July 05, 2019

Best of the States

AP: Smoke from US wildfires boosting health risk for millions

After last year's deadly wildfires in California brought weeks of sooty skies to cities along the West Coast, the AP decided to take a closer look into the broader impacts of the massive smoke plumes.

Billings, Montana, correspondent and environment team member Matthew Brown teamed with Denver video journalist P. Solomon Banda to produce an all-formats report on the growing public health threat from wildfire smoke. Their work grew from a body of research that points to where smoke impacts will be worst – a broad swath of the West that includes more than 300 counties with tens of millions of people.

For diligent reporting that provided a deeper look into how wildfires affect communities throughout the region, Brown and Banda earn this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 19169652545357 1024

Sept. 17, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Texas farmers race to preserve land in Dust Bowl zone

used the Freedom of Information Act and on-the-ground reporting in the Texas Panhandle to reveal a new Dust Bowl brewing on farmland above the nation’s biggest aquifer — and the halting efforts to stave it off.Farmers, communities and researchers have long known that groundwater in the Ogallala aquifer was steadily declining due to irrigation and might not recover. But while researching a story about disappearing prairie grasslands, Webber discovered that both issues were colliding to create another challenge: As climate change is making rainfall scarcer, farmland is blowing away just as it did during the Dust Bowl.Webber, a member of AP’s global environment team, talked to researchers who warned of huge farmland losses, and she traveling to the Panhandle town of Muleshoe where she told the story of farmers planting native grasses to preserve terrain as their wells struggle to produce water. She also reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had identified a Dust Bowl zone where farmers would receive extra money for grasslands conservation, and spent months prying loose government data showing that not all farmers were embracing the program.Webber’s comprehensive and engagingly written narrative, with photos by freelancer Mark Rogers, vividly captured the new Dust Bowl threatening an important agricultural region, and the efforts to keep farmers on their land. https://aplink.news/6or

AP 21227788611881 hm texas

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.

Ap 19170566225832 1024

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.

Klamath combo 2000 2

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

Ap 20285749963501 Smoke1

April 02, 2021

Best of the States

All-formats reporting from a Michigan potato farm reveals how climate change threatens crop storage

After reporting for years on life-or-death results of global warming such as floods and wildfires, Traverse City, Michigan, correspondent John Flesher uncovered another serious but little-recognized consequence: Climate change poses an increasingly troublesome and costly threat to food crop storage in the United States and much of the world. 

To illustrate the problem, Flesher teamed with Detroit-based video journalist Mike Householder and photographer Carlos Osorio on the farm of a Michigan family now using refrigerators to cool their harvested potatoes. Michigan has been the top U.S. producer of potatoes used for chips, thanks to a mild climate that has — until now at least — let farmers store their crops for months using only outdoor air to cool them. Scientists say those conditions are likely become scarcer as the planet gets hotter.

The team’s exclusive, all-formats package drew strong play nationally. 

For relatable coverage that calls attention to an underreported consequence of climate change — one with widespread implications — the team of Flesher, Householder and Osorio wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 21083576492761 2000

Jan. 28, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deeply reported package explores the shift away from fossil fuels, impact on states, communities

AP reporting on energy policies in all 50 states led to an unexpected discovery: Roughly two-thirds of states in the U.S. plan to use nuclear power as an essential part of their plan to replace fossil fuels.

That resurgence in nuclear energy, despite its downsides, launched AP coverage of the latest nuclear technology and the impact on local communities, particularly those dependent on coal: a small Wyoming town replacing its coal plant with a nontraditional nuclear reactor by a Bill Gates-founded company, and a town in Colorado where coal is being phased out after generations, with no plans to replace it. “We can’t recover from that,” a former mayor told the AP.

The all-formats work showed the nation’s struggles as it shifts energy sources to stave off the worst effects of climate change. And showcasing the AP’s 50-state footprint, a localization guide enabled AP’s customers to bring the debate home for their own audiences. The package played widely at home and abroad, from local papers to national news outlets.

For superior coverage bringing to light developments in energy policy across the country and the effects on people at a local level, the team ofJennifer McDermott, Brady McCombs, Mead Gruver, Patty Nieberg, Rick Bowmer, Elaine Thompson, Manuel Valdes and Natalie Behring is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP 22019054736938 2000

Oct. 02, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exposes palm oil labor abuses linked to the world’s top brands, major banks

While covering the Rohingya crisis, investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason knew tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Myanmar were vulnerable to exploitation. They suspected desperate men were being tricked or sold into the massive palm oil industry that supplies some of America’s most iconic food and cosmetic brands.

Working with photographers Gemunu Amarasinghe and Binsar Bakkara, they vividly documented the horrors some workers in Malyasia and Indonesia face. Workers spoke of brutal conditions including child labor, outright slavery and allegations of rape.

Reaction was swift, with the  U.S. government saying it would block shipments from a major Malaysian producer mentioned in the story.

For exposing abuses affecting tens of thousands of workers in a global industry that manufactures a vast array of products we buy and use daily, McDowell, Mason, Amarasinghe and Bakkara win AP’s Best of the Week award.

