July 30, 2021

Best of the States

Only on AP: 20 years later, chaplain’s litany of prayers for US troops killed in Afghanistan finally comes to an end

With the end of the war in Afghanistan looming, national writer Matt Sedensky sought a compelling way to humanize America’s longest war — and he found it. Nearly all the American troops killed in the war had their remains returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where the military runs a mortuary. There, Sedensky found chaplain David Sparks, who had been called to active duty after 9/11, assigned to the mortuary, and had been there ever since.

Sedensky pieced together Sparks’ experience: writing hundreds of prayers for the dead, standing beside their disfigured remains and ministering to their broken families. Joined by New York video journalist Jessie Wardarski and Washington photographer Carolyn Kaster, the team had access to parts of the base hidden far from public view. The resulting package, with Sedensky’s expressive prose and affecting visuals by Wardarski and Kaster, generated a strong response from veterans and non-military alike.

For intimate, revealing work that eloquently writes one of the closing chapters of America’s 20-year war, the team of Sedensky, Kaster and Wardarski earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 11, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Yemen's Dirty War: Starving moms skip meals to feed their starving children

The civil war gripping Yemen for the last three years has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters as millions of people face starvation. In an effort to understand the scope of the crisis, The Associated Press launched a one-year project with the Pulitzer Center, a non-profit news organization that helps cover underreported stories internationally.

AP Cairo-based reporter Maggie Michael, one of the few journalists who has followed the unfolding tragedy in Yemen from the beginning, often at great risk, used the Pulitzer grant for an extended reporting trip across Yemen with Cairo photographer Nariman el-Mofty and Yemen-based videographer Maad al-Zekri.

They drove more than 400 miles through five governorates, including one harrowing drive near an active front line outside of Khoukha, from their base in Aden. They interviewed mothers and families affected, plus food experts, doctors and volunteers, and they found that more than 8.4 million of the nation’s 29 million people rely almost completely on food aid.

The team’s courageous efforts to tell this story win the Beat of the Week.

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Oct. 18, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Anatomy of a phone call: New details of Trump’s Ukraine call revealed

President Donald Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president, and the ensuing impeachment investigation, has been the hottest story in Washington for weeks. It’s extremely challenging to find new ways to report on the conversation and gather new details of how a rough transcript of the call was created and handled. 

Deb Riechmann managed to do it all, with a deeply reported 1800-word story that laid out everything we know about who was on the call, how such conversations are memorialized and what happens to the rough transcripts once they are created.

For uncovering tantalizing new details about Trump’s fateful phone call with the Ukraine president, AP’s Best of the Week citation goes to White House reporter Deb Riechmann.

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July 30, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP gets first look inside China’s largest detention center, breaks news on Uyghur incarceration

The sprawling Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Xinjiang, China, is the largest such facility in China (possibly the world), holding perhaps 10,000 or more and embodying the plight of the Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities. Western news organizations have only been able to report from the outside. But the Beijing-based team of enterprise journalist Dake Kang, photographer Mark Schiefelbein and news director Ken Moritsugu managed to get a tour, making the AP the first Western news organization to report inside the facility.

They delivered a vivid package on life inside the detention center, from numbered and tagged Uyghurs sitting ramrod straight to the instructions on force-feeding in the medical room. The journalists also revealed a disturbing new trend: China is moving from the temporary detention of Uyghurs to more permanent mass incarceration of people who have committed no real crime.

The story topped AP’s reader engagement for the week and drew comment from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who called China’s repression of the Uyghurs “horrific.”

For bringing the world rare insight into the detention centers where China holds Uyghurs, the team of Kang, Schiefelbein and Moritsugu earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 31, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Coordinated effort delivers strong, quick all-formats coverage of migrant caravan

From the moment a caravan of Central American migrants set out from Honduras and crossed through Guatemala toward a series of standoffs with Mexican authorities, the AP was there, documenting every step. 

