Nov. 15, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: At least 1,680 aging US dams pose a risk to thousands

Severe storms, extreme flooding and aging infrastructure present a rising peril throughout much of the U.S., but trying to assess the risks has been extremely difficult. The reason: The federal agency overseeing the nation’s dams has sealed off the most essential information about their condition and the potential threats to those living downstream.

Prying that information loose took the kind of dedicated, 50-state effort that the AP is uniquely positioned to pursue. Data journalist Michelle Minkoff and Northern New England correspondent Michael Casey, collaborating with state government team member David Lieb and a visual team led by video journalist Allen Breed – as well as a cast of AP state reporters, photographers and data journalists – produced a deeply reported and visually stunning package revealing the dangers of nearly 1,700 aging dams, from Hawaii to Massachusetts.

Some two years in the making, the package resulted in explosive play – more than 100,000 page views on AP News and more than 80 front pages. 

For their exhaustive efforts to unlock critical public information and relay the findings in an engaging fashion, Minkoff, Casey, Lieb and Breed win this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 15, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Blockbuster AP scoop reveals shelving of CDC guidelines on safe reopening

For weeks, critics had complained that the Trump administration was putting political concerns ahead of scientific recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

A blockbuster AP scoop amplified those complaints: Reporters Jason Dearen and Mike Stobbe worked sources to reveal that President Donald Trump’s administration shelved the CDC’s guidelines containing step-by-step advice to authorities on how and when to reopen businesses and other public places during the pandemic.

The story dominated news media and was by far the best-performing story on AP News for the week. And in a follow-up exclusive, Dearen reported on documents showing the decision to withhold came from the highest levels of the White House, and that the Trump administration ordered key parts of the CDC guidelines fast-tracked for approval after the AP’s story appeared.

For a major scoop that resonated among customers and readers and finally brought to light the scientists’ suppressed guidelines for how the country should reopen, Dearen and Stobbe win AP’s Best of The Week award.

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation puts AP ahead with fast, deep coverage of RBG

used their deep knowledge of the Supreme Court beat – and rigorous preparation – to put AP out front with a series of exclusives following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sherman and Gresko anticipated the inevitable after Ginsburg disclosed that she was being treated for another bout of cancer, and they were well positioned when the death was announced on Friday night. AP moved an alert within four minutes, with a story was out barely five minutes later, ahead of most other major outlets. Sherman’s elegant and deeply reported appreciation moved shortly after. He then set to work helping the White House and Congress teams with the very real question of what happens next.Gresko, meanwhile, teed off a series of exclusive pieces about Ginsburg – her final moments, the stories she told and how her style was something more than just a fashion statement. Sherman followed up with a look at whether eight justices would be enough should the 2020 election be contested. Play was stunning for their collective work – 5 million page views and 1,500 downloads.Sherman and Gresko understand not only the court and the complex legal filings, but also the justices themselves. And they value preparation as a precursor to speed. The pair works in tandem on different but equally interesting and important stories, and their collaboration kept the Washington bureau ahead of a momentous story in a year filled with momentous stories.https://bit.ly/3mQbKVChttps://bit.ly/2FXOqo7https://bit.ly/2FPTR8N

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Nov. 13, 2020

Best of the States

Tenacious source work leads to national newsbreak on census fraud

The on-the-record accounts from two census workers were stunning: Under pressure from supervisors amid the Trump administration’s push to bring the census to an end, they were encouraged to falsify records in the 2020 headcount.

Whom did they reveal this to? Not surprisingly, they spoke to Mike Schneider, AP’s authority on the census, who leveraged months of source development and reporting to break the story. Posted just an hour before the presidential race was called for former Vice President Joe Biden, the story still broke through with strong play and reader engagement.

For keeping the AP ahead in a critical coverage area with a terrific scoop, Schneider wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 23, 2020

Best of the States

Amid heightened racial tensions, ‘Looking for America’ series examines ‘sundown towns’

Many white Americans have likely never heard of “sundown towns,” where Black people were once forbidden after dark. So Tim Sullivan, Noreen Nasir and Maye-E Wong visited one such town, Vienna, Illinois, on the second stop in AP’s “Looking for America” series, to see how it is faring in a year marked by racial protests.

While there is no longer a rule against Black people in Vienna after sunset, the habit persists for many out of fear and tradition. With deep reporting and compelling visuals, the AP team captured a lingering racial divide that is obvious to some people but virtually invisible to others. 

