July 29, 2016

Best of the States

BEST OF THE STATES, NO. 241

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke fell one election short of becoming Louisiana’s governor in 1991. In the years since, he has frequently mulled another run for office, but never taken the plunge. So when Duke publicly floated the idea of running for Congress, Louisiana statehouse reporter Melinda Deslatte was cautious.

But Deslatte also knew that if Duke were to actually run, it would be big news, especially in a year where race relations were front and center in the national debate.

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July 27, 2018

Best of the States

Private messaging apps used for official business test open records laws

Smart phone private messaging apps are great for keeping secrets. The apps delete messages almost immediately and do not allow them to be saved, copied or captured with a screenshot.

But what about use of the apps by government officials and elected representatives? State Government Team reporter Ryan Foley spotted a trend of public officials increasingly using such apps for official business. It’s a trend that alarms advocates for open government, who say it undermines state laws designed to ensure transparency and access to records.

Foley’s research was based in large part on use of a new legislative tracking tool called the Sunshine Hub that was developed by AP Data Team members Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen. The tool allowed Foley to see whether bills addressing the trend were being introduced in state legislatures across the country. And indeed they were.

The resulting story won play on more than two dozen front pages and prompted several editorials, including one in The Columbus Dispatch warning that officials’ use of message-vanishing apps was the same as destroying public records.

For their efforts in exposing a potentially dangerous anti-transparency trend among government officials, and developing a unique tool to track it, Foley, Tumgoren and Rasmussen win the Best of the States award.

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July 20, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP first to identify, interview Russian-American lobbyist at Trump Jr. meeting

The sensational news about a campaign-season meeting involving a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump’s inner circle – including his son, Donald Trump Jr. – developed over six days, with details and accounts changing almost by the hour. Reports trickled out that another man also was at the meeting to represent Russian interests.

With all major news organizations in hot pursuit, Washington’s Desmond Butler was the first to nail the identity of the lobbyist in question and also to nab the first on-the-record interview with him. For tenacious source work, Butler wins Beat of the Week.

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May 24, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sky-high reporting and smart use of all formats puts AP ahead amid Persian Gulf tensions

As tensions between Iran, its neighbors and the United States ratcheted up last week, AP’s staff in Baghdad, Dubai and Tehran turned out aggressive, yet cautious coverage, bringing facts and unique perspectives to the tense and escalating situation in the Persian Gulf, often well ahead of the competition.

Those stories included reports of “sabotaged” oil tankers off the coast of the UAE, and AP broke the news that Iran had quadrupled its uranium enrichment.

Meanwhile, AP’s Tehran team produced an all-formats piece on the mood of people on the city’s streets that could not be matched by competitors, and AP was first to report an FAA warning that Iran could misidentify commercial flights in the region.

AP was also aggressive on related developments, ensuring that clients had video and text coverage of tweets by President Donald Trump and Iranian officials.

For smart judgment, planning and effective use of AP’s resources to break news and bring facts to a region on edge, the team of Jon Gambrell, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Mehdi Fattahi, Bassem Mroue, Nasser Karimi and Vahid Salemi wins AP's Best of the Week, with the support of their colleagues and contributors in the region.

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May 07, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP’s ace soccer journalist scores in all formats as protest turns violent at Manchester United

Building on his recent coverage of the collapse of the Super League, AP global soccer writer Rob Harris knew he needed to attend Sunday’s match between two teams that were part of the failed breakaway league — Manchester United and Liverpool — amid rising fan anger at the clubs.

Reporters were prevented from entering the stadium hours before the scheduled kickoff, with most waiting outside the entrance to Old Trafford. But Harris looped around the opposite side of the stadium to get closer to the expected protests.

