Feb. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Florida has used ‘red flag’ law 3,500 times since Parkland

marked the anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. – where 17 people were killed, allegedly by a mentally disturbed man – with smart accountability journalism about a key Florida “red flag” bill passed in the massacre’s wake.

Working over several months to get county-by-county breakdowns that no other outlet had, Spencer found that the law had been used to get weapons away from people deemed dangerous no less than 3,500 times since the Parkland shooting. Even so, his analysis showed the law is applied inconsistently, with some counties and cities using it rarely and others not at all.

The story was a strong look at how red flag laws – now passed in nearly a dozen states – are playing out on the ground, and it drew widespread attention and engagement. https://bit.ly/2P7Zws2

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Oct. 11, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: Priests accused of abuse have access to children, dozens commit crimes

As the ranks of dioceses promising to release lists of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse began to mushroom at the beginning of this year, Philadelphia reporter Claudia Lauer and Washington-based data editor Meghan Hoyer started to strategize: How could they leverage the information on a scale never before accomplished? 

After months of systematic, dogged work, the result was “Where Are They Now,” a blockbuster investigation that found almost 1,700 priests and other clergy members living with little to no oversight, many with positions giving them access to children. Dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault. 

The story received exceptional play online and in print, and AP Managing Editor Brian Carovillano called it, “One of the most monumental pieces of AP journalism in my memory.” 

For a stunning investigation that breaks new ground in the already impressive body of work that is “The Reckoning” series, Lauer and Hoyer win this week’s Best of the States award.

Combo

Feb. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Catholic Church, sitting on billions, amassed PPP aid

investigated the Catholic Church’s receipt of billions in federal aid during the pandemic, breaking news and bringing accountability to both a massive government program and one of the world’s most powerful institutions. The investigative reporters conducted an exclusive and exhaustive analysis showing that while Catholic entities were sitting on at least $10 billion in cash, the nation’s nearly 200 dioceses and other Catholic institutions received at least $3 billion from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, making the Roman Catholic Church perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the program, according to AP’s review.The reporting required was formidable, including joining a federal lawsuit to get the full PPP data. Dunklin and Rezendes then led a blitz by colleagues to hand check tens of thousands of data points. That work tracked the apparently disproportionate aid to Catholic recipients compared to other faith groups and national charities.The package reverberated through a busy news day and was covered in outlets as diverse as Slate and the Catholic News Agency.https://bit.ly/371q7QGhttps://bit.ly/3aPLVzOhttps://bit.ly/3qfXeI4

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July 05, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

New Jersey fails to identify polluters; governor promises fix

for accountability journalism made possible through an open records request, reporting that New Jersey environmental regulators had failed for nearly a decade to put out a legally required annual report on water pollution that identifies the state’s worst polluters and how the state is holding them responsible. His exclusive story drew a pledge by the governor that the publication of the reports would resume, and kudos from the state’s major news outlets. https://bit.ly/2LysvUS

Sept. 20, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Virtually no regulation of contaminated sludge used as crop fertilizer

for an all-formats package that holds state and federal regulators accountable for doing little or nothing to address rising concerns that sewage sludge, used as cheap farm fertilizer, is contaminating food with potentially harmful chemicals. The team interviewed numerous experts and officials about PFAS, a group of chemicals used in a wide variety of household products and industrial processes. They found concern that certain of these chemicals associated with increased risk of cancer and organ damage could wind up in the food chain fertilized by contaminated sludge. But they also found that the federal government and most states had done little if anything to assess or regulate the amount of PFAS in the sludge being spread on farm fields across America.https://bit.ly/2kRjDiihttps://bit.ly/2mmYxc2https://bit.ly/2lXGo4f

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April 26, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals politics of immigration policy shifts

for two stories on how the Trump administration is dealing with the surge of migrant families at the border and a claimed lack of detention space. Merchant spotted a solicitation for contractors to build tents near the U.S.-Mexico border to temporarily detain immigrant families, and he followed up with an accountability story revealing that thousands of beds for detained families are empty at a time when President Trump was calling the country “full,” and threatening to send migrants to sanctuary cities as political retribution.https://bit.ly/2GuBJxmhttps://bit.ly/2L4OQuG

April 22, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Promises, cash for making protective gear in US fall flat

delivered a distinctive accountability story, finding that U.S. governors’ promises to produce personal protective gear domestically remain unfulfilled, despite tens of millions in taxpayer money to support the proposals.Missouri-based state government reporter Lieb identified at least $125 million in PPE production grants to more than 300 business in 10 states but found that most of the companies were leaving the business because they couldn’t find buyers. Company executives told Lieb that production was again going overseas, potentially putting U.S. supplies of protective gear at risk in a future pandemic.Read more

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Jan. 31, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: NFL’s Saints allegedly do damage control for Catholic Church on abuse crisis

New York-based federal law enforcement reporter Jim Mustian never gives up on a story.

