March 22, 2019

Best of the States

Sunshine Week investigation: Public regularly denied access to police videos

Police videos of officers shooting unarmed black men have sparked angry protests in Chicago, Sacramento and other U.S. cities. But AP’s Ryan Foley wondered: Is it the norm for departments to release footage from body-worn and dashboard cameras?

Foley, based in Iowa City, Iowa, a member of AP’s state government team, investigated and found that many departments routinely deny public access to their videos of officer-involved shootings and other uses of force.

Foley filed open records requests related to roughly 20 recent use-of-force incidents in a dozen states. His letters were met with denial after denial as police departments routinely cited a broad exemption to state open records laws: They claimed that releasing the video would undermine an ongoing investigation. But critics say the exemption is often misapplied to keep embarrassing or compromising video footage from public view.

To tell the story visually, Central Region video journalist Noreen Nasir dug through AP’s archives to highlight the moments and emotions that followed the deaths of unarmed black men, including the fatal police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. She also interviewed a woman in North Dakota whose brother died after being shot in the back of the head during a struggle with police, adding a crucial perspective to the video.

At the same time, Panagiotis Mouzakis, multimedia animation producer in London, used the many denial letters Foley had collected to create a video graphic that was incorporated into Nasir’s video, and Beat Team visuals editor Alina Hartounian developed a social plan that helped the package find a huge audience.

For shining a light on how police departments continue to withhold visual evidence and for devising creative ways to illustrate the story, Foley, Nassir and Mouzakis share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 22, 2017

Best of the States

Request denied? Sunshine Hub sheds light on state efforts to block public access

Beyond its dramatic effects, the audio from 911 calls can provide the kind of context that is essential to the public's understanding of what happened during a newsworthy crime or emergency. Those recordings are, with few exceptions, a matter of public record. That almost changed this year in Iowa, where the state House passed – unanimously – a bill that would end the public's ability to access many 911 calls. The bill eventually died after an outcry from the media, watchdog groups and civil rights organizations, but it was not unusual. A months-long project by AP reporters and data journalists found more than 150 bills introduced in state legislatures this year that were intended to eliminate or limit public access to a wide range of government records and meetings.

To help reporters find, track and provide input on those bills, Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen of the data team created a unique online tool that provided full access to AP customers.

Called the Sunshine Hub, it helps users keep track of legislative activity related to government transparency, suggest new bills, search for and categorize bills for research purposes, and discuss legislation with others. The Sunshine Hub directly complemented stories by Ryan Foley in Iowa, Andrew DeMillo in Arkansas and Laurie Kellman in Washington.

For their groundbreaking reporting and software development, Tumgoren, Rasmussen, Foley, DeMillo and Kellman win this week's Best of the States award.

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Oct. 29, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

As COVID surges in Russia, AP wins access to Moscow ICU

used months of strong contact-building in Moscow’s hospitals to get first access to an intensive care unit — several days ahead of the competition — at a time when Russia is facing almost daily records for both COVID infections and deaths.Video journalist Manenkov and chief photographer Zemlianichenko won permission to work inside the “Red Zone” at Moscow City Clinical Hospital 52, where the staff is facing the crush of the country’s COVID-19 crisis. The pair gave Moscow writer Isachenkov perfect material to explore the lagging pace of vaccination across the country, a source of despair among the front-line doctors and nurses. And their visuals gave AP global customers an array of powerful images telling the story of COVID in Russia.https://aplink.news/rm0https://aplink.video/f63

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive access to medics treating coronavirus – and war wounds

secured exclusive international agency access to a hospital battling coronavirus and casualties in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.Chernov and Lovetsky had been on the front line of the disputed region within Azerbaijan for more than a week when they began to see increasing numbers of people becoming sick with the coronavirus. Repeated requests to document the hospitals and clinics were rebuffed until Chernov tracked down the region’s health minister to personally request access. The minister granted permission.Wearing full protective gear carried with them from previous reporting in the Ukraine, the pair visited the main hospital in Stepanakert and found terrible scenes of suffering as coronavirus patients mixed with the war-wounded – while doctors and nurses continued to treat people despite suffering from the virus themselves. Their on-the-ground reporting was crafted into a powerful text story by Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and the story moved as cross-format agency exclusive the next day.https://bit.ly/3oCN57Ohttps://bit.ly/34BY9Kp

