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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May 17, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Loophole preventing federal charges against minors in terrorism cases

for discovering that a 2018 Supreme Court case had impeded the Justice Department’s ability to charge minors with supporting terrorist groups. Bleiberg was curious why an FBI investigation of a teen plotting an Islamic State-inspired shooting was prosecuted by local Texas officials. He and Balsamo exposed the loophole created by a SCOTUS ruling in a non-terrorism case that could prevent minors from facing federal charges for supporting international terrorism. https://bit.ly/2JlSqiw

March 30, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP analysis: At least 19,000 in Iraq detained for terrorism, thousands sentenced to death

Prisons in Iraq held thousands of Islamic State group militants, but few outside the government knew exactly how many. Baghdad-based reporter Qassim Abdul-Zahra set out to find out – and he wasn’t going to take a rough estimate for an answer.

With Baghdad correspondent Susannah George and Mideast enterprise editor Lee Keath, Abdul-Zahara analyzed documents he obtained from a Justice Ministry official, finding that the government was holding at least 19,000 people accused of ISIS connections or other terror-related offenses and that more than 3,000 of them had been sentenced to death.

For intrepid source work and analysis to establish the facts around the imprisonment of thousands of Islamic State group militants in Iraq, Abdul-Zahra, George and Keath win Beat of the Week.

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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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Feb. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tip leads to scoop on end of family separation policy

broke the news that the Biden-era Justice Department was about to undo the infamous “zero tolerance policy” that led to family separations.When national security reporter Tucker received a tip on the policy change from a longtime source, he quickly relayed the information to DOJ reporter Balsamo. Working with Colleen Long, who covered Homeland Security and zero tolerance extensively, they pieced together an analytical story that broke the news and added crucial context about the challenge Biden faces to undo Donald Trump’s policies on immigration. https://bit.ly/3jDWny1

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Nov. 26, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Enterprising AP coverage of Rittenhouse trial reaches far beyond the courtroom testimony

AP’s team coverage led the pack for the three-week Kyle Rittenhouse trial — including word of Rittenhouse’s full acquittal in the killing of two protesters and wounding of a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin — thanks to smart, detailed planning and deep knowledge cultivated throughout the proceedings.

The foundation of the coverage was the daily testimony, but following a blueprint laid down during earlier coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis, it was the spinoff coverage, starting weeks ahead of the trial and carrying through after the verdict, that was key. A multiformat team of journalists delivered more than a dozen AP Explainers, enterprise pieces and video debriefings that went deeper into what was happening in court — and in some cases anticipated developments in the case.

The expansive team coverage figured prominently among AP’s top stories throughout the trial. AP’s explainer on the charges against the teenager remained at the top of Google’s “Rittenhouse” search results, placement that drove some 3.5 million pageviews on AP News before and after the verdict.

For comprehensive, speedy and illuminating coverage of a trial that riveted the country, the Kyle Rittenhouse trial team earns AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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June 02, 2017

Best of the States

​Death row inmates' last words: Apologies, thanks, defiance

To most, inmates facing execution in America are just names, mug shots and written descriptions of their crimes.

AP was interested in going beyond that, seeking to tell their stories in creative ways that reach beyond our traditional audiences. To make that happen, a unique interactive created by Atlanta-based reporter Kate Brumback, Interactive Editor Nathan Griffiths and Interactive Producer Roque Ruiz takes people inside Georgia’s execution chamber to actually hear the last words of inmates right before they were put to death.

For their resourceful and compelling work, the team of Brumback, Griffiths and Ruiz receives this week's Best of the States award.

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May 24, 2018

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Interview with judge facing recall over Stanford sex assault sentence

When a California judge chose the most lenient sentence for a Stanford swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus, the outrage made national headlines for weeks. Anger at the judge turned into a recall effort on the June 5 primary ballot and more widespread media coverage.

Despite the glare, Judge Aaron Persky has been mostly silent for nearly two years. San Francisco reporter Paul Elias has spent nearly that entire time asking for an interview, over and over.

Those efforts paid off with an exclusive, three-hour all formats interview at the judge’s home. The judge said he had no regrets, even though the sentence may cost him his judgeship. The resulting story was featured prominently in local and national media.

For his persistence in getting AP a fascinating interview on a competitive story, Elias wins this week's Best of the States award.

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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Families push to reopen cases of Black men killed by police

pivoted off the nationwide protests against racial injustice to reveal that families around the country are pushing authorities to reinvestigate police killings of Black men in which no officers were charged.Lavoie had developed a relationship over two years with the family of a man who was killed in 2018 by Richmond, Virginia, police during a mental health crisis. When nightly protests began in Richmond after George Floyd’s killing, she noticed that protesters made reopening the local investigation one of their top demands for reform. Additional reporting found at least a dozen calls to reinvestigate such cases around the country. Lavoie focused on three of those in different states, with victims of different backgrounds who were killed under different circumstances. Over the course of two months she convinced the families to talk about their loved ones and their efforts to persuade prosecutors to reopen closed investigations. https://bit.ly/36ZC36d

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July 02, 2020

Best of the States

AP scoops everyone on dramatic ouster of federal prosecutor

After a heads-up tip to Justice Department reporter Michael Balsamo, what unfolded on that Friday night was strange: The top Manhattan federal prosecutor – the one investigating President Donald Trump’s allies – was said to be resigning his job. 

