Sept. 22, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP’s team reporting alerts the world to Libya’s disastrous floods

Years of reporting on Libya from afar and a local freelancer’s willingness to travel treacherous roads allowed AP’s team to alert the world about a disaster of massive proportions, after heavy floods burst two dams above the city of Derna, washing away and killing thousands.

It took nearly 24 hours for news to emerge from Libya of the deadly floods. But with the country divided between rival governments with spotty records for accuracy, it was tricky to grasp the extent of the devastation.

When one of the governments reported more than 2,000 dead and counting, Libya video producer Adel Omran was the first to alert the team, after which Cairo reporter Samy Magdy called contacts in the health care and aid community, who confirmed that toll and said it was likely to rise.

Misrata-based freelance photographer Yousef Murad drove hours to the scene, sending an initial dispatch showing mass burials for the rising number of bodies. On the ground, Murad faced difficult conditions and lack of basic amenities as the stench of death overtook the city. His subsequent stories documented the immense recovery effort and the stories of survivors.

For their harrowing work revealing a complex story of disaster and recovery, Magdy, Murad and Omran are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Nov. 17, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Data-driven reporting highlights outsized presence and influence of fossil fuels industry at climate negotiations

Members of the AP Climate team were struck by the large size and flashiness of stands dedicated to oil and gas at last year’s COP27. The AP team wanted to get beyond the anecdotes to truly measure the presence and influence of fossil fuels industries.

Climate data journalist Mary Katherine Wildeman developed a methodology to cross reference, identify and categorize more than 24,000 participants at the summit that focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate reporter Seth Borenstein, Climate news editor Dana Beltaji and their colleagues found nearly 400 people from fossil fuels industries attended the summit, not always in a transparent way.

The analysis led to other stories from AP’s Climate team, including water reporter Suman Naishadham and video journalist Victor Caivano’s package about Canada’s commitments to climate. In a separate story, Wildeman, Climate editor Doug Glass and Climate news director Peter Prengaman pored over documents to find that despite lots of talk, oil and gas companies are not moving toward a transition to green energy.

Climate video editor Teresa de Miguel and Climate photo editor Alyssa Goodman developed creative visual plans for all three stories to elevate the data and storytelling.

For work that resulted in three exclusive stories ahead of COP28, the team of Wildeman, Borenstein, Naishadham, Caivano, Beltaji, de Miguel and Glass win Best of the Week — First Winner.

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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.

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