Aug. 09, 2019

Best of the States

AP mobilizes cross-formats response to deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio

AP’s U.S. staff has a lot of practice in responding to mass shootings. But two major events in 24 hours tested even the most experienced staff.

They rose to the challenge.

Soon after noon Central time on Saturday, Aug. 3, reports began to surface about an active shooter at an El Paso, Texas, mall. A local news station initially reported that 18 people were shot inside a Walmart – a number which by Monday would rise to 22 dead and two dozen injured.

The quick reaction of AP staff around the country and beyond – in the office, at home and even on vacation – ensured the AP was fast, accurate and leading the way on what would become one of the biggest stories of the year. Text, photo and video staffers converged on El Paso, while colleagues around the country worked sources, contributed to the stories and managed the coverage.

Among the standout reporting was an early interview with a woman who told the heartbreaking story of her sister who died while shielding her 2-month-old son – just a small part of the terrific cross-format continuing coverage.

As the Texas team was just catching its breath, reports of another massacre emerged overnight, this time in Ohio. AP’s initial alert was followed four minutes later by the alert that a shooter killed nine people, including his own sister, before police shot him dead. The East Desk immediately dispatched Ohio staff and others to Dayton.

AP beat competitive agencies with photos and numerous live shots, as well as an incredibly compelling interview with a man who watched his father die in his arms. Elsewhere, many of the same supporting cast already working the El Paso story from afar stepped in on Ohio as well, complementing the coverage on the ground.

For its quick, nimble response, precise reporting and robust, cross-format content on two highly competitive breaking stories, the U.S. staff is recognized with this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 05, 2018

Best of the States

ONLY ON AP: FEMA sells trailers for pennies on the dollar despite high demand from disaster victims

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas in August, Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas, and Michael Sisak in Philadelphia teamed up to report exclusively that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had sold off scores of trailers with little to no damage in the days leading up to the storm. Their reporting had an immediate impact: FEMA said it had halted the auctions and would evaluate whether any of the units could be used for Harvey victims.

Fast forward to November, when Sisak noticed the auctions had resumed. Working with Central Desk editor Jeff McMurray, Sisak and Schmall took a pointed look at government waste, showing how FEMA was selling gently used trailers for pennies on the dollar rather than making them available for disaster victims.

For resourceful reporting that broke new ground, Schmall and Sisak share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Locusts swarm East Africa as a new wave forms in the Somali desert

After its shocking Jan. 25 report on the locust swarms devastating agriculture in Kenya, AP’s Nairobi team came through with another truly striking package on the worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years. This time, Nairobi staffers Ben Curtis and Josphat Kasire obtained exclusive coverage of the next wave of young locusts now bulking up in Somalia’s desert.

The story posed multiple challenges, not the least of which was the very real threat of al-Shabab extremists in the area. And the young insects were relentless. “If you put anything down on the ground for a minute, you’d find a bunch of bugs crawling over it,” Curtis recounted.

Despite the obstacles, the team produced stunning images and vivid reporting from the source of the widespread outbreak, proof that the region’s infestation was far from over.

For resourceful and determined work that resulted in an only-on-AP direct look at the ravages of a veritable Biblical plague of locusts, Kasire and Curtis win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 17, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

APNewsBreak: Beyond bluster, US, NKorea in regular contact

For weeks, the escalating back-and-forth between North Korea and the United States over possible nuclear conflict had made for headlines that were alarming at the least _ and to many, terrifying.

Amid all the bluster came an exclusive report from Matthew Pennington, foreign policy reporter in Washington, revealing that senior U.S. and North Korean diplomats have been maintaining a back-channel communication for the last several months, and that they'd moved on from an early focus on U.S. detainees to address the broader strains in the relationship.

At a time of heightened alert, the story pointed to a possible diplomatic path out of the crisis, and indicated that both U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be more flexible on the idea of negotiations than they are letting on. After days of bombastic threats from both sides, Pennington's reporting, which wins the Beat of the Week, provided a sobering reality check: the enemies aren't on an unavoidable path toward conflict.

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Nov. 16, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cataclysmic fires cap off week of momentous and devastating news in California

California’s news staff still was in the midst of reporting the tragic night-spot shooting in Thousand Oaks when news reached the AP that a wildfire in Northern California was spreading quickly, sending thousands fleeing.

Bay Area freelance photographer Noah Berger, as good a fire chaser as there is anywhere, tipped the office off that the Northern California fire looked explosive. By 11 a.m. Sacramento reporter Don Thompson was hitting the road, and a first AP NewsAlert moved saying people fleeing for their lives had abandoned vehicles as the fire swept in.