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Dec. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Access yields engaging story of US couple rescuing Afghans

used remarkable access to chronicle an Afghan family settling into heartland America thanks to the efforts of a dedicated couple.San Diego-based reporter Watson had previously reported on Afghans fleeing to the U.S. She used farmer Caroline Clarin as a resource; Clarin worked as an agricultural adviser in Afghanistan and now works to rescue her Afghan contacts threatened by the Taliban. Meanwhile, enterprise photographer Goldman was looking for a newly immigrated family to follow. He connected with Watson and enterprise video journalist Breed, the trio traveling to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where, thanks to the trust Watson had built with Clarin, they had exceptional access to Clarin, her wife and the Patans, an Afghan family the couple “adopted” after paying to fly them to the U.S.The team captured intimate details of both families’ daily lives in all formats: the family gatherings, the Patan kids’ school days and life on the farm. Clarin and her wife talked about their worries — the expenses they were accruing to rescue Afghans, but more so, their fears for those still left behind. The text story also looked at the bureaucratic hurdles of getting families out of Afghanistan, and Breed gathered sound for an audio story, written by digital storyteller Shotzbarger, voiced by Watson. Shotzbarger also brought all the elements together in a compelling presentation.The package, running on the eve of Thanksgiving, resonated with readers. It records one woman’s dedication to the daunting task of bringing Afghans to the U.S., and the loving relationship built between a farm couple and a traditional Afghan family in rural Minnesota.https://aplink.news/o5thttps://aplink.photos/ukrhttps://aplink.video/fj6https://aplink.news/58c

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March 18, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP wins access as opioids victims confront Purdue’s Sackler family

leveraged years of source building and evenhanded reporting on opioid litigation in the U.S., securing rare access in all formats to an unprecedented federal court hearing in the most high-profile opioids case in the U.S.In the virtual hearing, people who had become addicted to opioids, and the parents of children lost to addiction, would finally confront members of the family that owned Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. Mulvihill overcame federal court restrictions to get full access to the Zoom link for the hearing, and he leaned on his relationship with victims’ attorneys to have a multiformat team at a law firm as victims made emotional statements to members of the Sackler family. Read more

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July 26, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team leads media fight for photo access at OJ Simpson parole hearing

What happens when the state of Nevada announces it intends to use its own photographer to cover the parole hearing of O.J. Simpson, and exclude all others?

The Associated Press steps up, rallies the media and forces the state to backtrack. For their efforts to ensure news photo access to a high-profile story, the team of Stephanie Mullen, Ken Ritter and Tom Tait is awarded Beat of the Week.

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March 27, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP is there: Exclusive access to the first human trial of coronavirus vaccine

The world had been waiting for this moment: the start of a clinical study searching for a vaccine for the new coronavirus – but no one knew when exactly the first shots would be given. AP reporters in Washington, D.C., learned where and when it would take place, laying the groundwork for an all-formats team to witness the start of the experiment in Seattle.

The result: AP was the only news organization present, sending updates in real time as the first participants received an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The newsroom at AP’s New York headquarters erupted in cheers when the exclusive crossed the wire; text, photos and video swept play worldwide.

For ensuring AP was the only news organization in the room at a critical juncture of the coronavirus pandemic response, and for delivering distinctive journalism to customers worldwide, the team of Lauran Neergaard, Ted Warren, Carla K. Johnson, Michael Ciaglo, Federica Narancio and Marshall Ritzel wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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May 15, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Only on AP: ‘Impossible’ access, stunning visuals of Ukraine hospitals

Video journalist Mstyslav Chernov and freelance photographer Evgeniy Maloletka used their extraordinary access to western Ukrainian hospitals to produce powerful images of medical workers desperately treating COVID-19 patients despite a medical system in crisis. They also visited one hospital’s makeshift morgue and a cemetery where families grieved over lost loved ones. Chernov had driven 2,500 kilometers (1,600 miles) across three countries, then worked tirelessly to earn the trust of medics who eventually gave him and Maloletka rare access to document the dire situation. The play was impressive among AP customers and across media in Ukraine. One foundation even reached out to the pathologist who had set up an outdoor morgue, supplying the medic with protective gear, disinfectants and a tent.https://bit.ly/2LmvBKuhttps://bit.ly/2WsZdvWhttps://bit.ly/2WwwUNb

