July 12, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Big farms find easy ways around caps on tariff aid

An AP Best of States mention in February about the hundreds of companies avoiding President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs raised questions about Trump’s $12 billion aid package to farmers hurt by the tariffs. What happened next shows how states can produce sharp, data-driven journalism – simply by calling on the data team for help.

AP filed Freedom of Information Act requests for U.S. Department of Agriculture data that was analyzed by Balint Szalai, a Hungarian investigative reporter embedded with AP’s data team, and Washington data team intern Riin Aljas.

Among their findings: Many big farming operations were legally collecting far more than the supposed caps on aid.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis reporter Steve Karnowski spoke to longtime USDA critics and interviewed farmers who defended taking the big checks, saying they didn’t even cover their losses under Trump’s trade war.

The Only-on-AP story ran on dozens of sites, and because the data and analysis were released to AP members in advance, many chose to localize their stories.

For sophisticated data analysis and on-the-ground reporting that shed light on a key consequences of trade policy, Karnowski, Szalai and Aljas share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 18, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Venezuelan fishermen live, work in oil industry wasteland

for a beautifully shot all-formats package that captures the collapse of Venezuela’s once-prosperous oil industry through fishermen and women who scratch out an existence on the blackened, sticky shores of Lake Maracaibo. People cast their nets and lines in waters fouled by black gunk seeping from broken rigs that once fueled the country’s wealth. Abd spent several days in the villages of Cabimas, documenting the home life and workday of the fishers. He returned with a team including Smith and Nunes. They watched the fishermen struggle with oily nets, and interviewed women who scrub oil from fish and crabs before eating or selling them. On his second trip to Cabimas, Abd brought a 19th century-style box camera to make black and white portraits of the fishermen and industrial decay around them. The package played widely on web sites including the Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, MSN and Yahoo.https://bit.ly/2pd49quhttps://bit.ly/2Bnd5wwhttps://bit.ly/2MqwenJ

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP documents the push to increase diversity in vaccine studies

explored the obstacles to recruiting diverse groups for medical studies of new drugs, treatments and vaccines. During the pandemic, the two leading U.S. vaccine candidates are lagging behind in diverse enrollment, although participation has inched up in recent weeks.

Thousands more volunteers who identify as people of color are needed for upcoming studies. Staffers from the AP Health and Science team and the South region took an inside look at how health officials are trying to recruit participants, focusing on Maryland and Florida. Narancio spent a day at a local farmers market outside the nation’s capital where “promotoras,” or health promoters, are working to sign up Latinos for the vaccine being tested by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna. Neergard used her contacts to get access to the University of Miami, where there’s a similar push to recruit underserved populations for the same trial. The story appeared on more than 200 online news sites.https://bit.ly/331ms3whttps://bit.ly/2G8EHuM

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April 30, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In all formats: Nurse battles back from COVID, lung transplant

produced a powerful and intimate narrative of one nurse’s precarious fight to survive COVID-19 — including the double lung transplant that saved her life.National writer Geller had wanted to find a health care worker recovering after being incapacitated by COVID. He started out calling hospitals around the country with lung transplant and COVID long-hauler programs, finally gettting a referral from Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which had performed the first and, by far, the most COVID lung transplants. They put him in touch with nurse Kari Wegg, who at one point before her transplant had been in a coma with little chance of recovery. Wegg got winded during their first phone conversation, a couple of weeks after she returned home, but she and her husband were open to telling their story. The AP trio would spend large parts of four days in the family’s Indiana home. The result was a riveting read with compelling visuals by Arbogast and Crawford, whose video was edited by multiformat journalist Allen Breed. The package won terrific online play, including the Chicago Tribune and Indiana news sites, with remarkably high reader engagement.https://bit.ly/3vtLoMDhttps://bit.ly/3gQXye6

