Aug. 19, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: DEA appeared to intervene after off-duty shooting by agent

investigated a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent’s deadly shooting of a mentally ill neighbor in Mississippi, revealing new details that raise questions about why the agent never faced trial on a murder charge — and the role played by DEA brass to quickly insert themselves into the case, blocking local authorities from talking to the agent.Mustian exclusively obtained hundreds of pages of investigative documents and transcripts, and spent days on the ground interviewing people with knowledge of the case for a story that questions the justification for the shooting, how Agent Harold Duane Poole avoided trial and whether the DEA overreached to protect one of its own amid a flurry of misconduct cases in the agency.Read more

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Nov. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Poignant story of daughter’s caregiving for oldest WWII veteran

chronicled the struggle to care for Lawrence Brooks, who at 112 is now the oldest American World War II veteran.The story came about after Deep South correspondent Rebecca Santana received an email about a GoFundMe set up to help Brooks’ daughter care for him. Willingham’s sensitive and respectful reporting style helped establish a level of trust with Vanessa Brooks, who eventually felt comfortable telling her father’s story and she struggles to care for him. The result was a touching tribute to a daughter doing her best in cificult circumstances.Willingham is a corps member in Jackson, Mississippi, for the AP/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Her story, accompanied by Kathleen Flynn’s intimate photos of Brooks and his daughter at home, received strong online play and was featured prominently in The Atlanta Journal Constitution print edition. https://aplink.news/tjr

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Oct. 23, 2016

Best of the States

Jailed without a Judge: AP reporter tells the story of woman jailed for months without due process

Reporter Jeff Amy in Jackson, Mississippi, often combs through recent federal court decisions, upcoming cases and random filings. Every once in a while that produces a whopper of a story. The story of Jessica Jauch, who was jailed for 96 days in Mississippi without seeing a judge, getting a lawyer or having a chance to make bail, was the result of such legwork.

“Oh, my God,” he thought, as he pored over court documents that laid out, in great detail how Jauch was charged with a felony based on a secretly recorded video and how when she finally got a hearing and prosecutors watched the video _ in which she committed no crime _ the case fell apart.

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Nimble AP journalists deliver unmatched Hurricane Sally coverage

scrambled to provide timely coverage of Hurricane Sally. The storm was expected to hit Mississippi as a low-level hurricane, but at the last minute swung sharply to the east, forcing the AP team to regroup. Reeves and Herbert left Gulfport and hopscotched over Alabama to Pensacola, Florida. Wang stayed in Mobile while Plaisance moved from Louisiana to the Mississippi coast.Their flexibility meant unmatched coverage of the surprisingly strong storm. With the idea of getting photos to the wire fast, Herbert shot some pre-dawn pictures before the flooding could be assessed. When the sun rose, he stepped out of his hotel and took a series of photos that ended up defining the storm, the lead images on the apps for both the The New York Times and The Washington Post. Reeves gathered color to tell the stories of those impacted. Wang and Plaisance sent video that accounted for seven of the top 20 most used pieces of the week.https://bit.ly/32RAParhttps://bit.ly/2G578K3https://bit.ly/2RW4BVbhttps://bit.ly/3kzWSschttps://bit.ly/3hXvOS2https://bit.ly/33SW37c

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May 05, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

At middle-of-the-night removal of Confederate statue in New Orleans, AP offers exclusive

AP’s race and ethnicity beat writer Jesse J. Holland was on vacation in Mississippi when a source called with a tip: New Orleans’ mayor was ordering the removal of the first of four Confederate-related statues in the middle of the night to avoid a racially-charged scene in the city.

Holland’s quick work to negotiate an exclusive on the monument’s removal, including an interview with the mayor, and photographer Gerald Herbert’s dramatic pre-dawn photos and video, earn the Beat of the Week.

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July 08, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: FBI investigating abuse by New Orleans clergy

reported exclusively that the FBI has opened a sweeping probe into sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in New Orleans, marking a rare federal foray into such a case, looking specifically at whether priests took children across state lines to molest them.Mustian’s scoop, based on law enforcement authorities and others familiar with the probe, marked a major shift in strategy for federal authorities, who have rarely opened investigations into the Catholic clergy abuse scandals, particularly cases built around the Mann Act, a century-old, anti-sex trafficking law that prohibits taking anyone across state lines for illicit sex.Mustian’s detailed reporting found that many of the cases the FBI is probing in New Orleans allege abuse by clergy during out-of-state trips, including to Mississippi camps or amusement parks in Texas and Florida.Read more

