April 20, 2018

Best of the States

AP's 50-state analysis: State legislatures lack public records of sexual misconduct claims

As the #MeToo movement spread to state capitols, AP statehouse reporters filed uniform FOIA requests with every legislature seeking information about past sexual misconduct cases and payouts to victims. The coordinated effort, overseen by State Government Team reporter David Lieb, produced some interesting numbers: roughly 70 complaints and nearly $3 million in sexual harassment settlements over the past decade.

But the real story was the information that wasn’t released.

In fact, a majority of states would not disclose records related to sexual misconduct among lawmakers. The most common response was that they had received no such complaints over the past decade, did not keep a record of any such complaints or were not legally bound to disclose the records. But Lieb's research revealed that even states with documented cases of lawmaker sexual harassment were not releasing records about those allegations – and potentially others.

Lieb worked with data editor Meghan Hoyer to organize and analyze the responses from our statehouse reporters in every state. The resulting spreadsheet was distributed to AP bureaus and customers weeks ahead of publication to allow for localizations. AP reporters in 19 states did just that, producing sidebars that in many cases landed on A1.

The mainbar and the state-by-state list of accused lawmakers received wide interest on the APNews app. The story also landed on at least 20 front pages.

For their 50-state accountability project on a topic that continues to rattle state capitols, Lieb and Hoyer win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 02, 2018

Best of the States

AP uncovers NJ utility lobbying for a bailout, and blackout of financial records

In the weeks before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left office, a measure quickly advanced through the Legislature that would give PSEG, the state’s largest utility, a $300 million bailout for its nuclear power plants.

That got the curiosity of statehouse reporter Michael Catalini, who started digging.

A records request turned up more than a dozen emails showing that the company had lobbied for the bailout and wrote in a clause itself to prevent the public release of financial information proving it needed the money.

The bill introduced in the Legislature included language to shield the company’s books from the public, but failed to get to Christie’s desk during December’s lame-duck session. It re-emerged after Democrat Phil Murphy took office.

Catalini’s story revealing the lobbying effort was published a day before a committee hearing on the bill. Lawmakers rewrote the measure after the story appeared to clarify that PSEG would be required to submit “any financial information” to the state utility regulator.

For holding the utility and state lawmakers accountable, Catalani receives this week's Best of the States award.

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June 28, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team exposes perilous conditions and spurs action for 250 kids at Border Patrol lockup

First word came from a trusted source cultivated by AP investigative reporter Garance Burke – Customs and Border Protection was holding 250 migrant infants and children at a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, without enough food, water or basic sanitation. “Are you available today?” the source asked, and AP swung into action.

El Paso, Texas, correspondent Cedar Attanasio met with attorneys who had just interviewed the children, while investigative reporter Martha Mendoza set to work contacting lawmakers and government officials. Burke, with the help of attorneys, found parents of the young children who were locked inside and inconsolable. The trio worked through the night, drafting a story focused on the fact that girls as young as 10 were caring for a toddler handed to them by a guard.

The story had enormous impact almost immediately. National outlets scrambled to match the story, citing AP extensively. The reporters’ next-day story was about lawmakers’ calls for change, and on Monday Mendoza and Burke again broke news: The Trump administration was moving most of the children out of Clint.

For a highly significant scoop that dominated the news cycle on multiple days and returned world attention to the border crisis, Mendoza, Burke and Attanasio win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 10, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

50-state investigation reveals arbitrary patchwork of justice for juvenile lifers

After the U.S. Supreme Court told states that juveniles who had been given mandatory life without parole sentences should get the chance to argue for their release, national writers Sharon Cohen and Adam Geller wanted to know how judges, prosecutors, lawmakers and parole boards were dealing with the inmates.

Aided by reporters in all 50 states, their exhaustive investigation showed for the first time that the high court’s mandate in 2016 to give inmates a chance at freedom is being applied inconsistently, varying from state to state, even county to county, “in a pattern that can make justice seem arbitrary.”

The resulting three-day series featured deeply reported text stories, an expansive photo report of inmates from across the country, a 16-minute audio extra, a video animation on teen brain development, a video story, and a searchable trove of state-by-state details – all hosted in a dynamic hub on APNews.com.

