Nov. 03, 2017

Best of the States

Georgia election server wiped clean – days after lawsuit against officials

Georgia's centralized and aging election system has been the subject of several controversies – most recently in June, when a whistleblower revealed that state contractors had failed to secure an important election server. Hackers could potentially have affected the results of both 2016 races and a special congressional election last June that drew national attention.

The Houston bureau’s Frank Bajak wrote up the initial news of Georgia’s server problem. But that didn't answer the larger question of whether the vulnerable server had actually been hacked, so Bajak developed new sources and kept pressing for more information.

His efforts paid off when a source provided him with an email disclosing that the troubled server had been wiped clean of all data. Even more interesting, this destruction of evidence happened just a few days after a lawsuit was filed seeking a forensic examination of the server in an effort invalidate the state's vulnerable election technology.

For his enterprise and dogged pursuit of the story behind the story, Bajak wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 12, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Unmatched coverage of a D-Day unlike any other

delivered compelling all-formats coverage of the D-Day anniversary at a time when most World War II veterans could not visit Normandy because of coronavirus restrictions – a local mayor called it “a June 6 unlike any other.” But the AP team helped absent veterans feel a part of the somber memorial services and observances at Omaha and other beaches with two days of nonstop coverage that no competitor could match.https://bit.ly/3cWQMydhttps://bit.ly/2ATuU9qhttps://bit.ly/2zpd51Ihttps://bit.ly/3cMIN6x

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March 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP story helps derail partisan effort to oust Tennessee judge

revealed a move by the Tennessee House to oust Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle, a judge who allowed widespread access to absentee voting before the 2020 election.That ruling last summer by Lyle didn't sit well with Tennessee Republicans. So not long after the legislature reconvened for the first time after the 2020 election, an effort to remove her began in earnest. With GOP supermajorities in both chambers, the measure had a chance to pass despite concerns that it represented a breach of judicial independence.Mattise’s March 8 story went deep on the mounting criticism, including colorful context on Tennessee’s previous efforts to remove judges over the past 50 years. The day after the story hit the wire, the push to oust Lyle went down to defeat in a House subcommittee, demonstrating the power of sunshine to upend questionable policy making. https://bit.ly/3tvbttG

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June 17, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP explores El Salvador’s strict abortion ban through the voices of women who lived it

As the U.S. Supreme Court considers overturning the constitutional right to abortion, reporter Luis Henao and video journalist Jessie Wardarski provided a compelling account of what can happen under a total abortion ban, through the testimonials of women who were raped or suffered miscarriages in El Salvador — where the country’s harsh anti-abortion law committed them to long prison terms.

Henao and Wardarski traveled to rural El Salvador to meet women willing to share on camera their harrowing stories of being imprisoned under the law. To these Salvadoran women, their plight should serve as a cautionary tale for Americans.

The AP pair also sought the views of a Catholic cardinal and a lawmaker who defended the ban on abortion. The resulting all-formats package was used by hundreds of news outlets, was widely praised by experts on the issue and generated impassioned commentary on social media.

For engaging, insightful coverage that gives voice to women who have suffered the consequences of an abortion ban, and shedding light on an issue that sharply divides opinions in the U.S. and beyond, Henao and Wardarski earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Oct. 22, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

In the wake of Texas’ abortion ban, AP gives voice to women now going to out-of-state clinics

In America’s pitched debate over abortion, the voices of the people most affected by the slew of new laws restricting access to abortion are seldom heard.

Allowing patients to tell their stories of seeking to end their pregnancies has been a priority in AP’s coverage of Texas’ new law banning most abortions. Oklahoma City-based reporter Sean Murphy and Miami-based photographer Rebecca Blackwell delivered impressively on that goal with a sensitively written, visually compelling all-formats package.

The pair carefully negotiated access to a clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana, and earned the trust of Texas patients whose voices were vividly brought to life in text, photo, video and audio. They also met with anti-abortion protesters outside the clinic.

For gaining access and handling a delicate and polarizing story with professionalism, grace and accuracy while providing AP’s worldwide audience a greater understanding of the real-life impacts of the Texas law, Murphy and Blackwell are AP’s Best of the Week — First Winners.

