Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP connects palm oil industry, top brands to abuse of women

followed up on their initial reporting that exposed widespread labor abuse in the palm oil industry, conducting a comprehensive investigation into the brutal treatment of women in the production of the omnipresent ingredient, including rapes by plantation supervisors, serious health issues from toxic chemicals and injuries from back-breaking loads. The pair then traced the oil produced by these women to the supply chains of top Western beauty brands — including conglomerates that make billions of dollars as they market the empowerment of women.Mason and McDowell persuaded dozens of female workers to tell their searing stories, spending months getting the women to trust them and then arranging clandestine meetings in an effort to protect the workers from retaliation by plantation owners. They bypassed the stonewalling of major Western brands that refused to say whether their products contain palm oil by using company data and U.S. Customs records to link the workers’ abuse to the brands’ palm oil supply chains.The package featured striking digital display, video and evocative photos by Indonesia-based stringer Binsar Bakkara, as well as a powerful series of closeups of workers’ hands cradling familiar products containing the fruits of their labor.The story is nearing 250,000 page views on AP News. The Clorox Company, which owns Burt’s Bees Inc., said it would raise the allegations of abuses with its suppliers, calling AP’s findings “incredibly disturbing.” https://bit.ly/3liKAV3https://bit.ly/2VeVUXRhttps://bit.ly/3mlXgfd

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March 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats exclusives examine Japan tsunami, 10 years on

produced a string of visually driven exclusives to feed global curiosity about how Japan has fared a decade after one of history’s worst tragedies — the massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown that upended the lives of millions in 2011.Nuga and Hoshiko spent time on the battered northeastern coast while Yamaguchi, Tanaka and Komae made their way into the area around the Fukushima nuclear plant. The trips produced compelling before-and-after images of the wreckage, and all-formats vignettes of the lives of the survivors with explainers, galleries, videos and exclusive stories. Among the highlights were the moving story of a man who learned to dive so he could search, week after week, for for the remains of his wife, and gripping visual essays of the still-scarred landscape of northeast Japan, the eerie no-go zones near the nuclear plant and a hotel that has done weekly bus tours for hundreds of thousands of visitors interested in seeing the ravaged landscape. AP’s video showing was particularly strong, including footage of people symbolically searching the beach for bodies of the missing and quick live views of commemorative ceremonies across the country.https://bit.ly/3vBYckXhttps://bit.ly/38ONuxMhttps://bit.ly/2Q62S20https://bit.ly/3f1zFjthttps://bit.ly/3vyESEVhttps://bit.ly/3ttHTVm

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July 06, 2017

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP beats the competition on two big stories out of China

for cross-format teamwork and exclusive coverage of alleged labor abuses at a shoe factory in China making Ivanka Trump-branded items. Kinetz and Ting managed to talk to workers who complained of overtime that stretched past midnight, steep production quotas and crude verbal and even physical abuse. Shih and Ting closely followed the story of three activists detained while investigating the plant, including getting exclusive photos and video when they were later released.

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Jan. 11, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP traces child labor from Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields to major brands, Girl Scout cookies

For the third installment of their groundbreaking investigation into labor abuse in Asia’s palm oil industry, reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason linked child labor to the supply chains of the makers of popular cereals, candies and ice creams, including KitKats, Oreos and Cap’n Crunch. They also traced the oil to that most American treat: Girl Scout cookies. 

Joined by photographers Binsar Bakkara and Mark Humphrey, and video journalist Allen Breed, their reporting found that some tens of thousands of children toil in the palm fields, some kept from school and forced to work for free or for little pay. Some are trafficked.

The framing of the story — through the eyes of a young girl in the fields in Indonesia and a Tennessee Girl Scout campaigning to have palm oil removed from the cookies — resonated with readers; reaction on social media led the Girl Scouts to address the issue with their suppliers.

For shedding unprecedented light on the children toiling in Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields, and connecting the abusive practice to major consumer brands, McDowell, Mason, Bakkara, Breed and Humphrey share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 28.

