April 19, 2019

Best of the States

FOIA checklist enables reporter to break news in case of missing boy’s impostor

Knowing what information can be obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs) from various public agencies is critical to breaking news. And keeping a checklist of those information gold mines is key to accessing that knowledge, Columbus, Ohio-based reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins has found.

Welsh-Huggins used those skills to great effect in the case of the man accused of pulling a cruel hoax by pretending to be a long-missing Illinois boy. The story captured the nation’s attention and set reporters in motion trying to flesh out the background of a 23-year-old ex-con who Ohio authorities say faked being Timmothy Pitzen. Pitzen was 6 years old when he disappeared in 2011.

Welsh-Huggins’ checklist for enterprise off the news includes FOIAs to all agencies a suspect has had contact with. He filed a FOIA with the Ohio corrections department to obtain access to the disciplinary records of suspect Brian Rini, knowing from experience that the agency would release them.

A few days later the agency handed him 15 disciplinary reports showing that Rini was someone who liked to fabricate stories – including things as mundane as being short of toilet paper and as serious as being raped by a guard.

The AP was alone with the story, which got strong play in Ohio and across the country.

For using his knowledge of FOIA to break news on this highly competitive story, Welsh-Huggins wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Aug. 25, 2017

Best of the States

The Future of Work: US adding factory jobs, but there's a catch

It’s well-known that many U.S. factory jobs have been shipped overseas or automated out of existence. What’s not so well-known is that American manufacturing is no longer shrinking. Factories have actually added nearly a million jobs in the past seven years.

But the jobs have changed: The new ones generally require advanced education, technological know-how or specialized skills to survive in what are now highly automated workplaces. Yet training opportunities are limited, particularly for older workers.

Cincinnati correspondent Dan Sewell and photographer John Minchillo pinpointed this uneasy mix in southwestern Ohio and proposed an immersive multimedia story to illuminate the trend for readers and viewers. Collaborating with Washington business writer Chris Rugaber, video-first reporter Mike Householder and others, they produced a multifaceted package that made full use of the AP’s global reach, earning this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Dec. 13, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Named violent crime laws underrepresent black victims

for a package that demonstrated how the vast majority of violent crime laws named for victims carry the names of white victims. With no databases available, Smyth did painstaking research with the help of other statehouse reporters, and the team reported a powerful story about one black middle-school student who was murdered, but for whom no law is named. https://bit.ly/34h6WOzhttps://bit.ly/2siKNCb

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Sept. 09, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP multiformat pair gains access to Midwest abortion clinics, documents one woman’s procedure

Two of the most challenging aspects of covering the ongoing abortion story in the U.S. are getting inside abortion clinics and telling the stories of women who have decided to end their pregnancies. So it was significant when two AP journalists gained exclusive access to a pair of abortion clinics — and to a woman who allowed them to follow her through the entire abortion process.

Medical writer Lindsey Tanner used her sources to find a clinic in Ohio sending patients to Indiana, where tighter abortion restrictions were still weeks away. She and video journalist Patrick Orsagos saw both clinics in operation, and they documented —with sensitivity and candor — patient Monica Eberhart’s experience, from her morning routine to the clinic room during her abortion. The resulting package delicately wove together Eberhart’s story with others who are navigating the ever-changing state laws on abortion.

For access and reporting that bought a rare and timely perspective to the issue of abortion, Tanner and Orsagos earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Sept. 30, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Families, advocates want more say in $40B opioid settlements

teamed up to tally total opioid settlements in the U.S., then used the onset of that spending to anchor a story around families and others seeking a voice in how the money is used.State government reporter Mulvihill worked with data reporter Harjai to arrive at total settlements — proposed and finalized — of more than $40 billion so far, breaking it down by state. Mulvihill and Ohio reporter Hendrickson then sensitively interviewed advocates and affected loved ones on the front lines of loss, delivering a forward-looking story on how the settlement money might be spent and who gets a say in those decisions.Read more

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May 05, 2017

Best of the States

Witnessing death: AP reporters describe problem executions

The last of four executions carried out by Arkansas in April highlighted concerns about the drug midazolam. The sedative has been adopted by many states in recent years as part of their lethal injection protocol in place of barbiturates and anesthetics no longer available because manufacturers don't want them used in executions.

