March 01, 2019

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Despite denials, US shares terror watchlist with private sector

For years, the federal government has denied widely sharing its terrorist watchlist with the private sector. But American Muslims have long had suspicions to the contrary, as those mistakenly placed on the list faced everyday difficulties ranging from making electronic bank transfers to boarding airplanes.

Source building and careful document review by Northern Virginia correspondent Matthew Barakat finally revealed that the federal government shares its terrorist watchlist with more than 1,400 private entities, including hospitals and universities. The government’s acknowledgement of the practice, buried in a civil lawsuit, was significant because officials have repeatedly denied that the list was given to private groups. Barakat’s sources and his thorough coverage of the 2-year-old case had him ready to jump on the filing as soon as it became public.

His APNewsBreak on Feb. 19 earned wide attention, including hundreds of members using the story. Others scrambled to catch up, with The Washington Post crediting AP for breaking the story when it ran its own version in the paper.

Over the next two days Barakat was also first to report on a call for a congressional probe, and he was the only reporter in court when a federal judge berated government lawyers, ordering them to disclose the private sector entities to the lawsuit’s plaintiffs.

For his methodical document work and source-building that helped hold the federal government accountable, Barakat wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 13, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP data project shows women facing restrictions increasingly seek abortions out of state

Legislative debates over restricting abortion access in the U.S. have been among the most hotly contested and thoroughly covered state government topics of recent years. But what of the women affected by those laws? A distinctive, data-driven investigation by the state government and data teams provided answers: Each year thousands of women travel to get abortions in another state, and the share of non-resident women getting abortions had risen significantly in states where conservative legislatures passed measures restricting the procedure.

To arrive at that conclusion, state government team reporter Christina Cassidy went state-by-state to gather the most recent abortion data, while data team editor Meghan Hoyer oversaw the methodology and analysis. Cassidy also worked sources to find women who had left their home state for an abortion, humanizing the story behind the data. Colleagues Alina Hartounian, Susan Montoya Bryan, Gillian Flaccus and Francois Duckett produced compelling all-formats content for the package.

A unique dataset released before publication allowed AP’s member publications to produce localized graphics and stories. The project checked all the boxes for customer and reader engagement, which was extraordinarily strong.

For putting the AP out front on one of the most contentious issues roiling American politics, Cassidy, Hoyer, Flaccus, Montoya Bryan, Hartounian and Duckett share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 27, 2017

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Feds advise Virginia on how to get around ban on using seized funds for salary hikes

for reporting that, despite a ban on using assets seized in criminal investigations to raise salaries for law enforcement, the federal government told the Virginia state government how to get around the rule. The resulting worker pay raises of up to 30 percent became the subject of a heated floor speech in the state Senate and a disapproving editorial. https://yhoo.it/2jRl90P

Jan. 28, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP links security scanners used in Europe to Chinese authorities

reported exclusively on how Nuctech, a Chinese company with links to the military and government, has made major inroads in the market for security scanners in Europe. That raises concerns that China could exploit the equipment to sabotage key transit points or get illicit access to data.Because there is so little transparency about where Nuctech equipment has been purchased — and the company refused to confirm or deny information about its customers — the story required a lot of legwork.Kinetz, Brussels-based investigative reporter, received leaked internal communications from a competitor of Nuctech and scoured public procurement databases — which don’t provide comprehensive information — as well as parliamentary testimony in multiple languages for clues about where the equipment had been sold.AP reporters across Europe reached out to airport and customs authorities and dug into national databases to try to get a record of Nuctech purchases. Kinetz also received exclusive analysis about Nuctech’s ownership structure from a Dutch data company. The story generated interest in Europe, and member of the European Parliament reached out for more detail on AP’s reporting about how European Union funds contributed to Nuctech bids. https://aplink.news/e3e

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March 18, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP wins access as opioids victims confront Purdue’s Sackler family

leveraged years of source building and evenhanded reporting on opioid litigation in the U.S., securing rare access in all formats to an unprecedented federal court hearing in the most high-profile opioids case in the U.S.In the virtual hearing, people who had become addicted to opioids, and the parents of children lost to addiction, would finally confront members of the family that owned Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. Mulvihill overcame federal court restrictions to get full access to the Zoom link for the hearing, and he leaned on his relationship with victims’ attorneys to have a multiformat team at a law firm as victims made emotional statements to members of the Sackler family. Read more

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Sept. 22, 2017

Best of the States

Request denied? Sunshine Hub sheds light on state efforts to block public access

Beyond its dramatic effects, the audio from 911 calls can provide the kind of context that is essential to the public's understanding of what happened during a newsworthy crime or emergency. Those recordings are, with few exceptions, a matter of public record. That almost changed this year in Iowa, where the state House passed – unanimously – a bill that would end the public's ability to access many 911 calls. The bill eventually died after an outcry from the media, watchdog groups and civil rights organizations, but it was not unusual. A months-long project by AP reporters and data journalists found more than 150 bills introduced in state legislatures this year that were intended to eliminate or limit public access to a wide range of government records and meetings.