For a probing but nuanced package that speaks to a thread of systemic racism, the all-formats team of Sullivan, Nasir and Wong earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 22, 2018

Best of the States

Chicago gangs embrace social media – often with deadly results

Chicago legal affairs writer Michael Tarm had been anticipating the release of a 400-page report on gangs, compiled about once every six years by the Chicago Crime Commission. He touched base with the commission every few months for years, asking for advanced access to the documents.

It paid off.

Tarm obtained exclusive access to new law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, then he spent weeks going through police and court records to find a gang-related killing to serve as a narrative of the findings. He uncovered the case of Lamanta Reese, a story illustrating how social media is transforming the city’s street-gang culture with deadly consequences. Gang member Reese, 19, had posted a smiley-face emoji on Facebook in response to an off-color joke about the mother of a rival gang member. Days later, that rival crossed the street between their gang factions, sneaked up on Reese and fatally shot him 11 times.

The story got strong play, with more than 10,000 page views on AP’s site the first day – almost 17,000 overall. The main story was published by 220 sites, including The New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the hometown Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. The Sun-Times and Daily Herald also ran it in their papers.

For obtaining exclusive access to law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, poring over police and court records, and drawing on in-depth sourcing to produce a multiformat, compelling narrative, Tarm wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP delivers stirring stories, fact check on I-95 shutdown

teamed up on quick, resourceful coverage of the massive gridlock on Virginia’s snowbound Interstate 95, reporting in all formats on the plight of stranded drivers while fact-checking state officials in real time.With the highway virtually inaccessible, journalists Gallion, Kunzelman, Walker and Finley used social media to land interviews with stranded motorists who waited hours for food, saw little in the way of law enforcement and struggled to conserve fuel amid frigid overnight temperatures.Richmond reporter Rankin, meanwhile, interviewed Virginia’s governor, pressing him on why he hadn’t activated the National Guard ahead of the storm. Photographer Helber delivered aerial images showing hundreds still stranded more than 24 hours in, important documentation as the state refused to estimate how many were trapped.The result was a mainbar, deftly assembled by Richmond’s Lavoie from a variety of feeds, racking up heavy play and readership numbers. A sidebar by Finley on one family’s plight kept also scored high reader engagement. Many Virginia news outlets used AP’s content as their top online offering. In a follow-up, Rankin and Springfield, Virginia, correspondent Matt Barakat reported on early missteps in the state and county response. With help from AP reporters in Ohio, New Jersey, Oregon and Georgia, the piece also recapped similar incidents elsewhere to evaluate Virginia’s handling. Other news organizations couldn’t easily or quickly match the story, demonstrating AP’s unique reach.https://aplink.news/8kihttps://aplink.news/egxhttps://aplink.news/3r6https://aplink.news/1cchttps://aplink.video/kq2https://aplink.video/yiq

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Aug. 05, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

The story behind Heller’s explosive 1972 ‘Tuskegee Study’ investigation

provided the first behind-the-scenes look at one of American journalism’s biggest scoops: how the AP's Jean Heller, then a 29-year-old reporter and the only woman on the wire service’s fledgling investigative team, broke the story of a notorious government experiment on Black men in rural Alabama.For the 50th anniversary of the AP exclusive on the Tuskegee syphilis study — where 600 Black men were left untreated for venereal disease for more than 40 years — national writer and visual journalist Breed interviewed Heller for video, text and photos, delivering an engaging narrative. Investigative intern Alyse Marin coproduced the compelling video featuring archival material and Breed’s interviews, including Heller and a descendant of one of the men in the study.Read more

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Oct. 04, 2019

Best of the States

AP reveals research into a rare-but-severe infection carried by family pets

It could have been a routine follow-up story, but Milwaukee video journalist Carrie Antlfinger found a way to tell that story and break news. 

Very little was known last year when Greg Manteufel, a perfectly healthy Wisconsin man, developed a severe blood infection attributed to a bacterium commonly found in the saliva of cats and dogs. 

While reporting on Manteufel’s effort to reclaim his life after more than 20 surgeries and the loss of his limbs, Antlfinger discovered an angle that had not been pursued by other outlets: Researchers had identified a genetic factor that appears to make otherwise healthy people susceptible to the disease.

Antlfinger shot video, photos and wrote the story, which received strong play in all formats.

For a compelling story of recovery that also broke medical news, Antlfinger receives this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 11, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP traces child labor from Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields to major brands, Girl Scout cookies

For the third installment of their groundbreaking investigation into labor abuse in Asia’s palm oil industry, reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason linked child labor to the supply chains of the makers of popular cereals, candies and ice creams, including KitKats, Oreos and Cap’n Crunch. They also traced the oil to that most American treat: Girl Scout cookies. 

