March 15, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP shows itself best of class in election coverage Super Tuesday

In the runup to Super Tuesday, The Associated Press showed why it’s at the top of the class when it comes to elections coverage.

As Super Tuesday neared, the AP had an issue on its hands: how will it call races that night when it would have no VoteCast poll — but the TV networks had their exit polling, which could have put the AP at a competitive disadvantage? Serena Hawkins, data scientist for AP’s Decision Team, got to work.

In just two weeks, she researched, developed, tested and deployed a new approach to race calling that allowed the AP to declare Donald Trump and Joe Biden winners in several states with a very small return of counted votes.

That new model, used by the AP on Super Tuesday, put AP’s race calls ahead in states where the TV networks didn’t have a poll, and only a few minutes behind in states where they did — and with no errors in its calls.

Meanwhile, the AP, for the first time, was able to deliver its vote count directly to news consumers through a new immersive elections experience on APNews.

The effort was captained by development lead Linda Gorman, with team members Ryan Best, Michelle Minkoff Carlson, Chaithra Chandraiah, Shelly Cheng, Chad Day, Phil Holm, Dan Kempton, Humera Lodhi, Maya Sweedler, Pablo Barria Urenda and Robert Weston. On the night of Super Tuesday, the recirculation rate for these pages was, in a word, stratospheric.

For all these reasons, Serena Hawkins and the Elections Data Visualizations Team are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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March 08, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP beats everyone on Mitch McConnell’s decision to step down

Even before Mitch McConnell began speaking in the well of the Senate on Feb. 28, everyone knew what the majority leader’s historic announcement would be. That was because AP had already delivered the news, beating all the competition.

Deputy Bureau Chief Mike Tackett had obtained McConnell’s remarks in advance, saying that he planned to step down in November to close his run as the longest-serving Senate leader. Tackett also worked out an agreement that AP could publish before McConnell made his announcement on the Senate floor.

Tackett, who is writing a biography on McConnell, worked closely with digital politics editor Katie Vogel and Washington text editor Tom Strong to make sure copy was edited and ready go. When the time came, Strong filed the urgent copy perfectly with the APNewsAlert and full story moving within the same minute.

The news sent a buzz through the Senate floor, and several journalists there asked Tackett how he did it.

Tackett’s source work also enabled Congress reporter Mary Clare Jalonick and chief congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro to dive straight into the ‘what happens next’ portion of reporting instead of having to focus on the breaking news.

For delivering a package that kept AP ahead of amazed competitors through the day, Tackett, Vogel, Strong, Mascaro and Jalonick are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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March 01, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

A leaked trove of documents opens a rare window into Chinese hacking practices

China has long used hacking as a political and law-enforcement tool to put eyes on dissidents, governments and other people it wants to watch. Because of Associated Press reporting efforts, the picture of how that is done — and what it might mean — is a bit clearer now. On Feb. 19, multiple sources alerted China investigative correspondent Dake Kang to a newly discovered leak of documents from a Chinese police contractor that revealed the company was hacking the networks of over a dozen foreign governments for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. The documents revealed how these hackers-for-hire operations worked, which systems they targeted, what tools they used and how they assisted police in the surveillance and harassment of dissidents and oppressed ethnicities even outside China’s borders. The documents had been published online by an unknown source, and no other major media outlet had picked up on it yet. But how to verify? Kang, who at the time happened to be in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, was en route to the airport to return to Beijing when he was browsing the contractor’s website. One of their addresses was right there, just a 40-minute drive from the airport. Kang canceled his flight, hopped into a cab and headed to the company’s offices. U.S.-based technology reporter Frank Bajak simultaneously jumped on the story, contacting cybersecurity analysts, many of whom said they thought it was authentic. The following morning, Kang returned to the company where two employees confirmed the leak. With effective communication and swift editing, the story made it to the wire during U.S. daytime.  

The cross-continental teamwork and speed paid off. The AP was first among major competitors to put the story out, with others following hours later — some of them using AP’s exclusive photos.  

For a quick and concerted scramble that leveraged differing forms of AP expertise, touched multiple continents and delivered precision on deadline, Kang and Bajak are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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