June 26, 2020

Best of the States

Frontline health care workers face the emotional toll taken by the virus

As the coronavirus pandemic enters a new phase in a reopening nation, its psychological toll is sinking in for the frontline workers who have cared for the sickest patients. 

Writer Jennifer Peltz, video journalists Robert Bumsted and Ted Shaffrey, and photographer John Minchillo  went into New York City hospitals to see the impact in person, in real time and on the record. They interviewed health care workers and spent time with them on the job, seeing firsthand the lingering effects of months spent treating COVID-19 patients.

“In my wildest dreams, I never imagined how hard it would be,’’ one doctor said. 

For a fully rendered package that takes a close personal look at this important aspect of the pandemic, the team of Peltz, Bumsted, Shaffrey and Minchillo earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 07, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigates a teen’s life sentence – and the role of Amy Klobuchar

On the campaign trail, presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has often cited a case – a life sentence given to black teen for killing a young girl – as proof of her tough-on-crime bona fides as a former prosecutor. 

Over the course of a year, Minnesota-based investigative reporter Robin McDowell examined the case against Myon Burrell, who was 16 when he was sentenced to life in prison for the 2002 death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards. 

McDowell found major irregularities, including inconsistent evidence and questionable police tactics. The resulting package had impact, forcing new scrutiny of the case and Klobuchar’s handling of it. 

For dogged reported that shed new light and focused attention on the case against a man who has long said he was wrongfully convicted, McDowell wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 20, 2020

Best of the States

Using voters’ voices and hard data, AP analyzes Black support in Biden’s win

While there is little dispute that Black voters pushed Joe Biden into the presidential winner's column, AP wanted to know: How big of a factor were they?

Race and ethnicity writers Kat Stafford and Aaron Morrison began reporting on what Black voters said they wanted Biden to deliver once in office. Using the voices they collected as the foundation of the story, Stafford and Morrison teamed with data journalist Angeliki Kastanis and polling journalist Hannah Fingerhut, who infused the piece with data and voter survey findings that bolstered the anecdotes with hard numbers. 

Their collaboration put the AP days ahead of other news organizations’ pieces on Black voters’ support of Biden. For resourceful and insightful reporting and analysis on a major factor in the 2020 election, the team of Stafford, Morrison, Kastanis and Fingerhut wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 07, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Portland protests – the view from both sides of the fence

This week’s Best of the Week celebrates the team of AP journalists whose extensive coverage of the Portland protests culminated in an exclusive all-formats look at the conflict from the perspective of both demonstrators and federal officers.

With reporting and visuals from inside the federal courthouse that no other news organization could match, and consistently strong coverage from the crowd massed outside the building, the AP team documented the drama and chaos, as well as the human stories amid the nightly volley of fireworks and tear gas canisters.

The defining feature that moved Sunday night was the most clicked/engaged AP story for much of Monday, sparking discussion and widely cited for its comprehensive, fair reporting.

For balanced and insightful coverage from both sides of the Portland divide, setting AP apart on a highly charged story, the team of Gillian Flaccus, Mike Balsamo, Aron Ranen, Marcio Sanchez, Noah Berger, Sara Cline and Krysta Fauria wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 26, 2017

Best of the States

AP finds US buildings using the same cladding blamed in London fire

Sometimes a story doesn’t come from a reporter’s beat or region, just from natural journalistic curiosity.

Atlanta’s Jeff Martin was intrigued after investigators blamed the deadly tower fire in London in part on the flammable cladding that wrapped around its exterior. Wondering what buildings in the U.S. might be using the cladding, he went to the manufacturer’s website and found a trove of information in a promotional brochure.

The brochure said the cladding was used on a terminal at the Dallas airport, the Cleveland Browns stadium, an Alaska High School and a high-rise hotel in Baltimore. Martin, Gainesville, Florida, reporter Jason Dearen, and Baltimore reporter Juliet Linderman helped coordinate a cross-country, multi-media reporting effort that wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation reveals ‘leadership vacuum’ after backlash against public health officials

AP reporter Michelle Smith was working on another project in June when she came up with the names of a dozen or so public health officials who had quit, retired or been fired. Sensing a trend, Smith and reporters at Kaiser Health News continued to track those departures as the pandemic worsened and the backlash against public health restrictions became more strident.

