June 23, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

The Great Grift: How billions in COVID-19 relief aid was stolen or wasted

After a monthslong analysis, the AP revealed that at least 10% of $4 trillion in federal COVID-19 relief money was stolen or misspent.

The story was sparked by a simple question in January from Acting Global Investigations Editor Alison Kodjak: How much relief money was stolen? Richard Lardner, of the global investigations team, teamed up with climate reporter Jennifer McDermott and data team reporter Aaron Kessler to get an answer. They conducted scores of interviews, read dozens of government indictments and reports and tracked down experts.

In the end, they determined scam artists potentially stole more than $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding, and another $123 billion was wasted or misspent — a combined loss of 10% of the relief aid the U.S. government has so far disbursed. Senior video producer Jeannie Ohm and motion graphics designer Eva Malek created an animated video explainer, narrated by Kessler, that succinctly laid out how easy it was for fraudsters to make off with so much money. Multimedia editor Kevin Vineys created a series of compelling graphics that helped break down government spending and potential theft.

For spending months investigating and documenting how much of the federal government’s $4.2 trillion in COVID-19 relief was looted or misspent, Lardner, McDermott, Kessler, Vineys and Malek earn Best of the Week — First Winners.

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Aug. 18, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Speedy, smart coverage on Hawaii’s wildfire breaks AP engagement records

When a wildfire broke out in Maui and obliterated the centuries-old town of Lahaina, staff in AP’s Pacific Northwest sprang into action. Honolulu’s Audrey McAvoy was on the ground within hours, leveraging the AP’s unique Hawaii footprint for the first of many days of aggressive coverage that allowed AP to own the story from the beginning.

McAvoy was quickly joined by Portland, Oregon, reporter Claire Rush, who canceled her vacation; photographer Rick Bowmer and video journalists Ty O’Neil and Haven Daley. Jennifer Kelleher joined the reporting effort from Honolulu, where she anchored the story for days with help from Chris Weber in Los Angeles and worked longtime sources, including Gov. Josh Green, to keep AP ahead. Rush, O’Neil and Bowmer slept in an SUV for two days in the burn zone.

On Aug. 9, apnews.com received 7.6 million page views — a new record and a 32% increase over traffic the previous Wednesday, and the following day also broke previous records with 7.5 million page views.

The Live Updates fixture, artfully anchored by a changing cast of characters, was also a huge winner for AP and served as a “search tree” that led readers back to AP’s content again and again.

For extraordinary coverage of the devastating fire, accomplished despite huge logistical challenges, the AP Maui team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Aug. 11, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cross-format reporting keeps AP ahead on coverage of Niger’s coup 

West Africa correspondent Sam Mednick was in Niamey — by chance to make use of a visa nearing expiration — when mutinous bodyguards launched a coup against their president. But her stellar, singlehanded all-formats coverage is due entirely to her extraordinary multimedia skills and perseverance.

Day after day, Mednick produced live video, photos of demonstrations, WhatsApp clips to colleagues and interviews on and off the record to show the importance of the coup in a country that has long been considered a bulwark of democracy against Islamic extremism and autocracy.

The result: A story that Mednick owned alone among international journalists.

For her tireless, astonishing multimedia coverage in a place where few of our competitors, if any, had a presence on the ground, we are honored to award Sam Mednick the 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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June 30, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP sets authoritative tone in Titanic submersible coverage

AP journalists followed the sun and worked across regions and formats to document the saga of the missing Titan submersible for a full week of nonstop coverage that broke news, offered smart enterprise and analysis, live updates, chunky digital first explainers, graphics, live and produced video content, radio pieces and a comprehensive photo report.   

A report that a deep-ocean submersible was missing near the site of the Titanic was confirmed early in the week by a small group of AP reporters. What came next was a marathon of coverage that spanned nearly every hour of the day for several days, the world waiting as 96 hours of breathable air would have been slipping away along with hopes of finding survivors inside the doomed Titan. As the story unfolded, it revealed an industry that largely lacks regulation and oversight.   

The coverage contributed to AP digital platforms’ strongest week of the year, with 9.6 million page views across the web and app on Wednesday. Ramirez’s fact-check about the Titan was the week’s most-viewed story. The Titan sub explainer detailing the latest in the investigation was AP’s second most-engaged story, with an engagement score of 95. Traffic was enhanced by multiple breakout stories to highlight key topics of interest among readers.   

For using the breadth of the AP to successfully tell a fast-moving story from multiple angles, the AP Titan team wins this week’s first citation for Best of the Week. 

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Feb. 03, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP scores exclusive interview with Pope Francis, making news worldwide with a papal call to decriminalize homosexuality

Vatican Correspondent Nicole Winfield's tenacious reporting has already delivered numerous exclusives over a two-decade career covering three popes. Yet an on-camera, sit-down interview with a pontiff had eluded the AP.

That changed dramatically Jan. 24. After years of lobbying, the pope sat down for an historic interview with Winfield, whom Francis has for years called the “prima della classe,” or “first in class,” as a sign of respect for her tough but fair reporting on his pontificate. In fact, during the interview, he mentioned how Winfield’s questions about sex abuse during a 2018 airborne press conference led to his “conversion” moment when he realized that Chilean bishops had been covering up cases of abuse for decades.

For weeks, Winfield prepared the interview with Rome Senior Producer Maria Grazia Murru, who for decades has led the Vatican video operations. They coordinated every detail and prepared the right questions and approach for the interview. Murru designed the video coverage plan and spearheaded the production of social media promotion material. And together, they wrote letters in the most formal Italian to Francis’ private secretaries, until a date was finally arranged — for late January, a time that seemed ripe to make news. It was one week ahead of his planned trip to Africa and just over a month ahead of the 10th anniversary of his pontificate.

