April 22, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive AP data reveals popularity of US homeschooling

obtained data across the country to establish the continued popularity of homeschooling for American families — even as schools reopened and vaccines became widely available.Because the federal government does not have a current database of homeschooling numbers, Thompson built her own by reaching out to education departments in all 50 states for their data. She also interviewed families for their perspectives on homeschooling, and used her experience on the education beat to put the trend in the context of homeschooling regulation debates, concerns over neglected students and a broader decline of public school enrollment.Read more

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March 31, 2017

Best of the States

Coal ash: "Why would we be importing it?"

AP Richmond reporter Sarah Rankin learned from a state lawmaker that Chinese coal ash was being imported into Virginia, despite millions of tons of ash already stored near power plants, threatening surface and ground water with contamination by heavy metals. Like other states, Virginia is struggling with how to dispose of its existing waste.

Her story pinpointed where the overseas ash was coming from: China, India and Poland over the past two years. While the foreign shipments of the industrial byproduct were moving through Virginia to Wisconsin and Ohio, interviews with concrete producers and coal ash recyclers and sellers showed more ash was being imported into Virginia from other states.

One environmentalist raised the irony of the situation: "We have millions of tons of this sitting along our riverbanks. Why in the world would we be importing it from other states and countries?"

For exposing a problematic industry practice with statewide environmental and health implications, Rankin's story wins this week's Best of the States.

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Jan. 07, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: New policies may fail to address US military racism, extremism

teamed up on an investigation revealing that despite recently issued Department of Defense guidelines, racism and extremism in the U.S. military remain a concern. Among the most significant policy updates, “liking” and reposting white nationalist and extremist content on social media could result in disciplinary action.But Stafford and Laporta found that the new guidelines failed to address hate crimes or ongoing racial disparities in military law. Numerous studies show Black and Hispanic service members were disproportionately investigated and court-martialed.The investigative reporters also found that the Pentagon rules do not outright ban service members from being members of extremist organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, Oath Keepers or other right-wing and white nationalist groups. The regulations, like the previous ones, only prohibit “active participation,” in such groups.These concerns aren't new. Stafford and LaPorta reported on the decadeslong history of racism in the military, and they point to previous DOD efforts that have fallen short of rooting out extremism in the ranks.The investigation, part of AP’s “Racism in the Ranks” series, earned widespread attention online and landed on the front pages of at least a half-dozen newspapers.https://aplink.news/7gy

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Dec. 20, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

How tramadol, touted as the safer opioid, became a 3rd world peril

It was supposed to be the safer opioid, a way to fight pain with little risk of addiction. That promise has meant much less regulation of tramadol than other opioids. And its relatively low cost has made tramadol the drug of choice in many developing countries, becoming what the United Nations calls “the other opioid crisis.”

National writer Claire Galofaro spent months researching the issue – but how to illustrate the story from a fresh perspective?

Galofaro turned to New Delhi-based correspondent Emily Schmall, who traveled to India’s Punjab state, where she talked to people struggling with addiction, visited a treatment center and gained unprecedented access to officials trying to stem the crisis. 

The deeply reported story, one of the top-read pieces on AP News, also delved into tramadol’s heavy toll in Africa, and its trafficking among terrorist groups. 

For their work exposing an aspect of the international opioid crisis that has received far less attention, Galofaro and Schmall win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 09, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Phone tip leads to shady company linked to border wall contract

The short Associated Press story out of San Diego about the first border wall contract awarded under the Trump administration made only a brief mention of the Omaha, Nebraska, company that had won the contract. But that prompted a woman to call the AP. She made several claims to Chicago-based Central Desk editor Jeff McMurray without offering proof, but he figured it was interesting enough to pass along. Omaha breaking news staffer Margery Beck was asked to check into the company.

As Beck examined state business records and court documents, she discovered that the company, SWF Constructors, operated at the same address as another business that had been sued a dozen times, including at least three times by the federal government, for failing to pay subcontractors on government projects. That company, Coastal Environmental Group, was also the subject of an Interior Department audit questioning $2 million in billing for a Superstorm Sandy cleanup contract.