The journalists contacted officials in all 50 states and interviewed dozens of people, finding a public health leadership vacuum developing at a critical time in the pandemic. They told the stories of public servants who toiled through the pandemic only to be reviled by their neighbors — including the wrenching story of an official whose husband would not even follow her recommendation to require masks in the family store. The timely all-formats story included a data distribution, interactive graphics and a sidebar with portraits and quotes of public health officials. 

For a deeply reported package that examines a vital component of the pandemic response, Smith, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Hannah Recht and Lauren Weber earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 08, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Accounting and Accountability: AP follows the money, finds most ‘rescue’ funds unspent

Earlier this year, states and cities across the country pleaded for a pandemic “rescue” plan to avoid a fiscal cliff, and they got it: $350 billion from Washington for local and state governments. Five months later, AP State Government Team reporter David Lieb dug into the data, state by state, city by city. He found that states overall had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5% — not such an emergency after all.

It was a dramatic finding from an ongoing series of accountability stories led by AP’s state government and data teams tracking hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic aid.

As Lieb gathered and analyzed the reports, data journalist Camille Fassett prepared the information for wider distribution to customers who used it for their own localized reporting.

Play for the story was outstanding. It landed on the front pages of dozens of AP’s biggest customers, online and print, and drew readership on AP News. For distinctive accountability journalism that delivered on both the national and local level, Lieb and Fassett earn AP’s Best of Week — First Winner.

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Oct. 13, 2017

Best of the States

Only on AP: Family – and journalist – rewarded with answers in 40-year-old cold case

Resolving cold cases can be thankless work for law enforcement – and an endless emotional journey for the families affected. Tamara Lush used the lens of one Florida cold case, and the relatives of a long-missing woman, to give life to the backlog of such cases nationwide.

After the publication of her first big takeout on an exhumation in a cold case, Lush turned her attention to two sisters who played just a small role in that piece. Lush met with the family numerous times – she was with them every step of the way through the drawn-out process of DNA tests, results, periods of silence from police, the day they finally got some answers about their missing family member, and the moment they shared that news with the woman's mother. The narrative story, teeming with emotion and details, can't be matched by any competitor.

For her Only on AP story that gave a face to the national backlog of cold cases, Lush wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Moving photos: Spanish nursing home adds the human touch

crafted a tender, poignant photo package of nursing home residents in Spain hugging their relatives through protective sheets of plastic, his images almost instantly resonating among audiences worldwide. “One of the most moving epidemic-era photos I have seen,” wrote one Twitter user. Another called it “an ode to love and so heartbreaking. Terrific work.” Multiple media organizations including The Guardian and CNN included Morenatti’s work in their must-see photo collections of the week. https://bit.ly/2YK0iRg

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May 14, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Resolute AP crew in Chad, where not a single shot has been administered, highlights vaccine inequity

In Chad to cover the sudden death of the country’s longtime president, the AP team of West Africa Bureau Chief Krista Larson, Nigeria-based video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi and photographer Sunday Alamba decided to look at the COVID situation in a country that has yet to administer its first shot. Political unrest made the assignment far more challenging, with police on the hunt for journalists. Alamba and Oyekanmi had already been detained for eight hours and warned not to venture out into the street again.

After days of prodding, the team was granted just a brief interview with medical staff in a hospital conference room. But the all-formats crew pressed the case to see the COVID ward for themselves, eventually winning access. Accounts of bravery and deprivation among overwhelmed medical staff, and the images shot by Alamba and Oyekanmi, speak volumes, highlighting a deep global inequity despite promises by wealthy nations to help vaccinate the world.

For intrepid coverage in the harshest of reporting environments, Larson, Alamba and Oyekanmi win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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May 17, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Schedules reveal West Virginia governor largely absent from work

Anthony Izaguirre began hearing the chatter about West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice as soon as he started work as the AP’s statehouse correspondent in Charleston, West Virginia, in late February. Sources told him Justice – a billionaire who owns mines, farms and a swanky resort – wasn’t fully engaged and hadn’t even been in the capital, Charleston, much since taking office in 2017.

Izaguirre's initial request for the governor’s schedules was declined, but he pressed with the help of AP’s legal department, finally getting the records. Armed with those calendars and his own resourceful reporting, he cobbled together a record of the governor’s activities, confirming what many suspected: Justice appeared to have better things to do than govern.