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March 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: One man’s fight against an oil pipeline on his land

reported on a land grab for a proposed oil pipeline, conveying the news in the most compelling way possible, from the perspective of the people involved. The story is told largely through the eyes of Clyde Robinson, a 80-year-old Memphis, Tennessee, landowner fighting against larger forces to keep his land in what advocates say is textbook environmental racism.Robinson, who is Black, compared the effort to seize his land through eminent domain to slavery, when members of his own family were not compensated for their work. He vowed that no amount of money would convince him to change his mind.Environmental lawyers who have taken up Robinson’s cause say there’s no public interest that would justify seizure of the land for a business project, while a spokeswoman for the pipeline project walked back a statement by a land agent that the company had chosen “a point of least resistance” for the pipeline's proposed path. That statement was interpreted by the project’s opponents as having discriminatory undertones. https://bit.ly/3bDr1VZ

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May 27, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In-depth look at resisters committed to abortion access

set out to explore the abortion rights resistance — dedicated advocates for abortion access who are grappling with what is expected to be a wave of women seeking abortions as the U.S. Supreme Court takes aim at Roe v. Wade and states tighten restrictions, pushing pregnant people farther from home — some hundreds of miles away.After interviewing more than a dozen people, the pair reported for all-formats on a woman with a Midwest coalition providing “practical support” for women seeking abortions. Galofaro and Irvine spent days on her Missouri farm, shadowing Alison Dreith as she fielded calls on a hotline used by women desperate for help.And a companion story revealed the deeply religious employees of an Alabama abortion clinic who have no trouble reconciling their work with their religion, breaking preconceptions about the religious divide over abortion.Both stories won wide use and high reader engagement, prompting praise for balanced, nuanced coverage.Read more

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March 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive AP access to US flight over militarized Chinese islands

were the only journalists invited aboard a U.S. Navy reconnaissance flight over the South China Sea and China’s island outposts in the region. While Favila made photos and video of the Chinese military facilities built on man-made islands — and recorded audio of the warnings the aircraft received from China — Gomez landed an exclusive interview with Adm. John C. Aquilino U.S. Indo-Pacific commander.With the war in Ukraine raising concern over other potential international conflicts, Aquilino told AP that China has fully militarized at least three of several islands it built in the disputed South China Sea and has armed them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment, and fighter jets. He said the increasingly aggressive moves threaten all nations operating nearby. Read more

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May 01, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: All-formats access to a lifesaving New York emergency room

With coronavirus infection and death rates mounting, hospitals in the New York City area imposed strict guidelines allowing only a small handful of media outlets limited access. After weeks of reaching out to hospitals, St. Joseph’s in Yonkers agreed to give the AP access to its emergency room and screening tent. 

But only one journalist would be allowed into the hospital. Versatile New York staff photographer John Minchillo was an easy choice.

Once inside in full protective gear, Minchillo connected with the hospital staff, who also granted access to the intensive care unit. He made the most of the next four hours, working in all formats to capture the mundane and the extreme, including the dramatic moments when a COVID-19 patient in cardiac arrest was saved. Turned around virtually overnight, Minchillo’s all-formats package was heavily played by major media outlets.

For his powerful, comprehensive all-formats storytelling that takes us inside medical workers’ daily fight save lives against the coronavirus, John Minchillo wins AP’s Best of States Award.

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Sept. 24, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP has rare access as Haitian migrants, in bid to reach US, face perilous jungle crossing of Darien Gap

Hundreds of migrants try each day to cross the Darien Gap — a thick jungle between Colombia and Panama traversed by many ultimately seeking the U.S. border — yet journalists rarely observe more than the first few steps of the journey.

But after days of negotiations with locals who participate in a human-trafficking network, the Bogota-based all-formats team of correspondent Astrid Suárez, photographer Fernando Vergara and video journalist Marko Álvarez were given exclusive access to the first hour of a treacherous six-day journey. That single hour was enough to tell the stories of migrants willing to risk their lives in a jungle teeming with threats, from raging rivers to gangs targeting migrants for theft and sexual assault.

For a stark all-formats portrait of desperation and determination in the depths of the jungle, Suárez, Vergara and Álvarez earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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