AP’s all-formats coverage went into high gear, with staffers pouring in from the region. In addition to Thompson, who stayed at the scene with fire crews for several days straight, Portland, Ore., all-formats reporter Gilly Flaccus arrived, producing unmatched interviews in text and video of survivors and of crews searching for the remains of those killed. San Francisco reporter Paul Elias gathered information on the dramatic rescues and chaotic evacuation, while Las Vegas photographer John Locher and Denver videographer Peter Banda provided gripping visuals from the scene.

AP was first to report thousands of homes destroyed, first to report a named victim, and we were alone in accompanying a search and recovery crew in all formats as they went to a victim’s home and found her remains.

The coverage was nuanced and emotional. California News Editor Frank Baker says there was no one on the California staff who didn’t contribute, working unrelentingly from last week’s elections and mass shooting straight into the wildfire.

For outstanding work, bolstered and supported by California’s all-formats reporting staff and editors, Thompson, Flaccus, Elias, Berger, Locher and Banda share this AP's Best of the Week.

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July 13, 2018

Best of the States

Two stories focus on young victims impacted by US immigration policy

In two moving pieces of journalism in the last week, Associated Press journalists cast a powerful spotlight on the toll of White House immigration policies on young children.

One story started with a question posed by immigration beat team reporter Nomaan Merchant: Could we profile a single block or community where multiple immigrants had been picked up, and explore the impact of those arrests?

Merchant, joined by video journalist Manuel Valdes and photographer Greg Bull, zeroed in on a community in Kentucky that was the site of a two-day Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid last December.

Their reporting turned up examples of people who were arrested by happenstance, and with no criminal records – despite the administration’s mantra that the raids are for public safety. Perhaps the most poignant reporting and images focused on a 4-year-old boy whose father was arrested.

Meanwhile, Arizona immigration reporter Astrid Galvan was looking for ways to tell the stories of children separated from their parents at the border. She found a juvenile docket in Phoenix immigration court and camped out there for the day.

What she found was a major story that affected the national debate on immigration – a 1-year-old boy who had a court appearance with a lawyer. Galvan described in vivid detail how he nursed from his bottle, asked his care giver for “agua” and cried when the care giver retrieved his diaper bag. And she captured the money quote as a judge expressed his bafflement at having to advise a defendant of his rights when the defendant was a 1-year-old boy in diapers.

For exclusive, compelling stories that drove the narrative on a subject of prevailing interest, Galvan, Merchant, Valdes and Bull win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: States spent billions on medical supplies

took the lead in obtaining and analyzing public records that disclosed state coronavirus-related spending that had largely been kept from the public. The reporters filed Freedom of Information Act requests in all 50 states seeking purchase order records to determine how much was being spent on what items, which suppliers the states were using and how the spending compared across the states.The findings revealed that overall the states spent at least $7 billion on medical gear in the first few months of the pandemic, a massive amount that had not been reported until AP’s investigation. Even lawmakers in most states did not know the scope of spending, much of which was inflated by competition between states and huge price markups for routine items.The project reflected a signature goal of the AP news department this year: to “connect the dots” across the states for our U.S. customers in a way that only AP can. After months spent analyzing the state-by-state information, the data team made all the information available in an easy-to-use format for AP members and for our own state reporters. In addition to the national stories, more than a dozen AP reporters wrote state sidebars, receiving prominent play online and in print. https://bit.ly/37HJS07

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Jan. 15, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Riot in America: Compelling and courageous coverage of the insurrection at the US Capitol

The AP team arriving on Capitol Hill expected to cover history on Jan. 6: an unprecedented challenge from Republicans lawmakers to the outcome of the election. Within hours, however, those staffers found themselves covering an insurrectionist mob storming the U.S. Capitol.

As angry supporters of President Donald Trump descended on Capitol Hill, confronting police, breaking down barricades and smashing through windows, AP journalists working in all formats documented the chaotic scenes inside and outside the Capitol.

Despite orders to evacuate, trashed equipment and a vicious attack on one of our staffers, the team on the ground kept words and images moving throughout the day, highlighted by stunning visuals. The work continued into the early hours of the next morning, when Congress finally the certified election results.

For their riveting real-time coverage as U.S. history unfolded, the courageous and dedicated staff on Capitol Hill earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 02, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Investigation: Secret report linked Honduran national police chief to cartel coke delivery

Reporters Christopher Sherman, Martha Mendoza and Garance Burke were weeks into a deep look at police misconduct in Honduras, where public mistrust of law enforcement is among the highest in the world. So when they heard a new national police chief had been appointed, they immediately shifted gears and began asking questions about him.

