July 14, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Follow-up reporting after Texas mass shooting reveals long-standing complaints about police response

When a Texas sheriff’s story about a mass shooting didn’t add up, Dallas-based reporter Jake Bleiberg dug in.  

During the four-day search for a man accused of fatally shooting five of his neighbors in April, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told a crush of reporters that his deputies got to the scene in 11 minutes, but the suspect had vanished. Bleiberg was among the Texas reporters covering the shooting who heard from area residents that deputies rarely responded to calls faster than 30 minutes. As he worked the phone to get a fuller picture, Bleiberg connected with a source who provided him with the report of a police consultant who county officials hired to examine the sheriff’s office. Bleiberg quickly authenticated the document and headed down to the rural corner of East Texas to continue reporting along with video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi and freelance photographer Michael Wyke.  

They conducted more than 20 interviews with current and former deputies, county officials and residents. Bleiberg successfully pressed for the release of public records related to the shooting and obtained revealing court documents and evidence gathered in a whistleblower lawsuit against the sheriff. The reporting revealed that the latest inaccuracies were part of years’ worth of accusations against the sheriff, including neglecting basic police work, evidence of the improper seizure of tens of thousands of dollars of property, ignoring previous concerns over the alleged shooter, and his deputies failing to follow up on reports of 4,000 crimes — including sexual and child abuse.  

For a tireless effort to reveal years of corruption accusations and dysfunction previously unknown outside of the local area, Jake Bleiberg earns Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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May 15, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Resourceful, innovative coverage of virtual Supreme Court

broke new ground for AP, creating popular new features for the court’s first-ever arguments by telephone with live audio. The pair revived the AP SCOTUS Twitter account @AP_COURTSIDE to live-tweet trivia, analysis and details during the arguments, they worked with the AP broadcast team to get AP pool access to the live audio, and they came up with a brand-new wire feature they also called “Courtside” – a more live-blog style of breaking news to help the public understand what they were hearing (including that weird toilet flush sound during one argument). That approach could become a model for covering future live news events.The features introduced by Sherman and Gresko attracted readers and followers, and complemented AP’s comprehensive stories on the court sessions.https://bit.ly/2WWadB9https://bit.ly/2YYAf9lhttps://bit.ly/2Wuubnk

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Oct. 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork delivers sweeping coverage of Supreme Court nomination

coordinated their reporting to deliver smooth, comprehensive coverage – and exclusives – as the death and memorial of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg transitioned to the rollout of President Donald Trump’s nomination for the now-vacant seat: Judge Amy Coney Barrett.The AP team focused on Barrett as the front-runner for the nomination and had a robust package ready for Trump’s formal announcement. Coverage of the nomination included a revelatory biography of “Scalia’s heir,” how the nomination came about, how Barrett could be the polar opposite of Ginsburg on the court and how the GOP was investing some $10 million in a digital ad blitz to promote Barrett as the next justice on the nation’s highest court.https://bit.ly/2GgS506https://bit.ly/34e1EoMhttps://bit.ly/34gKhUChttps://bit.ly/33gm7u6

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Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Comprehensive coverage of abortion case before Supreme Court

delivered standout all-formats coverage as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Mississippi’s abortion law, a highly charged case with national implications for abortion rights. AP showcased its range and depth with previews of the case, spot coverage and analysis, and context on decades of abortion law. Looking well beyond the case itself, AP reported on the potential impact of the court’s pending decision.AP’s accomplished Supreme Court journalists, Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko, provided textbook setup pieces ahead of the case, then, once arguments were underway, used the seamless procedure they have perfected to report oral arguments from inside and outside of the court. News associate Parker Purifoy added color from outside the courthouse.At the same time, Washington colleagues Jill Colvin and Hannah Fingerhut, along with New York-based Steve Peoples and David Crary, reported on the legal landscape that will follow any opinion, as well as public opinion and the potential political ramifications of the case. Washington’s Lisa Mascaro delved into the confirmation hearings of the various justices, raising questions over the reliability of those hearings for their future rulings on the high court.On the ground in Mississippi, South Region staffers Emily Wagster Pettus and Leah Willingham, with an assist from Sudhin Thanawala, produced a vivid story of what the day of the arguments looked like at the source.Washington’s Ashraf Khalil rounded out the reporting on what the future may look like with an analysis of the coming battle over abortion laws, while Sherman and Austin’s Paul J. Weber explored what a post-Roe world might look like through the eyes of Texans, where the nation’s most restrictive abortion law is in effect.Visuals elevated the coverage, including still photos from Washington photographers Andrew Harnik and Luis Magana, and video from Nathan Ellgren and Rick Gentilo, as well as scores of others who made AP’s coverage a collaborative effort.https://aplink.news/eo3https://aplink.news/072https://aplink.news/hhghttps://aplink.news/dtkhttps://aplink.news/8kthttps://aplink.news/9d4https://aplink.news/fe3https://aplink.video/m0ehttps://aplink.video/z5z

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July 01, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Months of planning, preparation put AP out front with unmatched coverage of SCOTUS abortion ruling

With extensive preparation ahead of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the AP moved at lightning speed, covering the historic ruling comprehensively in all formats. Months of meticulous planning and prep work paid off when the court’s opinion came down Friday morning, enabling AP to get the word out ahead of the competition and then deploy teams of journalists to capture reaction and the broader ramifications of the ruling.

