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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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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Jan. 26, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

Modi opens Hindu temple built on ruins on razed mosque, in political triumph for prime minister

AP’s team in India provided visually compelling, richly reported, all-format coverage of one of the country’s most defining and contentious events, the opening of a controversial Hindu temple built on a razed mosque.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened a controversial Hindu temple, it marked a political triumph for the populist leader under whose watch the line between religion and state has largely eroded in the constitutionally secular country. The temple sits on a site where Hindu mobs tore down a mosque three decades ago, its fraught history still an open wound for many Muslims.

AP’s cross-format team in Delhi and on ground in Ayodhya provided visually rich and nuanced coverage that was both thoughtful and insightful. Photographer Rajesh Kumar Singh was the only international photographer who managed to secure access to the high-security temple complex to exclusively cover the select gathering of invitees and arrival of Modi. AP was first among the global agencies to file self-shot images of the event while other agencies had to rely on handout images.

Singh, senior video journalist Rishi Lekhi, and stringer Biswajeet Banerjee kept the inputs steadily flowing in from Ayodhya, including live coverage from outside the venue, while Shonal Ganguly, Saaliq Sheikh and Krutika Pathi in Delhi helped with a quick turnaround of both text and video edits, enriching them with useful background and voices of ordinary Indians.

For playing a key role in bringing images of this momentous event to global audiences — and putting it in context — Rajesh Kumar Singh, Rishi Lekhi, Biswajeet Banerjee, Sheikh Saaliq, Shonal Ganguly and Krutika Pathi are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 19, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP dominates coverage of exceptional genocide hearings targeting Israel

AP’s team in The Hague dominated coverage of the International Court of Justice hearings into South Africa’s accusation that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians, thanks to expertise in international law and solid planning across continents.

Across two intense days and under close global scrutiny, AP’s team explored and explained the hearings into accusations that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Expertise in international law, knowledge of sensitive geopolitics and solid planning and coordination across continents contributed to AP’s showing.

AP’s coverage was front and center on customer websites and broadcasts around the world for two days straight. AP ran more than a dozen videos of the hearings and protests and reactions around the world. Video edits from The Hague alone scored more than 5,000 hits, and the live coverage over two days earned a staggering 3,300 hits. The top five videos on APNews on Jan. 11 were all from The Hague. The text stories with photos were among the top stories viewed both by customers and online. The New York Times was among customers featuring all formats of AP coverage on its website as the hearings unfolded.

For teaming up to tell the story of a case at The Hague that struck at the heart of Israel’s national identity, Corder, Furtula, Carlson and Casert share Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 05, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigates Russia’s cover-up of deaths caused by dam explosion in Ukraine

More than six months after the explosion that destroyed the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine’s Kherson region, an AP investigation by Samya Kullab and Ilia Novikov found that Russian occupation authorities vastly and deliberately undercounted the dead. The AP inquiry came the closest yet to revealing the real number of deaths Russia tried to hide from the dam’s destruction, which Ukrainians believe was carried out to hamper the Ukrainian counteroffensive across the Dnipro River. Russia has denied it was responsible.

AP Kyiv correspondent Kullab and news assistant Novikov were working on a different story about how residents of the affected town of Oleshky were returning slowly to Ukraine. During their reporting, a source told them of a mass grave. That sent Kullab and Novikov in a fresh direction, and the story of the hidden deaths developed from there. Eventually, the AP spoke to health workers, volunteers, residents and recent escapees who provided invaluable details. Instead of the 59 people Russian authorities said drowned in the territory they control, AP found the real number is at least in the hundreds in just one town.

For dogged pursuit of the facts and allowing victims and their survivors to be heard, Kullab and Novikov earn Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 05, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

36 days at sea: How castaways survived hallucinations, thirst and desperation

In a partner story to “Adrift,” an AP team tracked down migrants who survived 36 days and told the story of their journey.

When video journalist Renata Brito saw the news of the rescue of several dozen men who survived 36 days at sea, she was shocked. Brito has been covering migrant crossings for years and had never heard of people on the route from West Africa to the Canary Islands surviving that long. She wondered what they might have endured during those 36 days, and so, she and photographer Felipe Dana set out to find out.

When the survivors were rescued, they were taken to Cape Verde and locked up in a school. A few days later, Brito and Dana were on a plane to Cape Verde’s Sal Island. Access to survivors, who were essentially detained, was restricted and authorities announced they would fly them back to Dakar in a few hours.

Brito and Dana followed them there, working with AP Dakar colleague Ndeye Sene Mbengue to make contacts with survivors and their families in Fass Boye but found many of the survivors had gone into hiding after returning to Senegal.

Together with Ndeye, they drove to more than five towns across different regions to meet with them. With Ndeye’s help they translated hours of on- and off-camera interviews. Brito kept in touch with survivors after leaving Senegal and obtained the contact of one of the rescuers who had made several cellphone videos the day they were found and brought on board.

The AP got strong user-generated content that showed what the survivors looked like when they were found, barely alive. The result was an all-formats story, complete with an immersive presentation that included creative motion graphics and illustrations.

For powerfully telling an exclusive story that otherwise might not have been told, Brito and Dana win Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 01, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Quick reaction, global cooperation, give AP the edge on Prigozhin plane crash

AP reacted quickly to reports of a plane crash north of Moscow, both in Russia and around the world, to offer fast, accurate and solid reporting on the death of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. AP’s exclusive video, photos and analysis dominated websites, front pages and newscasts as AP stayed in front of the quickly evolving story.

Amid conflicting reports, AP sent an alert on the crash at 17:00 Greenwich Mean Time, then another one three hours later confirming that Prigozhin was on board the plane that crashed; other outlets including the BBC had initially alerted Prigozhin was killed and had to walk back the claim before official confirmation.

Moscow news director Harriet Morris, photographers Alexander Zemlianichenko, Dima Lovetsky and Pavel Golovkin, video journalists Tanya Titova, Kostya Manenkov, Olga Tregubova and Kirill Zarubin, assistant Anatoly Kozlov, and reporters Dasha Litvinova, Emma Burrows, Volodya Isachenkov, Jim Heintz and Lori Hinnant all made major contributions, aided by Top Stories Hub editors Sarah DiLorenzo, Brian Friedman and Chris Sundheim.

For quick, exclusive coverage of a highly competitive story that gave our customers exactly what they needed, the Moscow bureau staff earn Best of the Week — First Winner.

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