What they found was explosive – a confidential government security document that detailed a troubling allegation regarding the force. It said the newly named National Police Chief Jose David Aguilar Moran had once helped a drug cartel leader pull off the delivery of nearly a ton of cocaine. The clandestine haul, worth at least $20 million on U.S. streets, was packed inside a tanker truck that, the report said, was escorted by corrupt police officers to the home of Wilter Blanco, a drug trafficker recently convicted in Florida and now serving a 20-year sentence.

For their dogged reporting, Sherman, Mendoza and Burke share the Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 21, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP and partners document Puerto Rico hurricane deaths

Colleagues,

Welcome to Best of the Week.

This officially marks a rebirth of sorts for our weekly global staff contest, which celebrates some of the best work from around the AP world.

This week’s winner celebrates a great team effort by colleagues in Latin America and beyond, as well as a really productive partnership with two other news organizations. It’s creative and insightful work that breaks news and includes great visual journalism and innovative presentation. It rose to the top of an impressive field of entries.

Today, and each Friday going forward, the weekly winner is revealed at the Global News Meeting at 9:15 a.m. ET, which all AP staff are invited to attend.

Please join me in congratulating this week’s honorees.

BC

Since the early days after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, the debate over the death toll has raged. The Trump administration seized on initial reports that fewer than 100 people had died, but those numbers belied the scope of the devastation. The storm left the island without electricity for months, hospitals and other key infrastructure shuttered, roads unpassable and pharmacies closed.

In June, Caribbean News Director Mike Weissenstein in Havana forged a partnership with Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism and U.S.-based news site Quartz to undertake the most comprehensive list to date of Puerto Ricans who died in the wake of the storm.

For the project, Weissenstein, San Juan newswoman Danica Coto, Washington-based data journalist Larry Fenn, New York-based reporter Claudia Torrens, Miami-based reporter Gisela Salomon, Washington-based reporters Luis Alonso and Ben Fox, as well as senior Havana-based producer Chris Gillette, Havana photographer Ramon Espinosa, Santo Domingo reporter Ezequiel Lopez Blanco, Mexico-based digital producer Dario Lopez, New York-based motion graphics producer Peter Hamlin and enterprise editor Raghuram Vadarevu, based in Phoenix, share the Best of the Week award-

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Aug. 26, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals Sinema taking Wall Street money, killing industry tax

spent months sifting through opaque campaign finance records to learn that Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema received nearly $1 million over the past year — more than double what she had received in her previous 10 years in Congress combined — from private equity professionals, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists as she thwarted efforts to raise their taxes.A day after the legislation passed the Senate with selected tax provisions excised at SInema’s insistence, the AP story drove national political coverage and earned hundreds of thousands of views on AP News.Read more

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May 11, 2018

Best of the States

Illinois coroner to poor: Pay $1000 or county keeps remains

The tip that led to an exclusive by Chicago reporter Sara Burnett seemed outlandish: When poor people couldn't afford to bury their loved ones, a western Illinois coroner was cremating the bodies and keeping the ashes until the family paid $1,000. He’s continued the policy even though the state has resumed a program to pay for the funerals.

Burnett reported on a woman whose ex-husband and father of their three children died. They were both on disability and she couldn’t come up with the money, leaving the family to hold a memorial service with just a photograph and an empty container. Wendy Smith said she felt the policy was unfair. "I just think they pick on the people that are poor."

The coroner told Burnett that the policy started after the state, which for years has faced billion-dollar deficits, announced it was too broke to pay for indigent funerals and burials – shifting the cost to funeral homes and county coroners. Further, the coroner claimed only one woman was unhappy. But Burnett tracked down other families, and had a back-and-forth with the state about how much money was appropriated for the burial program

Within days, the state comptroller, citing The Associated Press story, weighed in that the coroner's practice was "disgusting behavior" and called for a ramped-up campaign to alert local officials that state-funded burial is again available.

For illuminating a questionable practice and how the state’s budget crisis continues to cause pain for the poor and vulnerable, Burnett earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 22, 2017

Best of the States

Request denied? Sunshine Hub sheds light on state efforts to block public access

Beyond its dramatic effects, the audio from 911 calls can provide the kind of context that is essential to the public's understanding of what happened during a newsworthy crime or emergency. Those recordings are, with few exceptions, a matter of public record. That almost changed this year in Iowa, where the state House passed – unanimously – a bill that would end the public's ability to access many 911 calls. The bill eventually died after an outcry from the media, watchdog groups and civil rights organizations, but it was not unusual. A months-long project by AP reporters and data journalists found more than 150 bills introduced in state legislatures this year that were intended to eliminate or limit public access to a wide range of government records and meetings.