Knowing that Mexican authorities were determined not to let the migrants pass, editors deployed cross-format teams to cover the caravan from both the Guatemalan and the Mexican sides of the border. That effort put the AP far ahead of the competition when the migrants started to cross the Suchiate River into Mexico.

In a coordinated effort, AP staffers and stringers shared information and skills to deliver dramatic coverage, including live video, as people waded across the river and scuffled with Mexico’s National Guard. The all-formats coverage was among AP’s top stories for Jan. 22.

For following the story early and then collaborating closely to produce dominant images and stories of the latest chapter in the migrant saga from Central America, the team of Moisés Castillo, María Verza, Sonia Pérez D., Marco Ugarte, Peter Orsi, Diego Delgado, Marcelo Viaño and Santiago Billy share AP’s Best of the Week honors.  

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Sept. 30, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

The first fully televised interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad

More than three years ago, Lebanon-Syria News Director Zeina Karam in Beirut began her quest to get an interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Karam, along with AP’s longtime Damascus stringer Albert Aji, worked their sources, convincing reluctant Syrian officials about The Associated Press’ reach and significance. Last week, their work paid off: the first fully televised interview Assad has given to an international news agency, resulting in an exclusive, news-breaking all-formats package.

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Sept. 23, 2016

Best of the States

Deep-sea volcano a hotspot for mysterious life

When the World Conservation Congress came to Honolulu, Correspondent Caleb Jones did what any good AP reporter would. He sized up potential news and obtained releases early, including ones about the Great Elephant Census in Africa and a gorilla subspecies being classified as critically endangered.

But, while planning for an interview with Conservation International CEO Peter Seligman, Jones learned something that would take AP’s coverage to another level – and take him to the bottom of the sea – while other reporters sat through speeches and presentations. Scientists with the conservation group and the University of Hawaii were about to embark on the first-ever submarine exploration of two ancient undersea volcanoes 3,000 feet beneath the Pacific and 100 miles off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.

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Dec. 08, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Blum breaks news on a new baseball labor deal and the scoops keep coming

All week, AP Baseball Writer Ron Blum knew that a new labor contract between Major League Baseball and its players was close. Each day, he stayed on the phone, talking to both sides, figuring out how far apart they were. Wednesday night, they were close. Then, the call came: They had a deal. “You’re the only person we trust to get it right,” the source told Blum about why he got the story.

Over the next few hours, Blum got more. The terms of the deal began to emerge. New players would not be able to use smokeless tobacco. The league that won the All-Star Game would no longer get home-field advantage in the World Series.

For those scoops — and more — Blum earns the Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 27, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Comprehensive impeachment coverage showcases AP’s speed, depth and reach

The world depends on The Associated Press during historic moments, and the impeachment of President Donald Trump was no exception. 

Journalists in Washington and beyond demonstrated the AP’s extraordinary power and depth to cover all angles of the story, including the monthslong footrace to tally votes ahead of proceedings, videos filed quickly of both the hearings and of Trump’s reaction, and the ground-level view of impeachment in six election battleground states.

Stellar post-vote stories included an analysis of how impeachment would affect Trump’s legacy and the 2020 campaign, as well as an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

For impeachment coverage that consistently broke news, gave crucial context and provided customers with materials they could localize and promote, the Washington bureau and the team of journalists behind the vote tracking effort win AP’s Best of the Week.

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March 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Conspiracy, lies and social media: AP finds state, local GOP officials promoting online disinformation

After the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, investigative reporters Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza and Juliet Linderman wanted to know if local, county and state Republican officials across the country were continuing to amplify online messages similar to those that had inspired the riot, and what they hoped to accomplish by doing so.

The trio turned to data journalist Larry Fenn, AP statehouse reporters and a comprehensive archive of the Parler social media platform. A third-party algorithm matched public officials to their Parler accounts, allowing an unprecedented look at GOP officials’ unfiltered posts on the right-wing aligned site. The analysis of Parler and other alternative platforms identified a faction of lower-level Republican officials that have pushed lies, misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories echoing those that fueled the violent U.S. Capitol siege.