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Aug. 27, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Bad reactions: AP finds US civility plunging over COVID restrictions

harnessed AP’s national reach to report on the fast-declining civility over mask requirements and pandemic precautions.An Alabama man drove to Missouri to serve citizen arrest papers on a hospital administrator over his insistence that people get vaccinated. Protesters beamed strobe lights into the condo building of Hawaii’s lieutenant governor and blanketed his neighborhood with anti-semitic posters to protest new restrictions amid a record surge in hospitalizations. A California parent punched a teacher in the face over mask requirements and county commissioners in Kansas were compared to the Taliban and Nazis at a mask meeting that went off the rails.With these examples rising to the surface, the reporting team assembled a smart, authoritative piece on how public discourse in America has plunged to new depths. The story led member sites, made newspaper front pages in 10 different states and was among the most-read stories on AP News over the weekend. AP Deputy Managing Editor Noreen Gillespie called it a shining example of illustrating “how a theme is rippling across the country.” https://aplink.news/bbp

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July 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP unmatched for fast, exclusive coverage of Abe assassination

dominated international coverage of the fatal shooting of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, delivering fast, comprehensive and exclusive content on one of Japan’s biggest stories in years.The Tokyo staff and colleagues at AP’s Asia hub in Bangkok beat competitive agencies and other international news organizations on urgent developments throughout the day, including the crucial word that Abe had died. AP quickly secured video and photos of the attack and had live video up at the scene of the shooting within minutes of the announcement of Abe’s death, accompanied by text and video obituaries. A full complement of spot enterprise pieces followed on Abe and the issues surrounding his assassination.For days, AP’s coverage featured prominently even on major Japanese news sites, often as an example of the way foreign media was covering the story.Read more

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July 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Hit by water cannon, AP’s Balilty captures iconic photo of Israeli protests

Oded Balilty, acting chief photographer, Jerusalem, has gained widespread attention in Israel and abroad for his body of work – breaking news images and striking portraits – depicting Israel’s wave of anti-government protests. His photo of a young man holding an Israeli flag as he is doused by a police water cannon emerged as the most iconic image of this summer of unrest, in which protesters accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of corruption and say he has bungled the country’s response to the coronavirus.

On July 18, protesters were blocking a street when police surprised them with water cannons. Balilty himself took a blast of water to the face and was stunned for several minutes. After drying out his gear, he lay on the ground to stay out of the line of fire, then noticed the protester holding a flag. While there were dozens of journalists covering the event, Balilty’s dramatic and evocative photo appeared throughout Israeli media and on news sites around the world.https://bit.ly/3feHhv8https://bit.ly/2EwtjZ4

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Sept. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Brazil’s plan to protect rainforest has opposite effect

revealed the disturbing truth about environmental enforcement in Brazil’s Amazon. While reporting on the first days of the 2020 burning season they found that agents of Brazil’s environmental crime enforcement agency had gone almost totally inactive, and that since President Jair Bolsonaro put the army in charge of protecting the rainforest, Brazil’s once-effective investigation and prosecution of rainforest destruction has come to a virtual halt.Investigating on the ground and by phone with sources around Brazil, the team found that Brazil’s army is focusing on small road-and-bridge-building projects that allow exports to flow faster to ports and ease access to protected areas. Meanwhile, the enforcement agency has stopped using satellite maps to locate deforestation sites and fine their owners — a once-widely used technique — and is no longer penalizing illegal logging, mining and farming. On the heels of massive fires last year, this year’s burning season is on track to be as bad as 2019.The all-formats story received heavy play globally in broadcast, print and hundreds of online news outlets.https://bit.ly/3hWs3gKhttps://bit.ly/31U1fbnhttps://bit.ly/2YWpHXp

