Aug. 21, 2020

Best of the States

Inside the reopening debate: Local school boards face ‘impossible’ decisions

With school districts nationwide wrestling with tough decisions on reopening amid the pandemic, South Carolina reporter Jeffrey Collins wanted to show that process at work.

When several districts rebuffed his efforts at behind-the-scene access, Collins took another approach. He started reporting by watching a school board’s meetings online, taking voluminous notes. Demonstrating a thorough understanding of what the district was facing, he was finally granted in-person access to the district’s meetings and discussions for a revealing all-formats package. 

For finding a way to delve into a local school board’s deliberations, and providing insight into conversations happening nationally, Collins wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 04, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats package reveals challenges of rural education during the pandemic

On the sparsely populated fringe of the Navajo Nation, AP Report for America journalist Cedar Attanasio saw a storytelling opportunity: the bus system used by the Cuba, New Mexico, school district to solve distance-learning challenges for some of the country’s most isolated, vulnerable students during the pandemic. 

Reporting for text, photos and video, Attanasio rode one of the school buses used to transport meals, assignments and counselors to remote students, a number of whom do not have electricity, let alone internet. When the bus driver was forced to quarantine, Attanasio took to his car, chasing buses on their routes and interviewing students and their families.

For delivering an insightful multiformat package that reveals the pandemic’s impact on education in a disadvantaged community — prompting one reader to donate $1000 to the school board — Attanasio earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 26, 2017

Best of the States

AP finds US buildings using the same cladding blamed in London fire

Sometimes a story doesn’t come from a reporter’s beat or region, just from natural journalistic curiosity.

Atlanta’s Jeff Martin was intrigued after investigators blamed the deadly tower fire in London in part on the flammable cladding that wrapped around its exterior. Wondering what buildings in the U.S. might be using the cladding, he went to the manufacturer’s website and found a trove of information in a promotional brochure.

The brochure said the cladding was used on a terminal at the Dallas airport, the Cleveland Browns stadium, an Alaska High School and a high-rise hotel in Baltimore. Martin, Gainesville, Florida, reporter Jason Dearen, and Baltimore reporter Juliet Linderman helped coordinate a cross-country, multi-media reporting effort that wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Oct. 11, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Family behind opioid maker gave millions to colleges

for following up on an offhand remark by an Ivy League fundraiser to document how the Sackler family, behind the powerfully addictive opioid OxyContin, gave money to colleges and universities on a much larger scale than previously known: at least $60 million to prestigious schools worldwide – including millions donated after the company became embroiled in lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic. https://bit.ly/2AGZ78o

May 12, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​AP reveals hidden horror of school sex assaults

The email to AP confided: “Up until reading your article I believed that my daughter's assault was an anomaly. It's not something that is talked about. School officials must take immediate and proactive steps to protect students from being assaulted on school grounds. The first step is to bring it out in the open.”

The anguished mother was responding to the first installment of an Associated Press series running through May exploring the untold story of student-on-student sexual assaults, not on college campuses but in U.S. elementary and secondary schools. The result of a yearlong investigation, the expose by Emily Schmall, Reese Dunklin, Robin McDowell and Justin Pritchard earns the Beat of the Week.

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April 22, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive AP data reveals popularity of US homeschooling

obtained data across the country to establish the continued popularity of homeschooling for American families — even as schools reopened and vaccines became widely available.Because the federal government does not have a current database of homeschooling numbers, Thompson built her own by reaching out to education departments in all 50 states for their data. She also interviewed families for their perspectives on homeschooling, and used her experience on the education beat to put the trend in the context of homeschooling regulation debates, concerns over neglected students and a broader decline of public school enrollment.Read more

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Sept. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

US didn't track more than $150B in pandemic school aid. AP did.

