July 27, 2018

Best of the States

Private messaging apps used for official business test open records laws

Smart phone private messaging apps are great for keeping secrets. The apps delete messages almost immediately and do not allow them to be saved, copied or captured with a screenshot.

But what about use of the apps by government officials and elected representatives? State Government Team reporter Ryan Foley spotted a trend of public officials increasingly using such apps for official business. It’s a trend that alarms advocates for open government, who say it undermines state laws designed to ensure transparency and access to records.

Foley’s research was based in large part on use of a new legislative tracking tool called the Sunshine Hub that was developed by AP Data Team members Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen. The tool allowed Foley to see whether bills addressing the trend were being introduced in state legislatures across the country. And indeed they were.

The resulting story won play on more than two dozen front pages and prompted several editorials, including one in The Columbus Dispatch warning that officials’ use of message-vanishing apps was the same as destroying public records.

For their efforts in exposing a potentially dangerous anti-transparency trend among government officials, and developing a unique tool to track it, Foley, Tumgoren and Rasmussen win the Best of the States award.

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Nov. 12, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Under the volcano: Stunning photos of ‘slow motion annihilation’ on the island of La Palma

The volcano on La Palma has been active for months — and so have any number of news agencies, documenting with day-to-day images, most often from a distance after authorities declared much of the Spanish island off-limits.

That was the challenge for Madrid-based chief photographer Emilio Morenatti, who wanted a fresh angle. Leaning on contacts, Morenatti gained access inside the exclusion zone. There, while providing daily images for the AP wire, he poured his creative energy into a series of still life photos that cross over into the art world, showing what he describes as “annihilation in slow motion.”

His images show neighborhoods, yards, houses and all the possessions therein buried in volcanic ash. One colleague called the work “shocking and beautiful at the same time.”

The package that was well-received by international clients and Morenatti was interviewed by Spanish television. Even competitor photographers took to social media to praise his work.

For combining determination, access, timing and talent to produce remarkable images that take viewers to the heart of an unfolding catastrophe, Morenatti is this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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May 24, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sky-high reporting and smart use of all formats puts AP ahead amid Persian Gulf tensions

As tensions between Iran, its neighbors and the United States ratcheted up last week, AP’s staff in Baghdad, Dubai and Tehran turned out aggressive, yet cautious coverage, bringing facts and unique perspectives to the tense and escalating situation in the Persian Gulf, often well ahead of the competition.

Those stories included reports of “sabotaged” oil tankers off the coast of the UAE, and AP broke the news that Iran had quadrupled its uranium enrichment.

Meanwhile, AP’s Tehran team produced an all-formats piece on the mood of people on the city’s streets that could not be matched by competitors, and AP was first to report an FAA warning that Iran could misidentify commercial flights in the region.

AP was also aggressive on related developments, ensuring that clients had video and text coverage of tweets by President Donald Trump and Iranian officials.

For smart judgment, planning and effective use of AP’s resources to break news and bring facts to a region on edge, the team of Jon Gambrell, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Mehdi Fattahi, Bassem Mroue, Nasser Karimi and Vahid Salemi wins AP's Best of the Week, with the support of their colleagues and contributors in the region.

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May 04, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

CDC director accepts pay cut after AP examines his salary

A small reference to a big number in a Wall Street Journal story about the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caught medical writer Mike Stobbe’s attention. It reported that Dr. Robert Redfield’s salary was $375,000.

That seemed like a large sum, much more than previous CDC directors had been paid, thought Stobbe, who has covered the nation’s top public health agency for more than 12 years.

His hunch proved correct. His subsequent reporting showed that Redfield’s compensation was nearly double that of the previous Trump administration nominee, who resigned after six months, and more than the government’s other top health officials.

