Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Back-to-back scoops on US oil execs jailed in Venezuela

used months of source development and dogged reporting to break two same-day scoops for AP on the sensitive case of six U.S. oil executives who have spent the last three years jailed in Venezuela on charges of corruption and embezzlement.

Denied access to the men’s trial, Smith met regularly with their attorneys, sent a letter to the “Citgo 6” and was put in touch with the family of Tomeu Vadell, one of the jailed men.

His persistence led to two news breaks: the release of an exclusive letter by Vadell — the first words by any of the men since their 2017 arrest — and later that day, the judge’s decision finding them guilty of corruption. https://bit.ly/3ogHwuE

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Dec. 08, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reveals how dirty US fuel byproduct contributes to India’s dangerously polluted air

Oil extracted from the tar sands of Canada has contributed to booming production among American refineries, but it also has created a messy legacy: Ton upon ton of a filthy byproduct called petroleum coke. U.S. utilities don’t want it because of its extremely high sulfur content, leaving refineries with one option – getting rid of it – because stockpiling had stirred community outcries. Tammy Webber, a Chicago-based reporter with the environmental beat team, wondered: If refineries couldn’t offload the substance in the U.S., what were they doing with it?

Through a year’s worth of detective work, Webber and her beat team colleague in New Delhi, Katy Daigle, traced the shadowy network that trades in oil refineries' bottom-of-the-barrel leftovers. They found that India was the leading destination of “petcoke” from the U.S., and Indian officials had no idea the amount of petcoke flowing into the country was 20 times more than just six years before. Nor did they know how it was being used in a country already choking on some of the world’s dirtiest air.

Within 24 hours of the story hitting the wire, India’s government announced it would phase out imports of petcoke and had begun working on a policy to end the practice.

For revealing the secretive transport of petroleum coke from the U.S. to one of the world’s most polluted countries, and for drawing an immediate reaction from the government of India, Webber and Daigle win this week’s Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 04, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigation: Thousands of environmental waivers granted amid pandemic

When the Trump administration waived enforcement of environmental protections because of the pandemic, a former EPA administrator called it a “license to pollute,” while public health officials told AP that it would be difficult to determine the impact.

At that, five AP reporters around the country embarked on a two-month, brute force effort to wrest loose state data on the suspended regulations.

They found more than 3,000 instances of environmental waivers to oil and gas companies, government facilities and other operations, with nationwide implications for public health. 

For deep reporting and painstaking analysis to document the potential consequences of relaxed environmental regulation, the team of Knickmeyer, Bussewitz, Flesher, Brown and Casey wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 24, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sky-high reporting and smart use of all formats puts AP ahead amid Persian Gulf tensions

As tensions between Iran, its neighbors and the United States ratcheted up last week, AP’s staff in Baghdad, Dubai and Tehran turned out aggressive, yet cautious coverage, bringing facts and unique perspectives to the tense and escalating situation in the Persian Gulf, often well ahead of the competition.

Those stories included reports of “sabotaged” oil tankers off the coast of the UAE, and AP broke the news that Iran had quadrupled its uranium enrichment.

Meanwhile, AP’s Tehran team produced an all-formats piece on the mood of people on the city’s streets that could not be matched by competitors, and AP was first to report an FAA warning that Iran could misidentify commercial flights in the region.

AP was also aggressive on related developments, ensuring that clients had video and text coverage of tweets by President Donald Trump and Iranian officials.

For smart judgment, planning and effective use of AP’s resources to break news and bring facts to a region on edge, the team of Jon Gambrell, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Mehdi Fattahi, Bassem Mroue, Nasser Karimi and Vahid Salemi wins AP's Best of the Week, with the support of their colleagues and contributors in the region.

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Jan. 19, 2018

Best of the States

Strong sourcing, teamwork put AP ahead on offshore drilling news

For Tallahassee reporter Gary Fineout, the first day of the legislative session began with the usual pomp and circumstance, and Gov. Rick Scott’s annual state of the state speech. From there it took a quick turn.