The AP was out with the story for at least a half hour before the competition. But that was just the beginning, as U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman reported for work the next day, only to step down amid conflicting statements from the White House and Justice Department. Balsamo and Neumeister were out front again, making sense of the shifting story with well-sourced detail and context.

For work that put the AP way ahead with both the breaking news and the meaning of the maneuvering, Balsamo and Neumeister share this week’s Best of the States honors.

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April 26, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP dominates all-formats coverage of historic release of Mueller report

The AP bulletin rocketed around the world just minutes after the release of the much-anticipated report by special counsel Robert Mueller:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mueller’s report reveals Trump's efforts to seize control of Russia probe and force the special counsel’s removal.

That set the tone for a day of dominant AP coverage in every format on the historic findings in the Mueller report.

The success was the result of planning and deep knowledge of the subject matter by AP’s Russia team – Eric Tucker, Mike Balsamo, Chad Day and Mary Clare Jalonick – along with lightning-fast speed and precision execution by White House news editor Nancy Benac and the entire Washington bureau.

As soon as they were allowed to open the report, Tucker and Balsamo called the Washington bureau and kept two open lines to the newsroom, where they fed material Day and Jalonick, while Benac began crafting the story that hit the wire right after the report was posted online.

By then, the AP was off and running with outstanding all-formats coverage, including sharp handling of photos and live video. Our speed was so impressive that clients were able to get a complete set of critical and comprehensive edits by mid-afternoon. Our interactive had unheard-of play for a non-election story, while the Trump Investigation hub on APNews more than doubled its previous high pageviews. The standout coverage also ran on front pages of newspapers around the country.

“While we were sending bulletins saying that Trump had tried to stop the investigation, everyone else was still saying, ‘We have the report, we’re reading it, we’ll get back to you,’” Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said.

For their efforts, Balsamo, Tucker, Day, Jalonick and Benac win AP’s Best of the Week.

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Oct. 16, 2020

Best of the States

11 weeks in the bubble: AP writer’s exhaustive NBA report goes well beyond the games

Through 78 days at Walt Disney World, basketball writer Tim Reynolds proved himself virtually unstoppable, turning out game stories on deadline while also spinning insightful pieces that examined the major topics of 2020, from coronavirus concerns to racial injustice issues and the presidential election – not to mention the league’s work stoppage. The so-called bubble may have confined him to an arena in central Florida, but Reynolds’ relentless NBA coverage reminded readers that sports illuminate our lives in ways big and small.

In all, Reynolds wrote an eye-popping 200-plus stories, collecting exclusives along the way. He capped his efforts with his insightful analysis of LeBron James’ legacy after James led the Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA title. 

For his exhaustive, and exhausting, work that went well beyond the games in the NBA bubble, Reynolds wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 01, 2019

Best of the States

Experience, persistence pay off with breaking news: US to collect asylum seekers’ DNA

Immigration and Homeland Security reporter Colleen Long’s ears perked up in early October when she heard agency officials mention “CODIS” as they briefed reporters on the likelihood they would expand their practice of collecting DNA from migrants. 

CODIS, she knew from experience, was an FBI database usually associated with violent crimes, so Long was surprised to hear of its use in connection with migrants whose only crime was crossing the border illegally. Long followed up with detailed questions at the briefing but didn’t get answers, so she kept pressing officials.

Her persistence was rewarded with an advance briefing on the new rule, and additional details about how the DNA policy would be implemented. Long’s story moved hours ahead of the official announcement, becoming one of the most-read stories of the day. 

For making the early connection to the policy implications of the DNA database, then pressing the issue with officials until she had the exclusive details, Long earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 07, 2017

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Red Bull heir accused in fatal hit-and-run has been living jet-set life for 4 years

for a detailed examination of one of Thailand's most notorious criminal cases, revealing that the Red Bull heir accused in a fatal hit-and-run has been living the high life around the world since shortly after the crash four years ago. The story served as fresh evidence for critics of Thailand's court system who say the rich and powerful get their own form of justice. http://apne.ws/2p9EMAM

Feb. 18, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Dogged reporting reveals DOJ studying safe drug injection sites

teamed up to break the news that the U.S. Department of Justice is reversing course and is now “evaluating” opening sites for people to use heroin and other narcotics with protections against fatal overdoses.New York reporter Jennifer Peltz had pressed the DOJ for months before the department signaled it might be open to such sites, and lead DOJ reporter Balsamo used his extensive experience to expand on the department’s measured comments, which represent a drastic change from their hard-line stance in the Trump administration. Read more

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive analysis of 300 federal arrests leads to DOJ scoops

analyzed hundreds of federal arrest records to determine how U.S. Department of Justice officials are handling protester arrests nationwide. The Trump administration has used the arrests to argue there is extreme violence in some cities. The AP team combed through arrest records and created a database of some 300 arrests – some were serious, but others raised questions about their validity. Others were not related to left-wing violence at all, but rather right-wing or racist acts against the demonstrators themselves.The Only-on-AP examination was followed hours later with a pair of scoops by Balsamo – that the Justice Department had eyed possibly charging Portland officials with crimes, and that federal prosecutors had put together a memo on how to charge Americans with sedition.https://bit.ly/3kEavqqhttps://bit.ly/35ZsJia

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