Dec. 18, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats team tells the shared story of rural Missouri churches, immigrants, adversity and faith

It’s a story of two churches in rural Missouri, only 30 miles apart — and worlds apart. 

One congregation is mostly white, while the other offers services in five languages with members from around the world. The pandemic has united them, with pastors meeting to support each other, share ideas and figure out how to continue ministering to this region hit disproportionately by the coronavirus.

The team of national writer David Crary, youth and religion reporter Luis Andres Henao and video journalist Jessie Wardarski earned the trust of residents to produce an intimate all-formats story, revealing diverse Midwestern communities that aren't famous but are integral to the nation’s identity.

For compelling coverage of communities united in adversity and navigating with faith, the team of Crary, Henao and Wardarski wins this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Oct. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP first with report of abuse, cover-up by French clergy

broke news with an early scoop on the staggering scale — hundreds of thousands of victims — in a long-awaited report on sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church. That was just the start of a week of powerful and delicate AP coverage of France’s first nationwide reckoning with systemic church abuse, cover-ups and decades of trauma.On the eve of the report’s release, Paris-based senior field producer Masha Macpherson and video journalist Alex Turnbull tracked down an abuse victim who had inside information about the findings — notably, an estimated 216,000 children had been abused by clergy over the past 70 years. Their on-camera interview saw massive use.The following day, reporter Sylvie Corbet, senior producer Jeff Schaeffer, Macpherson and other Paris staffers, working closely with AP Vatican authority Nicole Winfield, produced fast-moving, comprehensive coverage on the release of the 2,500-page report. AP had live video, six video edits and two stories, including emotional reaction from victims and bishops; victims’ groups shared AP's stories online. And Schaeffer found a searing, intimate way to tell the victims’ side of the story in all formats: through the eyes of actor Laurent Martinez, who was abused by a priest and is working out the trauma onstage.https://aplink.news/30jhttps://aplink.video/tpthttps://aplink.news/sirhttps://aplink.video/v1t

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Sept. 21, 2018

Best of the States

Abuse scandal hits Texas diocese as cardinal meets with pope

Houston-based reporter Nomaan Merchant broke important news about the role of an influential American cardinal in an abuse scandal in his home diocese, just as the cardinal was meeting with Pope Francis to discuss reforms to address clergy abuse.

Merchant exclusively tracked down two accusers who allege a priest in the Houston archdiocese had abused them – and that church leaders, including Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, subsequently did little to nothing to keep him out of the ministry and away from children.

The allegations were significant on their own given the current abuse crisis roiling the Catholic church. But they were made even more newsworthy in that they implicated DiNardo just as he met with the pope to discuss the church’s handling of sex abuse cases. The accusers said they personally complained to DiNardo about the priest and believed they were brushed off.

Merchant's reporting made an immediate splash in Houston-area media and religion news sources. It was also the talk of the Vatican gathering in Rome.

For his efforts, Merchant wins this week's Best of States.

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Jan. 26, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Pope responds, in person, after AP scoop on papal letter about Chilean bishop

Holding prominent officials accountable is one of the main missions of journalism, even if it is uncomfortable at times. AP’s Nicole Winfield did just that, politely but firmly pressing Pope Francis on his knowledge of a sexual abuse scandal that has clouded his appointment of a Chilean bishop in 2015 and cast doubt about his commitment to fighting the problem.

AP Santiago correspondent Eva Vergara got the first part of the scoop for AP. She knew a letter she had spent months tracking down was toxic to Francis, to his upcoming trip to Chile, and to the Chilean bishop appointed by Francis and accused of covering up for the country's most notorious pedophile priest.

The letter showed that Francis knew that Bishop Juan Barros was accused of complicity in covering up the sexual abuse by Rev. Fernando Karadima, but appointed Barros bishop anyway. The scandal and Francis' subsequent accusations of slander against abuse victims dominated coverage. It led to Francis trying to explain himself under tough questioning by Winfield on an extraordinary in-flight press conference on his way home.

For Winfield's unflinching questioning of the pope, and Vergara's determined efforts to surface the letter that launched the story, the pair wins Beat of the Week.

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July 22, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Smart source work delivers exclusive on Polanski case transcript

scooped everyone by obtaining the first copy of a newly unsealed transcript in Roman Polanski's long-running underage sex abuse case, filing a story before anyone else had it, including prosecutors and the director's attorney.Melley drew on experience to quickly find the court reporter and arrange to electronically obtain the 400-page transcript of testimony by a former prosecutor who handled the case. In the previously sealed testimony, the former prosecutor said that the judge in the 1977 case was reneging on a promise not to jail Polanski, prompting the director to flee the country on the eve of sentencing.After receiving the files, Melley worked late into the night to deliver the news, putting AP significantly ahead on a high profile, internationally competitive celebrity court case.Read more

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Nov. 09, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Iowa diocese covered up priest’s abuse of 50 boys

A source called Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley with a tip: He had a shocking letter that he couldn’t share in which the Catholic Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, acknowledged a priest admitted to abuse of 50 boys in Iowa over 20 years.