A source in Scott’s office called Fineout at around 4 p.m. to say that Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke would be flying in from Atlanta to meet with the governor – and both would be willing to talk to the media afterward. Fineout immediately emailed Matthew Daly in Washington, who covers Interior, and who had tapped into a key political problem in the Trump administration' recently announced offshore drilling plan: Republican governors were not on board.

At around 6 p.m. Zinke and Scott strode through Tallahassee’s small airport and dropped the news that Florida would be removed from the administration’s oil drilling plan. Before the two officials stopped talking, Fineout emailed Daly in D.C. to let him know the news that would soon create a torrent of criticism from other states that oppose the oil drilling plan. By the time Fineout got back to his car in the parking lot, Daly was moving the news alert.

Daly and Fineout’s model of teamwork put AP so far ahead some in the competition didn’t bother to catch up. For their initiative and coordinated effort to give AP an important beat, Fineout and Daly share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Aug. 05, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Innovative AP team sheds light on methane ‘super emitters’ — invisible and virtually unregulated

It’s difficult to write a compelling story about a highly technical subject, harder still to produce a rich visual package on a literally invisible threat — but this all-formats AP team rose to the challenge, delivering an engaging package on “super emitters” of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

The journalists took the coordinates of 533 known sites along the Texas-New Mexico border and painstakingly cross-referenced them with public documents to piece together the corporations most likely responsible. And because methane is invisible, AP used a specialized infrared camera to make mesmerizing still and video images of the gas spewing into the sky.

The package, as distinctive as it is alarming, received heavy play and readership, and had impact: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was launching an enforcement action.

For smart, innovative journalism, and above all teamwork, Michael Biesecker, Helen Wieffering, David Goldman, Mike Pesoli and Dario Lopez earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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July 20, 2018

Best of the States

AP investigation: Pence family’s failed gas station empire cost taxpayers millions to clean up

Indianapolis correspondent Brian Slodysko’s investigative story started from one sentence buried in a news release. It said that the public was paying for environmental cleanup at a contaminated petroleum storage site in Indianapolis that Vice President Mike Pence’s family abandoned after their gas station empire went bankrupt in 2004. The release didn’t mention Pence, just Kiel Brothers.

After attending a demolition celebration, where he photographed a crew tearing down a massive tank that had long-blighted a neighborhood, Slodysko worked over the coming months to detail how extensive contamination from the business was – and quantify the public cost.

The result: Indiana taxpayers paid more than $21 million to clean up after the company, in all likelihood a conservative figure because many of the documents were redacted, missing or incomplete.

But cost alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Slodysko’s review of public records showed that the Pence family business – which was run by Mike Pence’s older brother Greg, who is now running for Congress – repeatedly received favorable treatment from the state.

The story ran, or was teased, on the front page of at least eight Indiana papers, including the Indianapolis Star, which ran the story and photo across the top. It was also featured on the website of the Columbus Republic, Mike Pence’s hometown newspaper.

For an investigation that revealed the millions of tax dollars used to clean up more than 85 contaminated sites in three states, Slodysko earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 01, 2019

Best of the States

Trump rollbacks benefit fossil fuel industry but carry steep cost

Over the past two years, the Trump administration has relentlessly moved to relax or repeal major environmental and safety rules for the fossil fuels industry to further its energy goals. Each change was reported by news outlets, including the AP. But Billings, Montana, correspondent and environment team member Matthew Brown decided to look more deeply into the highly touted savings to industry as well as the societal costs.

Brown painstakingly examined 11 major rules targeted by Trump’s administration, wading through many thousands of pages of government documents. Brown identified $11.6 billion in potential savings for companies that produce, use and transport fossil fuels, with billions more expected from a freeze of vehicle fuel efficiency standards that will hike fuel consumption.

But Brown also discovered that those savings will come at a steep cost, including more premature deaths and illnesses from air pollution, increased greenhouse gas emissions and additional derailments of trains carrying explosive fuels.

His Only on AP story ran on front pages of at least 16 newspapers and on numerous web sites. The Washington Post displayed both the main-bar the accompanying glance.