West Virginia media pounced on the exclusive story, which also played well outside the state.

For his resolute work to obtain public records and his thorough reporting to fill out a story no one else in the state could land, Izaguirre wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 25, 2021

Best of the States

AP marks 600,000-death milestone with distinctive data-driven look at COVID racial inequality

The 600,000th COVID-19 death in the U.S. presented a big challenge: How to bring fresh perspective to yet another milestone, just months after we crossed the 400,000 and 500,000 marks. The trio of medical writer Carla K. Johnson, data journalist Angel Kastanis and reporter Olga Rodriguez met the challenge and then some, delivering a data-driven Only on AP package that showed how the virus has exploited racial inequality as it cut a swath through the country.

Kastanis analyzed demographic data of all 600,000 deaths to show the uneven toll during the various phases of the pandemic, breaking down the disproportionate effect on the Black and Latino communities. Rodriguez reported on a family that led the story, while Johnson served as the lead writer, rounding out the piece with medical analysis, perspective and reporting. Contributions by AP’s top stories team included an engaging interactive map of the U.S. showing the virus advancing geographically to 600,000 souls.

The package resonated with readers and customers on the AP News platform, where it was among the top stories, as well as on social media and on newspaper front pages around the country.

For a shining example of AP collaboration across teams, using sharp data analysis and on-the-ground reporting to reveal the pandemic’s impact on communities of color, the team of Johnson, Kastanis and Rodriguez receives this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reveals that Barrett was trustee for schools with anti-gay policies

Supreme Court nominees are scrutinized for signs of how they may vote on important issues, but Amy Coney Barrett’s jurisprudence told little about her views on gay rights.

Reporters Michelle R. Smith and Michael Biesecker knew that Barrett’s ties to People of Praise, a religious group with anti-gay views, could be an important part of her confirmation process. Through dogged reporting and source work they were able to show that Barrett was a trustee at People of Praise-run schools that had anti-gay teachings. 

Their story had an immediate impact in the run-up to her Oct. 26 Senate confirmation. For thorough and groundbreaking reporting on the tightly held views of a justice likely to sit in judgment of high-profile gay rights cases, Smith and Biesecker win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 17, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Manila team dominates all-formats Philippine volcano coverage

Manila-based photographer Aaron Favila was about to drive his family to the new Star Wars movie on Sunday afternoon when he saw an alarming tweet: The Taal volcano in Tagaytay, just 35 miles (60 kilometers) from the Philippine capital, was spewing ash and threatening an eruption. 

The movie would have to wait.

Favila and video journalist Bogie Calupitan were soon making their way into a downpour of ash while chief correspondent Jim Gomez rushed to the bureau.

What followed was a textbook example of AP’s news gathering strategy of Now, Better, Best: being the first up with live shots and user content, and then dominating the story for two days even after the competition arrived. Their team’s fast and professional work in all formats was rewarded with strong play during a busy cycle for news and sports.

Favila still hasn’t seen the Star Wars movie, though the force was most definitely with him and his colleagues. For their work, Favila, Calupitan and Gomez receive AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Oct. 02, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exposes palm oil labor abuses linked to the world’s top brands, major banks

While covering the Rohingya crisis, investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason knew tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Myanmar were vulnerable to exploitation. They suspected desperate men were being tricked or sold into the massive palm oil industry that supplies some of America’s most iconic food and cosmetic brands.

Working with photographers Gemunu Amarasinghe and Binsar Bakkara, they vividly documented the horrors some workers in Malyasia and Indonesia face. Workers spoke of brutal conditions including child labor, outright slavery and allegations of rape.

Reaction was swift, with the  U.S. government saying it would block shipments from a major Malaysian producer mentioned in the story.

For exposing abuses affecting tens of thousands of workers in a global industry that manufactures a vast array of products we buy and use daily, McDowell, Mason, Amarasinghe and Bakkara win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 23, 2017

Best of the States

AP gets first juror comment in Philando Castile trial

When Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted in the fatal shooting of black motorist Philando Castile, a question on the mind of every reporter in the courtroom was this: How did jurors reach their verdict?

One of those reporters, Minneapolis’ Amy Forliti, had been laying the groundwork to answer that question for two weeks. Her efforts paid off with The Associated Press getting the first interview with a juror – critical insight into a case that had generated global interest since millions of people saw the aftermath of Castile's death from his girlfriend's livestream on Facebook.

