Sept. 29, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP secures intimate access to Ukraine’s counteroffensive 

The Associated Press spent two weeks with a Ukrainian assault brigade for an intimate glimpse into the speed, direction and cost of the counteroffensive to regain Bakhmut. 

Mstyslav Chernov’s reporting was unparalleled and gathered at great risk. He spent two weeks with members of the brigade and even accompanied a commander as he raised the Ukrainian flag in a village under shelling. Using self-shot material, drone footage and helmet camera video Chernov wove together the narrative of the brigade’s struggle. Viewers were taken on their journey and exposed to the stark realities of the war — foxholes, close-quarter gun battles, trauma and death. 

Global investigations correspondent Lori Hinnant, reporting from Paris, brought this story alive in words with a gripping blow-by-blow account of what the men had to go through, while photographer Alex Babenko and producer Volodymyr Yurchuk also helped put the stunning package together. 

The story’s timing was perfect, coming just as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was trying to build support for the Ukrainian counteroffensive at the United Nations and was also among the most engaged of the entire week at a time, showing the importance of continuing to bear witness. 

For securing unparalleled access and taking great personal risk to produce an intimate picture of Ukraine’s frontline, Chernov and Hinnant are awarded Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP23264518430303

Oct. 20, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reporters jump to cover Hamas rampage and sudden new Israel-Hamas war 

The first word came at 6:25 a.m., Oct. 7 local time: Red alerts were issued via WhatsApp for several locations in Israel. Sirens could be heard in Tel Aviv. AP journalists saw rockets being shot from Rafah in Gaza towards Israel. Then word filtered in from the Israeli army that there were numerous security breaches in central and southern Israel. More rockets fell, with Israeli ambulances dispatched to areas where residents had reported strikes. Taken together, it told of an ominous new day in the region. 

The first of what would be many AP news alerts moved 20 minutes later: Israel says Palestinian militants have infiltrated into Israeli territory from Gaza. 

What unfolded over the days was massive in its scope: The militant armed group Hamas executed a well-planned surprise attack on what would normally be a joyful holiday, Simchat Torah.

The Israeli army, caught off guard, struggled for days to regain control of the invaded towns. Israel released counterstrikes into Gaza, killing hundreds. Over the next 10 days the toll would rise to thousands dead in Gaza and in Israel.

Throughout the conflict, the teams in Israel and Gaza worked with courage, determination and excellence under extremely challenging circumstances to report on the painful events affecting them and their families. They earn Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP23280201758941

Oct. 27, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Special Citation: Israel-Hamas War coverage

Since Oct. 7, Associated Press staff in Gaza and Israel have worked tirelessly to cover the war — and to go beyond the news with deep, impactful coverage.

From live feeds and NR/CR videos to powerful photographs, text stories, audio and interactives, the Associated Press has written the first draft of history by covering the spot news around the clock — and by going deeper with resonant journalism about individuals directly affected by the war. These stories are written by colleagues who themselves have evacuated their homes and struggle to get food and water, by colleagues for whom air raid sirens have become a part of daily life.

Outside of the region, colleagues have written thoughtful analysis and all-formats takeouts on the broader resonance of the Israel-Hamas war. They’ve edited text, photos and video and worked to ensure that our standards are met throughout the report.

Because of that work across the AP, we this week honor all of those colleagues who’ve contributed to the urgency, breadth and depth of the report across all formats in our coverage of the Israel-Hamas war with a Special Citation, most especially those in the region.

AP23294279395026, AP23300656624061

Dec. 01, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP lives from Gaza, Israel, West Bank, Egypt, Lebanon border provide footage for media around the world

Since the beginning of the war, maintaining live coverage from Gaza, Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and the Israel-Lebanon border has been challenging. But our journalists in the region have risen to the challenge, using creative solutions to provide customers with round-the-clock coverage.

Once the ground operation started and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians evacuated northern Gaza, including our own crew, having a live of the north of the Gaza Strip where much of the fighting was taking place was key from a journalistic and competitive point of view.

With no options inside of northern Gaza, the team secured a position in southern Israel, from which it was possible to see the airstrikes, the destruction of buildings and the devastating effects of the war in Gaza. The live has remained up 24/7 for more than a month.