The scoop – which led Redfield to later ask for a pay cut – nets Stobbe this week’s Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 01, 2016

Best of the States

A distinctive retelling of a shocking tragedy

As nurse practitioners, Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill played a pivotal role in the lives of many people in rural Holmes County, Mississippi, which with 44 percent of its residents living in poverty ranks as the seventh-poorest county in America, according to the Census Bureau.

So when the two Roman Catholic nuns were found stabbed to death in the home they shared, the news devastated friends and families, as well as the many people who came to rely on the pair for critical, life-saving medical care.

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May 27, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Ukrainian medic gives AP exclusive bodycam video revealing the tragedy of Mariupol

A celebrated Ukrainian medic recorded her front-line work in Mariupol on a data card no bigger than a thumbnail, then arranged to get it to AP journalists in the besieged city before she was captured by Russian forces. AP then smuggled it out to the world inside a tampon.

The result was a remarkable all-formats package showing firsthand the horror of the war in the devastated Ukrainian port city, while drawing attention to the Russian treatment of prisoners as well as the number of prominent Ukrainians, like medic Yuliia Paievska, who have disappeared.

The piece was AP’s most-engaged and most-viewed story of the week on apnews.com, and drew enormous media attention.

For a riveting look at the tragedy in Mariupol, and shining a needed and compassionate light on the fate of a courageous medic, the team of Vasilisa Stepanenko, Lori Hinnant, Mstyslav Chernov, Alyssa Goodman and Serginho Roosblad shares AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Dec. 17, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP responds to US tornadoes with sweeping, distinctive all-formats coverage

When a tornado warning sounded Friday night, AP’s Appalachian staffers scrambled to find whatever information they could in the dead of night. By early Saturday morning it had become clear Kentucky was going to be the epicenter of one of the most powerful tornadoes to hit the region in recent memory.Staffers responded quickly in all formats, including the first live video from the devastated town of Mayfield. Coverage included residents’ wrenching accounts of survival and loss, and powerful visuals, but there was also an important pause in AP’s coverage: Many news outlets breathlessly reported the governor’s grim prediction that as many as 70 people may have died in the collapse of a candle factory. AP was more cautious, preserving its reputation for accuracy when the actual toll came in much lower.AP’s mainbar text stories, photos and video — live and edited — all earned heavy play.

For smart, fast, determined coverage in the days immediately following the storm, the team of Bruce Schreiner, Claire Galofaro, Dylan Lovan, John Raby, Travis Loller, Mark Humphrey, Gerald Herbert, Kristin Hall and Robert Bumsted is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Nov. 01, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation: Ukraine’s Zelenskiy pressured by Trump months before call

Desmond Butler and Michael Biesecker, global investigations reporters in Washington, wanted to fill out the timeline of the diplomatic scandal at the heart of House impeachment inquiry. While Biesecker worked sources in Washington, Butler traveled to Ukraine to meet with associates of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and with other sources developed over years of investigating wrongdoing in the former Soviet Union.

What they learned moved the needle on a complex narrative — associates of the Ukrainian leader said that pressure from the Trump White House started much earlier than was known previously, dating from shortly after Zelenskiy’s election in April, and before he took office as president. 

The scoop was the latest in a series of breaking stories and exclusives by the pair that have defined coverage of the impeachment investigation and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s role in it.

For meticulous work that led to a major scoop and widened the horizons of the ongoing Ukraine-Trump story, Butler and Biesecker share AP’s Best of the Week award. 

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Sept. 02, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Private lives are exposed as WikiLeaks spills its secrets

When WikiLeaks announced the release of hundreds of Saudi diplomatic documents last year, AP’s Raphael Satter in Paris and Maggie Michael in Cairo provided some of the most aggressive coverage of the leak. They broke news about everything from the secretive kingdom’s checkbook diplomacy to unpaid limousine bills and cheating students.

But as they plowed through the documents, they also noticed medical and identity documents -- potentially serious privacy violations. Satter flagged the issue but never got a formal response from WikiLeaks; with other stories on the horizon and only a handful of questionable documents in hand, Satter and Michael shelved the subject.

