June 09, 2023
Beat of the Week
Finding a new twist to Florida’s new transgender care laws
documented how Florida’s new transgender care laws on children were affecting trans adults.Read more.
documented how Florida’s new transgender care laws on children were affecting trans adults.Read more.
Georgia's centralized and aging election system has been the subject of several controversies – most recently in June, when a whistleblower revealed that state contractors had failed to secure an important election server. Hackers could potentially have affected the results of both 2016 races and a special congressional election last June that drew national attention.
The Houston bureau’s Frank Bajak wrote up the initial news of Georgia’s server problem. But that didn't answer the larger question of whether the vulnerable server had actually been hacked, so Bajak developed new sources and kept pressing for more information.
His efforts paid off when a source provided him with an email disclosing that the troubled server had been wiped clean of all data. Even more interesting, this destruction of evidence happened just a few days after a lawsuit was filed seeking a forensic examination of the server in an effort invalidate the state's vulnerable election technology.
For his enterprise and dogged pursuit of the story behind the story, Bajak wins this week’s Best of the States award.
AP shed new light on what happened when Daryl Hall sued his longtime partner John Oates, in a scoop that was widely credited by other outlets.Read more
captured the surprising extent of pre-election lawsuits — more than 100 filed around the country, largely by Republicans — as the legal action lays the groundwork for challenges to midterm election results. The suits target rules for mail-in voting, early voting, voter access and registration, and more.White House reporter Long identified the broader trend and also uncovered an entirely unreported GOP strategy of approaching the midterms with thousands of volunteers and lawyers hired across the nation. Her assessment: The legal actions likely preview a contentious post-election period.Read more
scooped North Dakota media by revealing just how extensively — and expensively — a state senator had traveled on the taxpayer’s dime.MacPherson obtained documents showing that Republican Sen. Ray Holmberg, who recently announced he would end his 46-year-career following a report that he had traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges, had run up more than 14 times the average travel expenses for the state’s lawmakers over the past decade, on trips that included China, Puerto Rico and New Orleans.Read more
delivered comprehensive gavel-to-gavel coverage from the dramatic trial of a former Idaho lawmaker charged with the rape of a 19-year-old intern. Reporting with authority and sensitivity, Boise correspondent Boone beat the competition with news of the verdict, then set about placing the case in broader context, speaking to experts who detailed the trauma of court proceedings for victims and pointed to national statistics showing very low rates of conviction in such cases.Read more
reviewed campaign finance records and social media posts, finding that Walmart, Amazon and other corporate giants donated to the reelection campaign of a Tennessee lawmaker who had amplified and promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory. Milligan helped compile and review Federal Election Commission data for 81 current or former congressional candidates who have expressed support for or interest in QAnon. The AP analysis showed that dozens of QAnon-promoting candidates have run for federal or state offices during this election cycle. Collectively, they have raised nearly $5 million from thousands of donors. Individually, however, most of them have run poorly financed campaigns with little or no corporate or party backing. Kunzelman’s story showed up in more than 200 news outlets with strong engagement, including Hollywood director Judd Apatow, who tweeted a link to his 2.4 million followers. https://bit.ly/3j0AnfH
for reporting exclusively that the Environmental Protection Agency and lawmakers have quietly abandoned efforts to rid schools of toxic PCBs, and that the EPA never even attempted to determine the scope of the contamination or assess potential health risks.https://bit.ly/32rZEYchttps://bit.ly/33XwekN
for showing how the security industry has leveraged the Parkland shooting to resurrect sputtering plans to ship hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars toward unproven safety technology. https://bit.ly/2A56fvS
for an AP analysis that finds that many state lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era are having success running for re-election or new legislative seats, suggesting that voters are conflicted about whether personal failings should disqualify someone from public office.http://bit.ly/2LusUVKhttp://bit.ly/2zMesHf
for obtaining the first published western interview of Natalia Veselnitskaya. The Russian lawyer, with reported links to the Kremlin, was at the center of a famous meeting in Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. She told AP she has not yet been called for questioning by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. https://bit.ly/2HYgQNR
for reporting that one current and three former female members of Congress had been sexually harassed or subjected to hostile sexual comments by their male colleagues while serving in the House. http://wapo.st/2hnXw18
for his exclusive report that New Jersey had spent $1.5 million in taxpayer money to settle a lawsuit by a former prosecutor who said he was fired for alleging the state dismissed an indictment because it involved supporters of Gov. Chris Christie. http://apne.ws/2dQjLv5
for calculating that California water agencies spent more than $350 million to pay property owners to remove lawns during historic drought and assessing the program’s success. http://lat.ms/2fFjTKu
for being first to report that Yale University had reached a $3 million settlement with the family of a graduate student, who was slain inside a research lab just days before her planned wedding in 2009.
