May 04, 2018

Best of the States

FOIA reveal: Governor shields ally and agency in alleged harassment case

When Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds abruptly fired a longtime friend and political ally last month, she said it was due to “credible” sexual harassment allegations. But her staff said no other information would be available about the behavior of Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison.

Statehouse reporter Barbara Rodriguez and Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley knew there was more to the story, but after filing FOIA requests, the governor's office told them there were no such records, prompting a rare case where reporting the denial would be newsworthy: that there was no evidence, correspondence or investigation into the allegations before Jamison was terminated.

Hours after that story moved, the governor’s office acknowledged they had made a mistake. There was a written detailed complaint against Jamison, but the office insisted it was exempt from FOIA.

Rodriguez and Foley didn’t stop there. They appealed the denial, leading the governor’s office to reverse course again and release the document, which immediately caused a firestorm.

It showed that Jamison had allegedly been harassing female subordinates for years, and that senior officials in the agency were aware of his behavior but apparently didn’t report it – which led to calls for an independent investigation. The governor initially rejected those calls but as pressure built, she announced she had hired a prominent outside lawyer to conduct such an investigation.

For aggressive reporting that shed light on accusations of sexual misconduct by a public official – including the lack of transparency surrounding the charges – the pair shares this week's Best of the States award.

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Sept. 25, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigates medical care at immigrant detention facility after explosive allegations

The allegations were explosive: A nurse at an immigration detention facility in rural Georgia said a gynecologist she called “the uterus collector” performed mass hysterectomies without detainees’ consent. 

Reaction was fast and furious, but the AP treated the unsubstantiated allegations cautiously. Immigration reporter Nomaan Merchant dug into the story amid intense competition, reaching out to sources, doctors and a detainee who had surgery performed without her consent. 

While his review did not find evidence of mass hysterectomies, Merchant revealed a growing pattern of women not consenting to procedures that potentially jeopardized their ability to have children. Three days later, the AP was first to report that the doctor would no longer treat immigrant detainees.   

For impressive work that broke new ground on a highly charged story, Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Nationwide reporting effort exposes dwindling vaccine demand

led a nationwide reporting effort revealing that COVID-19 vaccine demand is plummeting.Each week, states are told how many vaccine doses are available to them, and they in turn decide how many they want to order from the federal supply. Reporters started hearing anecdotal evidence of states ordering paltry amounts of vaccine in recent weeks, at a time when the Biden administration wants to get 70% of adult Americans vaccinated by July 4.So AP reporters across the country asked governors how many vaccines they were ordering last week. Some states, like Iowa, Kansas and Wisconsin, decided to order a fraction of their allocation, as low as 8% of what’s available to them. Other locations, like New York City, Colorado and Maryland, were asking for their full allocation. Hollingsworth, based in Kansas City, Missouri, and Richmond, in Madison, Wisconsin, fleshed out the numbers with examples of widespread vaccine hesitancy around the country, and what states were doing to entice more shots.The result was a smart mainbar on Saturday that connected the dots in a way that only the AP can, with its 50-statehouse presence. The piece also set the stage for a broader, more advanced data collection effort that the AP will build on in the coming weeks. https://aplink.news/i67

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Sept. 09, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Washington team out front on blockbuster Trump probe document

used planning and preparation — and worked through the night — to put AP ahead on the Justice Department document that alleged efforts to obstruct the investigation of classified documents kept at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.When the nearly 40-page document landed after 11 p.m. Tuesday night, Washington reporters Tucker, Colvin and Balsamo quickly identified the newsiest, most salient points and filed an alert just minutes after the document had dropped, then followed with a textured, detailed story that moved before competitors had even published their own alerts. Kesten provided lightning-fast editing and filing, and photo editor Elswick expedited a key evidence photo.Read more