How did that midazolam execution compare to others, some in other states, where problems were alleged?

It was a question the AP – with its nationwide profile – was uniquely positioned to answer. For its depth of coverage, the multi-state AP team wins this week's Best of States award.

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Oct. 21, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Conservative PACs target local school board races

analyzed how national conservative groups have targeted school board races that more typically have been sleepier, civil affairs. The reporting was built on research Carr Smyth began in 2021, looking at national conservative groups’ involvement in school board recruitment and candidate training seminars around the country.By reviewing campaign finance filings, education reporter Binkley and Columbus, Ohio-based reporter Carr Smyth revealed that one group — the 1776 Project PAC — has spent millions to support conservative candidates in multiple states.The story, capturing how national money and attention has changed the tenor of many of these local races, detailed how many Republicans are seizing on “parental rights” and accusing incumbents of “grooming” and “indoctrination” as a tactic to unseat Democrats.Read more

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Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP launches ‘Looking for America’ series with an immersive trip into Appalachia

Assignments don’t come much more challenging or ambitious: Take a road trip across the nation to see how Americans in different regions and are facing the confluence of COVID-19, economic meltdown, racial protests and a tumultuous presidential election. The first installment of the project had to both launch the series and hold its own as a story, and this AP all-formats team came through beautifully.

The story focuses on Ohio communities in the much-maligned Appalachian region, thoughtfully acknowledging both the truths and the enduring stereotypes so often associated with it. The resulting package resonated for days with readers.

For compelling journalism that speaks to core issues affecting Americans in a turbulent year, the team of enterprise reporter Tim Sullivan, enterprise photographer Maye-E Wong and video journalist Noreen Nasir earns AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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March 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: Manufacturers of generic opioids fueled crisis

delivered a fast, smart follow-up after U.K.-based Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals announced a U.S. settlement over its role in the opioid epidemic. The team’s analysis revealed that Mallinckrodt and one other generic drug manufacturer were responsible for the vast majority of high-dosage prescription painkillers – billions of generic pills – distributed throughout the U.S. during the height of the opioid epidemic. https://bit.ly/2IoXuQG

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Feb. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Wrestler goes public with abuse charges; AP gets the interview

Kantele Franko, reporter, Columbus, Ohio; Larry Lage, sports writer, Detroit; and Thomas Peipert, reporter, Denver, for nimble coordination across three regions to secure an all-formats interview with the first athlete – Olympic wrestler Andy Hrovat – to make public accusations of sexual abuse against now-deceased Dr. Robert Anderson of the University of Michigan.https://bit.ly/2HZ8m7Ghttps://bit.ly/2PwPH7j

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP breaks news on the opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma, with focus on victims

AP reporters from three different teams broke distinctive, significant stories on the continuing drug overdose crisis in the U.S., which has been overshadowed this year by the coronavirus pandemic:

— A state-level report showing that overdose deaths are on pace to reach an all-time high this year, and that overdoses increased after the virus began spreading in the U.S.— An accountability story on President Donald Trump’s handling of the opioid crisis, and how the issue has been overlooked in the presidential race.— A major scoop on a settlement between the federal government and Purdue Pharma, complete with details of criminal charges and the $8 billion settlement. 

But the depth of coverage didn’t end with the major news beats. All three stories put victims at the center of the reporting. 

