Aug. 25, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP recounts final mental health struggles of Olympics champ Tori Bowie

On the eve of the first world track championships since Bowie’s passing, AP sportswriters Eddie Pells and Pat Graham teamed up to report exclusively on the mental health struggles of Tori Bowie that led up to the star athlete’s death April 23 from complications during childbirth at the age of 32.

The two had covered Bowie, who won three medals at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Games, for many years and had heard whispers of her difficulties. A few weeks after her death, the autopsy listed the cause as “complications in childbirth.”

While other outlets pursued the angle that Black women suffer disproportionately from pregnancy complications, Pells opted to explore another dimension of her story, her struggles with mental health.

He sought out people at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and within track and field, to find out how a world-famous champion, who was eight months into what would be considered an at-risk pregnancy, came to die alone at home without medical care or anyone to look after her.

For sensitively telling the story of a great athlete who became isolated from her peers and died tragically alone in part because of neglect of her mental health difficulties, Pells and Graham are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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July 14, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Follow-up reporting after Texas mass shooting reveals long-standing complaints about police response

When a Texas sheriff’s story about a mass shooting didn’t add up, Dallas-based reporter Jake Bleiberg dug in.  

During the four-day search for a man accused of fatally shooting five of his neighbors in April, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told a crush of reporters that his deputies got to the scene in 11 minutes, but the suspect had vanished. Bleiberg was among the Texas reporters covering the shooting who heard from area residents that deputies rarely responded to calls faster than 30 minutes. As he worked the phone to get a fuller picture, Bleiberg connected with a source who provided him with the report of a police consultant who county officials hired to examine the sheriff’s office. Bleiberg quickly authenticated the document and headed down to the rural corner of East Texas to continue reporting along with video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi and freelance photographer Michael Wyke.  

They conducted more than 20 interviews with current and former deputies, county officials and residents. Bleiberg successfully pressed for the release of public records related to the shooting and obtained revealing court documents and evidence gathered in a whistleblower lawsuit against the sheriff. The reporting revealed that the latest inaccuracies were part of years’ worth of accusations against the sheriff, including neglecting basic police work, evidence of the improper seizure of tens of thousands of dollars of property, ignoring previous concerns over the alleged shooter, and his deputies failing to follow up on reports of 4,000 crimes — including sexual and child abuse.  

For a tireless effort to reveal years of corruption accusations and dysfunction previously unknown outside of the local area, Jake Bleiberg earns Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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June 02, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cross-format team delivers a comprehensive, data-driven project on Black Americans’ experiences with health disparities

National investigative race writer Kat Stafford had wanted to create a project about lifelong health disparities Black people face for quite some time. Taking inspiration from her reporting about the toll COVID-19 exacted upon Black Americans, she sharpened her idea and embarked on reporting a five-part series.     

Driven by data and the experiences of several families, individuals and communities across five states and life stages, “From Birth to Death” examines five health crises: infant and maternal health, childhood asthma, mental health, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s disease.       

Stafford, who is based in Detroit, teamed up with video journalist Noreen Nasir and photojournalist Maye-E Wong, both of New York, for the comprehensive project that captures the health journey of Black people in America over a lifetime. The trio — along with national education writer Annie Ma, data journalist Angeliki Kastanis, illustrator Peter Hamlin, project site creator Linda Gorman, and graphics journalist Kevin Vineys — told the stories in a compelling and human way using an innovative presentation. They centered the project around the often-underrepresented voices and perspectives of Black Americans — and not just the main characters, but also Black medical experts, researchers and historians. The families featured said they feel seen and heard for the first time.   

In addition, an extensive social promotion plan created by Ed Medeles, Elise Ryan and Almaz Abedje enticed readers to delve into the project.

For an innovative series that gives a fuller picture of the health disparities Black people experience in a way that resonates with a broader audience, this team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.   

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