Aug. 18, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Speedy, smart coverage on Hawaii’s wildfire breaks AP engagement records

When a wildfire broke out in Maui and obliterated the centuries-old town of Lahaina, staff in AP’s Pacific Northwest sprang into action. Honolulu’s Audrey McAvoy was on the ground within hours, leveraging the AP’s unique Hawaii footprint for the first of many days of aggressive coverage that allowed AP to own the story from the beginning.

McAvoy was quickly joined by Portland, Oregon, reporter Claire Rush, who canceled her vacation; photographer Rick Bowmer and video journalists Ty O’Neil and Haven Daley. Jennifer Kelleher joined the reporting effort from Honolulu, where she anchored the story for days with help from Chris Weber in Los Angeles and worked longtime sources, including Gov. Josh Green, to keep AP ahead. Rush, O’Neil and Bowmer slept in an SUV for two days in the burn zone.

On Aug. 9, apnews.com received 7.6 million page views — a new record and a 32% increase over traffic the previous Wednesday, and the following day also broke previous records with 7.5 million page views.

The Live Updates fixture, artfully anchored by a changing cast of characters, was also a huge winner for AP and served as a “search tree” that led readers back to AP’s content again and again.

For extraordinary coverage of the devastating fire, accomplished despite huge logistical challenges, the AP Maui team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.

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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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April 28, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reveals DEA chief is being investigated for contracts to past associates 

Josh Goodman and Jim Mustian reported exclusively that a federal watchdog is investigating whether the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration under chief Anne Milgram improperly used millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to flout normal governing hiring procedures to hire past associates at a very high cost.   

The two followed up on a previous scoop about the arrest of former DEA agent Jose Irizarry, who confessed to laundering money for Colombian drug cartels and skimming millions of dollars from asset seizures and informants.   

After an external review of the DEA’s foreign operations was slammed for underplaying its scandals, Latin America reporter Goodman and investigative reporter Mustian began asking questions.   

What they found was that a Washington law firm that was hired as part of a no-bid contract did the review, and that its author was the former right-hand man to one of Milgram’s closest friends, former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. That led to more reporting, more questions and more sources talking about how the DEA used other no-bid contracts to hire Milgram’s past associates.  

For expert source reporting that holds accountable the DEA and its highest-ranking official, Goodman and Mustian win Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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