What followed was a multiformat win. As the the crowd grew unruly, eventually breaking into the stadium and onto the field, lighting flares and lobbing bottles, Harris phoned in text and uploaded video from the melee, including the start of clashes between fans and police. He and a pair of stringers supplemented with photos. On an important day for Premier League coverage, Harris’ video was featured in major networks’ coverage, and AP’s text alert on the postponement of the game beat even Britain’s top agency. 

For all-formats command of his beat under difficult circumstances, and significant wins against the competition, Harris earns AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Nov. 04, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Getting the real story out in the Philippines

The Philippine defense secretary said it, and many major papers and news agencies ran with it.

China, the cabinet official said, had pulled its coast guard vessels out of Scarborough Shoal, a chain of reefs in the South China Sea that's at the center of a territorial dispute between Manila and Beijing. It appeared an astonishing diplomatic victory for new President Rodrigo Duterte just days after he visited China.

To Jim Gomez, AP's chief correspondent in Manila, it all seemed a bit too remarkable _ and he pushed officials to back up their claim. Within days, they clarified: Chinese vessels had not left the disputed reef, but had allowed in Filipino fishermen who had been denied access for years.

The story resulting from Gomez' persistent questioning debunked a key government claim and earns the Beat of the Week.

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Jan. 12, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Persistence pays: APNewsbreak on major changes in US marijuana policy

The source's message delivered by text was short and simple: "I have big news."

Sadie Gurman, a Justice Department reporter, had covered Colorado's first-in-the-nation pot experiment when she was a staffer in Denver, cultivating activists and law enforcement officials as sources. So when she transferred to Washington about a year ago, she had a burning question: When would Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fierce opponent of decriminalization of marijuana, reverse the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to states that have legalized the drug?

The answer came last week and Gurman had the scoop – long before the competition and hours ahead of the official announcement. Her story earns the Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 08, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Blum breaks news on a new baseball labor deal and the scoops keep coming

All week, AP Baseball Writer Ron Blum knew that a new labor contract between Major League Baseball and its players was close. Each day, he stayed on the phone, talking to both sides, figuring out how far apart they were. Wednesday night, they were close. Then, the call came: They had a deal. “You’re the only person we trust to get it right,” the source told Blum about why he got the story.

Over the next few hours, Blum got more. The terms of the deal began to emerge. New players would not be able to use smokeless tobacco. The league that won the All-Star Game would no longer get home-field advantage in the World Series.

For those scoops — and more — Blum earns the Beat of the Week.

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Oct. 11, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP provides dramatic all-formats coverage of Iraq’s deadly protests

The calls on social media were informal and scattered, urging demonstrations Oct. 1 in Baghdad to protest deteriorating living conditions in the battered Iraqi capital. There was nothing to indicate that the protests would be more significant than previous actions. But Khalid Mohammed, AP’s chief photographer in Baghdad, had a hunch. He put the demonstrations on the bureau’s planner and urged all formats to be ready, despite the prevailing mood of skepticism.

Mohammed’s assessment proved prescient. The demonstrations erupted into five days of furious violence, the worst in the country since the quieting of its internal war against the Islamic State group. AP’s staff witnessed the first violence and stayed on the grueling story for days.

For their anticipation and courageous eyewitness journalism that set AP apart, Mohammed, photographer Hadi Mizban, video journalist Ali Jabar and reporter Qassim Abdul-Zahra share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 04, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

A nightmare in South Sudan

The scene was nightmarish. Women and girls fleeing fighting in South Sudan had taken refuge in a United Nations camp. As fighting subsided, they ventured out in search of food, but just outside the camp, they were dragged off by soldiers and raped. Two died of their injuries. At least one attack was said to have occurred within sight of U.N. peacekeepers.

The details in Jason Patinkin’s only-on-AP story could not have been reported without getting into the camp – but the U.N. at first blocked journalists from entering. Demanding access along with other journalists – and winning – in the midst of already challenging coverage allowed Patinkin to produce an exclusive that prompted outrage around the world. It earns Beat of the Week.

