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. 

AP23106692608904

June 23, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

The Great Grift: How billions in COVID-19 relief aid was stolen or wasted

After a monthslong analysis, the AP revealed that at least 10% of $4 trillion in federal COVID-19 relief money was stolen or misspent.

The story was sparked by a simple question in January from Acting Global Investigations Editor Alison Kodjak: How much relief money was stolen? Richard Lardner, of the global investigations team, teamed up with climate reporter Jennifer McDermott and data team reporter Aaron Kessler to get an answer. They conducted scores of interviews, read dozens of government indictments and reports and tracked down experts.

In the end, they determined scam artists potentially stole more than $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding, and another $123 billion was wasted or misspent — a combined loss of 10% of the relief aid the U.S. government has so far disbursed. Senior video producer Jeannie Ohm and motion graphics designer Eva Malek created an animated video explainer, narrated by Kessler, that succinctly laid out how easy it was for fraudsters to make off with so much money. Multimedia editor Kevin Vineys created a series of compelling graphics that helped break down government spending and potential theft.

For spending months investigating and documenting how much of the federal government’s $4.2 trillion in COVID-19 relief was looted or misspent, Lardner, McDermott, Kessler, Vineys and Malek earn Best of the Week — First Winners.

Great grift animation still

Feb. 03, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP scores exclusive interview with Pope Francis, making news worldwide with a papal call to decriminalize homosexuality

Vatican Correspondent Nicole Winfield's tenacious reporting has already delivered numerous exclusives over a two-decade career covering three popes. Yet an on-camera, sit-down interview with a pontiff had eluded the AP.

That changed dramatically Jan. 24. After years of lobbying, the pope sat down for an historic interview with Winfield, whom Francis has for years called the “prima della classe,” or “first in class,” as a sign of respect for her tough but fair reporting on his pontificate. In fact, during the interview, he mentioned how Winfield’s questions about sex abuse during a 2018 airborne press conference led to his “conversion” moment when he realized that Chilean bishops had been covering up cases of abuse for decades.

For weeks, Winfield prepared the interview with Rome Senior Producer Maria Grazia Murru, who for decades has led the Vatican video operations. They coordinated every detail and prepared the right questions and approach for the interview. Murru designed the video coverage plan and spearheaded the production of social media promotion material. And together, they wrote letters in the most formal Italian to Francis’ private secretaries, until a date was finally arranged — for late January, a time that seemed ripe to make news. It was one week ahead of his planned trip to Africa and just over a month ahead of the 10th anniversary of his pontificate.

Video’s Paolo Santalucia and Photos’ Domenico Stinellis planned the lighting at the venue and sorted out technical details, and photographer Andrew Medichini’s images captured the historic event. Spanish language editor Cristina Fuentes-Cantillana transcribed and translated the full interview, conducted in the pope’s native Spanish.

AP 23024840887234