Dec. 15, 2017

Best of the States

AP photo team owns Southern California wildfire coverage

Late in the evening on Dec. 4, West Region photo editor Stephanie Mullen was monitoring a fire that broke out in Ventura County, about 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Mullen knew that if the notorious Santa Ana winds really picked up the flames could start burning homes.

She hired Northern California freelance photographer Noah Berger, an expert at shooting wildfires, and partnered him with Los Angeles-based staff photographer Jae Hong. Berger and Hong were in place as daylight broke and the fire surged into the city of Ventura, where it burned hundreds of homes. They rapidly shot and filed, allowing AP to deliver striking imagery before our competitors had even started their day.

The AP owned the coverage in those important early hours with impressive play globally.

Later that morning, Orange County-based photographer Chris Carlson worked his way through road closures to make images of horses being rescued and flames overwhelming homes in Los Angeles County. And as the week wore on, photographer Greg Bull snaked his way through roadblocks and heavy traffic to capture nighttime images of fires in San Diego County, then slept in his car and got haunting daybreak photos of the destruction.

For providing a photo package no competitor could rival, Hong, Carlson, Bull and Berger share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Feb. 01, 2019

Best of the States

Trump rollbacks benefit fossil fuel industry but carry steep cost

Over the past two years, the Trump administration has relentlessly moved to relax or repeal major environmental and safety rules for the fossil fuels industry to further its energy goals. Each change was reported by news outlets, including the AP. But Billings, Montana, correspondent and environment team member Matthew Brown decided to look more deeply into the highly touted savings to industry as well as the societal costs.

Brown painstakingly examined 11 major rules targeted by Trump’s administration, wading through many thousands of pages of government documents. Brown identified $11.6 billion in potential savings for companies that produce, use and transport fossil fuels, with billions more expected from a freeze of vehicle fuel efficiency standards that will hike fuel consumption.

But Brown also discovered that those savings will come at a steep cost, including more premature deaths and illnesses from air pollution, increased greenhouse gas emissions and additional derailments of trains carrying explosive fuels.

His Only on AP story ran on front pages of at least 16 newspapers and on numerous web sites. The Washington Post displayed both the main-bar the accompanying glance.

For in-depth reporting and comprehensive accounting of the administration’s actions on important environmental and safety issues, Brown wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Aug. 06, 2021

Best of the States

As wells dry up in parched US West, AP reports on residents now without running water

The extreme drought in the American West has already taken a dramatic toll. And now, near the Oregon-California border, as many as several hundred wells have dried up in the past few weeks, leaving dozens of homeowners in the parched region with no running water at all. Reporter Gillian Flaccus and freelance photographer Nathan Howard documented the residents’ plight and the challenges facing authorities responding to the situation.

Flaccus used sources she had built in months of reporting on the dire conditions in the Klamath River Basin, convincing people to let Howard depict their hardship over water in photos and video. Digital storyteller Samantha Shotzbarger then weaved all the elements into a compelling multimedia offering. The story drew widespread play in the U.S., especially in the West.

For continuing to shine light on the effects of the drought afflicting the U.S. West, Flaccus, Howard and Shotzbarger win this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 16, 2021

Best of the States

AP takes immersive look as drought puts ‘flatlining’ Great Salt Lake at historic risk

As the western U.S. finds itself in the grips of one of the worst droughts in recent history, the AP West region staff has delved into every aspect of the drought’s impact across the region. In one of the hardest-hit areas, the Salt Lake City-based team of Rick Bowmer, Lindsay Whitehurst and Brady McCombs documented that Utah’s Great Salt Lake may be headed to the lowest water levels in 170 years.

Reporting ahead of other news outlets, they delivered an all-formats package with stunning visuals showing readers how the dying lake is impacting people and wildlife and is a harbinger of worrisome drought-related consequences ahead. Decades of drought and water diversion in the booming region have hurt bird habitats, forced boats from shallow water and exposed dry lakebed that could send arsenic-laced dust into the air that millions breathe.

The result was a compelling package that had the highest engagement of all AP stories on July 6 and fourth-most for the week.

For distinctive work that expands AP’s ongoing coverage of climate and drought in the West, the team of Bowmer, Whitehurst and McCombs wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 09, 2021

Best of the States

AP reveals a water crisis at the boiling point for Native Americans, farmers in Western river basin

AP Portland, Oregon, reporter Gillian Flaccus has long followed a simmering issue in the Klamath River Basin, a swath of rural agricultural land in Northern California and southern Oregon that is ground zero for the fight over an increasingly precious resource in the American West: water. Amid extreme drought in the region, the U.S. government has stopped irrigation to hundreds of farmers for the first time in history, while Native American tribes along the 257-mile Klamath River are watching fish species hover closer to extinction. The farmers face ruin and tribes worry their culture will vanish.Flaccus has developed deep sources with area farmers as well as tribal members and recently spent nearly a week in the remote area with freelance photographer Nathan Howard documenting an issue that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Working with New York photo editor and digital storyteller Alyssa Goodman, they produced a sweeping, striking all-formats package that showed the pain on both sides as people begin to realize the water may not be coming back. The package was among AP’s most-viewed stories for Friday. For immersive journalism that explores the human consequences of drought in the U.S. West, Flaccus, Howard and Goodman receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 28, 2019

Best of the States

AP Analysis: EPA data says US air quality is slipping; EPA regulation could make it worse

Washington science writer Seth Borenstein knew the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was not going to notify anyone when it posted new data on the nation’s air quality for 2018, but he knew where it would be posted. He also knew that the Trump administration was poised to replace an Obama-era clean-air rule with a new regulation that was friendlier to coal-fired power plants, so he kept checking for the agency’s data.