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Oct. 27, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Divided America: Seeing options shrinking, white men ask why

As the bitter election season winds down, a recurring theme has been the conviction among many white men that they have been losing ground in society. National writer Matt Sedensky wanted to find a way to tell their story for a concluding installment in the series Divided America.

The yearlong assessment of America’s national disunity comprised more than two dozen deeply reported, multi-format stories exploring splits along racial, religious and socio-economic lines, as well as clashing attitudes on issues ranging from gun regulation to immigration.

Sedensky focused on the views of white men turning toward Republican nominee Donald Trump and rejecting Democrat Hillary Clinton. He listened to the voices on a call-in radio show in Texas _ both host and callers revealing their angst _ and then, through backgrounding interviews with them and reporting on research, showed why these men feel as they do.

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March 02, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Pushing back against access limits at White House briefing, AP’s Julie Pace lauded for walking out

After eight years on the White House beat, AP’s Julie Pace is a leader among correspondents in fighting for access to the president and his advisers, and over those years she routinely has resisted any efforts to exclude the press unreasonably from news events or obscure the president’s schedule.

On Friday, she recognized instantly that what was happening at the White House was anything but routine: a first-in-memory, invitation-only daily briefing by the presidential press secretary from which other news organizations were excluded. Her spot-on instinct to walk out put The Associated Press at the forefront of the fight for access and openness.

Pace’s quick decision reverberated across Washington and the country – and earns the Beat of the Week.

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Oct. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP teams examine vaccine hesitancy, inequality in Africa

delivered two distinctive packages from Africa on vaccine hesitancy and gender inequality in the pandemic response on the continent — bolstering AP’s strong record of reporting on global inequity during the coronavirus outbreak.Teamwork and deep reporting from Gambia resulted in a visually stunning package that revealed Africa’s women as being the least vaccinated population in the world and explained why, bringing readers and viewers into the women’s lives.West Africa bureau chief Larson, senior producer Fisch and photographer Correa first focused on an oyster and fishing collective to better understand the women’s precarious financial position and why that makes them hesitant to get vaccinated. The team also trekked into Gambia’s interior, gaining the trust of a village chief who assembled his community to come talk to the AP about their fears and concerns around vaccination.The stunning package featured the women’s own voices and striking portraits, underscoring the cultural pressures the women face and the power of misinformation. A sidebar by Cheng expanded on the international scale of the problem, reinforcing AP’s commitment to covering global vaccine inequality as a major theme for 2021.Thousands of miles to the south, Zimbabwe stringer Mutsaka and photographer Mukwazhi worked relentlessly to build trust with one of Zimbabwe's leading churches, producing the first in-depth story from Africa on the role of the church in promoting vaccines. The Apostolic Christian Church has a strong distrust of modern medicine and is among the most skeptical churches in the country when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.Mukwazhi and Mutsaka made contacts, including a church leader who was encouraging worshippers to get vaccinated, and the AP pair was permitted to cover an outdoor service where vaccinations were discussed, the congregants wrapped in white robes. The resulting all-formats package, compelling and sensitively reported, tenderly illustrated the dilemma confronting many Zimbabwean churches regarding COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.https://aplink.news/mrwhttps://aplink.news/oalhttps://aplink.news/dlrhttps://aplink.video/8nqhttps://aplink.photos/jnuhttps://aplink.news/oryhttps://aplink.video/2bp

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Sept. 15, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team captures plight of Rohingya, casts doubt on Myanmar government claims

It was a tide of humanity that just kept getting larger.

Driven from their homes by mass violence after a clash between insurgents and police, Rohingya Muslims from a borderland state in Buddhist-majority Myanmar streamed into neighboring Bangladesh where they faced homelessness, more potential violence and deeply uncertain futures.

Day after excruciating day, an AP team of journalists on both sides of the border painted a portrait of human misery and the hope that always lurks within it – and cast doubt on claims by Myanmar’s government that Rohingya villagers set fire to their own homes.