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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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Sept. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Rescue groups tell AP: US missed hundreds still in Afghanistan

delivered the most detailed look yet into the true toll of the Americans still in Afghanistan after the U.S. pullout, fact-checking the Biden administration’s estimate that no more than 200 American citizens were left behind. Rather than take the administration’s estimate at face value, the pair reported on the independent experiences of veteran-led rescue groups and members of Congress who say the figure is too low and also overlooks hundreds of others they consider to be equally American: permanent legal residents with green cards.The leader of one volunteer group told AP that the official count of U.S. citizens is off by hundreds, and California Rep. Darrell Issa, said the calls his office is receiving lead him to estimate the true toll of U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan is about 500.As for green card holders — who have lived in the U.S. for years, paid taxes, owned property and often have children who are U.S. citizens — the true number who want to get out is in the hundreds and perhaps more than 1,000, according to rescue groups and lawmakers. San Diego reporter Watson and New York investigative reporter Condon highlighted the plight of one family of green card holders who lived in Sacramento for years and who have been texting daily with their children’s elementary school principal while trying to escape Afghanistan. “I’m loosing the hope,” texted the mother.AP’s story, with contributions from Kathy Gannon in Kabul and Matt Lee in Washington, was among the most-read on the AP News app on the Labor Day holiday weekend and was featured prominently on major news sites. https://aplink.news/3yy

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June 22, 2018

Best of the States

Chicago gangs embrace social media – often with deadly results

Chicago legal affairs writer Michael Tarm had been anticipating the release of a 400-page report on gangs, compiled about once every six years by the Chicago Crime Commission. He touched base with the commission every few months for years, asking for advanced access to the documents.

It paid off.

Tarm obtained exclusive access to new law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, then he spent weeks going through police and court records to find a gang-related killing to serve as a narrative of the findings. He uncovered the case of Lamanta Reese, a story illustrating how social media is transforming the city’s street-gang culture with deadly consequences. Gang member Reese, 19, had posted a smiley-face emoji on Facebook in response to an off-color joke about the mother of a rival gang member. Days later, that rival crossed the street between their gang factions, sneaked up on Reese and fatally shot him 11 times.

The story got strong play, with more than 10,000 page views on AP’s site the first day – almost 17,000 overall. The main story was published by 220 sites, including The New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the hometown Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. The Sun-Times and Daily Herald also ran it in their papers.

For obtaining exclusive access to law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, poring over police and court records, and drawing on in-depth sourcing to produce a multiformat, compelling narrative, Tarm wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 02, 2020

Best of the States

Planning, teamwork, fast filing lead to all-formats wins on Breonna Taylor story

With weeks to prepare, the Louisville, Kentucky, news staff and all-formats reinforcements from other AP bureaus were well positioned for the closely watched grand jury decision in the Breonna Taylor case. 

When the announcement finally came – no officers charged with Taylor’s death – the breaking news was expedited to the wire, cutting through confusion over the decision. Video and photo coverage excelled with fast edits and filing from the protests that followed, capturing the anguish and despair expressed by many in Louisville and keeping the AP well ahead of other agencies.

For their fast, in-depth work on a sensitive, highly competitive story, the team of Lovan, Schreiner, Blackburn, Galofaro, Minchillo, Cummings, Morrison and Householder wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sweeping team coverage as wildfire threatens Lake Tahoe

teamed up across formats, beats and states, drawing on AP resources throughout the West to dominate coverage of the high-profile Northern California wildfires that threatened an international gem, Lake Tahoe.Striking photos by Noah Berger and Jae Hong captured the drama as the fire raged toward the resort city and a vast swath of the Sierra Nevada. Report for America journalist Sam Metz was indefatigable on the ground, interviewing rescue workers, residents and firefighters, then capturing the chaos of the evacuation. Reporters John Antczak, Janie Har and Jocelyn Gecker worked the phones from Los Angeles and San Francisco providing detail and context as they wrote the spot stories. Video journalist Terence Chea and Michelle L. Price reported on people who refused to leave.For this latest in a series of major blazes, the West region dug to identify wildfire-related stories of interest beyond the breaking news, including Tom Verdin’s story on the special sites that were threatened, Don Thompson’s assessment of what went wrong in fighting the blaze, Brian Melley’s report on canceled vacations nationwide and a piece by Metz and Scott Sonner on price gouging.https://aplink.news/rwdhttps://aplink.news/qo4https://aplink.news/slxhttps://aplink.news/cp0https://aplink.video/4jlhttps://aplink.video/a3bhttps://apnews.com/hub/wildfires