Michelle Price was aware of the Utah’s lax requirements for reporting on lobbying activities and had been looking for a good way to tell that story. A social media posting from a lawmaker gave her the opening she was seeking when he shared an invitation from health care industry lobbyists to legislative members of three health-related committees to dine at a stylish new restaurant.
Price confirmed that under Utah’s loose lobbying laws, neither the lobbyists nor the lawmakers were required to report their night out. Price's AP NewsBreak went on to explain that no public disclosure is required as long as lobbyists extend their largesse to all members of a committee, a task force or a caucus. For her resourceful reporting, Price wins this week’s $300 Best of the States award.
AP Tallahassee reporter Gary Fineout started noticing how often Florida under Republican Gov. Rick Scott was losing court cases over its policies and was forced to pay opposing attorney fees. He decided to start a tally. But those fees would be just the tip of a quarter-billion-dollar iceberg. The money the state spent on private law firms to defend itself dwarfed that initial amount.
Getting that overall tally was the hard part. When Gary asked what was spent on outside legal counsel during Scott’s half-dozen years in office, the state attorney general told him: “We do not have that information."
So, Gary set out to search through the documents himself, revealing the true cost to taxpayers. For bringing to light a huge chunk of opaque spending and hold state leaders to account, Gary wins this week’s Best of the States.
Smart phone private messaging apps are great for keeping secrets. The apps delete messages almost immediately and do not allow them to be saved, copied or captured with a screenshot.
But what about use of the apps by government officials and elected representatives? State Government Team reporter Ryan Foley spotted a trend of public officials increasingly using such apps for official business. It’s a trend that alarms advocates for open government, who say it undermines state laws designed to ensure transparency and access to records.
Foley’s research was based in large part on use of a new legislative tracking tool called the Sunshine Hub that was developed by AP Data Team members Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen. The tool allowed Foley to see whether bills addressing the trend were being introduced in state legislatures across the country. And indeed they were.
The resulting story won play on more than two dozen front pages and prompted several editorials, including one in The Columbus Dispatch warning that officials’ use of message-vanishing apps was the same as destroying public records.
For their efforts in exposing a potentially dangerous anti-transparency trend among government officials, and developing a unique tool to track it, Foley, Tumgoren and Rasmussen win the Best of the States award.
The best stories sometimes present themselves not in the newsroom but in our personal lives, in the most random of ways. We just have to be paying attention – and thinking like reporters – to notice them.
That’s what Sydney-based enterprise writer Kristen Gelineau was doing when a friend mentioned he’d found out through an Ancestry.com DNA test that his biological father was a sperm donor. The friend then told Gelineau about a new law in the Australian state of Victoria, which gave offspring of long-anonymous sperm and egg donors the right to know who the donors were. Gelineau had missed the news of the law, but immediately started researching it and thought “Wow. Now THIS is a story!!”
She was right – and her multi-format account of one such unique reunion, told in ways both comic and moving, wins Beat of the Week for Gelineau, enterprise photographer Maye-E Wong, NY-based digital storytelling producer Natalie Castañeda and New Delhi-based videojournalist Shonal Ganguly.
for determining that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke a federal law protecting eagles when he picked up a feather during a canoe trip and kept it. https://bit.ly/2nGiwzC