Ap 20266639135117 2000

April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats look at BP oil disaster, 10 years later

produced a comprehensive, multiformat Only on AP package marking 10 years since the fatal Deepwater Horizon explosion and massive oil spill. Three pieces ran over three days: investigative work that showed continued and increasing drilling risks, a personal look at how life has changed along the coast, and the lasting environmental impacts a decade after the disaster. https://apnews.com/DeepwaterHorizonSpill

Ap 16216731464716 Hm Bp

May 14, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Resolute AP crew in Chad, where not a single shot has been administered, highlights vaccine inequity

In Chad to cover the sudden death of the country’s longtime president, the AP team of West Africa Bureau Chief Krista Larson, Nigeria-based video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi and photographer Sunday Alamba decided to look at the COVID situation in a country that has yet to administer its first shot. Political unrest made the assignment far more challenging, with police on the hunt for journalists. Alamba and Oyekanmi had already been detained for eight hours and warned not to venture out into the street again.

After days of prodding, the team was granted just a brief interview with medical staff in a hospital conference room. But the all-formats crew pressed the case to see the COVID ward for themselves, eventually winning access. Accounts of bravery and deprivation among overwhelmed medical staff, and the images shot by Alamba and Oyekanmi, speak volumes, highlighting a deep global inequity despite promises by wealthy nations to help vaccinate the world.

For intrepid coverage in the harshest of reporting environments, Larson, Alamba and Oyekanmi win AP’s Best of the Week award.

Ap 21126550906213 2000

March 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: One man’s fight against an oil pipeline on his land

reported on a land grab for a proposed oil pipeline, conveying the news in the most compelling way possible, from the perspective of the people involved. The story is told largely through the eyes of Clyde Robinson, a 80-year-old Memphis, Tennessee, landowner fighting against larger forces to keep his land in what advocates say is textbook environmental racism.Robinson, who is Black, compared the effort to seize his land through eminent domain to slavery, when members of his own family were not compensated for their work. He vowed that no amount of money would convince him to change his mind.Environmental lawyers who have taken up Robinson’s cause say there’s no public interest that would justify seizure of the land for a business project, while a spokeswoman for the pipeline project walked back a statement by a land agent that the company had chosen “a point of least resistance” for the pipeline's proposed path. That statement was interpreted by the project’s opponents as having discriminatory undertones. https://bit.ly/3bDr1VZ

Ap 2106471437254 Hm Sainz

Jan. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Criminal charges for ex-governor in Flint water crisis

worked sources to report exclusively that criminal charges would be filed against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and others in the Flint water crisis, one of the worst human-made environmental disasters in U.S. history.White was reporting an unrelated story when he asked a source about any developments in the Flint investigation. That paid off with a tip — confirmed with a second source by Eggert — about the imminent charges.The bombshell exclusive hit a full two days before the official announcement and was AP’s most-used story by customers online that day, widely credited by local and national news outlets, including the Detroit Free Press and the New York Times. https://bit.ly/35T67z6

Ap 17284674880560 Hm Flint Water 1

July 05, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

New Jersey fails to identify polluters; governor promises fix

for accountability journalism made possible through an open records request, reporting that New Jersey environmental regulators had failed for nearly a decade to put out a legally required annual report on water pollution that identifies the state’s worst polluters and how the state is holding them responsible. His exclusive story drew a pledge by the governor that the publication of the reports would resume, and kudos from the state’s major news outlets. https://bit.ly/2LysvUS

Feb. 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In time for Super Bowl, AP explores uneasy Mexican avocado trade

Mexico City reporter Mark Stevenson took advantage of a temporary U.S. ban on Mexican avocado imports to explain, to an international audience of guacamole-crazed readers, the social strife, environmental impact and political forces at play in Mexico's avocado industry.Stevenson’s flurry of five stories started on Super Bowl Sunday with a piece about Mexico acknowledging that a U.S. plant safety inspector had been threatened in Mexico, prompting the U.S. ban. The piece ended up being the top-performing story on AP News, exceeding even the Super Bowl. And over the course of the week he went on to report extensively on factors surrounding the ban and Mexico’s avocado industry more broadly.Stevenson had plenty of context for his stories: At the end of the January he was part of an all-formats team that explored the intersection of avocados, deforestation and organized crime in Michoacan state. Read more

AP 22025008732496 avocado 1

Jan. 28, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Elite California suburb clamps down on water wasters

reported exclusively on a California water district — home to Kim Kardashian and other celebrities — that may have the state’s harshest water restrictions during the current drought.The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, just north of Los Angeles, is among districts that rely almost exclusively on state water supplies. Ronayne, Sacramento-based environment/climate reporter, learned of the district’s new penalties for water wasters while reporting that in the midst of drought, local districts may not get any of the state water supply they’d requested in 2022. She decided to find out more, reasoning that what’s being imposed in Las Virgenes may serve as a model for other water districts as the drought continues.When Las Virgenes officials explained they would slow water flow to a trickle for households that keep wasting, Ronayne knew she had a story. With further reporting, she confirmed that the district's conservation tactics went further than others.Ronayne’s exclusive on the district’s approach hooked AP customers and readers, partly because Las Virgenes serves celebrity-filled neighborhoods. District officials said many rich residents don't bother to cut back when fined; water isn't an expensive commodity for them and the penalties aren’t significant — until the water slows to a trickle. https://aplink.news/1dv

AP 22015666953096 hm water 1