Countless AP journalists in Washington and around the country delivered spot and enterprise coverage in all formats, including live and edited video, insightful analysis, striking photos, state-by-state updates and the stories of people on both sides of the abortion issue.

For exemplifying the news cooperative at its best, covering a pivotal moment with far-reaching consequences for American society, AP recognizes journalists Mark Sherman, Jessica Gresko, Jacquelyn Martin, Steve Helber, Gemunu Amarasinghe, J. Scott Applewhite, Andrew Harnik, Rick Gentilo, Dan Huff, Nathan Ellgren, Mike Pesoli, Kimberlee Kruesi, Lindsay Whitehurst, John Hanna, Matt Sedensky, David Goldman, Rogelio Solis, Rick Bowmer, Eric Gay, Alex Connor, Kevin Vineys and colleagues throughout the organization with Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the States

AP ties Supreme Court nominee to faith group said to subjugate women

When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Barrett and her supporters clearly did not want to discuss the nominee’s reported ties to a religious group called People of Praise.

Enter reporters Michelle Smith and Michael Biesecker. Using on-the-record interviews and an archive of deleted web pages, the pair documented Barrett's deep ties to the charismatic Christian group and painted a detailed picture of the organization’s beliefs and practices from its early days to the present. And the reporters went on to reveal how the organization had systematically deleted all mentions of Barrett and her family from its website.

For deep, resourceful reporting that sheds new light on the current Supreme Court nominee on the cusp of her confirmation hearings, Smith and Biesecker share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 24, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reporting reveals nonstop chaos in overburdened immigration courtrooms

Led by reporters Amy Taxin and Deepti Hajela, the AP harnessed its vast geographic reach and expertise on the topic of immigration to deliver a striking, all-formats examination of the nation’s beleaguered immigration court system. 

AP journalists fanned out to courtrooms across the U.S. to vividly illustrate chaos in the nation’s immigration courts, plagued by a 1 million case backlog. 

The reporting uncovered personal stories of immigrants entangled in the system, including an in-depth package from rural Georgia by reporter Kate Brumback and photographer David Goldman, and video by producer Noreen Nasir.

For a revealing look at a legal system struggling to cope with the influx of immigrants, and families caught up in the grinding legal process, Taxin, Hajela, Brumback, Goldman and Nasir share AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the States

Records reveal Virginia attorney-lawmaker privilege that delays court proceedings

Sometimes accountability stories are hiding in plain sight, but getting to them requires first recognizing the potential and then doing a whole lot of digging. Virginia reporter Sarah Rankin did both of those things. 

After seeing a one-sentence mention in a legal trade publication, Rankin began the hunt for a deeper story about a continuance privilege granted to lawyer-legislators, and how one Virginia lawmaker used the privilege to consistently delay court hearings. 

Rankin plowed through records of cases that involved Virginia lawmaker Jeff Campbell, the defense attorney for a one-time NASCAR race driver accused of domestic violence. She found that Campbell had employed the continuance privilege at least 30 times over three years, more than double any other lawyer-legislator.

For seizing on the brief mention, then following up with determined reporting that revealed a potential for abuse by lawyer-lawmakers in Virginia and elsewhere, Rankin wins the week’s Best of the States award.

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Disturbing court case of virus-stricken detainee

used careful source work to get a rare interview with a migrant in detention who was stricken with COVID-19. Salomon Diego Alonzo coughed and gasped through much of the interview, and what came next was even more disturbing: Alonzo was forced to attend a crucial asylum hearing by phone, lasting two hours before the judge decided to delay the case. Alonzo was hospitalized the following day. Merchant wove a compelling story, bringing to life one hearing that exposed a callous handling of sick immigrants amid the pandemic. https://bit.ly/3bxPUAb

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March 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats sweep as AP breaks news of Supreme Court nominee

beat all the competition, breaking the news of President Joe Biden’s nominee for the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. AP flooded the media space with content on every platform, delivering a comprehensive package that told customers and readers everything they need to know about federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, what comes next and who bears watching in the process.The initial scoop came from smart source work, and the impressive range of content that quickly followed was made possible by advance coordination across formats and departments — AP was poised with thorough preparation on each of the front-runners for the nomination. Read more

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Dec. 01, 2017

Best of the States

AP staffers get exclusive interview with U.S. Rep. John Conyers

When BuzzFeed broke the news that the longest-serving current U.S. House member had settled a sexual harassment complaint, one notable thing missing was comment from U.S. Rep. John Conyers himself. The 88-year-old Conyers rarely gives interviews anymore, deferring to his staff to issue statements or simply not responding.

Congress was on Thanksgiving break, but News Editor Roger Schneider suggested that video journalist Mike Householder and reporter Corey Williams drop by Conyers’ Detroit home. They knew it was a long shot – Corey and Mike had been to Conyers’ house before, and knew it was gated.

To their surprise, Conyers answered their ring.

Conyers answered a few questions, giving Williams and Householder a major beat: He denied settling sexual harassment claims and other allegations of inappropriate touching of staffers.

For aggressive reporting that paid off with an exclusive on one of the week’s top stories, Williams and Householder share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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