teamed up on an all-formats project documenting what happened to historic sums of pandemic aid released to the nation’s schools.Congress has sent more than $150 billion to the states to help K-12 schools since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but the federal government has no accounting of where that money went. Over a period of months, reporter Mulvihill and data journalists Fassett and Fenn did that painstaking work, going state by state to ferret out how multiple streams of congressional funding as used. The result was a massive but granular database shared with AP customers in advance of publication, showing how much federal money each school district in the country received and how it compared to other schools — public, private and charter.With reporting help from Binkley, the team also produced three distinctive news leads: Most school districts do not intend to spend the money in the transformative ways the Biden administration envisions; virtual schools that were already fully online before the pandemic received as much or more as traditional school districts; and some Republican governors used the windfall to further school choice policies that had previously been blocked by legislatures or courts. Householder delivered the video while Krupa and Osorio handled photos in Massachusetts and Detroit respectively.Drawing on AP’s national reach, the work resulted in data that customers could localize as well as two explanatory webinars and sidebars in more than a dozen states by AP statehouse reporters.https://aplink.news/jbehttps://aplink.news/usjhttps://aplink.news/thrhttps://aplink.video/b65

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April 05, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Money madness: AP analyzes, how much is that NCAA berth worth?

It’s no secret that the NCAA college basketball tournament is big business. But just how big, and how has the pie been divided?

The New York-based team of college sports reporter Ralph Russo and data journalist Larry Fenn took on that reporting and accounting challenge, making AP the first news organization to document who received more than $3 billion in March Madness payouts over two decades.

Complicating their task was the fact that the NCAA referred to payments with a complex “unit” formula, while 32 different athletic conferences had their own rules for distributing the funds back to schools. Russo peppered the NCAA with questions, ultimately getting detailed numbers back to 1997. Fenn parsed tournament results to quantify wins and bids that qualified for payment under the system.

The work led to several stories by Russo and his colleagues in Sports detailing the money side of the annual tournament, including diminishing shares for smaller conferences, an explainer on the system itself and the value of the final invitations to the field. Fenn also collaborated on a data distribution for members doing their own stories focused on individual schools, as well as a robust interactive.

The AP-exclusive stories drew extensive play in the heat of March Madness, showcasing the power of AP when we think ambitiously and outside the box, even around annual events already in the glare of the media spotlight. For their outstanding work, Russo and Fenn win AP’s Best of the Week.

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Feb. 18, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Red flags trailed academic across elite universities

used interviews, court documents, emails and online classroom reviews to put AP out front with exclusive details of a doctoral student and lecturer who was arrested for deadly threats that closed down the UCLA campus for a day.Los Angeles law enforcement reporter Dazio pieced together Matthew Harris’ troubled academic journey through Duke, Cornell and UCLA, revealing that Harris’ disturbing behavior was well-known among students and some faculty, and raising questions about how the elite institutions handled their concerns. Read more

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July 01, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP delivers sweeping multiformat coverage of Title IX at 50

collaborated on a comprehensive all-formats package marking the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the groundbreaking law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools or education programs.Journalists in multiple disciplines — sports, education, race and ethnicity, and others — teamed up to develop story ideas and execution, coordinating resources to address the most important topics regarding Title IX: how the law was born, the impact it has had on athletes and women in general, the challenges it faces, the progress made and where the law falls short.The package included exclusive interviews with sports legends Billie Jean King and Ann Meyers, stories on transgender athletes, campus sexual assault, inequalities in opportunities for women of color, a scoop on an NCAA report examining the current status of Title IX, an AP Poll of Americans' perception of the progress made by Title IX, and more. All delivered over the course of 10 days in a curated presentation incorporating text, video, photos and graphics.Read more

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July 23, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: Wealth, enrollment disparities threaten smaller Black colleges

teamed up to reveal wide disparities among the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, with many smaller private schools fighting for survival.The reporting by Hudspeth Blackburn and Amy was built on an analysis of enrollment and endowment data by data journalists Fenn and Fassett. They found that many smaller, lesser-known HBCUs are struggling with weak endowments, aging buildings and steady enrollment declines. And while HBCUs in the U.S. have received millions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid and fresh attention after last summer’s racial justice protests, not all benefit equally.The team’s comprehensive story was complemented by embeddable graphics illustrating the disparities, and advance detailed data on all 102 HBCUs for localization by AP customers. https://aplink.news/wrn

