Nov. 17, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP photographers show the despair, and hopes, of homeless along US West Coast

For three months, Associated Press photographer Jae Hong traveled America’s West Coast to chronicle the region’s exploding homeless crisis and do what many try to avoid: look into the eyes of the people living on the streets, in tents or in their vehicles and get to know them.

His series of intimate portraits focused on the subjects’ eyes and were combined with short text stories to reveal their humanity, whether it was an aging, down-on-his-luck street performer on Los Angeles’ Skid Row or a 9-year-old boy who lives with his family in a rented RV blocks from Google’s headquarters.

The unique portraits were one part of a larger package of images that Hong and his colleagues across the West – Ted Warren, Marcio Sanchez, Chris Carlson and Greg Bull – produced for a project looking at the roots of the homeless crisis in the region and identifying potential solutions.

For their work documenting the lives of the homeless, the team wins this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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Sept. 06, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

4 Hours in Huntington: how the heroin epidemic choked a city

The scene, presented in the most vivid close-up, shows a paramedic frantically pushing an IV full of an opioid blocker into the vein of a woman turning blue and barely breathing. Then the radio squawks: Two more overdoses just reported. Where will Claire Galofaro’s riveting narrative go from here?

“The woman’s eyes blinked open” she writes next. Then: “Red lights on the phone at the 911 dispatch center flashed faster and faster until all 16 lines were screaming. They called from the dining room of a rickety house, the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, the bathroom of a gas station. `People are dying everywhere,’ one caller said.”

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Sept. 23, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Pro-painkiller echo chamber shaped policy amid drug epidemic

Combine the capabilities of The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity, and this is what you can get: A two-part blockbuster that exposed the efforts of the opioid industry and allied groups to stymie limits on the use of its powerful drugs, and detailed how they spent more than $880 million on lobbying and political contributions over the past decade.

The genesis of the project was a conversation between Tom Verdin, editor of AP’s state government team, and Geoff Mulvihill, a member of that team. Mulvihill, based in Mount Laurel, N.J., has covered the opioid crisis sweeping the nation, and the two hit upon the idea of trying to determine the extent of the pharmaceutical industry’s exerting influence in state legislatures across the country.

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April 28, 2017

Best of the States

AP delivers unmatched cross-format coverage as Arkansas pursues unprecedented execution plan

In February, Arkansas announced a series of April executions that, if carried out, would make history in the United States: Over an 11-day period, the state would put to death eight inmates – two each on four days. No state had performed so many executions in such a short time since the Supreme Court re-instated the death penalty in 1976.

And Arkansas, which had not carried out an execution since 2005, had a curious justification for the expedited timetable: the supply of one of its three execution drugs was expiring at the end of the month. Officials were not confident they could obtain more.

Weeks before the first planned execution, a team of AP journalists in Arkansas and beyond set out to both chronicle the executions and offer deep and varied enterprise that broke news. Their work earns this week's Best of States award.

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Nov. 25, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Monthslong investigation weaves sordid tale of debauchery within DEA

"The drug war is a game,” José Irizarry told two AP reporters during his final moments of freedom. “It was a very fun game that we were playing.”

Irizarry’s decision to spend some of his last few hours before beginning a 12-year federal prison sentence with two AP reporters in early 2022 was a moment years in the making that yielded a bombshell bacchanal of a story -- itself months in the making.

Four years ago, just before starting at The Associated Press, New York-based investigative reporter Jim Mustian received a tip about a DEA investigation into one of the agency’s own agents in Colombia. That spiraled into a string of AP scoops by Mustian and Miami-based Latin America correspondent Joshua Goodman on DEA corruption in Latin America, including an exclusive on the arrest of that agent. Irizarry had been accused of conspiring with Colombian drug cartels to divert millions from DEA money laundering stings in what prosecutors called one of the worst betrayals in DEA history.

For a deeply reported and compelling investigation, telling the tale of a former war-on-drugs warrior who crossed multiple boundaries, Mustian and Goodman earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Dec. 21, 2017

Best of the States

Reporters spotlight burgeoning crisis: More kids entering foster care due to the opioid epidemic

They are the littlest victims of the opioid crisis: Tens of thousands of children forced into foster care because of a parent’s drug use. On Nov. 30, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released data from 2016 showing new foster care cases involving parents using drugs have hit the highest point in more than three decades of record-keeping.

Less than two weeks after that data was released, the AP transmitted a package of stories focused on two of the states with the biggest one-year increases: Indiana and Georgia.

