May 31, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Mind-blowing exclusive: Security troops on US nuclear base took LSD

After five years exposing the struggles of the U.S. Air Force’s nuclear missile corps – security lapses, leadership and training failures, morale problems – Bob Burns uncovered an exclusive that was mind-blowing in every sense of the word: Airmen guarding a base in Wyoming had bought, distributed and used LSD.

Burns, a Washington-based national security writer, knew from his previous reporting on the missile corps that illegal drug use was a recurring problem and that the Air Force was reluctant to discuss it.

When the court martial proceedings began in 2016 he started filing FOIA requests for the transcripts and supporting legal documents. It took the Air Force well over a year to finish responding to Burns’ requests, but by January 2018 he had the bulk of the records he needed to piece together the story, including trial transcripts and related documents, with descriptions of drug experiences of airmen, ranging from panic to euphoria.

For his extraordinary revelation that some of the nation’s most deadly weapons were in the hands of hallucinating airmen, Burns takes this week's Beat of the Week award.

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March 22, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Quick, resourceful response dominates coverage of Christchurch mosque attacks

AP staffers are often called the “Marines of journalism.” First in, last out.

Our small New Zealand team of Mark Baker and Nick Perry showed what that looks like as they responded to horrific mass shootings at two mosques. Their swift response securing early, definitive images and witness accounts laid the foundation for the AP’s dominant, agenda-setting coverage of the tragedy in the hours and days that followed.

Baker, the Southeast Asia photo editor known widely as “Crusty,” lives in Christchurch, where the attack happened. He heard radio reports of a possible shooting at a mosque and quickly alerted Perry, the Wellington correspondent, to get words on the wire. Baker headed immediately to the scene, where his early images of survivors became the definitive shots of the tragedy.

Back in Wellington, Perry aggressively filed on breaking developments before going to Christchurch, where he scored another major win for AP by interviewing an Afghan refugee who would be hailed as a hero for confronting the gunman, likely preventing more deaths.

Asia quickly deployed reinforcements, with cross-format teams ensuring AP kept up its advantage on the ground while colleagues from afar kept the story fresh as Asia slept.

For their quick response that showcased AP’s fundamental advantage when news breaks across the world, Baker and Perry share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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May 10, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: California synagogue hadn’t used security funds received shortly before shooting

After a gunman opened fire in a Southern California synagogue on Passover, killing a woman and wounding a man, his 8-year-old niece and the rabbi leading the service, the inevitable question was asked: Could anything have been done to stop the violence?

Reporters Don Thompson and Adam Beam in Sacramento and Julie Watson in San Diego combined to report exclusively that the synagogue itself had recognized security deficiencies and even received a state grant to address them.

But it hadn’t spent the money, the AP team revealed.

For their exclusive follow-up to a crime that generated global attention, Thompson, Watson and Beam win this week’s Best of the States.

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March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP uses satellite photos for scoop on Israeli nuclear site

used the AP’s emerging partnership with satellite imaging company Planet Labs Inc. and his experience covering nuclear programs to obtain high-resolution photographs of Israel’s secretive Dimona nuclear site. The images show the site, which is at the center of the nation’s undeclared atomic weapons program, undergoing its biggest construction project in decades.Dubai-based news director Gambrell also accessed a declassified 1971 U.S. satellite image of Dimona showing how the facility largely hadn’t changed in the last 50 years. The story drew immediate attention in Israel and the wider Middle East, with all outlets directly crediting the AP in print, online and in broadcasts for the newsbreak. https://bit.ly/3bgnFs3

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April 24, 2020

Best of the States

The cost of Trump environmental rollbacks: Health woes hit minority communities hardest

With African American and Hispanic communities in the Houston region already suffering higher rates of asthma and other diseases than the nation at large, AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer decided to focus on the area for a story on ordinary Americans living through the Trump administration’s public health and environmental rollbacks. 

The administration was cutting back on rules limiting and monitoring harmful industrial pollutants, slashing enforcement and weakening an industrial-disaster rule.