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Oct. 08, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Only on AP: A life well-lived, cut short by COVID at 105

teamed up to tell the exclusive story of a 105-year-old California woman who died from COVID-19 — she was a toddler when her mother died in the 1918 flu pandemic.Acting on a tip about the story from entertainment/lifestyles editor Julie Rubin, Richmond chronicled Primetta Giacopini’s rich life story with video journalist Daley and freelance photographer Edelson, including an on-camera interview with Giacopini's daughter in the Bay Area. Giacopini had lost her fighter pilot husband in World War II, barely escaped wartime Europe, ground steel for the U.S. war effort and advocated for her disabled daughter in a far less enlightened time.The all-formats story resonated with audiences online, in print and in broadcast. ”My grandmother and mother, the only thing that could kill them was a worldwide pandemic,” her daughter told the AP.https://aplink.news/04ihttps://aplink.video/lzb

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Sept. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Hanoi producer documents his 9-week lockdown ‘weekend’

had embarked on a midsummer weekend getaway with his partner in the seaside resort of Vung Tau, Vietnam. But when when a surge of COVID-19 prompted tight restrictions, turning his visit into more than nine weeks of lockdown, Dinh delivered an all-formats first-person account of his life stuck in an apartment away from home.In text, photos and video, Hanoi-based video producer Dinh opened the doors to his lockdown home, creatively documenting what one does with so much time indoors while restricted to a quick once-a-week trip to a nearby drug store and grocery. He said he sometimes lost track of time, but a stark reminder of how long he’d been in lockdown was an avocado plant. A seed when he took it from a restaurant just before the lockdown, he watched it grow more than 30 centimeters (1 foot) tall.https://aplink.news/3o9https://aplink.video/mzo

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May 28, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

French spirit elegantly rendered in reopening of Monet’s gardens

were not alone in trying to find a way to capture the essence of France after more than six months of virus lockdown — AP’s Paris bureau pulled out all the stops to cover the reopening of museums, restaurants and other sites in a country famous for its “joie de vivre,” and other news organizations were looking to do the same. But multiformat journalist Leicester and photographer Mori outmaneuvered the competition by securing exclusive access two days beforehand to Monet’s gardens in Giverny where the gardeners were furiously weeding, sewing and planting to make the site picture-perfect for visitors. Leicester’s widely used video package complemented his elegantly written text piece. And Mori, drawing inspiration from Monet, delivered a knock-out package of images that verged on art, evoking the historic setting. The all-formats package played for days around the world, from New York to South Korea to Hong Kong. The piece even netted a rare byline for Mori and Leicester in The Guardian.https://aplink.news/pg6https://aplink.video/nghhttps://bit.ly/3hYlEUP

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March 31, 2017

Best of the States

Coal ash: "Why would we be importing it?"

AP Richmond reporter Sarah Rankin learned from a state lawmaker that Chinese coal ash was being imported into Virginia, despite millions of tons of ash already stored near power plants, threatening surface and ground water with contamination by heavy metals. Like other states, Virginia is struggling with how to dispose of its existing waste.

Her story pinpointed where the overseas ash was coming from: China, India and Poland over the past two years. While the foreign shipments of the industrial byproduct were moving through Virginia to Wisconsin and Ohio, interviews with concrete producers and coal ash recyclers and sellers showed more ash was being imported into Virginia from other states.

One environmentalist raised the irony of the situation: "We have millions of tons of this sitting along our riverbanks. Why in the world would we be importing it from other states and countries?"

For exposing a problematic industry practice with statewide environmental and health implications, Rankin's story wins this week's Best of the States.

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Feb. 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In time for Super Bowl, AP explores uneasy Mexican avocado trade

Mexico City reporter Mark Stevenson took advantage of a temporary U.S. ban on Mexican avocado imports to explain, to an international audience of guacamole-crazed readers, the social strife, environmental impact and political forces at play in Mexico's avocado industry.Stevenson’s flurry of five stories started on Super Bowl Sunday with a piece about Mexico acknowledging that a U.S. plant safety inspector had been threatened in Mexico, prompting the U.S. ban. The piece ended up being the top-performing story on AP News, exceeding even the Super Bowl. And over the course of the week he went on to report extensively on factors surrounding the ban and Mexico’s avocado industry more broadly.Stevenson had plenty of context for his stories: At the end of the January he was part of an all-formats team that explored the intersection of avocados, deforestation and organized crime in Michoacan state. Read more