Sticking with a case he began covering at another news organization in another state more than two years ago, Mustian landed a jaw-dropping exclusive for the AP: That a trove of hundreds of confidential emails has surfaced allegedly showing executives of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints doing public relations damage control for the area’s Roman Catholic archdiocese amid its clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The story had an immediate, visceral impact with readers and earned praise from fellow journalists.

Mustian will continue to chip away at this story and, hopefully, reveal more about the Saints and their involvement with the church. But for now, Mustian’s sticktoitiveness and tough accountability reporting earns him this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 28, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals congressman chasing profits during pandemic

investigated the stock trading of U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, adding the New Jersey Democrat to the members of Congress who have come under scrutiny for their trades during the COVID-19 era. Detailing an extensive trading history that one former ethics official described as mind-boggling, Washington reporter Slodysko peeled back the curtain on the congressman’s trading activity and his failure to disclose it to the public.Getting the story wasn’t easy. To report it, Slodysko used software to harvest data from a list of trades released by Malinowski’s office. That enabled him to analyze just how active Malinowski had been in the stock market since the pandemic hit. Combining that with other stock price data, Slodysko was able to state that Malinowski — who early in the pandemic had admonished those looking to capitalize on the health crisis — bought or sold as much as $1 million of stock in medical and tech companies that had a stake in the virus response.AP’s story broke new ground in an important area of accountability reporting in Washington, and was quickly picked up by other outlets, including The Washington Post, Politico and The Hill, among others. https://aplink.news/yq7

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Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the States

Records reveal Virginia attorney-lawmaker privilege that delays court proceedings

Sometimes accountability stories are hiding in plain sight, but getting to them requires first recognizing the potential and then doing a whole lot of digging. Virginia reporter Sarah Rankin did both of those things. 

After seeing a one-sentence mention in a legal trade publication, Rankin began the hunt for a deeper story about a continuance privilege granted to lawyer-legislators, and how one Virginia lawmaker used the privilege to consistently delay court hearings. 

Rankin plowed through records of cases that involved Virginia lawmaker Jeff Campbell, the defense attorney for a one-time NASCAR race driver accused of domestic violence. She found that Campbell had employed the continuance privilege at least 30 times over three years, more than double any other lawyer-legislator.

For seizing on the brief mention, then following up with determined reporting that revealed a potential for abuse by lawyer-lawmakers in Virginia and elsewhere, Rankin wins the week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Latest on New York COVID policy: State sent more than 9,000 virus patients to nursing homes

For nine months, AP has led all media on the story of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial directive to return recovering coronavirus patients from hospitals to nursing homes during the pandemic.

Last week, reporters Bernard Condon and Jennifer Peltz added to that record. Using data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, they reported exclusively that more than 9,000 patients in New York were released under the state’s policy, amid criticism that it accelerated nursing home outbreaks. The latest AP scoop has helped put Cuomo and his administration on the defensive at home and nationally.

For keeping AP at the forefront of this accountability story for the better part of a year — including their latest break documenting the release of COVID patients into nursing homes — Condon and Peltz earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 08, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AWOL Weapons: AP finds tracking tech could aid enemy

collaborated across formats to report on the latest story in AP’s ongoing investigation of missing military weapons, revealing a weapon-tracking technology that the U.S. Department of Defense itself describes as a “significant” security risk.After showing that the military has lost track of at least 1,900 guns, investigative reporter LaPorta and team trained their sights on how technology might help in weapons accountability. They found that one solution — putting radio frequency identification tracking tags inside guns — has introduced a security vulnerability into Army and Air Force units because it could help even relatively low-tech enemies target U.S. troops on the battlefield. The Pentagon originally appeared unaware that some units were using RFID, then said it allows service branches to explore innovative solutions. To demonstrate the highly technical story in understandable ways, LaPorta and editor Pritchard arranged field testing that showed the tags could be tracked from much greater distances than RFID contractors acknowledge. Photographer Berger and video journalist Chea illustrated the testing. Producers Roosblad and Hamlin turned that material into a sharp explainer video with the help of editors Ohm and Vadarevu. Storytelling producer Castañeda curated the AWOL Weapons hub and worked with Sison for the photo edit, while Nashville’s Hall contributed important reporting.https://aplink.news/cqmhttps://aplink.video/6l4https://apnews.com/hub/awol-we...