Foley eventually tracked down a copy of the letter, and it was stunning: The diocese admitted the Rev. Jerome Coyle reported his pedophilia in 1986 but was simply shuffled to New Mexico for treatment. The diocese also offered to pay Coyle to stay in New Mexico, warning that his desired return to Iowa would retraumatize his victims, now grown men.

Yet sources said he returned to Fort Dodge, Iowa, which is where Foley and photographer Charlie Neibergall found him. The priest wouldn’t talk, but the diocese confirmed Foley’s story and acknowledged two victims had come forward in recent weeks with allegations against Coyle that would now be turned over to police. The 32-year coverup was over.

Reaction to Foley’s story – the lead story in newspapers across the state – was quick, with Coyle removed from the home, the Iowa attorney general’s office launching an inquiry, and the diocese promising to identify all priests who have faced credible allegations.

The diocese said it was taking this action due to the continuing investigations of “the AP reporter.”

For breaking a story in vivid detail that had been kept hidden for decades, Foley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 11, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation exposes sex abuse suffered at hands of priests by India’s nuns

New Delhi-based investigative reporter Tim Sullivan spent months looking into whispers that Indian nuns had endured sexual pressure by Catholic priests. What he found, after months of reporting into the closed-off world of Catholic convents, was a pattern of abuse that went back decades, ranging from drunken priests barging into nuns’ rooms to outright rape. He also found a culture of silence that had long kept these attacks hidden. Slowly, though, Sullivan found sisters willing to open up about their attacks, and others who could give perspective on why they’d been kept secret for so long. Finally, he and New Delhi photographer Manish Swarup traveled to southern India’s Catholic heartland to meet with nuns who had become pariahs in their community for defending a sister who accused a bishop of rape.

Sullivan’s powerful narrative attracted widespread attention. Accompanied by Swarup’s evocative photos, it was one of the AP’s most-read stories for the week, with excellent reader engagement. AP clients specializing in Catholic affairs ran the story prominently.

The standout work by Sullivan and Swarup contributed to the week’s remarkable body of work across the AP in covering abuse by clergy. For exposing long-held scandals in India’s Catholic ministries, Sullivan and Swarup share AP’s Best of the Week.

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June 14, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation: Top US cardinal accused of mishandling abuse allegations against deputy

Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield’s five-month investigation revealed the stunning allegations: A high-ranking Catholic priest had a sexual relationship with a Houston woman for more than a year, counseled her husband on their marital problems, pressed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the couple and continued to hear her confession.

But the cardinal overseeing the church’s handling of sexual abuse allegations in the United States approved the priest’s transfer to a church two hours away.

The fallout from Winfield’s revelations was swift: The priest was suspended and church officials reopened their inquiry into the handling of parishioner Laura Pontikes’ accusations.

To tell the sensitive story, Winfield – and a team that included Raleigh-based national writer/video journalist Allen Breed, New York global enterprise photographer Wong Maye-E and Houston correspondent Nomaan Merchant – meticulously planned coverage in each format, including on-camera interviews with Pontikes and her husband, and photos and video of the cardinal and the accused priest.

For an investigation that cast doubt on a top church official’s handling of a case involving startling allegations of abuse, Winfield, Breed, Wong and Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 16, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation: Guam’s ex-archbishop protected culture of clergy sex abuse of children

Knowledge of clergy sex abuse is widespread on the mainland of the United States. But it has long been a secret in the small, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic U.S. territory of Guam.

Washington-based investigative reporter Michael Biesecker, working with Atlanta-based enterprise photographer David Goldman and Seattle video journalist Manuel Valdes, helped to puncture that veil of silence when AP examined thousands of pages of court documents in lawsuits brought by abuse victims and then conducted extensive interviews.

The AP team detailed a pattern of repeated collusion among predator priests, with abuse that spanned generations and reached all the way to the top of the territory’s church hierarchy, ruled over by then-Archbishop Tony Apuron, who himself had been accused of the rape of a 13-year-old choir boy when Apuron was a parish priest.

The care and sensitivity of the reporting and images were essential to the project’s power. “To see my story told in this way gives me a lot of peace, that I have a purpose,” said Walter Denton, a former U.S. Army sergeant and survivor of abuse nearly 40 years ago.

