July 30, 2021

Best of the States

Only on AP: 20 years later, chaplain’s litany of prayers for US troops killed in Afghanistan finally comes to an end

With the end of the war in Afghanistan looming, national writer Matt Sedensky sought a compelling way to humanize America’s longest war — and he found it. Nearly all the American troops killed in the war had their remains returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where the military runs a mortuary. There, Sedensky found chaplain David Sparks, who had been called to active duty after 9/11, assigned to the mortuary, and had been there ever since.

Sedensky pieced together Sparks’ experience: writing hundreds of prayers for the dead, standing beside their disfigured remains and ministering to their broken families. Joined by New York video journalist Jessie Wardarski and Washington photographer Carolyn Kaster, the team had access to parts of the base hidden far from public view. The resulting package, with Sedensky’s expressive prose and affecting visuals by Wardarski and Kaster, generated a strong response from veterans and non-military alike.

For intimate, revealing work that eloquently writes one of the closing chapters of America’s 20-year war, the team of Sedensky, Kaster and Wardarski earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Comprehensive AP coverage of Astroworld concert tragedy

teamed up with colleagues around the country to deliver sweeping coverage of the deaths at Houston’s Astroworld music festival, reporting on spot developments while telling the stories of the 10 people killed, obtaining valuable video and photos from the crowd and piecing together a riveting account of what unfolded over 70 horrific minutes.Houston reporter Juan Lozano was on the story from the beginning, gathering harrowing details, interviewing victims and their families and talking to authorities, along with Dallas-based reporter Jamie Stengle and New York-based video journalist Robert Bumsted.Working remotely, reporters Mike Catalini and Randall Chase helped assemble vignettes on each of the dead, while Los Angeles news editor Ryan Pearson tracked down images and interviews from concertgoers with assists from reporters Acacia Coronado and Beatrice Dupuy. Kristin Hall in Nashville filed interviews and background on festival promoter Live Nation. And as the week wore on, journalists Michael Kunzelman and Bernard Condon quickly jumped in for spot coverage, focusing on calls for an outside investigation and the lawsuits starting to pile up.The team effort culminated in “70 minutes at Astroworld,” a vivid account of the unfolding tragedy expertly woven together by national writer Matt Sedensly using AP’s reporting, new and compelling narratives from attendees and videos of the concert. The story, including an interactive graphic by Francois Duckett, was among the week’s most-read and engaged stories on apnews.com, highlighting the AP’s virtual ownership of the highly competitive story.https://aplink.news/4v8https://aplink.news/taxhttps://aplink.news/z86

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June 05, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Coverage of Floyd protests, Brazil’s virus toll, commands global attention

The end of May saw unprecedented news: The coronavirus pandemic continued to spread infection and wreak economic havoc around the globe, while much of the world’s attention pivoted suddenly to protests across the U.S. that spread to Paris, London, Australia and elsewhere after the suffocation death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

This week’s Best of the Week recognizes AP’s work surrounding each of those mega-stories, with top honors going to Baltimore-based photographer Julio Cortez for his iconic photo of a protester holding an American flag aloft, and to the AP all-formats team in Brazil for continuing coverage of the virus in a nation being ravaged by COVID-19.

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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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July 05, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Searing photo of migrant drownings launches all-formats AP coverage across borders

When New York photo editor Pablo Salinas alerted colleagues to the image of a drowned father and daughter from El Salvador lying face-down in the Rio Grande after they tried to cross into Texas, it was clear it captured, like few other images, the dangers faced by migrants and asylum-seekers trying to make it to the United States.

AP’s much-applauded decision to acquire and publish that image by freelance reporter Julia Le Duc, showing the stark and often-hidden reality of migrants dying by the hundreds each year along the U.S. border, showcased AP’s significant role in shaping the news agenda.

It also stands as a lesson for AP staff with several important takeaways, highlighting the role of editors to find, gather and acquire important images for AP’s global audience, the role of AP’s Top Stories Hub to coordinate and amplify news stories, and the value of rapid response by journalists in the region to verify, report and provide context for any news-making picture.

Finally, it showed how the thoughtful implementation of AP’s standards across all platforms and social media can allow AP to stand out.

