journalist David Keyton, who put in place all-formats coverage including much-used live video feeds.

Di Marco’s knowledge of the terrain and relationship with local law enforcement enabled him to quickly position himself near where the lava flow would breach a key road, providing unique coverage of the fast-moving event. On site, he filed compressed photos to the global photo desk, edited from his phone amid extremely limited network coverage. That enabled the AP to provide clients with strong visuals just as the world was waking up to news of the eruption. Throughout the day, he provided stunning photography and videography, including aerial perspectives, while also updating AP colleagues on the developing situation on the ground.

For being the driving force behind our stunning coverage of this volcanic eruption, Marco di Marco wins Best of the Week — First Winner.

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