For telling a sensitive and little-known story of systemic clerical abuse dating from the 1950s to as recently as 2013, Biesecker, Goldman and Valdes share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 09, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigative team reveals how Michigan-based group quietly helped abusive priests

It was a piece of investigative journalism that yielded stunning revelations about the role of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a small nonprofit in Michigan that has been quietly providing money, shelter and legal help to hundreds of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse.

Investigative reporters Martha Mendoza, Garance Burke and Juliet Linderman launched an aggressive effort using shoe leather and Freedom of Information requests to unravel the story behind the organization. Photographer Paul Sancya told the story through a powerful set of images, while videographer Mike Householder produced his own compelling piece.

The riveting story received prominent play and gathered growing interest as it was translated and published in predominantly Catholic countries around the world.

For a story that revealed a startling but little-known group in the shadows of the church’s sexual abuse scandals, Mendoza, Linderman, Burke, Householder and Sancya win AP’s Best of the Week.

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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Inside New York’s Latino congregations, united in grief

produced an important collection of three multiformat stories bringing to light the decimation occurring in New York’s Latino population, and especially the vibrant undocumented immigrant community that is among the most religious – but also the hardest hit segment during the pandemic.

The team first told the story of two congregations united in grief: Between them, the two churches have lost more than 100 members to the virus. They then took a poignant look at a priest who has endured the loss of his mentor, his father and congregation members. https://bit.ly/2ZksJpEhttps://bit.ly/3cW8ySQhttps://bit.ly/2LMVbZhhttps://bit.ly/3cTzenb

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Aug. 12, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deep sourcing and sensitive reporting deliver blockbuster on Mormon sex abuse cover-up

AP investigative reporter Mike Rezendes’ years of source work led him to a stunning discovery: a so-called help line that enabled a cover-up of sex abuse in the Mormon church community, including the case of a 5-year-old Arizona girl, molested by her father for seven years while church leaders were aware of the abuse.

Rezendes, video journalist Jessie Wardarski and photographer Dario Lopez met with victims and their families, earning their trust and telling the story in the victims’ own voices. The resulting package, including illustrations by Peter Hamlin, was one of AP’s most-viewed investigative projects of the year, protecting the victims even as it revealed a systemic effort to cover up horrific child sex abuse.

For deep sourcing and commitment to report a story with both impact and sensitivity, Rezendes, Wardarski, Lopez and Hamlin earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Feb. 16, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP staffers on three continents scramble to fact-check the pope on Chile abuse

Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield sensed a potentially explosive development in Chile's long-running sex abuse and cover-up scandal when she noticed a cryptic tweet from a former member of the Pope Francis' abuse advisory board.

Board member Marie Collins had tweeted that Francis was well aware that victims of Chile's most infamous predator priest had placed Bishop Juan Barros at the scene of their abuse. Collins herself had been involved in relaying those concerns to him.

Intrigued and sensing an important twist in a story that AP has already dominated, Winfield and Santiago correspondent Eva Vergara kicked off an extraordinary effort that would culminate in a three-day, multinational, cross-format papal fact-check, prompting calls for the pope to come clean about a scandal that now threatens his legacy.

Over the course of one frantic weekend the enterprise involved a Paris airport stakeout by senior TV producer Jeff Schaeffer, a missed Super Bowl party hosted by Philadelphia-based TV producer Yvonne Lee and a surreal TV interview conducted by AP reporters on three continents.

For teamwork that spanned the globe, in service of a story of immense global interest, Winfield, Vergara, Schaeffer and Lee are recognized with Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Heads-up response delivers on shooting at NY cathedral

knew almost immediately that the popping sound — at a church where he had just attended a concert — was gunfire. The New York video journalist didn't hesitate, moving toward it to put AP ahead in all formats on one of the most-used stories of the day.Along with his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe and her mother, Shaffrey had just walked away from a classical Christmas concert at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan when he heard several loud bangs, screaming and the restaurants clearing as people ran for cover. He turned his daughter’s mother and said, “You guys go that way. I’m going to see what’s going on.”While people ran past him, Shaffrey moved in a non-threatening manner toward the sound of the gunfire. One woman stopped to tell him that there was a “terrorist” on the steps of the cathedral firing shots. Shaffrey captured audio and video of the police shooting the man, and the scene in front of the church as people took cover on the ground while police moved in on the suspect.Shaffrey contacted East regional news director Sara Gillesby who coordinated fast filing of photos and video and a Shaffrey story co-bylined with reporter Mary Esch, putting AP ahead of the competition.https://bit.ly/2WDyJHrhttps://bit.ly/37IPeIBhttps://yhoo.it/3pgR4Gr

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