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. 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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Nov. 10, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Intimate reporting and stunning access show how the housing crisis has created missing students 

For the past year, education writer Bianca Vázquez Toness took on the difficult reporting task of finding students who have slipped through the cracks since the pandemic, and looked to Los Angeles, where advocates say the housing crisis is causing students to go missing from school.

She met a homeless mother renting space in strangers’ apartments, sleeping on a twin bed with her two children. The situation had devastated the teenage son Deneffy’s mental health and school performance.

After multiple visits to LA to meet Deneffy’s mother, and eventually Deneffy himself, he confided in Toness, allowing her to capture their narrative.

Photographer Jae C. Hong waited weeks for the family to feel safe having him inside, capturing powerful visuals when he was able to. Illustrations by Peter Hamlin anchored the story’s presentation. Eunice Esomonu put the Spanish version of the story in the immersive design, a first for AP.

Education journalists and readers alike have reached out to share how remarkable and powerful they found Toness’ reporting.

For building trust and cinematic reporting that showed the great lengths homeless kids must go to attend school, Best of the Week — First Winner is awarded to Bianca Vázquez Toness and Jae C. Hong.

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Oct. 20, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reporters jump to cover Hamas rampage and sudden new Israel-Hamas war 

The first word came at 6:25 a.m., Oct. 7 local time: Red alerts were issued via WhatsApp for several locations in Israel. Sirens could be heard in Tel Aviv. AP journalists saw rockets being shot from Rafah in Gaza towards Israel. Then word filtered in from the Israeli army that there were numerous security breaches in central and southern Israel. More rockets fell, with Israeli ambulances dispatched to areas where residents had reported strikes. Taken together, it told of an ominous new day in the region. 

The first of what would be many AP news alerts moved 20 minutes later: Israel says Palestinian militants have infiltrated into Israeli territory from Gaza. 

What unfolded over the days was massive in its scope: The militant armed group Hamas executed a well-planned surprise attack on what would normally be a joyful holiday, Simchat Torah.

The Israeli army, caught off guard, struggled for days to regain control of the invaded towns. Israel released counterstrikes into Gaza, killing hundreds. Over the next 10 days the toll would rise to thousands dead in Gaza and in Israel.

Throughout the conflict, the teams in Israel and Gaza worked with courage, determination and excellence under extremely challenging circumstances to report on the painful events affecting them and their families. They earn Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 22, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP’s team reporting alerts the world to Libya’s disastrous floods

Years of reporting on Libya from afar and a local freelancer’s willingness to travel treacherous roads allowed AP’s team to alert the world about a disaster of massive proportions, after heavy floods burst two dams above the city of Derna, washing away and killing thousands.

It took nearly 24 hours for news to emerge from Libya of the deadly floods. But with the country divided between rival governments with spotty records for accuracy, it was tricky to grasp the extent of the devastation.

When one of the governments reported more than 2,000 dead and counting, Libya video producer Adel Omran was the first to alert the team, after which Cairo reporter Samy Magdy called contacts in the health care and aid community, who confirmed that toll and said it was likely to rise.

Misrata-based freelance photographer Yousef Murad drove hours to the scene, sending an initial dispatch showing mass burials for the rising number of bodies. On the ground, Murad faced difficult conditions and lack of basic amenities as the stench of death overtook the city. His subsequent stories documented the immense recovery effort and the stories of survivors.

For their harrowing work revealing a complex story of disaster and recovery, Magdy, Murad and Omran are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 15, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team provides fast — and exclusive — coverage of devastating Morocco earthquake

Sam Metz had been on the job for four days. The newly appointed North Africa reporter had just arrived in Rabat, fresh from Utah, when Morocco’s strongest earthquake in more than a century hit late Friday.

As Metz got alerts and a story going, photographer Mosa’ab Elshamy knew exactly what to do. He organized a car and driver, and the duo headed to the epicenter hours away, navigating rubble-blocked roads. Their all-nighter paid off: AP had the first international journalists on-site.

Both Elshamy and Metz shot video from their phones as Brussels-based video journalist Mark Carlson rushed to get there with a LiveU and satellite phone. Freelancers helped keep AP ahead, while colleagues around the world pitched in on all formats.

AP had the first confirmed death tolls and stayed ahead throughout that crucial first day. Metz’s firsthand accounts and Elshamy’s photojournalism yielded exclusive stories that led websites beyond AP News and topped the Los Angeles Times print edition two days in a row. The Day 1 story was the third-most-viewed story on AP News for that week.

For fast and fearless work under complex circumstances, Metz, Elshamy and Carlson are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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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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Aug. 04, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

A photo and source work spark a compelling, emotional tale on migration

Migration-focused video journalist Renata Brito in Barcelona took note of a heartbreaking photo on social media to spark a story about the situation at the Tunisia-Libya border — and she used her years of source work, expertise on the border and help from around AP to confirm the story.

On July 19, the photo of a woman and child lying dead, barefoot and face down in the tawny desert sand began circulating on social media. It was retweeted by activists who accused Tunisia of abandoning migrants to their fates on the other side of Tunisia’s desert border with Libya.

But little was known about the photo or the stories of the two who had died.

On social media, some said the photo spoke to that growing crisis, but others insisted it was an old image from another country.

Three days after the photo surfaced, a source of Brito’s in Libya messaged her, saying he knew the woman and child in the photo. From afar, Brito had developed a relationship with the source for years. For this story, Brito asked the source: How did he know it was them? Could she speak to friends or family? With whom did they travel?

That resulted in a tale of dashed hope and tragedy as told to the AP by the late woman’s husband, with additional details and key context contributed by Elaine Ganley and Samy Magdy, who together are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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July 28, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP’s Nairobi bureau delivers searing, all-formats look at police violence and cover-up

In Kenya, police brutality has long been criticized. But the violence this month against demonstrators still shocked. AP delivered an all-formats documentation of it, along with attempts to hide it.

As Kenyans protested new taxes and the cost of living, freelance photographer Brian Inganga delivered widely shared images of several people shot by police in one of Nairobi’s most volatile neighborhoods.

As rumors circulated about the number of people shot dead, AP confirmed that police received orders not to report the deaths, not even to their oversight authority, which is illegal. East Africa correspondent Cara Anna combined that with data from a medical-legal watchdog group to show that police had killed more than 30 people.

East Africa writer Evelyne Musambi wrote about one of the victims, a young man who carted water. Kenya’s president, William Ruto, had relied on the support of just these kinds of working class “hustlers” to win office, but they took the brunt of the violence. Video journalist Josphat Kasire was instrumental in finding the victim’s family through patient efforts at the morgue.

For showing the scale of violence that the police wanted to keep under wraps, all while protecting each other’s backs amid street violence, Inganga, Anna, Musambi and Kasire are this week’s 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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