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April 27, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Fast and furious: AP is hours ahead with sought-after Comey memos

The moment James Comey let slip that he had written “contemporaneous notes” detailing his dealings with President Donald Trump, those memos became the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The memos quickly became fodder for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections as it related to possible collusion with the Trump campaign – and in particular, whether the president sought to obstruct justice. Prosecutors perused them, members of Congress demanded them and the public speculated about them.

In the end, The Associated Press got them.

Thanks to the resourceful reporting of the Washington bureau’s Mary Clare Jalonick, Chad Day, Tom LoBianco and Eric Tucker, the AP was the first news organization to publish the contents of those 15 pages of notes, hours ahead of the competition. And that major scoop is the Beat of the Week.

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July 02, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

As demand for medical oxygen soars, AP reveals inequality in the global supply

The AP story came to a startling conclusion: In much of the world, medical oxygen is expensive and hard to get – a basic marker of inequality both between and within countries. 

With the pandemic exposing this stark fact, AP looked primarily to Guinea to illustrate the global challenges of supplying bottled oxygen in the world’s least developed nations. Correspondents Lori Hinnant and Carley Petesch conducted scores of interviews with health officials and nongovernmental organizations around the world, while stringers Boubacar Diallo and Youssouf Bah reported from the heart of the pandemic in the West African nation. 

Their all-formats package, including wrenching accounts of families directly affected by oxygen shortages, sparked immediate reaction, including a plan outlined by the World Health Organization. 

For aggressive and resourceful coverage of lethal inequities in the supply of medical oxygen to the developing world, the team of Hinnant, Petesch, Diallo and Bah earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 02, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Pushing back against access limits at White House briefing, AP’s Julie Pace lauded for walking out

After eight years on the White House beat, AP’s Julie Pace is a leader among correspondents in fighting for access to the president and his advisers, and over those years she routinely has resisted any efforts to exclude the press unreasonably from news events or obscure the president’s schedule.

On Friday, she recognized instantly that what was happening at the White House was anything but routine: a first-in-memory, invitation-only daily briefing by the presidential press secretary from which other news organizations were excluded. Her spot-on instinct to walk out put The Associated Press at the forefront of the fight for access and openness.

Pace’s quick decision reverberated across Washington and the country – and earns the Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 22, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Assassination of the Russian Ambassador

On his way home, AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici stopped at the opening of a photo exhibit at Ankara’s Contemporary Arts Center. The Russian ambassador to Turkey was to speak, and Ozbilici figured the AP could use images of the envoy for its archives.

Shockingly, Ozbilici instead found himself a witness to an assassination. With cool head and steady hands, he documented the killing of Ambassador Andrei Karlov, capturing some of the most astonishing images of this or any other year. His photo of the raging gunman _ one hand holding the gun, the other pointed to the ceiling, his lifeless victim on the floor _ would appear on countless front pages and broadcasts and websites. Within hours, it was seen by some 18 million people on Facebook alone.

Even in a year of remarkable work by AP staffers, Ozbilici’s photos and actions were extraordinary _ and richly deserving of the final Beat of the Week award of 2016.

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Aug. 19, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Showcasing AP's college football poll

For 80 years, AP has organized the longest-running college football poll of its kind. Every week through each season, AP’s marquee listing tells who’s up, who’s down and most significantly, who’s No. 1. The 2016 preseason poll will start the buzz again when it comes out this Sunday.

But in this anniversary year, AP Sports wanted to do something extra: Produce a composite poll showing which 100 teams ranked highest over the full eight decades and 1,103 polls. The result – anchored by Ralph Russo, Paul Montella and Howie Rumberg – was an exclusive package that dramatically moved the needle on digital, social media and in print, while further boosting the profile of the AP Top 25 poll. It earns the Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 06, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

4 Hours in Huntington: how the heroin epidemic choked a city

The scene, presented in the most vivid close-up, shows a paramedic frantically pushing an IV full of an opioid blocker into the vein of a woman turning blue and barely breathing. Then the radio squawks: Two more overdoses just reported. Where will Claire Galofaro’s riveting narrative go from here?