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Oct. 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP data analysis finds poor mail delivery in battleground states

revealed that Postal Service districts across the nation are missing the agency’s own standards for on-time delivery as tens of millions of Americans prepare to vote by mail – and the lag times are especially pronounced in key regions of some battleground states.Postal Service delivery times, some of them obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, indicate that the district covering Detroit and the eastern third of Michigan, the part of the state that is being most heavily contested politically, has the worst on-time delivery in the nation. Regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania show similar underperformance. In fact, the data showed that no Postal Service region is meeting the agency’s target of delivering more than 95% of first-class mail within five days. https://bit.ly/2GecGlX

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Dec. 06, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats coverage of Vietnam funerals for trafficking victims

for overcoming restrictions imposed by the government to deliver compelling cross-format coverage of funeral rites and burials for some the 39 Vietnamese victims of human trafficking, whose bodies where discovered inside a truck in the England in October. Hau reported for text, captured stills and delivered live video.https://bit.ly/2OWlte9https://bit.ly/2RuutsBhttps://bit.ly/2rWCbkk

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Nov. 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals lawsuits setting up midterm election challenges

captured the surprising extent of pre-election lawsuits — more than 100 filed around the country, largely by Republicans — as the legal action lays the groundwork for challenges to midterm election results. The suits target rules for mail-in voting, early voting, voter access and registration, and more.White House reporter Long identified the broader trend and also uncovered an entirely unreported GOP strategy of approaching the midterms with thousands of volunteers and lawyers hired across the nation. Her assessment: The legal actions likely preview a contentious post-election period.Read more

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Dec. 02, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Greater China staff delivers swift, compelling coverage of unprecedented lockdown protests

Even by the standards of Chinese state surveillance, the capital of the Xinjiang region stands out for the scope of repression. So, when protests broke out in Urumqi against coronavirus restrictions, AP journalists knew something unusual was happening.

It started with an apartment fire blamed by many on China’s harsh coronavirus measures. Dake Kang, who has covered the region closely for the past five years, scored an early interview with a relative of victims of the fire, beating out competitors. By reaching out to people on the ground online, Taipei-based writer Huizhong Wu confirmed protests that had followed, adding critical eyewitness accounts.

Within 24 hours of the fire, Chinese social media was swamped with anti-government messages – people angry at restrictions that have locked them into their homes for weeks or months at a time, and critically blaming the leadership. In a country where media is restricted, residents are surveilled, and individuals are punished for speaking out against authority, this was extraordinary.

As unrest spread, AP staff in Beijing, Bangkok and Hong Kong used all their tools and cooperated across borders to produce swift, careful coverage of the unprecedented demonstrations, earning Best of the Week 1st winner.

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Dec. 11, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

In exclusive AP interview, AG Barr says no evidence of widespread election fraud, undermining Trump

Justice Department reporter Mike Balsamo has spent months cultivating sources at the Department of Justice, earning a reputation as an objective journalist who reports fairly and accurately. 

His relationships paid off with an exclusive interview of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in which Barr said the DOJ could find no evidence of widespread voting fraud, dramatically undercutting President Donald Trump’s insistence to the contrary.

“I knew ... he had made probably the biggest news he has in his tenure as AG,” said Balsamo. His story topped the news cycle and resonated for days. No other news outlet could match it and AP was widely cited for the scoop.

For persistent, evenhanded reporting on the Justice Department beat resulting in the interview that netted one of AP’s most consequential news coups of the year, Balsamo wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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June 21, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Smart, resourceful effort yields scoop on crew of stricken tanker

for using their years of experience in Dubai to get around restrictions, sending exclusive video, photos and text as the crew of an oil tanker that had been attacked in the Gulf of Oman arrived in the city-state. Advised by correspondent Nasser Karimi that there was only one flight the crew could take from Iran, Gambrell and Abuelgasim rushed to Dubai’s airport, leaving their gear in the car to avoid the attention of authorities. When the sailors arrived the pair sprang into action, shooting photos and video with their iPhones as the crew left the airport.https://bit.ly/2L0D96thttps://bit.ly/2ZwjjUM

Aug. 16, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team defies lockdown to report in all formats from Kashmir

for braving security restrictions and overcoming a complete communication lockdown to report in all formats on life under siege from Indian-administered Kashmir.When New Delhi moved Aug. 5 to revoke the Himalayan region of its statehood, all lines to the outside world were severed. With a strict curfew in place the AP crew overnighted in the office, but transmission in any format was a challenge. Defying the crackdown on movement and filming, the team managed to send photos, video and text with a passenger on a flight to Delhi.Meanwhile, Saaliq, a native Kashmiri himself, spoke to people struggling to buy necessities and to those injured during sporadic protests. His story, some of which he dictated over the phone from a Srinagar hotel, was one of the first reports in the international media that allowed Kashmiri voices to be heard after the dramatic developments. Hussain followed with personal stories of how Kashmiris were coping with life surrounded by armed police and paramilitary soldiers. And with short windows of internet access and many trips to the airport, the AP team managed to move words and images of thousands of protesters, including a widely used photo of a group of women marching after Friday prayers, and security forces patrolling the city. The lockdown continues. While some local media have suggested normalcy has returned to Kashmir, AP offers a critical counter narrative grounded in dogged reporting to show the world what is happening in the disputed region.https://bit.ly/31EKii3https://bit.ly/2H8adH7https://bit.ly/3063jJV