For their work to focus the world’s attention on the Rohingya’s exodus, Delhi staffers – photographer Bernat Armangue, correspondent Muneeza Naqvi and video journalist Al-emrun Garjon – and Myanmar correspondent Esther Htusan win this week’s Beat of the Week award.

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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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March 13, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Decision Desk caps stellar Super Tuesday with instant call: California for Sanders

On Super Tuesday afternoon, AP’s Stephen Ohlemacher and Emily Swanson were locked away in a conference room – isolated from their colleagues in the Washington bureau – reviewing incoming results from AP VoteCast. AP’s survey – developed to be more accurate than traditional exit polling – was already revealing what was about to happen on the biggest night of the Democratic presidential primary campaign.

The VoteCast data revealed trends in absentee voting and shifting preferences as Democratic candidates dropped out of the race, giving AP the evidence it needed to call California for Bernie Sanders as the state’s polls closed at 11:00 Eastern. News outlets relying on exit polls would not make that call for more than a week. 

Meanwhile, Seth Borenstein was crunching the numbers on the all-important delegate count, a task that required days of painstaking analysis of incomplete data to reach this conclusion: Joe Biden won more delegates on Super Tuesday than did Sanders.

Like the Caliofornia race call, news of Biden’s delegate victory rocketed around the world. 

For completing in-depth, accurate analysis of election data on deadline, enabling AP to tell the complete story of Super Tuesday before all others, Swanson, Ohlemacher and Borenstein win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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April 28, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive Oval Office interview yields big news as Trump nears 100 days

It was supposed to be a 15-minute interview. Instead, Associated Press Chief White House Correspondent Julie Pace kept President Donald Trump talking for an hour in a wide-ranging Oval Office discussion that was exclusive, illuminating and full of news.

Pace's sit-down with the president – resulting in multiple stories that others scrambled to follow and a transcript that readers devoured despite its 8,000-word length – earns the Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 29, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP staffers surmount dual disasters in Mexico and Puerto Rico

First, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked Mexico, killing hundreds. Then, a day later, a category 4 hurricane pummeled Puerto Rico, leaving millions of people without power and with little water.

Two major calamities, one sterling response: Staffers of The Associated Press went to heroic lengths to tell the world the stories of two places battered by disaster. Their efforts were led to extraordinary achievements – in text, photos and video – and the Beat of the Week.

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April 08, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Ukraine visuals document an exceptionally dark chapter of the war; intelligence says aides misled Putin

AP teams have again dominated coverage of war in Ukraine on two fronts, this time in horrifying images of civilians killed in Bucha and surrounding areas outside Kyiv, and in stories out of Washington and London, where AP was first with a report that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aides have been misleading him about the war.

Recently declassified information from a reliable source led to Washington’s scoop that Putin was reportedly “misinformed by his advisors about how badly the Russian military is performing.” AP’s story beat the competition and scored sky-high reader engagement, and a smart follow-up out of London delved into the strategic value of declassifying such intelligence.

On the ground in Ukraine, AP video and photojournalists arrived Saturday in Bucha, outside Kyiv, after Russian forces were ousted. There they found civilians lying dead in the streets, destroyed Russian military equipment and dead Russian servicemen. The following day the AP journalists were first to record the bodies of eight men who were killed execution style, as well as a mass grave and the bodies of a village mayor and her family.

The grim images define one of the darkest chapters on the war so far and raise fears of what may be unfolding in areas as yet inaccessible to journalists.

For their vital role documenting this brutal episode of the war, and for revealing reports of failures in the Kremlin’s intelligence at the highest levels, the journalism of Nebi Qena, Sasha Stashevsky, Vadim Ghirda, Andrea Rosa and Rodrigo Abd in Ukraine, Aamer Madhani and Nomaan Merchant in Washington, and Jill Lawless in London receives AP’s Best of The Week — First Winner honors.

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