Aug. 19, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work documents Russia recruiting prisoners to fight

found sources who gave detailed accounts of covert Russian military recruitment efforts — including offers of amnesty to prisoners — to make up the manpower shortage as losses mount in Ukraine.Getting anyone to speak, even off the record, about the recruitment drive has been virtually impossible. But AP’s reporter, unnamed for their security, managed to obtain access to a Russian social network group for family members of prisoners. One woman agreed to speak privately about how her boyfriend declined the offer to fight but others accepted the offer; she said eight had died in Ukraine.Another contact, the father of a soldier, corroborated reports of hundreds of Russian soldiers refusing to fight or trying to leave the military.Read more

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March 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source: ‘You'll never believe it, we found the gun.’

delivered back-to-back scoops on the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the jail where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, that is billed as one of the most secure in America.Balsamo and Sisak first learned through sources that the jail was on lockdown because of a report of a possible gun that had been smuggled inside. Next, they had a scoop when investigators looking for the gun found contraband instead, including cellphones, narcotics and homemade weapons. The spot news died down, but they stayed focused on the story and it paid off: A source called Balsamo and said off the record: “You'll never believe it, we found the gun!” The smuggled items marked a massive breach of prison protocol and raised serious questions about the security practices in place at the Bureau of Prisons.AP’s exclusive was used by virtually every major outlet. https://bit.ly/3aRDLVW

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March 30, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP analysis: At least 19,000 in Iraq detained for terrorism, thousands sentenced to death

Prisons in Iraq held thousands of Islamic State group militants, but few outside the government knew exactly how many. Baghdad-based reporter Qassim Abdul-Zahra set out to find out – and he wasn’t going to take a rough estimate for an answer.

With Baghdad correspondent Susannah George and Mideast enterprise editor Lee Keath, Abdul-Zahara analyzed documents he obtained from a Justice Ministry official, finding that the government was holding at least 19,000 people accused of ISIS connections or other terror-related offenses and that more than 3,000 of them had been sentenced to death.

For intrepid source work and analysis to establish the facts around the imprisonment of thousands of Islamic State group militants in Iraq, Abdul-Zahra, George and Keath win Beat of the Week.

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Breaking news of top US prison official’s ouster after Epstein death

for breaking the news that the head of the long-troubled federal prison system was being removed in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide. Balsamo had been pressing sources at the Justice Department about the fate of Hugh Hurwitz, the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons. Two guards and the warden had been disciplined, but nothing was said about the senior leadership. Balsamo worked up prep in case Hurwitz resigned or was fired.

Nine days after Epstein’s death, Balsamo heard from a source who had just met with Attorney General William Barr: Barr was going to remove Hurwitz. The decision was extremely sensitive; even Hurwitz didn't know yet. Balsamo had just a brief window to break the news before it became public, but because he had the prep in place, he was able to move quickly. AP had a 650-word story before any other outlet had even sent an alert. Hurwitz’s removal quickly became one of the top stories of the day, with Balsamo’s story receiving wide play, even by some news organizations with their own Justice Department reporters. https://bit.ly/2NBYC7k

March 20, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Italy teams lead the way on coronavirus coverage despite major obstacles

As sweeping restrictions and lockdown measures rolled out across the world in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, AP’s team of staff and freelancers in Italy set an example for how to produce compelling and competitive journalism in all formats despite major challenges affecting them both professionally and personally, including the very real risk of being placed in self-quarantine for covering stories in risk zones.

Three weeks into the Italian outbreak, AP produced some of the strongest coverage yet including multiple exclusives and beats across formats. That work included: How the northern town of Codogno greatly reduced the spread of the virus, a first-person account of the lockdown’s impact on families, overwhelmed doctors drawing parallels to war-time triage, rioting at Italian prisons, residents showing solidarity from their balconies, and more.

AP’s coverage throughout the crisis in Italy has consistently won heavy play online and in print.

For resourceful, dedicated and inspired journalism under unusually demanding circumstances, the Rome and Milan bureaus receive AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP wins exclusive access to notorious federal jail in NY

secured rare access inside the federal jail in Manhattan where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, reporting first-hand about the structural mess and squalid conditions. The AP pair had previously reported that the infamous Metropolitan Correctional Center, built in the 1970s, is slated for at least temporary closure. Still, they wanted more.Previous requests had been denied, but Balsamo and Sisak relied on years of deep source work and weeks of negotiations with the Justice Department and the BOP, finally winning access inside the MCC in Manhattan and the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where a majority of the inmates will be moved.Balsamo, AP’s lead Justice Department reporter who was the first journalist to cover the resumption of federal executions, came away from MCC with details like: “One cell is off-limits because the door is now unstable — likely because of the constant pounding over the years from the prisoners inside on the cinder block walls.” New York-based law enforcement reporter Sisak also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and judicial orders that detailed the conditions inmates had faced and researched the history of the building.The result was a vividly written and reported exclusive unmatched by any other news agency. The story was picked up by New York media and news outlets across the country. https://aplink.news/xck

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April 01, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

F1 races in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia; AP raises human rights

continues to hold Formula One accountable for racing in countries where human rights are routinely trampled. While covering the exceptionally intense and challenging kickoff to the F1 racing season in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Pugmire, AP’s Paris-based auto racing writer, held exclusive interviews with a released torture survivor and the 12-year-old son of a man on death row, and pressured Formula One heavyweights to advocate for human rights in both countries.Pugmire’s persistence led seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to tell him, “You sure don’t make it easy for me.” To which Pugmire replied, “That’s because you’re the only one who doesn’t duck questions.” In the private conversation that followed, the two shared experiences of meeting released prisoners, and Hamilton complimented Pugmire on his commitment to the issue. Read more

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Sept. 16, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Hawaiian seafood caught by foreign crews confined on boats

AP’s Martha Mendoza, an investigative reporter based in Bangkok, and Margie Mason, medical writer in Jakarta, found that hundreds of undocumented men, many from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific nations, work in this U.S. fishing fleet. They have no visas and aren't protected by basic labor laws because of a loophole passed by Congress.

A story detailing the men’s plight, by Mendoza and Mason, resulted from a tip following their award-winning Seafood from Slaves investigation last year. It earns the Beat of the Week.

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