Knickmeyer, a Washington-based environmental issues reporter, spent months searching out Houston residents, telling their stories along with deep reporting on the regulatory actions and their consequences.

Former EPA Director Gina McCarthy was among many retweeting the story, calling it a “must read” article.

For a rich, insightful look at the consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks on vulnerable communities, Knickmeyer wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 06, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals threat of abandoned, leaking oil and gas wells in US

teamed up in all-formats to highlight the environmental crisis of an estimated 2 million abandoned oil and gas wells in the United States.Overcoming the reluctance of landowners fearful their property values would decline if they went public, energy and climate reporter Bussewitz found a fourth-generation Texas rancher who described her beloved land as a “swiss cheese of old oil wells that are just falling apart.” Bussewitz shared the byline with national writer and visual journalist Irvine, who shot video of the site where the rancher had moved 600 head of cattle that may have drunk contaminated water, then combined it with drone footage from the ranch, along with historical photos and footage of abandoned wells. Photographer Gay made striking images of that ranch and another where the rancher had to sue the state of Texas to plug orphaned wells.Data analyst Fenn and digital artist Duckett leveraged that data into interactives, including an exclusive nationwide map that depicted the known orphaned wells in each state, and producers Hamlin and Shotzbarger, with photo editor Goodman, built a powerful presentation on AP News.https://aplink.news/nr5https://aplink.video/rwuhttps://interactives.ap.org/em...https://interactives.ap.org/te...

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March 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

NRA firearms auction pulled after AP query

noticed that the NRA planned to auction off firearms during a fundraiser at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, but she knew that the Nashville, Tennessee, museum didn't allow weapons inside. So she reached out to the museum, the NRA, country artists and more for comment. Soon after Hall raised the question of the apparent violation of museum policy, a spokesperson confirmed to her that the April event will not take place at the site. Other news outlets had to cite AP’s reporting. https://bit.ly/2vSOAbz

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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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Dec. 20, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Accidental shootings show nationwide gap in police training

A mother shot fatally shot in front of her 3-year-old son. A suspect killed while an officer tried to handcuff him. A Homeland Security agent was shot at a Texas high school by a U.S. marshal fumbling with equipment. These are among the more than 1,400 unintentional discharges found by Seattle reporter Martha Bellisle in an investigation that highlights the shortcomings of police weapons training.

No agency tracks how often local, state and federal officers accidentally fire their weapons. Over the course of more than a year, Bellisle exhaustively documented 1,422 unintentional discharges by 258 law enforcement agencies since 2012.

With contributions from colleagues in photo and video – including the story of an Iowa woman who was killed when an officer’s gun discharged, leaving her husband and children still scarred by the tragedy – the all-formats package received prominent play.

For an exclusive that sheds light on a virtually undocumented area of firearms safety, Bellisle earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 03, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reconstruction suggests Israeli shots killed reporter

conducted an exclusive in-depth reconstruction of the death of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, shot dead during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank on May 11.With the Palestinians and Israelis offering opposing accounts of the killing, AP visited all the relevant locations, interviewed multiple witnesses, examined videos from social media and spoke to a weapons expert.While acknowledging the obstacles to a definitive answer, the work by Krauss and Mohammad — the only on-the-ground investigation by an international media organization — lends support to Palestinian claims that the prominent journalist was hit by Israeli gunfire.Read more

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March 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source: ‘You'll never believe it, we found the gun.’

delivered back-to-back scoops on the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the jail where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, that is billed as one of the most secure in America.Balsamo and Sisak first learned through sources that the jail was on lockdown because of a report of a possible gun that had been smuggled inside. Next, they had a scoop when investigators looking for the gun found contraband instead, including cellphones, narcotics and homemade weapons. The spot news died down, but they stayed focused on the story and it paid off: A source called Balsamo and said off the record: “You'll never believe it, we found the gun!” The smuggled items marked a massive breach of prison protocol and raised serious questions about the security practices in place at the Bureau of Prisons.AP’s exclusive was used by virtually every major outlet. https://bit.ly/3aRDLVW

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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP interview: Mom threatened by crowd leaned on faith

gave AP the first national interview with a black woman who faced down an armed all-white group – led by a sheriff’s deputy – that tried to force its way into her home. The woman, Monica Shepard, had talked to two local television stations but was avoiding further media contact. Foreman, however, felt there was a deeper story to be told.