For an exceptional multinational effort in finding, recognizing and acquiring Le Duc’s tragic and important image, and presenting it to AP’s worldwide audience with context and sensitivity, the team of Pablo Salinas, Marcos Alemán, Eduardo Verdugo, Rebecca Blackwell, Chris Sherman, Gerardo Carrillo and Peter Orsi shares AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork delivers standout AP coverage of July 4 mass shooting

mobilized on July Fourth to deliver fast, multiformat coverage of the mass shooting at a parade in Highland Park, Illinois, that ultimately resulted in seven deaths and dozens wounded. Local and regional staffers responded quickly with all-formats coverage in the Chicago suburb while colleagues across the U.S. and into Mexico stepped in to assist with reporting, writing and editing.Monday’s efforts laid the groundwork for coverage in the days that followed, including more breaking news updates, victim profiles, a narrative on how the events unfolded, explainers, an investigative piece on how the suspect was able to get weapons despite Illinois’ red flag law and more.The mainbar story trended near the top on AP platforms for much of the week and made the front page of newspapers across the country.Read more

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Breaking news on US ramp-up of federal executions

have broken exclusives on this year’s resumption of federal executions following a 17-year hiatus, and the accelerated pace of executions during President Donald Trump’s lame-duck period. They have also witnessed every federal execution.Their stories have revealed that the Justice Department considered using firing squads or borrowing electric chairs due to a possible shortage of drugs used for lethal injection, and that the execution team at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where the executions are carried out, was sickened with COVID-19, even as they planned more deaths.But above all, the AP witnesses have risked their own health to enter the federal prison in Terre Haute to attend every execution. The team has been unstoppable, delivering fast, accurate reporting that has made AP the definitive source for news on this topic.https://bit.ly/3nlUxTHhttps://bit.ly/2ITQTkShttps://bit.ly/3ahw91Lhttps://bit.ly/3h13Shl

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June 14, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work leads to scoop on new mass facility for immigrant children

for breaking news that the U.S. government is opening a mass facility for migrant children in Texas and considering detaining hundreds more youth at three military bases, adding up to 3,000 beds to the overtaxed system. Acting on a tip from a key source, Burke left other news organizations scrambling, and she had details no one could match, including the number of beds planned for each new facility amid a wave of new arrivals, and context about the two deaths of children inside the system. https://bit.ly/2K8NJc4

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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Rare all-formats access to Brazil ICU

secured exclusive access to take a camera into an ICU in a working class city north of Rio. With Brazil suffering the most COVID-19 cases and deaths in Latin America, media outlets have clamored for access to hospitals, without success. Fisch worked associates and contacts, finally convincing a city health secretary to grant access to the Sao Jose municipal hospital. She made the most of an hour inside the unit on Saturday, working among medical staff to produce all-formats content that was well-received by clients. Her video was the most-used on AP Video Hub for the weekend.https://bit.ly/2AQ81Uqhttps://bit.ly/3e8tRRc

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Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: Few standards for police use of ketamine

pulled back the curtain on ketamine injections, a technique used by police to subdue suspects that played a role in last year’s death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain after a police stop in suburban Denver. Nieberg talked to experts, reviewed medical studies and police policies, and analyzed cases where ketamine has been used. She found a lack of police training, conflicting medical standards and nonexistent protocols that have resulted in hospitalizations and deaths. https://bit.ly/3b3bjSf

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Oct. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Data, reporting reveal millions exposed to wildfire pollution

used government air pollution data, academic studies and interviews to report exclusively that the western wildfires exposed at least 38 million people in five states to unhealthy levels of smoke, causing emergency room visits to spike and potentially thousands of deaths among the elderly and infirm. The all-formats package included the experience of an Oregon woman whose smoke-triggered asthma attacks twice sent her to the emergency room.https://bit.ly/34hvDgShttps://bit.ly/3m6yeR0

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP breaks news on the opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma, with focus on victims

AP reporters from three different teams broke distinctive, significant stories on the continuing drug overdose crisis in the U.S., which has been overshadowed this year by the coronavirus pandemic:

— A state-level report showing that overdose deaths are on pace to reach an all-time high this year, and that overdoses increased after the virus began spreading in the U.S.— An accountability story on President Donald Trump’s handling of the opioid crisis, and how the issue has been overlooked in the presidential race.— A major scoop on a settlement between the federal government and Purdue Pharma, complete with details of criminal charges and the $8 billion settlement. 