For in-depth reporting and comprehensive accounting of the administration’s actions on important environmental and safety issues, Brown wins this week’s Best of the States.

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June 21, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Smart, resourceful effort yields scoop on crew of stricken tanker

for using their years of experience in Dubai to get around restrictions, sending exclusive video, photos and text as the crew of an oil tanker that had been attacked in the Gulf of Oman arrived in the city-state. Advised by correspondent Nasser Karimi that there was only one flight the crew could take from Iran, Gambrell and Abuelgasim rushed to Dubai’s airport, leaving their gear in the car to avoid the attention of authorities. When the sailors arrived the pair sprang into action, shooting photos and video with their iPhones as the crew left the airport.https://bit.ly/2L0D96thttps://bit.ly/2ZwjjUM

Sept. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Distinctive reporting gives voice to fastest-growing US county

upended stereotypes with a deeply textured, intimate examination of a North Dakota community transformed by sudden growth.As part of the AP's ongoing coverage of the 2020 Census, Montana-based Brown went to McKenzie County, North Dakota — the center of the western oil boom and the fastest-growing county in the U.S. — to examine the impact of dramatic growth on a sleepy community on the western prairie. He charted the growth through the eyes of the people, from the old-timers who remembered riding horses through fields now lined with housing developments and oil wells, to newcomers finding their way into the fabric of the community.The story that emerged in Brown’s evocative words and photos came as something of a counternarrative to preconceived notions about how divided Americans are from one another. As revealed in graphics by Francois Duckett, a significant portion of McKenzie County’s newcomers are Hispanic, but many of those Brown interviewed described being embraced by the locals: the new restaurant owner helped along by customers who responded during the pandemic, or a transplanted family touched by the small-town charm of friendly faces saying hello in the grocery store.Brown’s nuanced reporting and writing gave his story a compelling narrative arc and showed the value of going to see firsthand what happens when a community is confronted with dramatic growth. https://aplink.news/bea

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Dec. 17, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: US envoy secretly visited Venezuela on hostage mission

combined sleuthing and great source reporting to break a story that the Biden administration was trying to keep secret: that the U.S. government's top hostage negotiator was secretly visiting Venezuela as part of an ongoing effort to secure the release of jailed Americans, including American oil executives known as the Citgo 6.The AP pair has followed the case since the 2017 detention of the oil executives. When Latin America correspondent Goodman learned that a U.S. government flight was traveling toward Venezuela, he flagged it to Washington-based national security reporter Tucker, who quickly confirmed with sources that the plane was carrying Roger Carstens, the U.S. government’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. They spent the next several days reporting the details of Carstens’ visit. Goodman pressed multiple sources to learn Carstens visited American detainees behind bars and had also met with aides to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.Tucker, who has a history of reporting on hostage and detainee cases, then landed an exclusive interview with Carstens after he was safely out of Venezuela. The envoy shared first-hand details of his visit with the prisoners.The result was a vivid tale of the first known face-to-face outreach in Venezuela by a senior U.S. official since at least 2019. It earned widespread attention from CNN, which gave AP prominent credit, and other major news outlets. The story was even bigger in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin and South America. And while others eventually reported their own stories, they did not get Carstens. His lone interview was with AP. https://aplink.news/i7u

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June 17, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Even the competition uses AP’s interview with new Sri Lankan PM

used perseverance and preparation to land a timely, news-making interview with Sri Lanka's newly appointed prime minister. AP’s Asia team had pressed for an interview as soon as Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed prime minister for a sixth time, faced with a disastrous economic crisis that has nearly bankrupted the country.Once the interview was secured, the team strategized on how to make it stand out and break news. The careful planning paid off, delivering to a timely, news-making interview with Wickremesinghe saying that as his nation hunts desperately for fuel, he’d be willing to buy more Russian oil despite pressure to isolate Moscow.The story earned widespread international play and credits, and even a major competitor took the rare step of citing AP in its own story.Read more

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Dec. 01, 2016

Best of the States

US moves to block mining near Yellowstone

The Obama administration is racing in its final days to keep industry out of natural and environmentally sensitive areas throughout the U.S. West, where the incoming Trump administration has raised fears of loosened regulations on federal lands.

