Feb. 02, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP scores with the kiss seen around the world

Hail Mary? Hail Julio. As swarms of players and media surrounded Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce after the Kansas City Chiefs’ AFC championship win, photographer Julio Cortez captured the perfect shot: the couple kissing on the field, Swift’s hand pressed against Kelce’s cheek. It was an intimate moment amid chaos, one that only Cortez — AP’s chief photographer for Texas and Oklahoma, temporarily returned to Baltimore — got. Other outlets made photos of the couple embracing, but Cortez had the singular — and viral — angle.

Before Sunday’s game, the only photos of Swift’s football attendee era were made in tunnels or from afar as she watched in luxury suites. But Cortez knew that if the Chiefs punched their ticket to another Super Bowl, players’ friends and families would end up on the field. With AP’s Matt Slocum, Alex Brandon and Nick Wass in their assigned on-field positions, Cortez called an audible, walking around the stage to find Swift. A believer in being “pushy but professional,” Cortez “sweet-talked” bodyguards to get into unique position. Swift and Kelce’s reunion was, well, swift. As Kelce “gave her the fastest kiss,” Cortez jumped in front of the NFL Films camera, raising his own over a guard’s head. About a minute after the photo was made, photo editor Mike Stewart knew it was the shot of the game, affixing the golden APTOPIX stamp. It was immediately picked up by hundreds, rocketing around the world with usage by customers ranging from The New York Times, People to India’s Hindustan Times and Argentina’s La Voz.

For an image that’s assuredly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Cortez is Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 05, 2024

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Maui wildfire stories showcase team’s monthslong commitment despite daunting challenges

A series of capstone Maui wildfire stories that ran in the final week of 2023 — one focused on Lahaina’s losses and another on its uncertain future — showcase fruits of the extraordinary effort, commitment and selfless teamwork exhibited by AP’s Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii reporting team over months amid endless challenges to share Lahaina’s plight with the world.Read more

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Dec. 22, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Team shines spotlight on underage Rohingya girls forced into abusive marriages

Underage Rohingya girls are forced into abusive marriages in Malaysia so their families in Bangladesh can eat. In safehouses, AP met with child brides who managed to get unlocked from their bedrooms to share their plights.

Human rights workers warned it would be almost impossible to track the girls down. Yet an AP team not only found them, but interviewed them without putting them at risk of reprisal.

Investigative correspondent Kristen Gelineau, based in Sydney, Australia, tracked down an advocate in Malaysia who was herself a Rohingya child bride and carefully coordinated a plan with each girl. Some concocted an excuse to leave their homes and met with AP at safehouses. Many simply could not get unlocked.

The team coordinated interview times with the girls so they could arrive at their homes after their husbands had left for work and leave well before they returned.

Indonesia video journalist and business correspondent Victoria Milko filmed in their dark and claustrophobic apartments, capturing both the youth and isolation of the girls while protecting their anonymity.

McKinnon de Kuyper made a heartbreaking edit of the video, taking advantage of previous filming of Rohingya families who were victims of a boat drowning by video journalist Garjon Al-emrun.

For allowing the AP to be the first media to give these girls a voice, Gelineau, Milko, de Kuyper and Al-emrun are Best of the Week — First Winners.

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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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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.

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Oct. 06, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Last living suspect in 1996 drive-by shooting of Tupac Shakur indicted in Las Vegas on murder charge

It was in mid-July when Las Vegas reporters Rio Yamat and Ken Ritter began working their sources, after the police raided the home of a suspect in connection with an investigation into the 1996 killing of rapper Tupac Shakur. The result months later was a super scoop on a riveting story nearly three decades in the making.

Through their deep and extensive sourcing in law enforcement and criminal justice, Yamat and Ritter sought to penetrate a grand jury case shrouded in secrecy. For months, they regularly contacted everyone who was likely involved. It all paid off when they learned they should prepare for an indictment in mid-September. From there, it was a lesson in patience and persistence.

After months where Yamat and Ritter attended court hearings and drafted prep for a potential break, Yamat began hearing rumblings an indictment was imminent. She and Ritter were able to nail down the next morning from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge that Duane “Keffe D” Davis had been taken into custody on suspicion of murder in Tupac's killing.

They broke the news at 9:27 a.m. PDT. The alert published 93 minutes before the court convened for grand jury returns when the indictment would be made public.

For dogged reporting and deep source work that allowed AP to dominate a story that’s mystified fans for decades, Yamat and Ritter are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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