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Jan. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reporter locates plundered antiquities in Israeli museum

revealed that weeks after an American billionaire agreed to forfeit $70 million in looted antiquities to U.S. authorities, three of the items were still on display in Israel’s national museum.The AP was the only outlet to follow up on the Manhattan district attorney’s recent deal with Michael Steinhardt, a New York-based art collector and philanthropist with deep ties to Israel. Ben Zion found that the Israel Museum was home to several of the items seized, including a 2,200-year-old Greek text carved into limestone, with Steinhardt listed as the donor who provided them. The Jerusalem-based reporter also located a 2,800-year-old inscription on black volcanic stone, a Steinhardt-owned artifact of uncertain provenance that wasn’t included in the deal.Ben Zion, who has reported extensively on antiquities in Israel, tapped contacts inside the museum, the antiquities trade and the academic community to pin down the story. Neither Steinhardt nor the museum appear to have wanted the subject made public. They gave only brief prepared statements after repeated prodding.AP’s story comes as museums are facing greater scrutiny over the chain of ownership of their art, particularly work looted from conflict zones or illegally plundered from archaeological sites. There are growing calls for such items to be returned to their countries of origin.https://aplink.news/rau

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Nov. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tracking ‘Nimblewill Nomad,’ oldest Appalachian Trail hiker

put AP out front in reporting that an 83-year-old has become the oldest hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail. While writing about the youngest hiker to finish the 2,193-mile (3,530-kilometer) odyssey, Portland, Maine, correspondent Sharp got a tip: M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart would be the oldest when he finished. Sharp found Eberhart’s blog and developed a rapport over several months with the man who goes by the trail name of Nimblewill Nomad.After exchanging lots of text messages, Sharp got Eberhart on the phone for an extensive interview in which he shared his life story. Portland photographer Bob Bukaty then hiked several miles to meet the octogenarian at the top of 2,536-foot Mount Hayes in Gorham, New Hampshire.The story, edited by New York’s Jeff McMillan, was ready to move when Eberhart finished his trek late on a Sunday afternoon. Accompanied by Bukaty’s engaging photos of the wild-bearded Eberhart, the piece quickly went viral, leaving the competition to catch up Monday morning. Eberhart, for his part, was stunned by the reach of the AP: By Monday morning, more than a half-million people had clicked on his blog. The story also drew response on Facebook and Twitter, and appeared on news sites throughout the region and around the country. https://aplink.news/i2l

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April 19, 2019

Best of the States

FOIA checklist enables reporter to break news in case of missing boy’s impostor

Knowing what information can be obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs) from various public agencies is critical to breaking news. And keeping a checklist of those information gold mines is key to accessing that knowledge, Columbus, Ohio-based reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins has found.

Welsh-Huggins used those skills to great effect in the case of the man accused of pulling a cruel hoax by pretending to be a long-missing Illinois boy. The story captured the nation’s attention and set reporters in motion trying to flesh out the background of a 23-year-old ex-con who Ohio authorities say faked being Timmothy Pitzen. Pitzen was 6 years old when he disappeared in 2011.

Welsh-Huggins’ checklist for enterprise off the news includes FOIAs to all agencies a suspect has had contact with. He filed a FOIA with the Ohio corrections department to obtain access to the disciplinary records of suspect Brian Rini, knowing from experience that the agency would release them.

A few days later the agency handed him 15 disciplinary reports showing that Rini was someone who liked to fabricate stories – including things as mundane as being short of toilet paper and as serious as being raped by a guard.

The AP was alone with the story, which got strong play in Ohio and across the country.

For using his knowledge of FOIA to break news on this highly competitive story, Welsh-Huggins wins this week’s Best of the States.

