Feb. 27, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Ex-congregants reveal years of ungodly abuse

This story begins in 2014, when five members of Word of Faith Fellowship, an evangelical congregation in western North Carolina, were indicted for beating a young man because they thought he was gay. Mitch Weiss, an investigative reporter based in Charlotte, reached out to the man, Matthew Fenner, who told a harrowing tale.

For Weiss, that conversation was the beginning of a nearly two-year quest to tell the story of Word of Faith and its controlling leader, Jane Whaley, a 77-year-old petite former math teacher with a thick Southern accent. Working alongside Atlanta-based video journalist Alex Sanz, Weiss eventually pieced together a startling and comprehensive look at a religious community that promised its members peace and prosperity. What they got was violence and abuse, administered in the name of God, former followers told him.

Part one of that series, published this week, wins Best of the States, and there is more to come.

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Sept. 06, 2019

Best of the States

In Mississippi Delta, Catholic abuse cases settled on cheap

As allegations of sexual abuse by clergy have proliferated across the Catholic Church, millions of dollars in settlement money has been paid to victims. Some have received as much as $500,000 apiece.

Not La Jarvis D. Love.

At an IHOP in the Mississippi Delta, a white official from the Franciscan religious order offered to pay him just $15,000 to keep years of alleged abuse secret.

“He said if I wanted more, I would have to get a lawyer and have my lawyer call his lawyer,” Love told The Associated Press. “Well, we don’t have lawyers. We felt like we had to take what we could.”

The story, the latest in AP’s investigation into abuse in the Catholic Church, revealed deals struck with two black men for abuse they said happened in grade school that represent far lower amounts than what other clergy abuse survivors have received. It also revealed the men had been asked to sign nondisclosure agreements, which had long been banned by U.S. Catholic leaders.

Despite the challenges, the team – investigative reporter Mike Rezendes, photographer Maye-E-Wong, video journalist Sarah Blake Morgan, digital storytelling producer Samantha Shotzbarger and researcher Randy Herschaft – produced extraordinary work. Herschaft discovered several critical threads that showed an alleged abuser was working with children even after the church had known about one of the men’s allegations.

For their sensitive work on a complex, emotional and previously untold story, the team of Rezendes, Morgan, Wong, Shotzbarger and Herschaft win this week’s Best of the States.

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Oct. 16, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Joint AP/‘Frontline’ investigation reveals deadly failures in US medical supply chain

With exceptional multiformat journalism, AP investigative reporters Martha Mendoza and Juliet Linderman exposed the collapse of the U.S. medical equipment supply chain that led to deadly shortages of crucial personal protective equipment during the pandemic.

In collaboration with public television’s “Frontline,” the Center for Global Reporting and AP reporters worldwide, “America’s Medical Supply Crisis” identified a series of missteps in the U.S. that contributed to one of the highest death rates per capita in the world.

The investigation elicited strong public engagement, praise from public health experts and response by bipartisan members of Congress.

For breaking down a complex topic to show the critical importance of medical supply chains and the human cost when those supply chains fail, Linderman and Mendoza share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 02, 2020

Best of the States

AP scoops everyone on dramatic ouster of federal prosecutor

After a heads-up tip to Justice Department reporter Michael Balsamo, what unfolded on that Friday night was strange: The top Manhattan federal prosecutor – the one investigating President Donald Trump’s allies – was said to be resigning his job. 

The AP was out with the story for at least a half hour before the competition. But that was just the beginning, as U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman reported for work the next day, only to step down amid conflicting statements from the White House and Justice Department. Balsamo and Neumeister were out front again, making sense of the shifting story with well-sourced detail and context.

For work that put the AP way ahead with both the breaking news and the meaning of the maneuvering, Balsamo and Neumeister share this week’s Best of the States honors.

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Nov. 15, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: At least 1,680 aging US dams pose a risk to thousands

Severe storms, extreme flooding and aging infrastructure present a rising peril throughout much of the U.S., but trying to assess the risks has been extremely difficult. The reason: The federal agency overseeing the nation’s dams has sealed off the most essential information about their condition and the potential threats to those living downstream.