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Jan. 29, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reporting prompts release of California virus data

wanted to know the reasoning behind California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s sudden and unexpected lifting of the stay-at-home order for a 13-county region amid a surge in the pandemic. That the state wouldn't make the data available after days of inquiries struck the pair as the latest example of Newsom not delivering on a promise of transparency during the pandemic.The preporters, based in Sacramento, proceeded to deliver a story with experts criticizing the secrecy, from public health authorities to government accountability advocates. Their story received enormous attention and was widely cited, intensifying criticism and pressure on the state.Three days after the story ran, Newsom held a news conference to announce the stay-at-home order was being lifted for the rest of the state’s regions. Under questioning from Ronayne, the state’s health director promised some of the relevant data would be released; later in the day the specific regional projection numbers were revealed to the public for the first time.https://bit.ly/3qMydnmhttps://bit.ly/3ccMHZF

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Aug. 13, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Character-driven coverage reveals unhealed wounds of Beirut blast

produced a sweeping set of stories to mark the first anniversary of the massive Beirut port explosion, with the emphasis on character-driven pieces that underscore the suffering experienced by survivors of the blast and families of the victims, one year later. With that in mind, reporter Mroue, senior producer Abuelgasim and photographer Hussein told the tragic tale of a 21-year-old nurse who died at work, weaving her story together with that of a couple whose son was born minutes later in the same hospital amid the chaos of the blast. The result was a stunning all-formats narrative embedded with dramatic family video and hospital-supplied footage from the day of the blast. The Beirut crew worked closely with digital storytelling producers and editors Raghuram Vadarevu and Natalie Castañeda. AP’s online video, created by deputy regional news director Balint Szlanko, was heavily used and widely shared on social media.Meanwhile, El Deeb reported — with photos by Ammar — on grieving families seeking justice and accountability for their deceased loved ones; she also collaborated with news director Karam on the anniversary mainbar which was accompanied by compelling photos and video by Abuelgasim and cameraman Tawil. El Deeb and Abuelgasim also teamed up with photographer Malla for a piece on conservators painstakingly rebuilding and restoring a landmark Beirut museum.In the days surrounding the actual anniversary, the staff shifted its coverage to breaking news as masses of protesters took to the streets, some clashing with police as they demanded that officials be held responsible for corruption and indifference leading to the tragedy.https://aplink.news/u59https://aplink.news/b1dhttps://aplink.news/dmjhttps://aplink.news/alyhttps://aplink.video/z0j

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June 14, 2018

Best of the States

Lobbyists – including House speaker’s brother – influence Florida’s payments to victims

In Florida, the Legislature has to approve court awards – beyond a capped amount – for lawsuits alleging wrongdoing by a state or local agency.

So when Florida Tallahassee reporter Gary Fineout began hearing about a surge in payouts to victims and families harmed by government actions, he began digging into public and legislative records. What he found confirmed the influence of lobbyists, and of one lobbyist in particular: the House speaker’s brother.

Fineout found that claims lobbied by the speaker’s brother had a substantial rate of success. Of the $37.5 million in claims bills approved over the past two years, nearly half was awarded to victims represented by Michael Corcoran, brother of Florida’s House speaker.

One state lawmaker, a candidate for attorney general, said the process needs fixing, and said that Florida should have a codified, egalitarian process for awarding payments, one that doesn’t rely on who has the best lobbyist.

Fineout's story received extensive play, including a rare banner headline atop A1 in the state's largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times. The Sun-Sentinel newspaper said in an editorial that “Florida owes thanks to Gary Fineout ... for shedding light on a dark side of Florida government.”

For work that South News Director Ravi Nessman called a “perfect example of the kind of tough, accountability reporting that we prize so much from our statehouses,” Fineout wins this week's Best of the States award.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP breaks news on the opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma, with focus on victims

AP reporters from three different teams broke distinctive, significant stories on the continuing drug overdose crisis in the U.S., which has been overshadowed this year by the coronavirus pandemic:

— A state-level report showing that overdose deaths are on pace to reach an all-time high this year, and that overdoses increased after the virus began spreading in the U.S.— An accountability story on President Donald Trump’s handling of the opioid crisis, and how the issue has been overlooked in the presidential race.— A major scoop on a settlement between the federal government and Purdue Pharma, complete with details of criminal charges and the $8 billion settlement. 

But the depth of coverage didn’t end with the major news beats. All three stories put victims at the center of the reporting. 

For revealing stories that broke news and provided a powerful reminder of an ongoing epidemic that has contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans, Mike Stobbe, Adrian Sainz, Farnoush Amiri, Geoff Mulvihill, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Balsamo win this week’s Best of the States award.

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