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April 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: States passing tough abortion laws often have weak social programs

collaborated with a team of AP state reporters on an analysis of federal data, finding that states passing the toughest abortion restrictions are generally the most challenging places for people to have and raise children. With the U.S. Supreme Court widely expected to roll back abortion rights later this year, the data and reporting revealed a weak network of social services in many of these states for women who become pregnant and may be unable to obtain an abortion.AP’s analysis, led by data journalists Fassett and Lo, looked at seven social safety net measurements collected by the federal government; visualized in an engaging interactive by the data team’s Gorman. The reporting team, led by Utah statehouse reporter Whitehurst, interviewed parents, researchers and nonprofit groups that provide support to pregnant people, new parents, infants and young children. And while the data overwhelming showed that Republican-controlled states with strict abortion laws performed the worst on these social services, the reporting also came with the important caveat that a few Democratically controlled states with more permissive abortion laws also measured poorly in some categories.Read more

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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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Sept. 27, 2019

Best of the States

AP investigation shines light on dark side of CBD craze

Responding to AP’s call for ambitious journalism in 2019, Holbrook “Bert” Mohr of the U.S. investigative team tossed out an idea during a brainstorming session: Authorities in Mississippi had found vapes containing fentanyl and synthetic marijuana in stores near Mohr’s home. What caught his eye was that the product was labeled as CBD. 

That led to a collaboration by the Investigations and the Health and Science teams that would offer not just the exclusive results of laboratory testing — finding cheap and illegal synthetic marijuana instead of natural CBD in vapes and edibles — but also telling details about the people who bring dangerous products to market. 

The “Spiked CBD” package broke through. It was easily the top story on AP Mobile, and Mohr’s bylined story appeared on the front page of at least 23 newspapers; it was teased on the front of nearly 100 others. 

For identifying and leading a collaborative investigative project that connected with customers and readers, Mohr receives this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AWOL weapons: ’Explosive’ investigation of missing military ordnance

expanded AP’s “AWOL Weapons” investigation, revealing how explosives are lost or stolen from the U.S. armed services, sometimes with deadly consequences.When AP reported in June that the U.S. military couldn’t account for all its firearms, the team knew there was more to uncover. Their latest installment reports that hundreds (if not thousands) of armor-piercing grenades and hundreds of pounds of plastic explosives also vanished.AP’s investigation was built on data the team extracted from the military, and which data editor Myers marshaled for analysis. Investigative reporter LaPorta filed the original Freedom of Information Act request with the Marines, obtaining data that was crucial to framing the scope of the problem, while video journalist Hall and investigative reporter Pritchard used exclusive investigative case files to detail how troops stole plastic explosives. At a major Marine base a sergeant hoarded C4 because he feared Donald Trump would lose; after another insider theft, explosives ended up with high school kids.Hall found a man who survived the explosion of an artillery shell at the Mississippi recycling yard where he worked. His co-worker died. That emotional interview alone drew more than 56,000 Twitter views. Combined with exclusive interrogation footage of Marines, video journalists Serginho Roosblad and Jeannie Ohm wove together a compelling video package using interviews by colleagues Stacey Plaisance and Robert Bumsted. Senior researcher Jennifer Farrar also contributed.The online presentation by Raghu Vadarevu, Natalie Castañeda and Peter Hamlin took the distinctive visual language they previously developed for the series and gave it even more impact. Thanks also to the expert wordsmithing of editor Jerry Schwartz and a well-conceived social media plan by audience engagement specialist Elise Ryan, the package scored over 130,000 views on AP News, more than double other top stories. The story also generated media buzz, including a prominent interview with Hall by CNBC’s Shepard Smith.https://aplink.news/xjghttps://aplink.news/d7yhttps://aplink.video/xnn

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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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Jan. 01, 2021

Best of the States

AP finds hurricane-battered Louisiana residents struggling, enduring months later

Ever since Hurricane Laura hit southwest Louisiana in August, correspondent Rebecca Santana and photographer Gerald Herbert wanted to follow up with the region’s residents. But in a busy hurricane season, it wasn’t until December that plans finally came together. 

Santana researched for weeks, finding subjects and learning about recovery efforts. The pair then spent two days in the Lake Charles area where they saw the devastation firsthand and met storm victims, including a couple whose postponed wedding was finally happening. Herbert, who also shot the video for the stories, went back to Lake Charles eight times, even sleeping in a gutted house on Christmas Eve.

The result was two print stories, three video packages and a photo essay, all of which received prominent play. For uncovering the compelling stories of hurricane victims months after the storms faded from the headlines, Santana and Herbert earn AP’s Best of the States award for the week of Dec. 21.

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