Prying that information loose took the kind of dedicated, 50-state effort that the AP is uniquely positioned to pursue. Data journalist Michelle Minkoff and Northern New England correspondent Michael Casey, collaborating with state government team member David Lieb and a visual team led by video journalist Allen Breed – as well as a cast of AP state reporters, photographers and data journalists – produced a deeply reported and visually stunning package revealing the dangers of nearly 1,700 aging dams, from Hawaii to Massachusetts.

Some two years in the making, the package resulted in explosive play – more than 100,000 page views on AP News and more than 80 front pages. 

For their exhaustive efforts to unlock critical public information and relay the findings in an engaging fashion, Minkoff, Casey, Lieb and Breed win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 06, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP all-formats crew provides unmatched coverage of Albania earthquake

Jolted out of bed by the 6.4-magnitude earthquake just before 4 a.m., correspondent Llazar Semini in Tirana knew immediately he was dealing with a major story. Communications networks were shaky, but he managed to reach colleagues in other formats by phone, triggering what would become a virtual sweep of the disaster coverage.

The quick decisions made in the early hours resulted in a compelling all-formats report and gave AP the clear advantage over competitive agencies. Nowhere was that advantage more evident than in live video – AP picked up live video within an hour of the quake, and several hours before any of the competition. 

Coverage was just as impressive in text, photo and video edits. AP’s dominance continued with drone video, and all-formats coverage of dramatic rescue efforts and anguished survivors. 

For resourceful work that powerfully conveyed the human toll and devastation while delivering a dominant competitive performance, the multinational all-formats team of Llazar Semini, Visar Kryeziu, Hektor Pustina, Amer Cohadzic, Erion Xhiabati, Florent Bajrami, Sylejman Klokkoqi and Petros Giannakouris shares AP’s Best of the Week.

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June 02, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

How Sri Lanka let U.N. peacekeepers get away with sexual abuse in Haiti

When The Associated Press last year started to look into the issue of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers, one finding was a leaked investigative report detailing how a group of 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers preyed upon young Haitian children in a sex ring that lasted for three years. Beyond that was another startling find: The U.N. accepted a Sri Lankan general who was accused of being a war criminal to lead the investigation of another rape in the Caribbean country.

AP’s Katy Daigle traveled to Sri Lanka to score a rare, extended interview with Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias and question him about his role – and to press government and military officials on how they'd followed up on the allegations. In London, meanwhile, investigative reporter Paisley Dodds was tipped by sources to a State Department memo on the WikiLeaks site in which a former U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka raised concerns that that country’s military and government were complicit in war crimes during the 26-year civil war.

Their disclosures earn the Beat of the Week.

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Aug. 04, 2017

Best of the States

​ONLY ON AP: Tractor-trailer trafficking survivor says people cried for air, begged for water

Houston newsman Frank Bajak headed to San Antonio with an overriding goal: Get an interview with a survivor of the immigrant-smuggling nightmare that claimed the lives of 10 people in the suffocating heat of a nearly sealed tractor-trailer.

The challenge was daunting. Survivors had been distributed among seven hospitals in the pre-dawn hours on the Sunday they were discovered in the truck outside a Walmart, with immigration and border patrol guards standing vigil outside their rooms.

Bajak's persistent, resourceful and ultimately successful effort to a secure that exclusive interview is recognized with this week's Best of the States prize.

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Nov. 30, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

As cases peak, AP duo embeds in a French ICU for a 24-hours in the battle against COVID-19

Just as a second surge of coronavirus cases peaked in France, Associated Press journalists secured exclusive, hard-won access to an intensive care unit in southern France’s largest hospital for 24 hours, capturing the exhaustion, loneliness and dedication medical workers desperately struggling to save lives.

After a full day embedded with the ICU team, AP freelance photographer/video journalist Daniel Cole and global enterprise reporter Lori Hinnant came away with a searing, intimately reported all-formats account of Marseille’s La Timone  hospital, as medical staff tried to keep even one bed open.  

