March 17, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP shows why young Americans are shunning college

News outlets had widely reported a drop in U.S. college enrollment, but nobody had really explained why. Education reporter Collin Binkley and Ohio-based video journalist Patrick Orsagos figured the best way to find out was to talk with young adults themselves.   

Binkley won a grant from the Education Writers Association and traveled with Orsagos to western Tennessee, where the pair conducted cross-format interviews with high school graduates whose stories exposed the reasons behind the trend: The high cost of higher education. Fear of student debt. A hot job market. General disillusionment with education after high school experiences disrupted by the pandemic and school closures.   

The story sparked wide discussion about the cost of college, the need for reform in higher education and the relevance of a bachelor’s degree in today’s economy. The day after publication the story landed on Reddit’s “popular” page, thanks to a post on the “Futurology” subreddit that received more than 25,000 upvotes and 3,000 comments. It appeared on at least 21 newspaper front pages, with good play on The Tennessean, The Jackson Sun, The Columbus Dispatch, The Roanoke Times and the Ithaca Journal, among others.

The story was tweeted by several members of Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio. Parents, professors and other readers reached out via email and social media, saying the story resonated with them and demonstrated the need for America’s colleges to offer something young people see value in. And the former admissions director at Jackson State Community College offered to advise one of the students in the story on her college options; that student said she plans to contact him.  

For going to the source to find the reasons behind a major trend, Binkley and Orsagos share this week’s Best of the Week — First Place honors.

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March 31, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years of source work in Texas leads to power narrative enterprise story

Jake Bleiberg spent years reporting on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, including an investigation in September into the dropped cases. That story caught the attention of Irma Reyes, a South Texas mother, who reached out to Bleiberg to say that something similar was probably about to happen in the cases of two men charged with sex trafficking her daughter. Bleiberg checked sources and records and then headed to court, where he and Eric Gay witnessed Reyes’s worst fears come to pass.    

The resulting story became the most engaged story of the week on APNews. It also received extensive play across Texas and national media outlets, and won praise from elected officials critical of Paxton, as well as from prosecutors, and even a lawyer for one of the men accused in the case.    

For their compelling all-formats narrative story that put a human face on the dysfunction in Texas that led prosecutors to drop human trafficking and child sexual abuse cases, writer Jake Bleiberg, photographer Eric Gay and video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi are the first winners of this week’s Best of the Week award. 

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Jan. 06, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP sportswriter breaks news of Pelé's death

Brazil sportswriter Mauricio Savarese had been preparing for the death of soccer legend Pelé for months, if not years. When it happened, he and his colleagues from all formats delivered a huge win for AP.

Savarese long had been building sources close to Pelé, from among his current and former agents, friends and family of the three-time World Cup winner considered by many as the greatest player ever.

The 82-year-old Pelé was hospitalized in November to treat ailments related to colon cancer. Through sources, Savarese learned that Pelé's condition was critical and that his death could occur at any minute. Colleagues across all formats mobilized to put finishing touches on the preparedness, from the main obituary to stories looking at every aspect of Pelé's life and accomplishments, to video, lives and photo packages.

For extraordinary preparation and source development to beat all competitors on a sports story of major importance globally, Savarese earns Best of the Week – First Winner.

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March 10, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Rehab on hold: COVID devastates prison learning programs

When COVID-19 hit, tearing through prisons and killing thousands, it severely disrupted or shut down the very programs prisoners desperately need to prepare them for eventual release. Trauma counseling, college courses, and job training in carpentry, masonry and barbering were slow to adjust to pandemic learning. Isolation and uncertainty replaced creative outlets and mental health therapies for months on end. National Writer Aaron Morrison and video journalist Noreen Nasir paired with Los Angeles photographer Jae C. Hong to explore the problem through a behind-the-scenes look at a California prison.

Visual access inside U.S. prisons is extremely rare; Morrison got the AP access using connections with sources. The team was particularly mindful of how to humanize the men beyond just their blue uniforms and tattoos, especially as they expressed themselves with such vulnerability through the intensive therapy work and programs.