To help reporters find, track and provide input on those bills, Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen of the data team created a unique online tool that provided full access to AP customers.

Called the Sunshine Hub, it helps users keep track of legislative activity related to government transparency, suggest new bills, search for and categorize bills for research purposes, and discuss legislation with others. The Sunshine Hub directly complemented stories by Ryan Foley in Iowa, Andrew DeMillo in Arkansas and Laurie Kellman in Washington.

For their groundbreaking reporting and software development, Tumgoren, Rasmussen, Foley, DeMillo and Kellman win this week's Best of the States award.

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July 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Survey finds delays in reporting virus test results

targeted 10 states that have quickly rising coronavirus infections, finding that the crucial turnaround time to get results from a coronavirus test is exceeding federal guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline for results is less than two days.In the absence of federal data, Cassidy’s state-by-state reporting found typical turnaround times of three days from public labs, and longer lag times at commercial labs. Her story included a global perspective, noting the turn-around time is much faster in South Korea but much worse in some other countries, including South Africa. https://bit.ly/3ePogjw

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Sept. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Breaches of voting software raise election security concerns

broke the news that copies of confidential software for a widely used voting machine had been released publicly during an event held by supporters of former President Donald Trump, leading to wider concerns about election security.After a local elections clerk in Colorado leaked confidential information about her county’s voting machines, Cassidy, an Atlanta-based state government reporter, began calling her sources to get a sense of what the breach could mean for other states that used the same voting machines produced by Dominion Voting Systems. Her source reporting uncovered yet another leak, this time in a county in Michigan where Trump allies had challenged his election loss. The software copies ended up being distributed publicly at a symposium hosted by the CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, a major Trump supporter who has helped spread his lies of election fraud.The software leak from Antrim County, Michigan, had not previously been reported until Cassidy learned of it. Election security experts said taken together, the leaked software could provide hackers with a “practice environment” to probe for vulnerabilities in Dominion machines, which are used in 30 states. https://aplink.news/kj8

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April 22, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Promises, cash for making protective gear in US fall flat

delivered a distinctive accountability story, finding that U.S. governors’ promises to produce personal protective gear domestically remain unfulfilled, despite tens of millions in taxpayer money to support the proposals.Missouri-based state government reporter Lieb identified at least $125 million in PPE production grants to more than 300 business in 10 states but found that most of the companies were leaving the business because they couldn’t find buyers. Company executives told Lieb that production was again going overseas, potentially putting U.S. supplies of protective gear at risk in a future pandemic.Read more

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April 13, 2018

Best of the States

AP tracks record number of women running for US House seats

The Women’s March shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration energized its backers with a message to get politically engaged. The emergence of the #MeToo movement later that year provided even more momentum. But would women follow through? At the start of 2018, a midterm election year, the state government and data teams decided to find out.

The goal was ambitious: Track every woman running for Congress, statewide office and state legislature in the country, get historical numbers for comparison and follow their electoral fates through Election Day to see if the movements had led to real change. That effort, which will be ongoing throughout the year, produced its first scoop last week when AP declared a record number of women running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

For breaking significant news on one of the most dominant political trends of the year, state government team reporters Christina Cassidy and Geoff Mulvihill, and data team visual journalist Maureen Linke share this week’s Best of the States.

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Oct. 08, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Accounting and Accountability: AP follows the money, finds most ‘rescue’ funds unspent

Earlier this year, states and cities across the country pleaded for a pandemic “rescue” plan to avoid a fiscal cliff, and they got it: $350 billion from Washington for local and state governments. Five months later, AP State Government Team reporter David Lieb dug into the data, state by state, city by city. He found that states overall had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5% — not such an emergency after all.

It was a dramatic finding from an ongoing series of accountability stories led by AP’s state government and data teams tracking hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic aid.

As Lieb gathered and analyzed the reports, data journalist Camille Fassett prepared the information for wider distribution to customers who used it for their own localized reporting.

Play for the story was outstanding. It landed on the front pages of dozens of AP’s biggest customers, online and print, and drew readership on AP News. For distinctive accountability journalism that delivered on both the national and local level, Lieb and Fassett earn AP’s Best of Week — First Winner.

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Oct. 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Surge of mail-in voting could mean surge of ballot-marking errors

used her deep expertise on voting procedures, along with strong source work, to report that poorly marked ovals or boxes on mail-in ballots could become this year”s version of the hanging chads from the disputed 2000 presidential election.With tens of millions of Americans filling out their ballots at home and voting by mail for the first time this year, experts anticipate that many of those voters will make mistakes marking ballots, forcing election workers to try to discern their intent. As Cassidy noted, states with a long history of voting by mail have detailed guidelines for processing and interpreting such ballots. But states that ramped up their vote-by-mail efforts this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic do not have that experience, potentially leading to confusion and disputed vote counts. https://bit.ly/3jii45V

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