Billings, Montana Correspondent Matt Brown _ who has an acute sense of the value in reporting on land out West _ has broken news repeatedly to keep the AP ahead.

Brown is deeply sourced with federal interior officials and consistently checks in with them. He was working on a story week about officials canceling oil and gas leases on land near Glacier National Park that's considered sacred to tribes – also an APNewsBreak – when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell mentioned she was coming back to Montana in a week.

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Oct. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

‘Wrenching’ exclusive: Grim consequences of Tigray siege

drew from a dozen exclusive interviews, plus photos and video from sources in Mekele, the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, to paint the most personal and detailed portrait yet of life under a deadly government blockade.The increasing death and deprivation in the Tigray region have been largely hidden from the world. But Anna and Curtis in Nairobi, and two stringers based in Ethiopia — unnamed for their security — obtained interviews with Mekele residents, internal aid documents and rare images showing children suffering from malnutrition and lack of medications.Using fragile periods of limited internet connectivity to the region otherwise cut off from communications, they spoke with suffering parents, university lecturers, a Catholic priest and others for details that made the story widely used and shared: A woman who killed herself because she was no longer able to feed her children, desperate people going directly from an aid distribution site to the roadside to sell humanitarian items, the flour and oil for Communion bread soon to run out. “Gut-wrenching ... It was as if you had managed to make it to Tigray,” one reader commented.Last month, the AP was first to report on deaths from starvation under the blockade, but this story showed the wider ravages of the lack of medication, fuel and cash. The director general of the World Health Organization tweeted the story to his 1.5 million followers, just one of several high-profile shares. https://aplink.news/d3l

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Nov. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, expertise deliver latest scoop on Venezuela corruption case

used strong sourcing, along with prep work and his deep knowledge of the federal court system, to snag a court filing before a judge ordered it redacted, giving Goodman his second major scoop in as many weeks in the case of a top U.S. corruption target from Venezuela.Latin America correspondent Goodman has spent years painstakingly covering the shady dealings between Alex Saab and Venezuela’s socialist government. But when the Colombian-born businessman was finally extradited to Miami last month, media interest surged, with 300 journalists attending his first court appearance.Goodman, the must-read reporter on corruption in Venezuela, beat all the competition with a major discovery: Saab, who has repeatedly sworn loyalty to President Nicolás Maduro, had been betraying the Venezuelan government for years in secret meetings with U.S. law enforcement. Goodman had previously heard about the meetings from off-the-record sources, but here they were described in a court record that gave him cover to publish. Only Goodman, an ace on the labyrinthine federal courts record system, knew what to look for and could find it before a federal judge removed the document from the docket. Other news organizations were left scrambling to match the AP story.This latest scoop followed Goodman’s recent reporting that Maduro’s government had quietly offered to swap six imprisoned American oil executives for Saab in a secret Mexico City meeting with a Trump administration envoy and controversial Blackwater founder Erik Prince. https://aplink.news/rix

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Dec. 08, 2016

Best of the States

Digging in for winter at Dakota Access pipeline protest

The Associated Press has aggressively covered the Dakota Access pipeline since even before construction began on the four-state pipeline to carry oil from North Dakota. The AP tracked the approval process and then was there every step of the way as the project spawned demonstrations from Native Americans and others who set up protest camps by the pipeline’s final piece near the Missouri River, saying construction would damage cultural artifacts and that a pipeline leak could pollute tribal water supplies. In the past few months, the AP has had coverage almost every day.

While Bismarck staffer James MacPherson had covered the story cross-format with the help of colleagues, a visually-focused enterprise project was in the works for December, bringing in staff from afar to provide video and photo elements of the largest camp to accompany a piece that was to explore the protest in the context of other issues being faced by Native Americans now and into the Trump administration. On Friday, Nov. 25, the news forced us to speed up our timeline for visuals as the Army Corps of Engineers gave a Dec. 5 deadline for protesters to get off the land.

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