“The woman’s eyes blinked open” she writes next. Then: “Red lights on the phone at the 911 dispatch center flashed faster and faster until all 16 lines were screaming. They called from the dining room of a rickety house, the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, the bathroom of a gas station. `People are dying everywhere,’ one caller said.”

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Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the States

AP ties Supreme Court nominee to faith group said to subjugate women

When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Barrett and her supporters clearly did not want to discuss the nominee’s reported ties to a religious group called People of Praise.

Enter reporters Michelle Smith and Michael Biesecker. Using on-the-record interviews and an archive of deleted web pages, the pair documented Barrett's deep ties to the charismatic Christian group and painted a detailed picture of the organization’s beliefs and practices from its early days to the present. And the reporters went on to reveal how the organization had systematically deleted all mentions of Barrett and her family from its website.

For deep, resourceful reporting that sheds new light on the current Supreme Court nominee on the cusp of her confirmation hearings, Smith and Biesecker share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 12, 2018

Best of the States

Staffers respond with multiformat report after limo crash kills 20

The short item that moved on the Associated Press’ New York state wire Saturday night about a two-car crash involving a limousine in the upstate town of Schoharie was hardly remarkable. It included the line: “State police said only that the crash happened just before 2 p.m. ... and caused “multiple fatalities.”

Then came the shocking update from the State Police the next morning: 20 people were killed in the crash, making it the deadliest traffic incident in the United States in more than a decade.

That triggered a coordinated multiformat response that leveraged the AP's resources in New York State and beyond, leading all coverage of the tragedy.

For outstanding breaking news work that lived up to the highest standards of the AP, Michael Hill, David Klepper, Hans Pennink, Bob Salsberg and Deepti Hajela win this week's Best of the States award.

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April 12, 2019

Best of the States

AP analysis: Sports betting has not been the jackpot some states expected

When the Supreme Court allowed all states to offer betting on sports, some lawmakers across the country saw an opportunity: Here was a way to bolster state budgets with revenue from an activity that was already happening in the shadows. But an AP review showed that actual tax revenue has yet to match expectations in the majority of states that legalized sports gambling.

State government team reporter Geoff Mulvihill, based in New Jersey, and Rhode Island statehouse reporter Jennifer McDermott looked through monthly state revenue reports and then compared the tax revenue generated to the original estimates in the legislation that authorized sports betting. They found that in four of the six states that legalized it last year – Rhode Island, West Virginia, Mississippi and Pennsylvania – tax revenue was far below what the state had projected it would be.

The revenue story was the latest in a string of distinctive stories from reporters working the sports betting beat. Many of the stories, including the state revenue piece, have been accompanied by a data set compiled by Mulvihill that tracks every piece of legislation related to sports gambling. It is being made available to all AP customers who subscribe to our data distribution platform and has been promoted to local reporters as a way to add context to their stories.

For revealing the difference between lawmakers’ promises on tax revenue and the reality, Mulvihill and McDermott win this week’s Best of the States prize.

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June 05, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Coverage of Floyd protests, Brazil’s virus toll, commands global attention

The end of May saw unprecedented news: The coronavirus pandemic continued to spread infection and wreak economic havoc around the globe, while much of the world’s attention pivoted suddenly to protests across the U.S. that spread to Paris, London, Australia and elsewhere after the suffocation death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

This week’s Best of the Week recognizes AP’s work surrounding each of those mega-stories, with top honors going to Baltimore-based photographer Julio Cortez for his iconic photo of a protester holding an American flag aloft, and to the AP all-formats team in Brazil for continuing coverage of the virus in a nation being ravaged by COVID-19.

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