He eventually reached Shepard and her son through their attorney, arranging for an online interview to capture video. “I was vulnerable. They had the crowd. They had the weapons. I had nothing,” Shepard told Foreman. “I was standing before a crowd, but I had the faith.” Foreman’s compelling story gave AP the beat on other media that were trying to interview the family, and was used even by outlets that had previously covered the incident.https://bit.ly/2Xfxtdnhttps://bit.ly/2zl3sB5

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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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Aug. 17, 2017

Best of the States

AP dominates coverage of Charlottesville violence

Sarah Rankin and Steve Helber were covering a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia when chaos broke out. The marchers and counter protesters – Rankin’s words – ‘’threw punches, screamed, set off smoke bombs. They hurled water bottles, balloons of paint, containers full of urine. They unleashed chemical sprays. Some waved Confederate flags. Others burned them.’’

Rankin and Helber were the first of many AP colleagues to cover the story, and their initial work paid off in significant ways.

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May 17, 2018

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Texas biker accused of killing man who was shot by police

In the three years since the deadliest biker shooting in U.S. history, Fort Worth correspondent Emily Schmall has meticulously gathered documents, reports and court records to put together a spreadsheet that integrates autopsy reports, firearms analyses and ballistics evidence, including the names and serial numbers of the weapons, to whom they were traced, where they were recovered from and whether they were linked to a death or injury.

Her work paid off last week when prosecutors handed down the first murder charges in the case. Schmall was able to exclusively report that prosecutors had charged one of the bikers for murdering a man who was shot twice by a SWAT officer.

For persistent, investigative reporting that exclusively illuminated potential problems with a shifting strategy in a closely-watched case, Schmall wins this week’s Best of the States.

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July 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork delivers standout AP coverage of July 4 mass shooting

mobilized on July Fourth to deliver fast, multiformat coverage of the mass shooting at a parade in Highland Park, Illinois, that ultimately resulted in seven deaths and dozens wounded. Local and regional staffers responded quickly with all-formats coverage in the Chicago suburb while colleagues across the U.S. and into Mexico stepped in to assist with reporting, writing and editing.Monday’s efforts laid the groundwork for coverage in the days that followed, including more breaking news updates, victim profiles, a narrative on how the events unfolded, explainers, an investigative piece on how the suspect was able to get weapons despite Illinois’ red flag law and more.The mainbar story trended near the top on AP platforms for much of the week and made the front page of newspapers across the country.Read more

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Nov. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP explores tense intersection of commerce, gangs, politics in Haiti

obtained rare access to members of Haiti’s wealthy elite — and to the violent gangs that threaten them — for a deep look at doing business in this failed state. Using contacts and determination and building trust, they explored how entrepreneurs continue to operate in an environment where more than 100 heavily armed gangs control access to the port, the fuel and the food supply chains. Kidnappings and killings are not uncommon in the impoverished capital, leaderless after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.During their reporting, the pair was threatened verbally by people who didn't want to be photographed and with weapons by gangsters who didn't want them there at all. After many attempts, Buenos-Aires based photographer Abd and freelance reporter Arce finally gained access to Barbecue, the leader of a coalition of gangs who presents himself as a populist fighting economic injustices, but who operates as an armed thug instilling fear in the people.The piece was among AP’s top stories in reader engagement and earned kudos from Pulitzer Center funders: “(Abd and Arce) avoided all the easy frameworks ... and did a fantastic job depicting the abject inequity that is at the root of Haiti's social/economic collapse,” wrote Executive Editor Marina Walker. https://aplink.news/wzdhttps://aplink.photos/b47

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