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Oct. 28, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Only on AP: Central Europe readies for potential nuclear fallout

made AP the first major news organization to take a serious look at readiness in the countries most likely to be affected, as fighting around Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons reawaken nuclear fears in Europe. Some of Ukraine’s neighboring countries have started distributing potassium iodide pills, and officials are preparing old Soviet-era nuclear shelters for possible use.After two weeks spent persuading authorities to give AP’s journalists access to the underground shelters, the team reported comprehensively and responsibly — and with strong visuals — on European readiness for a possible nuclear attack. The team was careful to avoid sensationalizing the coverage or raising unnecessary fear.Read more

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Dec. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation, context put AP ahead on opioids verdict against pharmacies

used planning, prep material and contextualized coverage to put AP well ahead of the competition when a federal jury in Cleveland held pharmacy chains responsible for their role in the opioids crisis. The jury found CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies recklessly distributed massive amounts of pain pills in two Ohio counties.Seewer and Mulvihill drafted prep that included not only the possible jury decisions but their potential impact on the larger landscape of opioids litigation. They also planned how to get the story out quickly, Seewer making sure AP was literally well-positioned, planting himself outside the courtroom waiting for the verdict. The result: an urgent filing by the East Desk’s Jeff McMillan that beat major competitors by at least 20 minutes, delivering remarkably strong play.Swift teamwork added reaction from both sides, as Seewer talked with lawyers at court while Mulvihill got statements from the companies and reached out to other sources. Photos prepared in advance were quickly linked, and the reporters also helped ensure AP had video of lawyers reacting to the verdict.The pair followed up the next day with even more context in a smart story that unspooled the central argument of the case — that the pharmacies creating a “public nuisance” with their dispensing — and looked ahead to how the verdict could affect other litigation and communities that want to hold pharmacies accountable.https://aplink.news/i6jhttps://aplink.news/qa9https://aplink.video/g20

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Sept. 17, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Texas farmers race to preserve land in Dust Bowl zone

used the Freedom of Information Act and on-the-ground reporting in the Texas Panhandle to reveal a new Dust Bowl brewing on farmland above the nation’s biggest aquifer — and the halting efforts to stave it off.Farmers, communities and researchers have long known that groundwater in the Ogallala aquifer was steadily declining due to irrigation and might not recover. But while researching a story about disappearing prairie grasslands, Webber discovered that both issues were colliding to create another challenge: As climate change is making rainfall scarcer, farmland is blowing away just as it did during the Dust Bowl.Webber, a member of AP’s global environment team, talked to researchers who warned of huge farmland losses, and she traveling to the Panhandle town of Muleshoe where she told the story of farmers planting native grasses to preserve terrain as their wells struggle to produce water. She also reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had identified a Dust Bowl zone where farmers would receive extra money for grasslands conservation, and spent months prying loose government data showing that not all farmers were embracing the program.Webber’s comprehensive and engagingly written narrative, with photos by freelancer Mark Rogers, vividly captured the new Dust Bowl threatening an important agricultural region, and the efforts to keep farmers on their land. https://aplink.news/6or

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July 12, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Big farms find easy ways around caps on tariff aid

An AP Best of States mention in February about the hundreds of companies avoiding President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs raised questions about Trump’s $12 billion aid package to farmers hurt by the tariffs. What happened next shows how states can produce sharp, data-driven journalism – simply by calling on the data team for help.

AP filed Freedom of Information Act requests for U.S. Department of Agriculture data that was analyzed by Balint Szalai, a Hungarian investigative reporter embedded with AP’s data team, and Washington data team intern Riin Aljas.

Among their findings: Many big farming operations were legally collecting far more than the supposed caps on aid.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis reporter Steve Karnowski spoke to longtime USDA critics and interviewed farmers who defended taking the big checks, saying they didn’t even cover their losses under Trump’s trade war.

The Only-on-AP story ran on dozens of sites, and because the data and analysis were released to AP members in advance, many chose to localize their stories.