To help reporters find, track and provide input on those bills, Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen of the data team created a unique online tool that provided full access to AP customers.

Called the Sunshine Hub, it helps users keep track of legislative activity related to government transparency, suggest new bills, search for and categorize bills for research purposes, and discuss legislation with others. The Sunshine Hub directly complemented stories by Ryan Foley in Iowa, Andrew DeMillo in Arkansas and Laurie Kellman in Washington.

For their groundbreaking reporting and software development, Tumgoren, Rasmussen, Foley, DeMillo and Kellman win this week's Best of the States award.

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Feb. 11, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP out front on US raid where leader of Islamic State group died

combined outstanding reporting in all formats and stellar coordination between the Washington and Beirut bureaus to put AP ahead with quick, thorough, vivid on-the-ground coverage of the U.S. raid in Syria’s Idlib province that left the Islamic State group’s leader dead.Source work by AP’s Pentagon staff gave the teams in Washington and the Mideast some advance notice of the operation, and after the raid, AP was quick to the Idlib site, filing photos, video, drone footage and eyewitness accounts. AP was ahead of the competition with its alert and a solid writethrus, as well as reporting of the death toll.Beirut added a substantive biographical piece on the dead IS leader who tried to rebuild IS from its defeat, and Washington put together a compelling timeline of the raid, from planning through aftermath.Read more

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June 26, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

White House homecoming photo speaks volumes on Trump’s Tulsa rally

Washington-based photojournalist Pat Semansky was assigned weekend White House duty – a routine gig that meant waiting for President Donald Trump’s overnight return from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where his much-hyped rally didn’t meet expectations.

The president’s arrival rarely makes a memorable photo, but Semansky dutifully waited until well after 1 a.m., while many of AP’s competitors didn’t bother to cover. When Trump finally stepped off Marine One, Semansky proved the time well spent: His flash caught an atypically rumpled Trump crossing the South Lawn.

The photo quickly became the signature image of the night, capping days of smart AP coverage on the event itself. 

For making the most of a routine assignment to create what is likely to become an iconic photo of the Trump presidency, Pat Semansky wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 01, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Fin-tastic! AP dives deep into the world of mermaiding

reported from the Philippines and Australia for this engaging package that introduced readers and viewers to the growing subculture of mermaiding, and how it has come to represent diversity.The piece, as enlightening as it is entertaining, celebrates the range and spirit of the merfolk community with writing both amusing and sensitive, complemented by distinctive photos and video including striking underwater and drone images. The piece was the second-most-read on the AP News platform, elicting compliments from no less than the actress who voiced Disney’s mermaid Ariel.Read more

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Aug. 19, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reports on consequences of shrinking US police ranks

spent weeks finding and reporting on real people across the country affected by the trickle-down effects of a shortage of police offers.Instead of focusing solely on the police, whose ranks are thinning because of burnout and other issues, Portland, Oregon-Based Flaccus, working with photographer Mitchelldyer, gave voice to the parents of a cold-case victim whose case was pushed aside because of rising gun homicides.In Philadelphia, Lauer and photographer Rourke showed how complaints have swelled over abandoned cars and other quality-of-life issues in low-income areas. And in Los Angeles, Dazio, video journalist Garcia and photographer Dovarganes found the problem has deeply impacted police homeless outreach.Read more

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Aug. 09, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Resourceful all-formats teamwork on remote Greenland ice melt

for impressive all-formats coverage of Greenland’s heat wave and the ensuing ice melt. From the outset the story was a logistical challenge, 2,000 miles from the nearest bureau, with few sources for photos or video of the heat wave’s impact. Initial attempts to secure images from a scientist on the island were unsuccessful due to poor internet, so staffers brainstormed other options. A London staffer was able to get recent family photos showing melt water lakes, elevating the story and winning play, but the team did not stop there. Overnight they were able to establish a connection with the research scientist, who shared exclusive photos and video of the melting ice sheet, including the rampaging melt water, in addition to an on-camera interview.https://bit.ly/2Kw8rR9https://bit.ly/2MHjfhU

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May 08, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

US Muslim community adapts to Ramadan amid the pandemic

produced a rich, character-driven look at obstacles and opportunities for American Muslims observing Ramadan during the pandemic. Harnessing the power of the AP across the U.S., the team and their colleagues brought a complex subject to vivid fruition with a nuanced, intimate look at the Muslim community adjusting and improvising during a more virtual and sometimes solitary holy month.https://bit.ly/2xFRrVXhttps://bit.ly/3ft7Xtm

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