When the data finally showed up, Borenstein teamed with New York-based Health and Science data journalist Nicky Forster to evaluate the data, put it in context and run it by scientists. Forster even pointed out errors that the EPA was forced to correct.

Their persistence made AP the first to report that the annual number of days of poor air quality in the U.S. had increased for the second year in a row, after decades of improvement. The story ran on the eve of the EPA’s announcement of its loosened regulation, undermining the rationale for the new standards with the government’s own numbers. Trump’s new rule, experts told the AP, could turn what is so far a modest backslide into a deadly trend.

For diligent reporting and sophisticated analysis to hold a federal agency accountable for its data and regulatory policy, Borenstein and Forster earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Locusts swarm East Africa as a new wave forms in the Somali desert

After its shocking Jan. 25 report on the locust swarms devastating agriculture in Kenya, AP’s Nairobi team came through with another truly striking package on the worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years. This time, Nairobi staffers Ben Curtis and Josphat Kasire obtained exclusive coverage of the next wave of young locusts now bulking up in Somalia’s desert.

The story posed multiple challenges, not the least of which was the very real threat of al-Shabab extremists in the area. And the young insects were relentless. “If you put anything down on the ground for a minute, you’d find a bunch of bugs crawling over it,” Curtis recounted.

Despite the obstacles, the team produced stunning images and vivid reporting from the source of the widespread outbreak, proof that the region’s infestation was far from over.

For resourceful and determined work that resulted in an only-on-AP direct look at the ravages of a veritable Biblical plague of locusts, Kasire and Curtis win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Sept. 27, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘Immersive’ account of coral reef restoration leads ‘What can be saved?’ series

The first installment of “What Can Be Saved?” – a ground-breaking new series from The Associated Press – was so deeply immersive that viewers could almost smell the sea-salt of Jamaica. The island nation was the first stop in what will be 12 installments reported from five continents focusing not on the well-documented gloom of climate change, but on often unsung people around the world who are combating environmental destruction in big ways and small.

From Jamaica, the AP reporting team of photographers David Goldman and David Phillip, science writer Christina Larson and video journalist Kathy Young came back with the astounding narrative of underwater nurseries where islanders are growing coral by hand, branch by branch on underwater lines, to reverse decades of destruction to Jamaican reefs.

The series is already attracting global attention, and with 10 more episodes to come, teamwork throughout the AP has been essential in pulling together all the pieces of “What Can Be Saved?” into a seamless product that AP clients can use in whole or in part.

For their thoughtful, painstaking and visually stunning reporting that launched a mammoth team effort to approach the climate-emergency story with fresh eyes and tell it in compelling new ways, Goldman, Phillip, Larson and Young win AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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April 21, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Telling the epic story of perilous migration through one lost boat 

Two years ago, Barcelona video journalist Renata Brito learned of a mysterious boat that had washed up in Tobago with dead men aboard. With that, she and colleague Felipe Dana, a photographer and video journalist, began a dogged quest to find out who the men were, what had happened to them, and what heartbreak and unresolved questions they had left behind.     From Mauritania to France and Tobago, they found forensic evidence and built trust with a network of sources. By the end of their exhaustive journey, they knew who these men were and what led them to their deaths. They even confirmed one man’s identity with a DNA test. 

Immersive storytelling’s Nat Castañeda worked with Brito and Dana to shape the project, including a 13-minute minidocumentary. Immersive developer Linda Gorman worked up a complex interactive, and an Audience Engagement team led by Sophia Eppolito spent weeks developing a social plan.   

For compiling the compelling and tragic story of a group of doomed migrants who would otherwise have been forgotten, Brito, Dana, Gorman, Castañeda and Eppolito earn this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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July 05, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Potential conflict for Trump’s UN nominee

for exclusively obtaining documents that expose a potential conflict of interest for Kelly Craft, President Donald Trump’s nominee for United Nations ambassador, on the topics of climate change and fossil fuels. When senior Environmental Protection Agency officials sent an email to Craft, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, the acknowledgment email they received wasn’t from the ambassador. It was from her husband, coal magnate Joseph Craft, a wealthy GOP donor who has joined the coal industry in pressing for access and regulatory relief from the EPA and the Trump administration. It wasn’t the first time the Crafts had blurred roles – and email accounts – raising questions as senators consider her nomination to the U.N. Knickmeyer found several other examples of potential conflicts. https://bit.ly/2LugYWy

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.

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June 28, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats: New threat for endangered Great Lakes bird

for gaining exclusive all-formats access to an already endangered shorebird’s primary nesting area. The AP team documented the plight of the piping plovers being squeezed out by surging Great Lakes waters during this spring’s Midwestern flooding. The package put the birds’ story into the broader context of climate change, explaining that the rising waters result from prolonged heavy rainfall and snowmelt that some experts believe will become a “new normal,” threatening the fragile Great Lakes coastline habitat. https://bit.ly/2NhTVB4