Joined by photographers Binsar Bakkara and Mark Humphrey, and video journalist Allen Breed, their reporting found that some tens of thousands of children toil in the palm fields, some kept from school and forced to work for free or for little pay. Some are trafficked.

The framing of the story — through the eyes of a young girl in the fields in Indonesia and a Tennessee Girl Scout campaigning to have palm oil removed from the cookies — resonated with readers; reaction on social media led the Girl Scouts to address the issue with their suppliers.

For shedding unprecedented light on the children toiling in Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields, and connecting the abusive practice to major consumer brands, McDowell, Mason, Bakkara, Breed and Humphrey share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 28.

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Aug. 20, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work breaks news of Pentagon’s vaccine mandate

used strong source work to break the news that members of the U.S. military will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.Baldor, a veteran Pentagon reporter, spoke to contacts every day on the issue, and while some news outlets reported incorrectly that the Pentagon announcement would come Aug. 6, Baldor’s sources told her the decision was being pushed to the following week because of legal wrangling at the White House.She prepped a story on Friday, then got word mid-morning on Monday that an announcement was expected later in the day. She kept making calls until a longtime source gave her the memo on vaccine policy.

Immediately after AP’s alert, Baldor had a full story on the wire with quotes from the memo explaining the rationale behind the mandate. AP was the only news organization to get the memo and was first with the story and details, sending competitors scrambling to catch up; many news organizations cited AP as the news broke. The story had the most pageviews of the day on the AP News app and site. https://aplink.news/s2z

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April 27, 2018

Best of the States

AP lands elusive first interview with two black men arrested at Starbucks

The arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia for sitting without ordering anything turned into a major crisis for the coffee chain and sparked a national conversation on unconscious bias and overt racism.

But the two men at the center of the controversy sought to maintain their privacy as they tried to make sense of the ordeal. They even moved to a hotel to hide out as the scandal unfolded with numerous interview requests to tell their story.

Knowing the sit-down with the men was essential, Pennsylvania Editor Larry Rosenthal pressed for an interview, noting that one conversation with AP would relieve the pressure they were feeling from so many outlets. Errin Haines Whack, the AP’s national race and ethnicity writer, followed up with a written pitch. She noted she was based in Philly and wanted to hear both their version of events and what they hoped to see moving forward. In the end, that sealed the deal.

For landing the critical interview and delivering it in multiple formats, Whack is this week’s winner of Best of the States.

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Nov. 30, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Chinese researcher claims first gene-edited babies

When a source told AP’s chief medical reporter Marilynn Marchione that a Chinese researcher had edited the DNA of several human embryos and implanted two into a woman, their conversation launched an aggressive but delicate reporting effort by AP journalists in the U.S. and China. That reporting led to the AP’s exclusive coverage of one of the most important and controversial claims in medical and science history. It was nothing less than an attempt to alter the trajectory of human heredity.

Science writer Christina Larson, videographer Emily Wang, researcher Fu Ting and photographer Mark Schiefelbein set out to interview the researcher and his colleagues in Shenzhen and Beijing, while Marchione and videographer Kathy Young worked the story from the U.S.

He's claim raised a laundry list of concerns. After talking with current and former colleagues and outside scientists, it became clear that his claim, while unverifiable, was plausible. AP knew it would be worthwhile reporting the claim, because the claim itself would be major scientific news. And it was – AP's exclusive on He's claim of the world’s first gene-edited babies made headlines worldwide.

The response from readers, customers and other scientists was immediate and intense. The inventors of the gene-editing technology He used condemned the claim. U.S. and Chinese universities that He was affiliated with launched investigations, and more than 100 Chinese scientists called for a ban on work of this kind in China.

AP’s reporting was credited or linked to by at least 44 media outlets and generated numerous downloads. At more than half a million page views it was by far the most read story on APNews for the week.

For responsibly breaking a story in all formats of a major scientific claim while exploring the ethical quandaries that He’s research has raised, Marchione, Larson, Wang, Young, Ting and Schiefelbein earn AP's Best of the Week.

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July 06, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Long-form 360 video project provides riveting look at battle for Mosul

Iraqi Humvees wind their way through the pockmarked streets of Mosul. The rattle of gunfire and thud of a nearby airstrike fill the air. Terrified civilians scurry across the road to safety.