In recent days, when the ceasefire and exchange of hostages for prisoners began, the crews in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel were deployed to cover all possible points to be able to see the live release of hostages/prisoners and reunions with families.

The video team in Cairo also convinced a local television network to allow the AP to broadcast their images from Rafah Crossing on direct and show the world the moment the hostages left the Gaza Strip and entered Egypt. Those efforts in Gaza, Egypt, the West Bank and Israel allowed AP to provide more than seven live shots almost simultaneously using Live U and Bambuser.

While attention has been heavily focused on the Israel-Hamas war, tension also ratcheted up in northern Israel as near-daily shelling between Israeli military and Hezbollah killed several civilians. The crew in Lebanon moved to the south of the country from where they provided live coverage of the strikes on both sides of the border.

For dedication and creativity in providing invaluable eyes on the Israel-Hamas war, the teams in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, Egypt and Lebanon win this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner

AP23334053902833

Dec. 15, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Former career US diplomat charged with secretly spying for Cuban intelligence for decades

Relying on relentless source work and their joint years of experience, Joshua Goodman and Eric Tucker landed twin scoops on the arrest and indictment of a former career American diplomat charged with being a secret agent for communist Cuba for decades.

Manuel Rocha, who was formerly ambassador to Bolivia, was accused of engaging in “clandestine activity” on Cuba’s behalf since at least 1981, the year he joined the U.S. foreign service. While the case was short on specifics of how Rocha may have assisted the island nation, it provided a vivid case study of how Cuba and its sophisticated intelligence services seek to target, and flip, U.S. officials.

First word came to Latin America correspondent Goodman from a trusted source who called on a Friday evening to say the FBI had arrested Rocha earlier that day at his home in Miami but details were under seal. He enlisted Washington-based Tucker to see if his national security sources could help shake anything loose about the case.

Their break came Sunday — with the case still sealed — when sources gave them enough information to report that Rocha was arrested on federal charges of being an agent of the Cuban government. Their urgent story, which included extensive background on Rocha’s diplomatic stops in Bolivia, Argentina, Havana and elsewhere, staked out AP’s ownership of the case.

More details followed the next morning with another AP break, when Goodman and Tucker obtained the sealed case affidavit from highly placed sources nearly an hour before it was filed, allowing them to trounce the competition with a fast news alert and urgent series.

For putting AP far ahead in revealing what the Justice Department called one of the highest-reaching infiltrations of the U.S. government by a foreign agent, Goodman and Tucker are Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP23338685614024

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.

AP23180549039919

Jan. 12, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

Tokyo bureau delivers top-tier coverage on two of the biggest stories in years, massive quake and fiery plane disaster

In back-to-back days over the New Year’s holiday, it seemed that the eyes of the world were on Tokyo, as the AP bureau deftly handled a massive earthquake and a fiery plane disaster that rocked the country — two of the biggest stories from Japan in years — and beat the competition in all formats while doing so. Their coverage included exclusive video, print and photos that far surpassed the offerings from our competitors.

The bureau activated immediately once a 7.6-magnitude quake hit western Japan on New Year’s Day, which was followed by more than 100 aftershocks. Business Writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo filed alerts and for days wrote stories that explained one of the most quake-prone places on earth. Photographer Hiro Komae and freelance videographer Richard Colombo rushed to the scene, followed by video journalist Ayaka McGill. They braved brutal working conditions — sleeping in their car and navigating wrecked roads, often driving more than 12 hours to reach destinations.

Then, on Jan. 2, another massive story: A Japan Airlines passenger jet struck a coast guard plane on a Tokyo runway. Dramatic video, which AP had faster than competitors, showed the JAL plane bursting into flames as it streaked away from the fireball that engulfed the other plane, where five died. Miraculously, all the JAL passengers evacuated safely. Working off TV coverage, News Director Foster Klug had the first urgents out ahead of competitors, with correspondent Mari Yamaguchi interrupting her holiday to write stories that investigated what went wrong and showed what it was like inside the plane. Business colleagues added invaluable context about the planes.

For dominating the competition on consecutive days in trying conditions on two massive breaking stories, we award the Tokyo bureau Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP24002415383657 AP24004100656901

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.

AP24039294261867