For extraordinary work that allowed AP’s audience to see the impact of the COVID epidemic in prisons, Morrison, Nasir and Hong share Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Feb. 03, 2023

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Cross-format collaboration produces in-depth coverage of L.A. area massacre

's coverage of Los Angeles County's worst massacre led to an array of stories and visuals that portrayed not only the human suffering and complex cultural significance of the community where the attack occurred, but also held police accountable for their hours-long delay in alerting the public that a mass killer was on the loose.

Bernard Condon, Jim Mustian and Julie Watson reconstructed a detailed timeline of the shooting to confidently report that it took five hours after the shooting for authorities to alert the public that the gunman was on the loose. The story was widely played and was followed by the Los Angeles Times, which played catch-up on its own turf. AP was one of only several outlets to obtain video surveillance footage showing a hero wresting the weapon from the shooter and was among the first news outlets to report details on all 11 victims.Read more.

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Feb. 03, 2023

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Emails reveal tensions in Colorado River talks

relied on emails obtained through open records requests for an exclusive story documenting the competing priorities and tensions that sank negotiations between several western states for voluntary cuts in Colorado River water allotments.

Interviews with water officials cultivated for months -- or in Fonseca's case, years -- were key to supplementing and explaining what the emails showed. A separate public records request by Michael Phillis helped in building a timeline of the negotiations.Read more.

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Feb. 03, 2023

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Persistence, restraint win AP widely cited exclusive on death for political commentator "Diamond"

Reporters Hannah Schoenbaum and Lea Skene exclusively obtained the death certificate of pro-Trump commentator, Lynnette "Diamond" Hardaway to help dispel rumors and misinformation running wild on social media. After Hardaway’s sister falsely implied that a COVID vaccine had played a role during a livestreamed memorial, AP used restraint by deciding not to write about what was said about the cause of death at the memorial while waiting for an official autopsy or death certificate that the reporters had already requested. Read more.

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Jan. 27, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP's Boone spearheads 20-outlet legal challenge to Idaho college stabbings gag order

The fatal stabbings of four college students at the University of Idaho campus in Moscow, Idaho, in November 2022 were initially shrouded in mystery and misinformation. As Boise, Idaho, Supervisory Correspondent Rebecca Boone worked to untangle all of this, a judge put up yet another barrier to getting the story to the public: a sweeping gag order prohibiting law enforcement agencies, attorneys or anyone else associated with the case from discussing it publicly.   

In the middle of one of the biggest stories in the nation, Boone suddenly had a new task on her plate: singlehandedly spearheading a legal challenge to the gag order — ultimately recruiting a coalition of 22 print and TV media outlets, including The New York Times, to join the cause.  

The AP couldn't have had a better advocate for the task. Boone has a track record of fighting for press access and has made the issue a top priority in her lengthy AP career. 

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Jan. 20, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Faceless portraits: Noroozi innovates to show struggle of Afghan women athletes

The best portraits capture a person’s essence, almost always by focusing on the human face. But AP photographer Ebrahim Noroozi, on assignment in Kabul temporarily from Iran, needed to do something different to show the effects of Afghanistan’s rule banning women playing sports.

Using the emblematic burqa to conceal the identities of the women athletes now forbidden from doing what they love best, Noroozi came up with the haunting series of faceless portraits to illustrate the erasure of Afghan women from public life under the Taliban.

Several female athletes who once played a variety of sports unrestricted posed for Noroozi with their athletic equipment – and their identities hidden by burqas, the all-encompassing robe and hood that completely covers the face, leaving only a swath of mesh to see through.

Noroozi’s images were published in an array of multimedia presentations by AP’s subscribers worldwide, including the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. The latter used them to illustrate a story about the near-simultaneous decision by Australia to cancel a men’s one-day international cricket series over the restrictions on women.

For innovation and sensitivity in showing a difficult subject, Noroozi earns Best of the Week – First Winner.

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