For aggressive records-based reporting that resulted in a timely story no one else had, Beck receives this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats team leads coverage of California oil spill

provided a week of outstanding coverage on one of the largest oil spills in modern California history after oil leaked from a damaged underwater pipeline, washing up on Huntington Beach, otherwise known as “Surf City USA.” The all-formats coverage, including reporting on potential lapses in response by the pipeline company and the Coast Guard, kept the the story among AP’s most popular of AP’s offerings.Among the highlights, reporters Melley and Brown chased documents to find that the response by the company, Amplify Energy, and the Coast Guard was apparently delayed by hours despite reports of a suspected spill.Dazio pressed company and Coast Guard officials, both in news conferences and one-on-one, to clarify often conflicting or evasive information on the response. Taxin, meanwhile, who lives in Huntington Beach, had been first on the scene and delivered daily reporting on the cleanup. A week after the leak she wrote that while the long-term environmental effects aren’t known, the spill wasn’t the catastrophe first feared by conservationists and city officials.Video and photos virtually owned this story. Freelance photographer Chiu captured photos of oiled birds and workers painstakingly cleaning the beach, as well as drone video and stills for perspective. Video journalists Garcia and Daley offered clients a morning live shot each day and hustled to cover everything from news conferences to the cleanup effort, and reaction from local residents and business owners.https://aplink.news/yochttps://aplink.news/1qehttps://aplink.news/pznhttps://aplink.photos/udchttps://aplink.video/h9zhttps://aplink.video/5g2https://aplink.video/glu

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July 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team explores NASA climate research in Louisiana delta

explained in all formats an intensive, highly technical NASA study of Louisiana’s deltas designed to help protect and bolster the world’s deltas dwindling with climate change.McConnaughey and Herbert captured the start of the five-year study that is expected to help countries around the globe decide which of their deltas can be saved and which are beyond help. New Orleans reporter McConnaughey, who has been writing for decades about Louisiana’s land loss, learned about the project through a news release and stayed in touch with NASA and Louisiana State University researchers for more than a year. She and photojournalist Herbert eventually joined one of the researchers on his own boat to interview scientists doing research in the field.Herbert also used his own small plane and a kayak — trips frequently delayed by storms and major breaking news — to get exquisite environmental shots and video of the delta to illustrate the wetlands and wildlife scientists hope to protect. Video journalist Plaisance combined her own video with Herbert’s for a piece bringing the research to life. A separate photo gallery of Herbert’s striking nature photos in Hog Bayou, with poetic text by McConnaughey, completed the multiformat package, making a complex scientific effort understandable.https://aplink.news/nh6https://aplink.photos/e2phttps://aplink.video/2t9

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April 29, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Engaging AP package: Wildfires threaten snowpack, water supply

reported for all formats and collaborated with colleagues on a richly produced enterprise package that explores an important environmental concern linked to climate change: the effect of wildfires on water supply, particularly in the U.S. West where the fires are becoming more frequent and destructive.Denver-based videojournalist Peterson focused on a female climate scientist, a relative rarity in the field, and how her work might help local water managers guide decisions amid increasing water shortages which will only get worse in years to come.With strong visuals and an engaging presentation, the package resonated with customers and readers, was used by dozens and dozens of websites and papers, and racked up some 2 million pageviews on AP’s Facebook page alone.Read more

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June 10, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Expanding Gulf Coast gas exports raise residents’ concerns

led an AP team producing a visually rich, deeply reported package examining a vast expansion of natural gas facilities in coastal Southwest Louisiana that is escalating greenhouse gas emissions, raising global temperatures, fueling extreme weather and imperiling communities.Reporting from coastal Southwest Louisiana, energy reporter Bussewitz and national multiformat journalist Irvine captured the lives of families hurt by extreme weather linked to a build-out of liquefied natural gas export terminals. But the two went further: They depicted an urgent concern: Where once it looked as if the nation might soon shift away from fossil fuel industries, a reversal has occurred. The U.S. has become the world’s largest exporter of LNG, with worrisome consequences for Gulf Coast residents and the planet’s climate.A few news organizations, mostly local or niche environmental publications, have reported previously on this issue, but none have had the depth and range of AP's package, with its data, visuals and reporting on human impact.Read more

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP gets first word of plan to allow drilling, mining near national monument

for breaking the news that the government would allow mining, drilling, grazing and recreation on lands around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah that had been off limits. President Donald Trump downsized the protected area two years ago.

Impressed by AP’s fairness in coverage of the ongoing debate about managing public lands in the West, the Bureau of Land Management reached out to McCombs to share embargoed materials and the first interview by the region’s acting director ahead of the plan’s release. The APNewsBreak revealed that not only would the formerly protected lands be made available to a wide variety of uses but that those activities could have an adverse effect on the monument that is home to dramatic formations and vistas and is prime territory for paleontologists. https://bit.ly/2UafUcE

Dec. 13, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘What Can Be Saved?’: Global series explores heroic efforts to revive ecosystems

The brief for the project was anything but simple: find a way to cover climate change’s effects on the planet in a way that avoided turning the audience off with a gloom-and-doom or heavily text-centric approach. 