For harnessing the power of social media analysis, data science and AP’s state-level expertise to reveal how lies and misinformation from the 2020 election have reached deep into the GOP’s state apparatus, Burke, Mendoza, Linderman and Fenn win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Dec. 07, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Livestream video leads coverage of Alaska earthquakes

As soon as the ground stopped violently shaking in Anchorage on the morning of Nov. 30, Anchorage newsman Dan Joling calmed his nerves and started reporting. Then, within minutes, he went from producing urgents to plotting out with Stephanie Mullen, the West region’s deputy director of storytelling based in San Francisco, how AP would get the most compelling visuals at first light.

Already adept at capturing still photos, Joling would use a tool new to him, the live video streaming app Bambuser, to report on the damage from the two powerful back-to-back earthquakes centered just outside Alaska’s biggest city.

Out in the field, Joling drove up to a vehicle stranded on a crumpled roadway, first using his iPhone to snap photos that he quickly sent to a photo editor. He then fired up the Bambuser app, a tool that he had been trained on exactly one month before.

The live footage he streamed was scooped up immediately by customers in the United States and Europe.

His quick thinking and improvisation put the AP far ahead of the competition and gave viewers and customers unmatched views of the quakes’ aftermath, earning him AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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April 21, 2017

Best of the States

AP investigation reveals federal judge impaired by alcoholism

Baton Rouge-based reporter Michael Kunzelman was reporting on the police killing of a black man outside a convenience store last summer when a source called to encourage him to look into a case in front of a federal judge that had been mysteriously reassigned. It wasn’t the easiest time to be chasing down tips: the Alton Sterling shooting was swiftly followed by the killings of three law enforcement officials and then catastrophic flooding in Louisiana’s capital.

But Kunzelman didn’t forget about it.

When he was free, he began an investigation into the performance of U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi, work that would take months and aggressive use of public records. It culminated with the discovery last week she’d been ordered to seek treatment for alcoholism so severe that a colleague believed she couldn’t take care of herself. For his work Kunzelman wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 12, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

All-formats team overcomes logistics to report devastation, heartbreak and heroism in Indonesia

An enormous story struck quickly on Sept 28 and unfolded at breathtaking speed – a magnitude 7.5 earthquake followed by a tsunami that washed over the Indonesian city of Palu. Communications collapsed and government reports were sketchy, but the few posts on social media provided the first indications of the enormous scope of the disaster.

The AP team shot into action to move cross-format personnel to the hardest-hit areas, texting details for the wire and squeezing out initial images for photos and video. In the days that followed, the breadth of coverage expanded to include rolling live video of rescues, grim portrayals of the retrieval of the dead, and personal stories of those whose homes and neighborhoods were now rubble.

For impressive work across all platforms despite enormous obstacles, the Best of the Week award goes to the following team:

– Jakarta staffers: office manager Elis Salim, reporter Niniek Karmini, photographers Tatan Syulfana, Dita Alangkara and Achmad Ibrahim, business writer Stephen Wright, newsperson Ali Kotarumalos, medical writer Margie Mason, videojournalist Fadlan Syam and senior producer Andi Jatmiko.

– Bangkok staffers: global enterprise writer Todd Pitman, videojournalist Tass Vejpongsa, video editor Jerry Harmer and special events coordinator Keiko Fujino.

– And: Kuala Lumpur videojournalist Syawall Zain, Manila photographer Aaron Favila, Malaysian correspondent Eileen Ng, Beijing facilities coordinator Xiao Wei Gong and Hanoi producer Hau Dinh.

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Feb. 09, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reporting on Rohingya exodus leads to evidence of mass graves in Myanmar

"It was a mixed-up jumble of corpses piled on top of each other."

That was how a Rohingya Muslim survivor described the horrific scene of a mass grave in the Myanmar village of Gu Dar Pyin. Faces of the victims appeared mutilated, possibly with acid. The survivor said he recognized his friends only by the colors of their shorts.

