Sept. 10, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Resourceful post-hurricane reporting yields exclusives on Louisiana oil spills

As Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana — launching strong AP coverage that would stretch from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast — Washington-based investigative reporter Michael Biesecker contacted federal and state officials who kept telling him they had no confirmed reports of oil or chemical spills along the coast.

But Biesecker’s inspection of aerial photos by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told a different story. He found a worrying miles-long oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico off the region’s main oil and gas port, and another sheen coming from a massive oil refinery along the Mississippi River.

His persistence led to a series of exclusives on the two oil spills, including the news that divers had identified a broken undersea pipeline as the apparent source of the offshore slick.

For smart reporting that put AP ahead of the competition — and even ahead of the government and energy companies themselves — on an important environmental story in the wake of Ida, Biesecker is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Aug. 18, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Speedy, smart coverage on Hawaii’s wildfire breaks AP engagement records

When a wildfire broke out in Maui and obliterated the centuries-old town of Lahaina, staff in AP’s Pacific Northwest sprang into action. Honolulu’s Audrey McAvoy was on the ground within hours, leveraging the AP’s unique Hawaii footprint for the first of many days of aggressive coverage that allowed AP to own the story from the beginning.

McAvoy was quickly joined by Portland, Oregon, reporter Claire Rush, who canceled her vacation; photographer Rick Bowmer and video journalists Ty O’Neil and Haven Daley. Jennifer Kelleher joined the reporting effort from Honolulu, where she anchored the story for days with help from Chris Weber in Los Angeles and worked longtime sources, including Gov. Josh Green, to keep AP ahead. Rush, O’Neil and Bowmer slept in an SUV for two days in the burn zone.

On Aug. 9, apnews.com received 7.6 million page views — a new record and a 32% increase over traffic the previous Wednesday, and the following day also broke previous records with 7.5 million page views.

The Live Updates fixture, artfully anchored by a changing cast of characters, was also a huge winner for AP and served as a “search tree” that led readers back to AP’s content again and again.

For extraordinary coverage of the devastating fire, accomplished despite huge logistical challenges, the AP Maui team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Oct. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Data, reporting reveal millions exposed to wildfire pollution

used government air pollution data, academic studies and interviews to report exclusively that the western wildfires exposed at least 38 million people in five states to unhealthy levels of smoke, causing emergency room visits to spike and potentially thousands of deaths among the elderly and infirm. The all-formats package included the experience of an Oregon woman whose smoke-triggered asthma attacks twice sent her to the emergency room.https://bit.ly/34hvDgShttps://bit.ly/3m6yeR0

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April 29, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Engaging AP package: Wildfires threaten snowpack, water supply

reported for all formats and collaborated with colleagues on a richly produced enterprise package that explores an important environmental concern linked to climate change: the effect of wildfires on water supply, particularly in the U.S. West where the fires are becoming more frequent and destructive.Denver-based videojournalist Peterson focused on a female climate scientist, a relative rarity in the field, and how her work might help local water managers guide decisions amid increasing water shortages which will only get worse in years to come.With strong visuals and an engaging presentation, the package resonated with customers and readers, was used by dozens and dozens of websites and papers, and racked up some 2 million pageviews on AP’s Facebook page alone.Read more

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Oct. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP wins exclusive access to notorious federal jail in NY

secured rare access inside the federal jail in Manhattan where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, reporting first-hand about the structural mess and squalid conditions. The AP pair had previously reported that the infamous Metropolitan Correctional Center, built in the 1970s, is slated for at least temporary closure. Still, they wanted more.Previous requests had been denied, but Balsamo and Sisak relied on years of deep source work and weeks of negotiations with the Justice Department and the BOP, finally winning access inside the MCC in Manhattan and the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where a majority of the inmates will be moved.Balsamo, AP’s lead Justice Department reporter who was the first journalist to cover the resumption of federal executions, came away from MCC with details like: “One cell is off-limits because the door is now unstable — likely because of the constant pounding over the years from the prisoners inside on the cinder block walls.” New York-based law enforcement reporter Sisak also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and judicial orders that detailed the conditions inmates had faced and researched the history of the building.The result was a vividly written and reported exclusive unmatched by any other news agency. The story was picked up by New York media and news outlets across the country. https://aplink.news/xck

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Oct. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats team leads coverage of California oil spill

provided a week of outstanding coverage on one of the largest oil spills in modern California history after oil leaked from a damaged underwater pipeline, washing up on Huntington Beach, otherwise known as “Surf City USA.” The all-formats coverage, including reporting on potential lapses in response by the pipeline company and the Coast Guard, kept the the story among AP’s most popular of AP’s offerings.Among the highlights, reporters Melley and Brown chased documents to find that the response by the company, Amplify Energy, and the Coast Guard was apparently delayed by hours despite reports of a suspected spill.Dazio pressed company and Coast Guard officials, both in news conferences and one-on-one, to clarify often conflicting or evasive information on the response. Taxin, meanwhile, who lives in Huntington Beach, had been first on the scene and delivered daily reporting on the cleanup. A week after the leak she wrote that while the long-term environmental effects aren’t known, the spill wasn’t the catastrophe first feared by conservationists and city officials.Video and photos virtually owned this story. Freelance photographer Chiu captured photos of oiled birds and workers painstakingly cleaning the beach, as well as drone video and stills for perspective. Video journalists Garcia and Daley offered clients a morning live shot each day and hustled to cover everything from news conferences to the cleanup effort, and reaction from local residents and business owners.https://aplink.news/yochttps://aplink.news/1qehttps://aplink.news/pznhttps://aplink.photos/udchttps://aplink.video/h9zhttps://aplink.video/5g2https://aplink.video/glu