Meanwhile, colleague Steve Karnowski’s subsequent interview provided details in AP’s story that no one else had: The jury had been split 10-2 earlier in the week in favor of an acquittal, and neither of the two jurors who favored conviction was black.

For smart reporting and strong execution that put the AP ahead on a competitive aspect of a competitive story, Forliti and Karnowski win this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.

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Aug. 27, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Intrepid AP journalists work the streets of Kabul documenting Taliban troops, daily life

When the Taliban overran Kabul on Aug. 15, no one in the city knew if the Taliban would resume the brutal practices that carried them to power in 1996 — or would they show some restraint?

Kabul video journalist Ahmad Seir and photographer Rahmat Gul remember the previous Taliban rule, but like their AP colleagues, they were determined to record history. The pair took to the streets. Despite being beaten with rifle butts at a Taliban checkpoint near the airport, they persisted, eventually gaining the trust of Taliban fighters at a checkpoint near AP’s office. Seir and Gul went on Taliban patrols, delivering unique video and photos of the militiamen now in command of Afghanistan.

Those rare images, along with spot features that included daily life in the capital and an interview with a female activist now in hiding, played at the very top of AP’s offerings for the week and reflected the tireless efforts of everyone in AP’s Kabul office who pushed aside their own fears and personal concerns to continue reporting in all formats.

For their historic and important work, thorough professionalism and unbound bravery, Seir and Gul share AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Nov. 11, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Melania Trump modeled in US prior to getting work visa

The exclusive story's foundation was laid months ago, when questions arose about Melania Trump's immigration history and AP contacted employees at the modeling firm where she worked in the 1990s. No office records from the time were found at first. But AP's questions were asked, and one ex-worker kept searching through storage.

Finally, the documents turned up, and when the worker pointed AP to them, they became the basis of a story showing that the future wife of Donald Trump, who has taken strict stands on immigration enforcement, was paid for modeling jobs worth tens of thousands of dollars before she had permission to work in the U.S.

The AP's investigation, by Alicia Caldwell, Chad Day and Jake Pearson, earns the Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 26, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Executioners sanitized official reports of federal inmates’ last moments

AP legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm witnessed 10 of the unprecedented 13 federal executions in the final months of the Trump administration, diligently taking notes on what he saw in the chamber, from the inmates’ last words to their last breaths. 

But weeks after the last execution in mid-January, something nagged at him: The executioner’s official account did not jibe with what he had observed during the execution. Tarm went back, looking through hundreds of filings and court transcripts. His reporting resulted in a stunning exclusive on how the executioners all used euphemisms like “snored” and “fell asleep” while Tarm and other witnesses saw inmates’ stomachs dramatically shuddering and jerking in the minutes after lethal injections.

The sanitized accounts, Tarm realized, raised serious questions about whether officials misled courts to ensure the executions would be completed before Joe Biden, a death penalty foe, took office. His story — the latest exclusive in AP’s coverage of the federal executions — received prominent play and reader engagement.

For backing up his own observations with rigorous reporting to hold the federal government accountable for its official accounts of the executions, Tarm earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 06, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deep reporting on a failed KKK murder plot reveals white supremacists working in Florida prison

Some stories just stick with a journalist. For AP investigative reporter Jason Dearen, a sparse 2015 announcement — three currrent or former Florida prison guards, identified by the FBI as Ku Klux Klansmen, had been arrested for plotting a former inmate’s murder — sparked a yearslong reporting effort.

Dearen’s big break came last summer when trial transcripts revealed an FBI informant was the star witness against the KKK members, his secret recordings providing a rare, detailed look at the inner workings of the klan cell and the domestic terrorism probe. Dearen and visual journalist David Goldman retraced the klansmen’s steps through Palatka, Florida, then producers Marshall Ritzel, Samantha Shotzbarger and Peter Hamlin stepped in to create a riveting online presentation.

The resulting all-formats package had immediate impact, with Florida papers featuring it on home pages and front pages, and prompting calls for investigations into white supremacy among prison workers. The story found 360,000 readers on AP News and kept them there for an average of more than five minutes — longer than any other AP story in memory.

For dogged reporting and an immersive all-formats narrative that exposes a salient, timely issue, Dearan, Goldman, Ritzel, Shotzbarger and Hamlin win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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