The result was a sprawling environmental series that expanded the boundaries of AP’s visual storytelling. The series traveled to 10 countries on five continents, focusing on everything from attempts to bring back Jamaica’s coral reefs, to the conservation of lions and gorillas in Africa, to China’s ambitious plans to build a national park system, to a trip down one of Europe’s last wild rivers.

It was the work of 33 journalists, 15 editors and four translators throughout AP’s global newsroom, reaching millions of people across all formats – and not just because Leonardo DiCaprio touted some of the installments on Instagram and Twitter. 

For ambitious storytelling and compelling display on a subject of global significance, the extended team behind the “What Can Be Saved?” series wins AP’s Best of the Week award. This week’s cash award will be donated to AP’s Employee Relief Fund.

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Jan. 21, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation reveals global market for illegal Brazilian gold

teamed up to expose those involved in Brazil's illegal gold trade, from the illicit mining on Indigenous lands to the global market.Mining on Indigenous lands in Brazil is not new. Numerous stories have been done on the practice, detailing the environmental and cultural impact of the illegal gold mining. But the AP investigation went a step further, naming those involved in the practice and tracing how the precious mineral travels from the mines of Brazil to global brands.For their widely read investigative stories, published in English, Spanish and Portuguese, Brazil News Director Biller, Latin America correspondent Goodman and freelance journalist Cowie obtained dozens of documents and conducted interviews with prosecutors, federal law enforcement agents, miners and industry insiders.Cowie and photographer Penner trekked hundreds of miles into the Amazon to report comprehensively on those engaged in the illegal mining and those involved in the illegal gold trade — a cross section of individuals and companies ranging from shady fly-by-night operators to legitimate businesses.Among their findings: Brazil is investigating an air taxi company contracted by the country’s health mionistry that transports Indigenous people and medical equipment. The company is also suspected of using its planes to bring in prospectors and supplies for illegal mining.And a thorough AP review of public records revealed that Marsam, a refinery that provided minerals for Brazil’s 2016 Olympic gold medals and now processes gold ultimately purchased by hundreds of well-known publicly traded U.S. companies — among them Microsoft, Tesla and Amazon — is linked to an intermediary accused by prosecutors of buying gold mined illegally on Indigenous lands and other areas deep in the Amazon rainforest.https://bit.ly/3HWThQDhttps://bit.ly/3qnwc3Nhttps://bit.ly/3FzcFSb

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Oct. 27, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Divided America: Seeing options shrinking, white men ask why

As the bitter election season winds down, a recurring theme has been the conviction among many white men that they have been losing ground in society. National writer Matt Sedensky wanted to find a way to tell their story for a concluding installment in the series Divided America.

The yearlong assessment of America’s national disunity comprised more than two dozen deeply reported, multi-format stories exploring splits along racial, religious and socio-economic lines, as well as clashing attitudes on issues ranging from gun regulation to immigration.

Sedensky focused on the views of white men turning toward Republican nominee Donald Trump and rejecting Democrat Hillary Clinton. He listened to the voices on a call-in radio show in Texas _ both host and callers revealing their angst _ and then, through backgrounding interviews with them and reporting on research, showed why these men feel as they do.

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March 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: Toxic chemicals lie beneath Fort Ord

spent a year investigating the possible health effects of groundwater and soil contamination under Fort Ord, a decommissioned U.S. Army base on the central California coast. A tip led AP to a Facebook group of hundreds of soldiers who had lived at the base and developed rare forms of cancer they believe were caused by contamination.The complex, all-formats story included in-depth interviews with those likely suffering health consequences of exposure at the base, which is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the most polluted places in the nation. The team revealed a discredited 25-year-old study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found no “likely” risk at the site, and documents showing the Army knew toxic chemicals had been improperly dumped at Fort Ord for decades, but took pains not to let that information become public. Read more

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March 15, 2019

Best of the States

Between the lines of a press release: Gray wolves could lose federal protection

The passing reference in a draft statement on an unrelated topic would have been easy miss. But Billings, Montana, correspondent Matthew Brown instantly recognized its significance – the U.S. was planning to lift protections for gray wolves, an action that would reignite the emotional debate over the predators’ resurgence.