Cohen and Geller’s work wins this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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Jan. 15, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Riot in America: Compelling and courageous coverage of the insurrection at the US Capitol

The AP team arriving on Capitol Hill expected to cover history on Jan. 6: an unprecedented challenge from Republicans lawmakers to the outcome of the election. Within hours, however, those staffers found themselves covering an insurrectionist mob storming the U.S. Capitol.

As angry supporters of President Donald Trump descended on Capitol Hill, confronting police, breaking down barricades and smashing through windows, AP journalists working in all formats documented the chaotic scenes inside and outside the Capitol.

Despite orders to evacuate, trashed equipment and a vicious attack on one of our staffers, the team on the ground kept words and images moving throughout the day, highlighted by stunning visuals. The work continued into the early hours of the next morning, when Congress finally the certified election results.

For their riveting real-time coverage as U.S. history unfolded, the courageous and dedicated staff on Capitol Hill earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Trump on trial: AP delivers coverage for the history books

for anchoring expansive and informative coverage of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial – just the third such trial in American history. Coverage of the trial in all formats showcased the AP’s unmatched ability to meet the call of history with sharp storytelling, delivered with speed but hanging on substance. The AP’s mainbar provided a definitive account of the trial for more than three weeks running. And as lawmakers weighed the ultimate judgment on a president, journalists in Washington carefully reported the arguments in real-time while churning out informative sidebars, fact-checks and explanatory guides. The final story alone, on the Senate vote to acquit Trump, appeared on more than 200 newspaper front pages across the country, and hundreds of websites. https://bit.ly/2UQ9EcK

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Oct. 05, 2018

Best of the States

Oklahoma Republicans targeted by GOP colleague, dark money

Oklahomans widely assumed that 12 Republican state lawmakers who lost their bids for re-election came up short at the polls because of their opposition to raising pay for the state’s public school teachers.

While opposition to education funding may have been one factor in incumbent losses in the GOP primaries, Oklahoma City-based reporter Sean Murphy began hearing scuttlebutt about an organized effort from within the Republican Party to kick out incumbents from their own party.

Using campaign finance reports and solid sourcing at the Capitol, Murphy was alone in showing that the rumors were true.

Public records showed a top state House GOP leader had given money to opponents of two of his own colleagues, and the opponents unseated the incumbents. Murphy also leveraged a relationship developed over years of reporting to get the lawmaker to talk. He acknowledged a plan to punish fellow Republicans for taking hardline stances that forced a compromise with Democrats on a plan to raise taxes to pay for teacher raises.

For combining shoe-leather reporting with smart document work, Murphy wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 12, 2019

Best of the States

AP analysis: Sports betting has not been the jackpot some states expected

When the Supreme Court allowed all states to offer betting on sports, some lawmakers across the country saw an opportunity: Here was a way to bolster state budgets with revenue from an activity that was already happening in the shadows. But an AP review showed that actual tax revenue has yet to match expectations in the majority of states that legalized sports gambling.

State government team reporter Geoff Mulvihill, based in New Jersey, and Rhode Island statehouse reporter Jennifer McDermott looked through monthly state revenue reports and then compared the tax revenue generated to the original estimates in the legislation that authorized sports betting. They found that in four of the six states that legalized it last year – Rhode Island, West Virginia, Mississippi and Pennsylvania – tax revenue was far below what the state had projected it would be.

The revenue story was the latest in a string of distinctive stories from reporters working the sports betting beat. Many of the stories, including the state revenue piece, have been accompanied by a data set compiled by Mulvihill that tracks every piece of legislation related to sports gambling. It is being made available to all AP customers who subscribe to our data distribution platform and has been promoted to local reporters as a way to add context to their stories.

For revealing the difference between lawmakers’ promises on tax revenue and the reality, Mulvihill and McDermott win this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Sept. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Rescue groups tell AP: US missed hundreds still in Afghanistan