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May 28, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats team puts AP ahead on Spain-Morocco migrant crisis

alertly put AP out front of a burgeoning migration crisis on both sides of the Spain-Morocco border.While much of the world focused on the conflict in Gaza, Parra noticed something unusual on May 17: Dozens of migrants had entered Ceuta, Spain, that morning by swimming from Morocco. Usually, migrants seeking to enter Ceuta — in Spanish territory in North Africa — do so by climbing the border fence in small groups, evading the Moroccan security forces that keep would-be migrants away from the frontier. Parra filed a brief story and flagged it to other formats. Additional reporting confirmed something bigger was brewing, with the Moroccan authorities relaxing border security amid a diplomatic dispute. The all-formats team quickly responded, capturing riveting images of migrants swimming ashore by the thousands as Spain deployed troops and armored personnel carriers. Video coverage, both live and edited, showed migrants, including children, being rounded up on the beach and immediately returned to Morocco through a border gate by baton-wielding Spanish soldiers. There were also dramatic photos from the Moroccan side of the border, giving AP comprehensive coverage from both sides of the humanitarian crisis.Play for the story was tremendous. The video edits scored heavily and Armangue’s photos landed on news sites and in newspapers around the world, including in Spain, where the top papers used his photos on the front page two days in a row. His photo of a young migrant hugging a Red Cross volunteer on the beach went viral in social media and became perhaps the most iconic image of the crisis.https://aplink.news/mefhttps://aplink.news/vqihttps://aplink.photos/emahttps://aplink.video/j7whttps://aplink.video/zxuhttps://aplink.news/h8zhttps://aplink.photos/f8x

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June 12, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

The Class of 2020: Stories of resilience amid crises

produced in text and video a compelling look at members of America’s high school Class of 2020, focusing on eventful lives shaped by a series of crises.

Irvine, collaborating with colleague Stephanie Mullen, set out to tell the story of a generation born in the aftermath of Sept. 11 that has faced a number of challenges – from the loss of a parent to wildfires and hurricanes, the Great Recession and, most recently, a pandemic and civil unrest over police brutality.

The result was a multiformat package with stunning portraits and a print story that took the reader through the graduates’ stories in order of the events that have impacted them. Irvine also produced a video that featured several photos interspersed with self-shot video of three of the graduates.https://bit.ly/37jR80ihttps://bit.ly/3cTBASh

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Aug. 09, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Trump’s ‘rodent’ tweets ring true with Kushner tenants

for reporting based on the ironic twist behind President Donald Trump’s tweets that criticized Baltimore as a “rat and rodent infested mess” – some of those rodents are in apartments owned by his own son-in-law, Jared Kushner.Other news organizations had pointed out that some of the Kushner-owned properties in the Baltimore area had been cited for rodents, as well as mold, bedbugs, leaks and other problems. But AP's team wanted to put a human face to the story, getting Kushner’s tenants to talk about their experiences and what they thought of Trump’s tweets. New York’s Condon, who has previously reported on Kushner’s background as a landlord, and the Baltimore team found tenants who were willing to tell their stories, show the holes where the rodents crept in, and give their opinions on both Trump and Kushner. The story got huge play, even cracking the homepage of the hometown Baltimore Sun. https://bit.ly/2YuMCuV

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Aug. 13, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP story resonates globally: New Hampshire hermit loses home, finds himself back on the grid

The vividly told AP story of an 81-year-old man’s quest to remain in an isolated New Hampshire cabin hooked readers around the world, led to an outpouring of support and eventually prompted the man to reconsider his hermit lifestyle.

Reporter Kathy McCormack had begun by looking into a legal fight involving David Lidstone, a spritely man known locally as “River Dave.” He’d been living peacefully in a makeshift home for 27 years when the property owner moved to evict him. Lidstone refused to leave and was jailed in July; while he was in jail, his cabin burned to the ground.

McCormack’s reporting turned Lidstone’s difficulties into a powerful story, fleshing out the details of his life and the local efforts to help him stay put. The piece was an immediate hit, ultimately capturing more than a half million pageviews on AP News, making it the site’s most popular story of the week. McCormack and colleagues followed up with subsequent developments, including the groundswell of international attention Lidstone received and his move away from the reclusive life.

For bringing this engaging story to life and her persistence in following it through, McCormack wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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