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Nov. 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP breaks news on Justice Department election investigations

both delivered scoops on the U.S. Department of Justice and election investigations.Balsamo kept hearing rumors of the DOJ looking into election cases, but he knew there were rules prohibiting such investigations during an ongoing election. He kept asking until a source revealed a memo Attorney General William Barr had sent to prosecutors nationwide authorizing federal prosecutors across the U.S. to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the election is certified, despite the fact there was no evidence of widespread fraud giving prosecutors the ability to go around the longstanding policy. The scoop reverberated nationwide, especially as concerns grew over Trump’s ability to use the levers of government to hang on to power. The story was widely used, with Politico, Axios and NBC citing AP in their coverage of Barr’s memo. AP’s alert and a full story were on the wire more than 40 minutes before other major news organizations obtained a copy of the memo.Meanwhile, Las Vegas reporter Michelle Price was digging into how the DOJ was pursuing allegations from the Trump campaign that voters may have cast improper ballots in Nevada. Price and Balsamo teamed up with voting reporter Anthony Izaguirre to report out two ongoing investigations, and how they may not hold up to scrutiny. Price used her contacts to get exclusive first-person accounts from U.S. military members who thought they’d been wrongly accused of fraud for voting by mail from out of state by Nevada authorities and DOJ officials.https://bit.ly/2Kqu09ehttps://bit.ly/3lOlxKR

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Jan. 28, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Elite California suburb clamps down on water wasters

reported exclusively on a California water district — home to Kim Kardashian and other celebrities — that may have the state’s harshest water restrictions during the current drought.The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, just north of Los Angeles, is among districts that rely almost exclusively on state water supplies. Ronayne, Sacramento-based environment/climate reporter, learned of the district’s new penalties for water wasters while reporting that in the midst of drought, local districts may not get any of the state water supply they’d requested in 2022. She decided to find out more, reasoning that what’s being imposed in Las Virgenes may serve as a model for other water districts as the drought continues.When Las Virgenes officials explained they would slow water flow to a trickle for households that keep wasting, Ronayne knew she had a story. With further reporting, she confirmed that the district's conservation tactics went further than others.Ronayne’s exclusive on the district’s approach hooked AP customers and readers, partly because Las Virgenes serves celebrity-filled neighborhoods. District officials said many rich residents don't bother to cut back when fined; water isn't an expensive commodity for them and the penalties aren’t significant — until the water slows to a trickle. https://aplink.news/1dv

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April 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: States passing tough abortion laws often have weak social programs

collaborated with a team of AP state reporters on an analysis of federal data, finding that states passing the toughest abortion restrictions are generally the most challenging places for people to have and raise children. With the U.S. Supreme Court widely expected to roll back abortion rights later this year, the data and reporting revealed a weak network of social services in many of these states for women who become pregnant and may be unable to obtain an abortion.AP’s analysis, led by data journalists Fassett and Lo, looked at seven social safety net measurements collected by the federal government; visualized in an engaging interactive by the data team’s Gorman. The reporting team, led by Utah statehouse reporter Whitehurst, interviewed parents, researchers and nonprofit groups that provide support to pregnant people, new parents, infants and young children. And while the data overwhelming showed that Republican-controlled states with strict abortion laws performed the worst on these social services, the reporting also came with the important caveat that a few Democratically controlled states with more permissive abortion laws also measured poorly in some categories.Read more

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April 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP dominates French election coverage with nimble live video

used sharp planning and fast election day pivots to put AP well ahead of the competition, delivering unmatched live and edited video coverage of the first round of France's presidential election — a vote with implications for Europe’s future.As the election unfolded Sunday, senior producer Schaeffer recognized leading French broadcasters heavily using AP’s morning live feed from voting stations. Seeing the demand, he and the team quickly committed to live coverage throughout the day. That usage by French broadcasters was particularly telling: They chose AP over their own coverage — and crucially, over AP’s major French competitor, a tribute to the broad, balanced coverage which dominated AP’s live offerings throughout the day.Read more

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