Video’s Paolo Santalucia and Photos’ Domenico Stinellis planned the lighting at the venue and sorted out technical details, and photographer Andrew Medichini’s images captured the historic event. Spanish language editor Cristina Fuentes-Cantillana transcribed and translated the full interview, conducted in the pope’s native Spanish.

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May 26, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

The secret networks that circumvent Honduras’ abortion ban: How an AP team documented the invisible

For years, AP Mexico photo stringer Ginnette Riquelme was aware of clandestine networks helping women obtain abortions in Honduras, where they are banned under all circumstances.   

The locations were hidden, the phones untraceable, the contacts used code words to communicate. But Riquelme had a vision of how — and why — to document something that is both illegal and heavily stigmatized. With a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation, she joined forces with Honduran journalist Iolany Pérez in El Progreso and Mexico City reporter María Verza.   

Persistence and the ability to build the trust of more than a dozen women who helped or had received the networks’ assistance resulted in a previously unseen composite of an underground system built up over years of prohibition.   

For journalism that illustrates the invisible, and in-depth and unmatched coverage of an issue that resonates far outside Honduras, this team earns Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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May 05, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP leads on coverage of Montana transgender lawmaker with authoritative, visual and fast coverage

When protesters erupted in chants of “Let her speak” from the gallery inside the Montana statehouse, and silenced transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr lifted her microphone triumphantly in the air, longtime AP reporter Amy Hanson was there to capture the action with her cell phone for video, photos and words. It was the start of a week of agenda-setting, visual and comprehensive coverage by Hanson and her colleagues as Zephyr’s compelling dispute with Republican state leaders captivated audiences, culminating in the GOP voting to bar the freshman legislator from the House floor on Thursday. The powerful coverage throughout the week showcased the value of AP’s legislative footprint and was a textbook example of how we can dominate a story when we surge resources and harness our collective expertise.Hanson worked tirelessly from Helena, Montana, all week and tapped into her deep sourcing and knowledge of state politics to provide impeccable and fast reporting. Her previous source building with Zephyr after she was elected last year proved invaluable, giving the AP access to the lawmaker all week. Billings-based reporter Matt Brown and Salt Lake City-based reporter Sam Metz took turns stitching together well-written spot stories each day, updating the “What to Know” and prepping urgent new series for the next key moment in the saga. The duo also produced a smart takeout about the rise of conservative caucuses like the one in Montana that fueled the dispute.Denver-based video journalist Brittany Peterson and political reporter Nick Riccardi also went to Montana to supplement Amy’s on-the-ground reporting. Nick quickly pulled together a deeply reported and beautifully written story about support for Zephyr in her hometown, the college town of Missoula. Colleagues from around the AP coordinated with the Rockies staff to deliver several smart takes about the standoff, including a look at the underlying rhetoric in the dispute and how Republicans in Montana and Tennessee tried calling peaceful protests "insurrections" to downplay the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

For thorough, nuanced coverage that kept the AP out front, Hanson, Peterson, Riccardi, Brown and Metz win this week’s first citation for Best of the Week.

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April 28, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reveals DEA chief is being investigated for contracts to past associates 

Josh Goodman and Jim Mustian reported exclusively that a federal watchdog is investigating whether the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration under chief Anne Milgram improperly used millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to flout normal governing hiring procedures to hire past associates at a very high cost.   

The two followed up on a previous scoop about the arrest of former DEA agent Jose Irizarry, who confessed to laundering money for Colombian drug cartels and skimming millions of dollars from asset seizures and informants.   

After an external review of the DEA’s foreign operations was slammed for underplaying its scandals, Latin America reporter Goodman and investigative reporter Mustian began asking questions.   

What they found was that a Washington law firm that was hired as part of a no-bid contract did the review, and that its author was the former right-hand man to one of Milgram’s closest friends, former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. That led to more reporting, more questions and more sources talking about how the DEA used other no-bid contracts to hire Milgram’s past associates.  

For expert source reporting that holds accountable the DEA and its highest-ranking official, Goodman and Mustian win Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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March 24, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP looks ahead at new generation’s hopes 20 years after U.S. invasion of Iraq, not just behind at destruction

AP boasts about its global reach. An all-formats package reported from Iraq demonstrates how the deep expertise of its journalists also reaches back through history. 

We have an amazing team that covers Iraq day in and day out. But we also have a hidden resource: people who were there when history happened and are with us today. When we see the opportunity, we can offer our readers and customers that context. That was the case with Jerome Delay and John Daniszewski, both of whom were there in 2003 at the beginning of it all. They went back to offer some context about what has changed.

Delay and Daniszewski were both among the few international journalists in Baghdad when the U.S. launched its “shock and awe” campaign. They joined with video journalist Lujain Jo, a native Iraqi, and video journalist Jerry Marmer, who was embedded with Marines who invaded by land 20 years ago, to deliver an authoritative and nuanced portrait of a country that’s been out of the spotlight since the defeat of the Islamic State group five years ago.  

Instead of focusing solely on the war-torn image that many Iraqis say is outdated, the AP team’s package also focused on what’s ahead for Iraq. Beyond exclusive interviews with the Iraqi president and prime minister, they also conducted dozens of interviews with Iraqi youth. These gave a deeper and sometimes counterintuitive look at a generation interrupted by war and terrorism, whose voices are rarely heard outside their home country. Half of Iraq’s population of 40 million is too young to remember Saddam Hussein.   

For their sensitive and forward-looking view of an invasion that hit Iraq 20 years in the past, bolstered by their own lived experiences of it, Delay, Daniszewski, Jo and Harmer are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.  

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