For sophisticated data analysis and on-the-ground reporting that shed light on a key consequences of trade policy, Karnowski, Szalai and Aljas share this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP dominates as Ohio House speaker charged with $60M scandal

hustled to get all-formats coverage of the arrest of powerful House Speaker Larry Householder, accused of orchestrating a $60 million bribery scheme.Amiri spent three hours on a blazing day in the sun with two dying cell phones, waiting for Householder to come out from his arraignment. As police arrived to clear the way for the car and disperse protesters, Amiri’s phone shut down, but luckily a few minutes of drama – including footage of Householder sitting in an SUV surrounded by furious protesters demanding he make a comment – were saved.With contributions from Amiri’s statewide colleagues, AP owned the story.https://bit.ly/3ga3vQghttps://bit.ly/2Erq58Z

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Feb. 02, 2018

Best of the States

AP uncovers NJ utility lobbying for a bailout, and blackout of financial records

In the weeks before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left office, a measure quickly advanced through the Legislature that would give PSEG, the state’s largest utility, a $300 million bailout for its nuclear power plants.

That got the curiosity of statehouse reporter Michael Catalini, who started digging.

A records request turned up more than a dozen emails showing that the company had lobbied for the bailout and wrote in a clause itself to prevent the public release of financial information proving it needed the money.

The bill introduced in the Legislature included language to shield the company’s books from the public, but failed to get to Christie’s desk during December’s lame-duck session. It re-emerged after Democrat Phil Murphy took office.

Catalini’s story revealing the lobbying effort was published a day before a committee hearing on the bill. Lawmakers rewrote the measure after the story appeared to clarify that PSEG would be required to submit “any financial information” to the state utility regulator.

For holding the utility and state lawmakers accountable, Catalani receives this week's Best of the States award.

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May 08, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exclusive reveals ex-Green Beret’s failed Venezuelan coup plot

In a gripping exclusive that reads like the plot of a Hollywood film, Latin America correspondent Josh Goodman revealed the failed plot to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro by a ragtag group of 300 volunteers led by a former U.S. Green Beret. The ill-conceived plan called for the group to invade Venezuela from Colombia and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in Maduro’s arrest.

The plot was uncovered and dismantled with barely a whisper, but a cryptic tip to the well-sourced Goodman planted the seed of the story. Over the next several months he reviewed documents and interviewed more than 30 Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters with knowledge of the plot, piecing together the narrative with a strong assist from investigative researcher Randy Herschaft.

Goodman’s story broke and reaction was strong: International media struggled to catch up and authorities in the U.S. and Colombia launched investigations. Senate Democrats have sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding answers.

For his impressive scoop on the failed coup that has been dubbed “The Bay of Piglets,” Goodman and Herschaft win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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Sept. 01, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Despite sanctions, Russian goods continue to flow into US

documented that six months into the war in Ukraine, U.S. companies continue to import billions of dollars worth of Russian goods despite tough talk by the Biden administration about cutting Russia off from global markets.Working with data journalist Larry Fenn, the investigative reporters combed through thousands of records tracking every shipment coming from Russia, revealing a complex patchwork of sanctions that has allowed millions of tons of Russian goods to flow into the U.S. legally. The resulting story countered common perceptions of the sanctions against Russia and was played widely, engaging readers.Read more

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Feb. 01, 2019

Best of the States

Trump rollbacks benefit fossil fuel industry but carry steep cost

Over the past two years, the Trump administration has relentlessly moved to relax or repeal major environmental and safety rules for the fossil fuels industry to further its energy goals. Each change was reported by news outlets, including the AP. But Billings, Montana, correspondent and environment team member Matthew Brown decided to look more deeply into the highly touted savings to industry as well as the societal costs.

Brown painstakingly examined 11 major rules targeted by Trump’s administration, wading through many thousands of pages of government documents. Brown identified $11.6 billion in potential savings for companies that produce, use and transport fossil fuels, with billions more expected from a freeze of vehicle fuel efficiency standards that will hike fuel consumption.

But Brown also discovered that those savings will come at a steep cost, including more premature deaths and illnesses from air pollution, increased greenhouse gas emissions and additional derailments of trains carrying explosive fuels.

His Only on AP story ran on front pages of at least 16 newspapers and on numerous web sites. The Washington Post displayed both the main-bar the accompanying glance.

For in-depth reporting and comprehensive accounting of the administration’s actions on important environmental and safety issues, Brown wins this week’s Best of the States.

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