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Jan. 07, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: New policies may fail to address US military racism, extremism

teamed up on an investigation revealing that despite recently issued Department of Defense guidelines, racism and extremism in the U.S. military remain a concern. Among the most significant policy updates, “liking” and reposting white nationalist and extremist content on social media could result in disciplinary action.But Stafford and Laporta found that the new guidelines failed to address hate crimes or ongoing racial disparities in military law. Numerous studies show Black and Hispanic service members were disproportionately investigated and court-martialed.The investigative reporters also found that the Pentagon rules do not outright ban service members from being members of extremist organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, Oath Keepers or other right-wing and white nationalist groups. The regulations, like the previous ones, only prohibit “active participation,” in such groups.These concerns aren't new. Stafford and LaPorta reported on the decadeslong history of racism in the military, and they point to previous DOD efforts that have fallen short of rooting out extremism in the ranks.The investigation, part of AP’s “Racism in the Ranks” series, earned widespread attention online and landed on the front pages of at least a half-dozen newspapers.https://aplink.news/7gy

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Jan. 21, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation reveals global market for illegal Brazilian gold

teamed up to expose those involved in Brazil's illegal gold trade, from the illicit mining on Indigenous lands to the global market.Mining on Indigenous lands in Brazil is not new. Numerous stories have been done on the practice, detailing the environmental and cultural impact of the illegal gold mining. But the AP investigation went a step further, naming those involved in the practice and tracing how the precious mineral travels from the mines of Brazil to global brands.For their widely read investigative stories, published in English, Spanish and Portuguese, Brazil News Director Biller, Latin America correspondent Goodman and freelance journalist Cowie obtained dozens of documents and conducted interviews with prosecutors, federal law enforcement agents, miners and industry insiders.Cowie and photographer Penner trekked hundreds of miles into the Amazon to report comprehensively on those engaged in the illegal mining and those involved in the illegal gold trade — a cross section of individuals and companies ranging from shady fly-by-night operators to legitimate businesses.Among their findings: Brazil is investigating an air taxi company contracted by the country’s health mionistry that transports Indigenous people and medical equipment. The company is also suspected of using its planes to bring in prospectors and supplies for illegal mining.And a thorough AP review of public records revealed that Marsam, a refinery that provided minerals for Brazil’s 2016 Olympic gold medals and now processes gold ultimately purchased by hundreds of well-known publicly traded U.S. companies — among them Microsoft, Tesla and Amazon — is linked to an intermediary accused by prosecutors of buying gold mined illegally on Indigenous lands and other areas deep in the Amazon rainforest.https://bit.ly/3HWThQDhttps://bit.ly/3qnwc3Nhttps://bit.ly/3FzcFSb

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Feb. 11, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Global warming pauses Antarctic study — of global warming

exclusively broke a story with both irony and foreboding: Scientists who set out to study the impact of climate change on a massive Antarctic glacier are being largely thwarted because global warming has produced an iceberg and attracted sea ice, preventing the ships from reaching their destination. At least for now, the multinational expedition is unable to reach Thwaites, the so-called Doomsday Glacier the size of Florida that is melting quickly.Because COVID concerns meant journalists could not join the research party, Washington-based climate and science reporter Bornstein developed sources among the scientists. One of them agreed to try a Zoom interview from the expedition and that interview was packed with news. Borenstein also reached out to other scientists; the resulting all-formats package played widely in the U.S. and overseas.Read more

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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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March 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: Toxic chemicals lie beneath Fort Ord

spent a year investigating the possible health effects of groundwater and soil contamination under Fort Ord, a decommissioned U.S. Army base on the central California coast. A tip led AP to a Facebook group of hundreds of soldiers who had lived at the base and developed rare forms of cancer they believe were caused by contamination.The complex, all-formats story included in-depth interviews with those likely suffering health consequences of exposure at the base, which is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the most polluted places in the nation. The team revealed a discredited 25-year-old study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found no “likely” risk at the site, and documents showing the Army knew toxic chemicals had been improperly dumped at Fort Ord for decades, but took pains not to let that information become public. Read more

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Aug. 20, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Climate contributing to wildfires on tropical Pacific isles

reported exclusively in all formats on climate-fueled wildfires flaring up on tropical Pacific islands from Hawaii to Micronesia, causing environmental harm from mountaintops to coral reefs.Aware of persistent wildfire problems on some of the Hawaiian Islands and Guam, Honolulu-based Jones and Jakarta, Indonesia-based Milko reported that climate change is making once-lush areas of the islands hotter, drier and more susceptible to fire. As a result, runoff from burned areas damages coral reefs, and the fires are converting critical watershed forests to grasslands that are more prone to fire in the future.While Milko reported on the situation in Guam, where the top fire official said most fires were arson, Jones traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii which was experiencing the largest wildfire in the state’s history. He shot photos and video of firefighters at work, and gained access to private Native Hawaiian homestead land where homes and vehicles were destroyed on the slopes of Mauna Kea. He spoke to residents and evacuees for a historical perspective on the drier, more volatile land, while fire officials and scientists in Honolulu explained how climate change contributes to the fires. https://aplink.news/o3nhttps://aplink.video/mny

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April 22, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive AP data reveals popularity of US homeschooling

obtained data across the country to establish the continued popularity of homeschooling for American families — even as schools reopened and vaccines became widely available.Because the federal government does not have a current database of homeschooling numbers, Thompson built her own by reaching out to education departments in all 50 states for their data. She also interviewed families for their perspectives on homeschooling, and used her experience on the education beat to put the trend in the context of homeschooling regulation debates, concerns over neglected students and a broader decline of public school enrollment.Read more

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