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Sept. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds census counts of Latino, Black communities below estimates

kept the AP in the forefront of 2020 census coverage, exploring the crucial undercount question for the first in-depth national story on the subject since demographic data was released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Aug. 12.By comparing the new numbers to earlier estimates, Schneider revealed a pattern in which the numbers consistently came in below what had been projected for both Hispanic and Black populations, suggesting that some areas were overlooked. The official numbers have implications for the distribution of federal funds and congressional representation.Phoenix-based Galvan uncovered Somerton, Arizona, a Latino community building new schools and taking other steps to accommodate its growing population — although the official census numbers showed 90 fewer people than a decade earlier. In a vivid example of show-don’t-tell reporting, Galvan teamed up with Los Angeles photographer Jae Hong and videographer Eugene Garcia to convey the texture of the community, capturing voices of outrage and disbelief among local officials that their population numbers were so low.Schneider, meanwhile, worked with graphic artist Francois Duckett to put together national maps showing that the biggest shortfalls among Latino people came in the Southwest, while the count of Black individuals fared worst in the South. The highly visual presentation complemented the data, helping AP once again set the pace for national coverage of the 2020 headcount.https://aplink.news/mb2https://aplink.video/w10https://aplink.photos/k3o

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Aug. 20, 2021

Best of the States

AP finds colleges concerned as some students turn to counterfeit vaccine cards

It started with a tip.

When a college student mentioned that fellow unvaccinated students were getting fake COVID-19 vaccine cards in order to attend in-person classes, AP global investigations intern Roselyn Romero remembered that she'd seen an account on Instagram offering fake cards for $25 each.

Romero began searching social media platforms and talked to college students, faculty, administrators and health officials. What she found was a cottage industry offering to accommodate people who refuse to get vaccinated but need documentation saying that they’ve had the shots.

Her deeply reported story had nearly 250,000 pageviews on AP News and was used by hundreds of news outlets, including online and print front pages. She was also interviewed by NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer responded by calling for a multiagency crackdown on the counterfeit cards.

For having a major national impact with her first AP byline, Roselyn Romero wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 23, 2018

Best of the States

Requiem for Paradise: Remembering the sweet life of a town wiped out by wildfire

It’s not often you have to write an obituary for a town. Yet that’s what Martha Mendoza and Jocelyn Gecker did, with Gillian Flaccus producing a compelling video component. Their tribute to Paradise, California – leveled by a devastating wildfire that killed so many residents – painted a picture of all that was lost. Paradise was a gold prospector’s town, then a lumber town, and until two weeks ago was the home of 27,000 people “who lived and loved here; they built homes and businesses, schools and houses of worship, parks and museums that proudly honored Paradise's place in American history.”

Mendoza worked from the field, in the ashes of the town, with Gecker in San Francisco tracking down leads, helping to write the finished piece and finding photographs to illustrate “the town’s history and spirit.” Their nuanced reporting, along with that of many colleagues, drew forth tales of town holidays, and residents ruminating whether those staples of small-town America would continue.

The accompanying video by Gillian Flaccus, recorded during a ride-along with a long-time resident, complemented the text piece by showing street after street of utter devastation over the man’s narration.

Paradise is gone, and until it rebuilds in some fashion, Mendoza, Gecker and Flaccus have given the world the definitive piece on what it represented. For their deft depiction of the town behind the headlines, the trio wins AP's Best of the States.

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April 26, 2019

Best of the States

A powerful retrospective and breaking news, 20 years after Columbine mass shooting

Twenty years have passed since the Columbine high school massacre, which was, to many people, the beginning of school shootings as we know them. In those years, life has changed: Mass shootings happen again and again, schoolchildren participate in lockdowns instead of fire drills, and many reflect on the moment in time when two young men took 13 lives with them on their suicidal quest.