For their dogged pursuit of access, tireless reporting and sensitive, compelling and timely storytelling, Cole and Hinnant earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 15, 2019

Best of the States

Between the lines of a press release: Gray wolves could lose federal protection

The passing reference in a draft statement on an unrelated topic would have been easy miss. But Billings, Montana, correspondent Matthew Brown instantly recognized its significance – the U.S. was planning to lift protections for gray wolves, an action that would reignite the emotional debate over the predators’ resurgence.

Brown was reporting on sage grouse when he came across the draft Interior Department press release. It mentioned remarks that Acting Secretary David Bernhardt planned to make the next day at a wildlife conference in Denver: Gray wolves had recovered across the Lower 48 states.

Brown recognized the implication of that one sentence, and teamed up with fellow environmental beat team writer John Flesher of Traverse City, Michigan, to begin a race against the clock. Brown and Flesher scrambled to break the news before Bernhardt took the stage the next morning at the closed-press wildlife conference. Finally a source confirmed: Protections for wolves were again in the agency’s crosshairs.

The APNewsAlert moved at 8:45 a.m., a full 15 minutes before Bernhardt was scheduled to speak. Other news outlets were forced to follow in AP’s wake, posting their own stories that relied on a statement put out by Interior.

For seizing on a stray reference and reporting it out into a significant APNewsBreak on wolves, Brown and Flesher win this week’s Best of the States.

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Feb. 24, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team documents growth of landmines’ hidden toll in Myanmar

Months of reporting by Victoria Milko, David Rising and a colleague in Myanmar led to the most authoritative look yet at the problem of landmines in the country.

Their story recounted how a boy was maimed and teenagers killed. The team was also able to get military defectors and others in the country to share with AP how civilians are used as human shields and how groups reuse mines they claim to have cleared. The story demonstrates that this will be an issue in the country for years to come.

For their work documenting the horror of landmines in one of the world’s most isolated countries, we are honored to award Milko, our AP colleague in Myanmar and Rising this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Nov. 17, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Historic presidential race call followed months of prep, hours of analysis

When Election Day arrived, just about everyone in politics had assumed for weeks that Hillary Clinton would soon be the next president. All it would take was California's trove of 55 electoral votes and a series of easy wins elsewhere to push her past the 270 she would need.

Not David Pace, Stephen Ohlemacher and AP's team of race callers and decision analysts.

They had prepared for months for all contingencies _ including a race that wasn't a blowout but a collection of close races that would demand deep analysis of AP's vote count, exit polls and the history of voting patterns state by state. To call the race for president before all others, and to do so with the unfailing accuracy the world expects from the AP on Election Day, would require excellence at calling those tight races that go deep into the night.

They did just that. And their call of the assumption-shattering result earns the Beat of the Week.

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June 04, 2021

Best of the States

Multiformat team delivers expansive AP coverage during centennial of Tulsa Race Massacre

With the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre months away, text and visual journalists from AP’s Race and Ethnicity, Central Region and Enterprise teams embarked on a plan to dig deeper into the story of the atrocity, well beyond just covering the centennial events.

The team started arriving in Tulsa weeks ahead of the anniversary to explore the city and meet descendants of massacre survivors, who opened up about the horrific event and how it continues to impact their families and the community. Among those they met was the family of Ernestine Alpha Gibbs, who survived the massacre and died 18 years ago at age 100.

Their efforts resulted in a comprehensive package of enterprise stories, from the lost wealth and racial inequality that Black Tulsans have endured, to the descendants of Black victims preparing to resume a search for mass graves, to an examination of how history books and law enforcement have depicted the massacre, and much more. 

The coverage was not without breaking news. In addition to a visit by President Joe Biden, AP learned that the weekend’s headline event was canceled because of a disagreement over payments to three survivors for their appearance at the event. 