AP Seoul bureau chief Foster Klug, along with photographer Manish Swarup and videojournalist Rishabh Jain, both of New Delhi, were able to find evidence of five previously unreported mass graves in the village. With interviews, video they secured from someone who had been on the scene after the killings and satellite imagery, the reporting pointed to a systematic slaughter of Rohingya Muslim civilians by the military, with help from Buddhist neighbors.

For their exclusive package that detailed previously uncovered evidence of an atrocity, Klug, Swarup and Jain share Beat of the Week.

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June 25, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years in the making, AP’s ‘AWOL Weapons’ investigation prompts immediate Pentagon reaction

Ten years ago, Kristin M. Hall noticed several cases in which U.S. troops stole military guns and sold them to the public. Hall, a military beat reporter at the time, then fired off the first of many Freedom of Information Act requests. The Army, however, refused to release any records and the story could easily have ended there, with Hall moving on to become a Nashville-based entertainment video journalist focused on country music. Yet, she kept at it.

Last week, Hall’s decade-long journey — and the work of a host of others on the global investigations, data and immersive storytelling teams — paid off in “AWOL Weapons,” a multilayered, visually rich project revealing that at least 1,900 military weapons — from handguns to rocket launchers — had been either lost or stolen during the 2010s, with some used in street violence in America.

Two days after publication, the Pentagon’s top general and the Army each said they would seek systematic fixes for the missing weapon problem, and through a spokesman, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called AP’s investigation “another example of the free press shining a light on the important subjects we need to get right.”

With deep reporting and a riveting digital presentation, the multistory package saw outstanding customer use and reader engagement.

For remarkable persistence that revealed a problem the military wanted to keep quiet, generating immediate prospects for reform, Hall receives special distinction alongside colleagues Justin Pritchard, James LaPorta, Justin Myers and Jeannie Ohm as winners of AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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Nov. 09, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘They are human beings’: AP produces deep worldwide count of missing, dead migrants

The idea was bold from its inception: Attempting to count dead and missing migrants worldwide.

After covering the outflow of refugees in the wake of the Islamic State's takeover in parts of Iraq last year, Paris enterprise writer Lori Hinnant noticed a lack of data on the migration. She set off on a mission to count the uncountable.

The yearlong effort to document lives that would otherwise go unnoticed proved extremely challenging, precisely because it was plowing such new ground. An AP team of more than a dozen people painstakingly compiled information that had never been put together before from international groups, forensic records, missing persons reports and death records, and went through data from thousands of interviews with migrants. The data came alive with individual stories of migrants, a challenge in itself.

The AP project found 56,800 dead and missing migrants since 2014, almost double the number currently put out by the United Nations, which focuses heavily on Europe and nearly excludes several other areas of the world. The report drew significant interest, despite the fact that it ran six days before the U.S. midterm elections.

For their ambitious project that established AP as a global authority on this issue, Hinnant, Istanbul visual journalist Bram Janssen and Cairo photographer Nariman El-Mofty share the Best of the Week award.

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June 22, 2018

Best of the States

Chicago gangs embrace social media – often with deadly results

Chicago legal affairs writer Michael Tarm had been anticipating the release of a 400-page report on gangs, compiled about once every six years by the Chicago Crime Commission. He touched base with the commission every few months for years, asking for advanced access to the documents.

It paid off.

Tarm obtained exclusive access to new law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, then he spent weeks going through police and court records to find a gang-related killing to serve as a narrative of the findings. He uncovered the case of Lamanta Reese, a story illustrating how social media is transforming the city’s street-gang culture with deadly consequences. Gang member Reese, 19, had posted a smiley-face emoji on Facebook in response to an off-color joke about the mother of a rival gang member. Days later, that rival crossed the street between their gang factions, sneaked up on Reese and fatally shot him 11 times.

The story got strong play, with more than 10,000 page views on AP’s site the first day – almost 17,000 overall. The main story was published by 220 sites, including The New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the hometown Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. The Sun-Times and Daily Herald also ran it in their papers.

For obtaining exclusive access to law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, poring over police and court records, and drawing on in-depth sourcing to produce a multiformat, compelling narrative, Tarm wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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