AP was uniquely positioned to cover the two decades since the massacre, with journalists who were there, those who cover the Colorado community every day, and experts in polling, education and guns. Stories by Denver reporter Kathleen Foody and videojournalist Peter Banda led a deep all-formats package by dozens of journalists across the AP telling not just of the carnage but of those who survived it, their struggle, and the future.

But all the planning couldn't prepare anyone for this spot development: Early in the week, Sol Pais, a young Florida woman, prompted panic over a possible attack at Columbine, later taking her own life near the Colorado school. Miami reporter Kelli Kennedy tracked down a good friend of Pais who not only filled in personal details about her in an exclusive interview, but supplied photos of Pais and cast doubt on the official narrative about her friend.

The overarching theme of the spot and enterprise coverage focused on the short and long-term mental health issues from school shootings. The result was a unique, meaningful package that received impressive play nationally – online and in print. The video was among the top-used AP videos of the week.

For their work spearheading the package, and breaking news, Foody, Banda and Kennedy win this week’s Best of the States.

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Jan. 21, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sensitive reporting, compelling storytelling on spike in Zimbabwe teen pregnancy amid pandemic

Writing about teen pregnancy is difficult under any circumstances, requiring equal parts thoughtfulness and responsibility. That is how AP’s team in Zimbabwe, photographer Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi and writer Farai Mutsaka, joined by South Africa video journalist Sebabatso Mosamo, approached the story of how pandemic lockdowns led to a sharp rise in teen pregnancies and the consequent loss of girls’ educational opportunities, a problem affecting many southern African countries.

Gathering facts to support the story took months, as Mutsaka worked with officials to access the available data. Then the team faced the challenge of finding families willing to speak on the record. Most wouldn't talk publicly, but Mukwazhi and Mutsaka found a 13-year-old who wanted her story told. The pair repeatedly explained the possible consequences to her family and others they met with, ensuring the story’s subjects fully understood what it meant to have their names and photos published.

The months of care and persistence paid off with compelling text and images, including a sensitive video by Mosamo. For responsible coverage providing insight into a difficult, important and often painful subject, the team of Mutsaka, Mukwazhi and Mosamo is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 11, 2020

Best of the States

AP examines troubling trend of women dropping out of the workforce

As parents scramble to manage their own work and their kids’ remote learning during the pandemic, AP business reporters Alexandra Olson and Cathy Bussewitz wanted to know how that shift impacted the careers of mothers and fathers. 

They dug into the data, finding that in order to tend to their children, working mothers were giving up their careers more so than working fathers. And they tapped into parenting networks to find families in this situation. What emerged was evidence of a trend that threatens decades of hard-fought gains by working women, who are still far from achieving labor force parity with men.

For timely reporting that documents a disturbing social and economic trend brought on by the pandemic, Olson and Bussewitz win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 04, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Two AP exclusives: China’s forced labor and US detention of migrant youths

Welcome to the first Best of the Week of 2019. Among a series of very strong end-of-the-year nominations, the judges have selected two winners from opposite sides of the world.

A sweeping AP investigation by California-based investigative reporters Garance “Poppy” Burke and Martha Mendoza found that the U.S. is once again institutionalizing thousands of migrant children in crowded shelters, despite warnings that the experience could lead to lifelong trauma. Their national story, complemented with a comprehensive data package by Washington-based data editor Meghan Hoyer and NY-based data journalist Larry Fenn, was the first to provide shelter-by-shelter detention statistics, numbers the government had been withholding all year.

Our other winner comes from an equally impactful AP investigation by Beijing-based video journalist Dake Kang, newsperson Yanan Wang and Mendoza, again, which showed that clothing made inside a Chinese internment camp housing Muslim Uighurs is being shipped to a U.S. company that supplies sportswear to American schools and universities.

To do this, they cross-referenced satellite imagery, Chinese state media reports and the address of a Chinese supplier on bills of lading destined for Badger Sportswear in North Carolina. Kang then travelled to Kazakhstan to get multiple on-camera accounts of forced labor in the Chinese camps.

For enterprising, important work, the team of Burke, Mendoza, Hoyer and Fenn, and the team of Kang, Wang and Mendoza share AP’s Best of the Week.

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