For sweeping enterprise and spot coverage that raises awareness of this grim milestone in American race relations, this multiformat team earns AP’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 16, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Inside the lines: AP chronicles San Quentin prison tennis program

gained exclusive access to a tennis program in California’s San Quentin State Prison, producing a distinctive enterprise piece on sports behind bars.Bay area sports writer McCauley, a former college tennis player, had been invited to play tennis with inmates and requested permission from prison authorities to write about the program, which pairs inmates with a player from the outside community. She and photographer Vásquez were allowed into California’s oldest prison twice — McCauley as a player and reporter, and Vásquez to capture images of the program and the inmates’ stories.The result was an engaging account of a sports program seeking to build a stronger sense of community among inmates, as well as the connections they forge with players from the outside the prison.Read more

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Nov. 03, 2017

Best of the States

Georgia election server wiped clean – days after lawsuit against officials

Georgia's centralized and aging election system has been the subject of several controversies – most recently in June, when a whistleblower revealed that state contractors had failed to secure an important election server. Hackers could potentially have affected the results of both 2016 races and a special congressional election last June that drew national attention.

The Houston bureau’s Frank Bajak wrote up the initial news of Georgia’s server problem. But that didn't answer the larger question of whether the vulnerable server had actually been hacked, so Bajak developed new sources and kept pressing for more information.

His efforts paid off when a source provided him with an email disclosing that the troubled server had been wiped clean of all data. Even more interesting, this destruction of evidence happened just a few days after a lawsuit was filed seeking a forensic examination of the server in an effort invalidate the state's vulnerable election technology.

For his enterprise and dogged pursuit of the story behind the story, Bajak wins 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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Nov. 06, 2020

Best of the States

AP explores impact of Trump immigration policies; rare interviews with Stephen Miller, migrants

President Donald Trump has altered the immigration system arguably more than any U.S. president, meaning this year’s election could have major implications for future immigration policy and for those trying to enter or stay in the U.S. In the run-up to the election, AP’s immigration team unraveled four key policies that have upended lives: reduced refugee numbers, restrictions on international students, a virtual shutdown of asylum and the curbing of legal immigration. 

The journalists used unmatched source work, data reporting and AP’s global footprint, scoring key on-the-record interviews, from would-be refugees stuck overseas to Stephen Miller, Trump’s lead immigration adviser.

For timely, in-depth coverage of immigration issues that likely hang in the balance as the election is decided, the team of Spagat, Tareen, Snow, Watson, Bull and Akour wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 13, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP first with word US taxpayers to pay for US-Mexico wall

“Build the wall!" That chant became a frequent rallying cry at rallies for Donald Trump, who vowed to stem illegal immigration by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The candidate, now president-elect, would routinely engage in a back-and-forth with crowds. "Who's going to pay for it?" Trump would ask. "Mexico!" they'd shout back.

Not so, as it turns out. In an APNewsBreak, congressional correspondent Erica Werner and new White House reporter Jill Colvin were the first to report that Trump and congressional Republicans were exploring ways to use existing law – and U.S. taxpayer dollars – to build the border wall.

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Aug. 13, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP story resonates globally: New Hampshire hermit loses home, finds himself back on the grid

The vividly told AP story of an 81-year-old man’s quest to remain in an isolated New Hampshire cabin hooked readers around the world, led to an outpouring of support and eventually prompted the man to reconsider his hermit lifestyle.

Reporter Kathy McCormack had begun by looking into a legal fight involving David Lidstone, a spritely man known locally as “River Dave.” He’d been living peacefully in a makeshift home for 27 years when the property owner moved to evict him. Lidstone refused to leave and was jailed in July; while he was in jail, his cabin burned to the ground.

McCormack’s reporting turned Lidstone’s difficulties into a powerful story, fleshing out the details of his life and the local efforts to help him stay put. The piece was an immediate hit, ultimately capturing more than a half million pageviews on AP News, making it the site’s most popular story of the week. McCormack and colleagues followed up with subsequent developments, including the groundswell of international attention Lidstone received and his move away from the reclusive life.

For bringing this engaging story to life and her persistence in following it through, McCormack wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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