delivered the most detailed look yet into the true toll of the Americans still in Afghanistan after the U.S. pullout, fact-checking the Biden administration’s estimate that no more than 200 American citizens were left behind. Rather than take the administration’s estimate at face value, the pair reported on the independent experiences of veteran-led rescue groups and members of Congress who say the figure is too low and also overlooks hundreds of others they consider to be equally American: permanent legal residents with green cards.The leader of one volunteer group told AP that the official count of U.S. citizens is off by hundreds, and California Rep. Darrell Issa, said the calls his office is receiving lead him to estimate the true toll of U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan is about 500.As for green card holders — who have lived in the U.S. for years, paid taxes, owned property and often have children who are U.S. citizens — the true number who want to get out is in the hundreds and perhaps more than 1,000, according to rescue groups and lawmakers. San Diego reporter Watson and New York investigative reporter Condon highlighted the plight of one family of green card holders who lived in Sacramento for years and who have been texting daily with their children’s elementary school principal while trying to escape Afghanistan. “I’m loosing the hope,” texted the mother.AP’s story, with contributions from Kathy Gannon in Kabul and Matt Lee in Washington, was among the most-read on the AP News app on the Labor Day holiday weekend and was featured prominently on major news sites. https://aplink.news/3yy

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April 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP confirms details of riot timeline; Pence: ‘Clear the Capitol’

used deep source work to confirm a fascinating timeline of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Washington bureau has been breaking news constantly on the Jan. 6 attack, but when homeland security reporter Ben Fox was handed a declassified goldmine, everything changed. The multipage Pentagon timeline laid out stark details about the insurrection that no one knew — even after a series of public hearings. Among the findings: Vice President Mike Pence was the one behind the scenes working to clear the Capitol, President Donald Trump was nowhere to be found and the Pentagon had so underestimated the threat that personnel were literally running from room to room trying to figure out how to manage the increasing chaos, while top lawmakers were begging for help.The AP team set out to confirm the details before publication, digging into their networks of sources and working together to parse the story out. They received quiet assurances that the timeline was accurate. The result was an exclusive narrative that set the AP far ahead of other news outlets. MSNBC did an entire on-air segment based on AP’s reporting, the story trended on Twitter, and it was AP’s most-used story of the week, still attracting readership. https://bit.ly/3ecOSfw

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Feb. 12, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP delivers powerful multiformat coverage of fast-moving Myanmar coup

Early in the morning of Feb. 1, AP’s Yangon bureau alerted colleagues in the Bangkok regional hub of rumors that lawmakers and other elected political leaders had been arrested. With communication lines down in the capital Naypyitaw, confusion gripped other parts of the country, but an alert went out to say there were reports of a coup underway. 

Photos, video footage and detailed descriptions of the situation on the ground in Myanmar quickly followed, and were crucial in fleshing out the text story being written in Bangkok. 

That initial work under difficult conditions set the stage for strong, competitive coverage of a challenging and rapidly evolving story that continues through today. And it is that outstanding work that AP honors with the Best of the Week award.

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June 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Europe reacts to AP story as Greece uses ‘sound cannon’ at border

gave AP an exclusive look at an earsplitting sonic weapon that Greek police are using to repel migrants at the border with Turkey. While local media had reported about the so-called “sound cannon” when police received it last year, this all-formats team was the first to show it actually deployed on the border as part of Greece’s vast array of physical and experimental digital barriers aimed at preventing people from entering the European Union illegally.The story’s impact was immediate, prompting strong reactions from European politicians and human rights activists. Several European lawmakers questioned whether using a sound device against migrants was compatible with the EU’s commitment to human rights. Referring to the AP report, the European Commission expressed concern about the system and sought consultations with the Greek government over the issue.More than 40 European TV networks used the story and Gatopoulos was interviewed by Australian radio. Unable to ignore the piece, a major competitor ran a text story later in the week, with Greek police confirming their use of the sonic device.https://aplink.news/zmshttps://aplink.video/i5s

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Persistence pays off with story of bureaucrat blocking transition

wanted to know more about Emily Murphy, the little-known federal official who stalled the formal presidential transition by waiting more than two weeks to “ascertain” that Joe Biden was the apparent winner of the presidential race.Madhani reached out to every recent administrator of Muphy’s agency — the General Services Administration — as well as some lawmakers Murphy had worked for, but he wasn’t having any luck. His 10th call, a fortuitous cold call to Dave Barram, who ran the GSA during the Bush-Gore standoff in 2000, proved to be the jackpot. Madhani found Barram’s number in an online database.Barram revealed that he’d spoken with Murphy before the election to talk through how to handle ascertainment. He laid out his advice to her: “If you do the right thing, then all you have to do is live with the consequences of it.’”The call with Barram didn’t occur until late in the day, but Madhani instantly knew he had a story. He worked late to turn it around for AP’s most reader-engaged story of the day. https://bit.ly/32YG5ZQ

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