But the depth of coverage didn’t end with the major news beats. All three stories put victims at the center of the reporting. 

For revealing stories that broke news and provided a powerful reminder of an ongoing epidemic that has contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans, Mike Stobbe, Adrian Sainz, Farnoush Amiri, Geoff Mulvihill, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Balsamo win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

‘Wrenching’ exclusive: Grim consequences of Tigray siege

drew from a dozen exclusive interviews, plus photos and video from sources in Mekele, the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, to paint the most personal and detailed portrait yet of life under a deadly government blockade.The increasing death and deprivation in the Tigray region have been largely hidden from the world. But Anna and Curtis in Nairobi, and two stringers based in Ethiopia — unnamed for their security — obtained interviews with Mekele residents, internal aid documents and rare images showing children suffering from malnutrition and lack of medications.Using fragile periods of limited internet connectivity to the region otherwise cut off from communications, they spoke with suffering parents, university lecturers, a Catholic priest and others for details that made the story widely used and shared: A woman who killed herself because she was no longer able to feed her children, desperate people going directly from an aid distribution site to the roadside to sell humanitarian items, the flour and oil for Communion bread soon to run out. “Gut-wrenching ... It was as if you had managed to make it to Tigray,” one reader commented.Last month, the AP was first to report on deaths from starvation under the blockade, but this story showed the wider ravages of the lack of medication, fuel and cash. The director general of the World Health Organization tweeted the story to his 1.5 million followers, just one of several high-profile shares. https://aplink.news/d3l

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May 01, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP takes a multinational look at the issues facing nursing homes

AP teams in Europe and the U.S. put together packages looking separately at the issues and concerns facing nursing homes during the coronavirus outbreak.

The European team produced three all-formats exclusives taking a searing look behind the scenes of nursing homes in Britain in France, exposing the pain that residents, families and medical staff are suffering as COVID-19 cuts a deadly path through homes for the elderly, killing thousands.https://bit.ly/3d0c3Yahttps://bit.ly/2VMG2Nc

In the U.S., New York staffers exposed the lack of coronavirus testing in U.S. nursing homes with two strong pieces, one finding only a third of such facilities have access to tests despite more than 13,000 deaths, and another on an outbreak in Brooklyn in which none of the 55 residents listed as dying from COVID-19 had ever been tested.https://bit.ly/3d18LE0https://bit.ly/2KMU630

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis sees more extreme racial disparity in virus cases

gathered and analyzed state and local data to find that nearly one-third of those who have died in the COVID-19 outbreak are African American, with black people representing about 14% of the population in the areas covered in the analysis. And beyond the data the team’s all-formats story looked into the lives of people personally affected. https://bit.ly/2S4NZLshttps://bit.ly/2VUjJEo

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Feb. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exposes likely superspreader at federal executions

have covered the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, as well as every federal execution of the last year. That reporting and insight led them to the stunning realization that the Trump administration’s unprecedented string of executions likely became a superspreader event at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.Tarm first learned about the case spread when he heard that he had been exposed — although the Bureau of Prisons did not notify him or others attending the executions. Through rigorous, painstaking reporting, the three Michaels discovered that fully 70% of death row inmates had COVID during the 13 executions in six months, but the Bureau of Prisons felt it wasn’t their responsibility to ensure that everyone was told about the spread or whether their employees were following protocols.The trio’s riveting story detailed how cases spread rapidly through the federal prison complex and likely helped spread infections around the country during a critical time in the pandemic as deaths were skyrocketing. The Friday evening scoop lit up social media and was a top news story well into the weekend. https://bit.ly/3qmh0Sh

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Jan. 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP reveals chronic problems, personal stories behind a deadly period in Mississippi prisons

The Associated Press began chronicling rising violence across Mississippi’s troubled prison system in late 2019, but after four deaths in four days it became clear that something bigger was going on.

Reporters Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus explored the history of underfunding and other problems in the state’s prison system. In addition to official documents describing understaffing, the pair obtained photos and video shot by a prisoner that showed the conditions inside the infamous penitentiary at Parchman. 

AP also published all-formats interviews with grieving mothers of prisoners killed, and reported on the state’s decision to house inmates at a private prison.

For bringing much-needed insight and context to a chaotic, evolving situation and giving voice to those affected by the deadly violence, Amy and Wagster Pettus receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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