In the APs first long-form 360 video project, Middle East Photo Editor Maya Alleruzzo teamed up with video editor Claudia Prat to produce a riveting and harrowing video, "House to House: The Battle for Mosul." The 8-minute video earns Alleruzzo the Beat of the Week.

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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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March 12, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Solid sourcing leads to AP’s most-used story of 2021: 6 Dr. Seuss books retired for racist images

Mark Pratt, a breaking news staffer in Boston, has written several stories exploring the complicated past of Theodor Seuss Geisel — Dr. Seuss. The company that preserves and protects the author’s legacy knew it could trust him.

So Dr. Seuss Enterprises gave Pratt early word on a story that would become a global bestseller for AP, generating off-the-charts customer use for three days and eventually becoming the single most-used AP story of 2021 to date: The company was ceasing publication and sales of six Seuss books because of their offensive imagery.

Pratt’s story instantly rocketed to the very top of a hectic news cycle, touching off a firestorm of commentary and conservative claims of “cancel culture.” The piece exceeded 2.5 million pageviews — catapulting it past the Capitol insurrection coverage in terms of customer use and clicks.

For nurturing trust with a newsmaker that yielded an AP exclusive still resonating with customers and news consumers, Pratt wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the States

AP ties Supreme Court nominee to faith group said to subjugate women

When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Barrett and her supporters clearly did not want to discuss the nominee’s reported ties to a religious group called People of Praise.

Enter reporters Michelle Smith and Michael Biesecker. Using on-the-record interviews and an archive of deleted web pages, the pair documented Barrett's deep ties to the charismatic Christian group and painted a detailed picture of the organization’s beliefs and practices from its early days to the present. And the reporters went on to reveal how the organization had systematically deleted all mentions of Barrett and her family from its website.

For deep, resourceful reporting that sheds new light on the current Supreme Court nominee on the cusp of her confirmation hearings, Smith and Biesecker share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 07, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Livestream video leads coverage of Alaska earthquakes

As soon as the ground stopped violently shaking in Anchorage on the morning of Nov. 30, Anchorage newsman Dan Joling calmed his nerves and started reporting. Then, within minutes, he went from producing urgents to plotting out with Stephanie Mullen, the West region’s deputy director of storytelling based in San Francisco, how AP would get the most compelling visuals at first light.

Already adept at capturing still photos, Joling would use a tool new to him, the live video streaming app Bambuser, to report on the damage from the two powerful back-to-back earthquakes centered just outside Alaska’s biggest city.

Out in the field, Joling drove up to a vehicle stranded on a crumpled roadway, first using his iPhone to snap photos that he quickly sent to a photo editor. He then fired up the Bambuser app, a tool that he had been trained on exactly one month before.

The live footage he streamed was scooped up immediately by customers in the United States and Europe.

His quick thinking and improvisation put the AP far ahead of the competition and gave viewers and customers unmatched views of the quakes’ aftermath, earning him AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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April 14, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​A father bids farewell to twin toddlers after Syria attack

What do reporters do when more than 300 war-ravaged miles separate them from an immense story – in this case, the gassing of civilians in Syria, allegedly by their own government? They work the phones, and the apps.

Which is how Beirut reporter Sarah El Deeb came to interview Abdel Hameed Alyousef, who lost his two children, his wife and other relatives in the attack on the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun. And how she persisted in finding ways to bring the family’s story to the world in all formats.

And it is how she won the Beat of the Week.

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June 04, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Unique AP visual investigation reveals Myanmar's junta using bodies to terrorize civilians

The video was startling: As a motorcycle carrying three men speeds down a city street in Myanmar, a soldier traveling in the back of a pickup truck opens fire. A man falls to the ground, mortally wounded, while the other two run away. 

Investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason found that the video was one of many seeming to show the military firing at civilians indiscriminately in the wake of February’s coup. They also noticed that security forces appear to go out of their way to mutilate and drag bodies in the street, seemingly to terrorize the populace. The pair teamed up with the Human Rights Center Investigations Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, applying cutting-edge image analysis to thousands of social media posts and images online to reveal how the junta in Myanmar was using the bodies as tools of terror, according to human rights activists. 

With important contributions by Southeast Asia news director Kiko Rosario, and video by Manuel Valdes, the piece received more than 53,000 views on AP platforms.

For finding a way to analyze visual data from one of the world’s most secretive countries and presenting it in a rich and compelling multiformat narrative, McDowell, Mason, Rosario and Valdes earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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