The project came about thanks to an analysis begun months earlier by Washington-based data journalist Meghan Hoyer. Hoyer worked with an analyst to access exclusive county-level data on foster care entries over the past 15 years, giving the AP a unique, comprehensive and localized look at the issues surrounding children entering the system.

That data allowed New York-based national writers Matt Sedensky to focus his reporting in Indiana, where parental drug use was increasingly cited as the reason for foster care removals. Sedensky convinced the chief juvenile court judge to grant him access to courtrooms and files normally shielded from public view. He also worked to get a caseworker to let him follow her as she visited families caring for children removed from their birth parents’ custody, and spent time with adoptive families, medical professionals and others affected.

A second story, by national writer David Crary, also based in New York, zoomed in on one mother who had lost her three daughters to foster care and her battle to overcome addiction and win them back. In interviews and email exchanges over several months, mother of three Kim Silvers told wrenching details of her experience – including an interview at her joyous graduation ceremony after completing the program.

For providing moving insight into the plight of the youngest victims of the opioid crisis and the struggle of some families to break free, Hoyer, Sedensky and Crary share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Feb. 02, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Investigation: Secret report linked Honduran national police chief to cartel coke delivery

Reporters Christopher Sherman, Martha Mendoza and Garance Burke were weeks into a deep look at police misconduct in Honduras, where public mistrust of law enforcement is among the highest in the world. So when they heard a new national police chief had been appointed, they immediately shifted gears and began asking questions about him.

What they found was explosive – a confidential government security document that detailed a troubling allegation regarding the force. It said the newly named National Police Chief Jose David Aguilar Moran had once helped a drug cartel leader pull off the delivery of nearly a ton of cocaine. The clandestine haul, worth at least $20 million on U.S. streets, was packed inside a tanker truck that, the report said, was escorted by corrupt police officers to the home of Wilter Blanco, a drug trafficker recently convicted in Florida and now serving a 20-year sentence.

For their dogged reporting, Sherman, Mendoza and Burke share the Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 06, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

In the face of death, the party of a lifetime

In a world focused on life and survival, death is often unseen, endured in private and acknowledged in glowing obituaries or tragic news stories. It’s also mostly out of the control of the person who is dying.

Now, with nine U.S. states allowing terminally ill people to end their lives with fatal drugs, thousands of people have legally chosen how and when to end their lives.

Seattle Photographer Elaine Thompson has long wanted to show the real, personal side of what often comes across as an impersonal process. She spent months looking for the right subject, getting tantalizingly close to success before plans fell through. She stuck with it, and when she found Bob Fuller, she enlisted reporter Gene Johnson to tell his story.

This week’s Best of the Week goes to the team of Elaine Thompson and Gene Johnson who chronicled how one man, in the face of death, created the party of a lifetime.

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March 06, 2020

Best of the States

AP looks at race in Baltimore through the lens of ‘squeegee kids’

Reporter Regina Garcia Cano took what could have been a dense, pro forma story on complaints about Baltimore’s “squeegee kids” and turned it into a layered piece about inequality in post-Freddie Gray Baltimore. The timing was perfect, as a way for AP to mark the end of 2020’s Black History Month. 

She reviewed figures related to reports on the practice and found one squeegee kid in particular who was willing to open up about the daily grind of dashing into intersections to wash windshields, and how it helped him support his family. 

For her keen eye, and a deft hand, on a complicated topic that would have most likely gone overlooked, Garcia Cano wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Doctors tell AP of rampant misinformation among unvaccinated

tapped into her network of sourcing among doctors around the country to deliver an all-formats story that offered new perspective on the rampant misinformation that they're experiencing in dealing with unvaccinated patients during the delta surge of COVID-19.Hollingsworth, based in Kansas City, Missouri, conducted interviews with six doctors, each giving new examples of the misinformation that has underpinned the recent surge. One doctor, for example, said he had resorted to showing vaccine-hesitant patients a Twinkie ingredient label to make the point that it’s hard for anyone to fully understand every item that goes into federally approved food and drugs. Hollingsworth did all the interviews on Zoom and teamed up with AP Central Region video journalist Carrie Antlfinger on packaged video pieces. She also shared sound clips with the audio and digital teams; those were embedded in the piece.The story generated strong play and huge reader engagement numbers. It was a shining example of how deep sourcing on a newsworthy topic can lead to a sharply focused, well-executed story.https://aplink.news/iubhttps://aplink.video/4n0

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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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