Brown was reporting on sage grouse when he came across the draft Interior Department press release. It mentioned remarks that Acting Secretary David Bernhardt planned to make the next day at a wildlife conference in Denver: Gray wolves had recovered across the Lower 48 states.

Brown recognized the implication of that one sentence, and teamed up with fellow environmental beat team writer John Flesher of Traverse City, Michigan, to begin a race against the clock. Brown and Flesher scrambled to break the news before Bernhardt took the stage the next morning at the closed-press wildlife conference. Finally a source confirmed: Protections for wolves were again in the agency’s crosshairs.

The APNewsAlert moved at 8:45 a.m., a full 15 minutes before Bernhardt was scheduled to speak. Other news outlets were forced to follow in AP’s wake, posting their own stories that relied on a statement put out by Interior.

For seizing on a stray reference and reporting it out into a significant APNewsBreak on wolves, Brown and Flesher win this week’s Best of the States.

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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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Dec. 08, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reveals how dirty US fuel byproduct contributes to India’s dangerously polluted air

Oil extracted from the tar sands of Canada has contributed to booming production among American refineries, but it also has created a messy legacy: Ton upon ton of a filthy byproduct called petroleum coke. U.S. utilities don’t want it because of its extremely high sulfur content, leaving refineries with one option – getting rid of it – because stockpiling had stirred community outcries. Tammy Webber, a Chicago-based reporter with the environmental beat team, wondered: If refineries couldn’t offload the substance in the U.S., what were they doing with it?

Through a year’s worth of detective work, Webber and her beat team colleague in New Delhi, Katy Daigle, traced the shadowy network that trades in oil refineries' bottom-of-the-barrel leftovers. They found that India was the leading destination of “petcoke” from the U.S., and Indian officials had no idea the amount of petcoke flowing into the country was 20 times more than just six years before. Nor did they know how it was being used in a country already choking on some of the world’s dirtiest air.

Within 24 hours of the story hitting the wire, India’s government announced it would phase out imports of petcoke and had begun working on a policy to end the practice.

For revealing the secretive transport of petroleum coke from the U.S. to one of the world’s most polluted countries, and for drawing an immediate reaction from the government of India, Webber and Daigle win this week’s Beat of the Week.

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March 16, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Draining the swamp? AP reporters find at least 37 Trump administration officials with ethics waivers

It was a major catchphrase of Donald Trump’s campaign: He would “drain the swamp” in Washington.

But once Trump took office, Washington’s Michael Biesecker wasn’t seeing it. Government officials, it appeared, were working on issues they lobbied for on behalf of private clients. He set out to track the administration’s hiring and measure it against Trump’s pledge.

It did not measure up.

Biesecker and colleagues Juliet Linderman and Richard Lardner found that at least 37 appointees across the government had been granted ethics waivers, allowing them to regulate the very industries in which they had worked. For plumbing the depths of the swamp, their story is Beat of the Week.

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Oct. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP wins exclusive access to notorious federal jail in NY

secured rare access inside the federal jail in Manhattan where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, reporting first-hand about the structural mess and squalid conditions. The AP pair had previously reported that the infamous Metropolitan Correctional Center, built in the 1970s, is slated for at least temporary closure. Still, they wanted more.Previous requests had been denied, but Balsamo and Sisak relied on years of deep source work and weeks of negotiations with the Justice Department and the BOP, finally winning access inside the MCC in Manhattan and the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where a majority of the inmates will be moved.Balsamo, AP’s lead Justice Department reporter who was the first journalist to cover the resumption of federal executions, came away from MCC with details like: “One cell is off-limits because the door is now unstable — likely because of the constant pounding over the years from the prisoners inside on the cinder block walls.” New York-based law enforcement reporter Sisak also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and judicial orders that detailed the conditions inmates had faced and researched the history of the building.The result was a vividly written and reported exclusive unmatched by any other news agency. The story was picked up by New York media and news outlets across the country. https://aplink.news/xck

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats reveal: California to build world’s largest animal crossing

for reporting about the world’s largest animal crossing, planned for the U.S. 101 freeway northwest of Los Angeles. California transportation officials didn’t have much to say about the plan, but Weber connected with a source at the National Wildlife Federation, a major backer of the project. They gave AP access to plans, renderings and other images, and eventually the site itself. The organizers allowed the AP all-formats package, which received extraordinary play, serve as the project’s public announcement. https://bit.ly/2KXSGnl