For revealing stories that broke news and provided a powerful reminder of an ongoing epidemic that has contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans, Mike Stobbe, Adrian Sainz, Farnoush Amiri, Geoff Mulvihill, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Balsamo win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP profiles some of the US jobless facing cutoff of aid

teamed up, giving voice to some of the millions of Americans whose unemployment benefits will run out by year’s end unless Congress reverses course and decides to act. The joint effort between Business News and AP’s Report for America state government reporters combined sensitive field reporting and expert handling of the most relevant data, producing a people-focused all-formats piece that highlights the human cost of government inaction as the virus surges anew amid a faltering job market.https://bit.ly/37OBcnzhttps://bit.ly/2LrfwXj

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Oct. 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP data analysis finds poor mail delivery in battleground states

revealed that Postal Service districts across the nation are missing the agency’s own standards for on-time delivery as tens of millions of Americans prepare to vote by mail – and the lag times are especially pronounced in key regions of some battleground states.Postal Service delivery times, some of them obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, indicate that the district covering Detroit and the eastern third of Michigan, the part of the state that is being most heavily contested politically, has the worst on-time delivery in the nation. Regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania show similar underperformance. In fact, the data showed that no Postal Service region is meeting the agency’s target of delivering more than 95% of first-class mail within five days. https://bit.ly/2GecGlX

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Jan. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP delivers stirring stories, fact check on I-95 shutdown

teamed up on quick, resourceful coverage of the massive gridlock on Virginia’s snowbound Interstate 95, reporting in all formats on the plight of stranded drivers while fact-checking state officials in real time.With the highway virtually inaccessible, journalists Gallion, Kunzelman, Walker and Finley used social media to land interviews with stranded motorists who waited hours for food, saw little in the way of law enforcement and struggled to conserve fuel amid frigid overnight temperatures.Richmond reporter Rankin, meanwhile, interviewed Virginia’s governor, pressing him on why he hadn’t activated the National Guard ahead of the storm. Photographer Helber delivered aerial images showing hundreds still stranded more than 24 hours in, important documentation as the state refused to estimate how many were trapped.The result was a mainbar, deftly assembled by Richmond’s Lavoie from a variety of feeds, racking up heavy play and readership numbers. A sidebar by Finley on one family’s plight kept also scored high reader engagement. Many Virginia news outlets used AP’s content as their top online offering. In a follow-up, Rankin and Springfield, Virginia, correspondent Matt Barakat reported on early missteps in the state and county response. With help from AP reporters in Ohio, New Jersey, Oregon and Georgia, the piece also recapped similar incidents elsewhere to evaluate Virginia’s handling. Other news organizations couldn’t easily or quickly match the story, demonstrating AP’s unique reach.https://aplink.news/8kihttps://aplink.news/egxhttps://aplink.news/3r6https://aplink.news/1cchttps://aplink.video/kq2https://aplink.video/yiq

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Sept. 23, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds Trump embracing QAnon in social media, rallies

revealed that former President Donald Trump’s social media posts have regularly amplified QAnon, a platform for baseless conspiracy theories.New York-based Swenson had noticed a pattern of Trump referencing QAnon in his online posts. She and Klepper, both of whom report on disinformation, then began monitoring the activity; they found that far from distancing himself from a false narrative, Trump embraced it, publishing dozens of recent QAnon-related posts and evoking the movement at rallies.Read more

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March 31, 2017

Best of the States

Coal ash: "Why would we be importing it?"

AP Richmond reporter Sarah Rankin learned from a state lawmaker that Chinese coal ash was being imported into Virginia, despite millions of tons of ash already stored near power plants, threatening surface and ground water with contamination by heavy metals. Like other states, Virginia is struggling with how to dispose of its existing waste.

Her story pinpointed where the overseas ash was coming from: China, India and Poland over the past two years. While the foreign shipments of the industrial byproduct were moving through Virginia to Wisconsin and Ohio, interviews with concrete producers and coal ash recyclers and sellers showed more ash was being imported into Virginia from other states.

One environmentalist raised the irony of the situation: "We have millions of tons of this sitting along our riverbanks. Why in the world would we be importing it from other states and countries?"

For exposing a problematic industry practice with statewide environmental and health implications, Rankin's story wins this week's Best of the States.

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