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April 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tip from puzzled reader leads to 1600s pirate mystery

turned a reader’s polite complaint into an engaging mystery story of 17th century piracy. Amateur historian Jim Bailey questioned why AP had run an item on a 1796 penny found in a Maine churchyard. The coin was not significant but, he added, he had found one that was. The tip put Kole and Senne on the trail of ancient Arabian coins unearthed around New England that were traced to Henry Every, an English pirate whose crew raped, murdered and pillaged in 1695, making the captain the planet’s most-wanted man. Kole interviewed historians and archaeologists who said Bailey’s discovery — a 1693 Yemeni coin found with a metal detector in a pick-your-own fruit orchard — indeed was significant and that it provided evidence that the subject of the world’s first manhunt did not just vanish into the wind after plundering a ship carrying Muslim pilgrims home from a pilgrimage to Mecca — he and his crew may have spent time in colonial New England spending their loot. Bailey found documents showing that the way the pirates hid out was by posing as slave traders, then a “legitimate” profession in Newport, Rhode Island.Kole's story rocketed to the top of the news cycle on the day it was published, getting more clicks than any other story on apnews.com. https://bit.ly/2Ov95UV

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Oct. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigates Brazil’s weak response to burning wetlands

went beyond just documenting the fires that swept across Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands, decimating wildlife, but also reported that the government’s meager response allowed the blazes to spiral out of control. Almost one-quarter of the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetlands, went up in flames – an area bigger than the state of Maryland, and double what California lost this year.

The Brazilian government said it mobilized hundreds of troops and agents. as well as aircraft dropping water, to douse the fires. The AP team used witness testimonials, local data and its journalists’ own observations – they didn’t find a single armed forces member during five days in the northern Pantanal, where the fires were centered. Sources yielded further evidence and a government source who was involved in the Pantanal fire response later confirmed the AP’s findings, despite continued assertions by Brazil’s environment ministry that its response was stellar.

The team produced multiple packages with especially strong video and photos. The work was the most used from Latin America by AP clients for all of September.https://bit.ly/33zTrMvhttps://bit.ly/36KwSad

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June 25, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Armed with sensitivity and hard facts, AP talks with ‘Big Lie’ believers

deftly explored political conspiracy theories and those who embrace them, traveling to Wisconsin where thousands of Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters recently gathered to hear speakers, including the former president himself on video, push the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.The subject is challenging to report without bringing more attention to the conspiracies or needlessly demeaning adherents who, though deeply misguided, genuinely believe the lies that are being advanced. Yet this work is critical to understanding the political dynamics that are unfolding every day in the U.S.Colvin’s story stands out from much of the reporting on this right-wing movement because she took the time to listen — really listen — to the people who attended and to understand what motivates them to accept outlandish theories.But Colvin didn’t hold back. Rather than relying on vague adjectives or stock fact-checking paragraphs, she built a narrative that repeatedly points to concrete evidence of what actually happened in the 2020 election. Using direct and pointed language, the White House reporter makes clear that these baseless claims are completely false and part of a broader pattern of events centered on deceit. “Taken together, the gatherings have gelled into a convention circuit of delusion centered on the false premise that the election was stolen,” she wrote.The result is revealing and distinctive journalism. Brian Stelter led his widely read media newsletter with Colvin’s story, saying it “perfectly sums up this moment in politics.” https://aplink.news/gau

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Nov. 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP breaks news on Justice Department election investigations

both delivered scoops on the U.S. Department of Justice and election investigations.Balsamo kept hearing rumors of the DOJ looking into election cases, but he knew there were rules prohibiting such investigations during an ongoing election. He kept asking until a source revealed a memo Attorney General William Barr had sent to prosecutors nationwide authorizing federal prosecutors across the U.S. to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the election is certified, despite the fact there was no evidence of widespread fraud giving prosecutors the ability to go around the longstanding policy. The scoop reverberated nationwide, especially as concerns grew over Trump’s ability to use the levers of government to hang on to power. The story was widely used, with Politico, Axios and NBC citing AP in their coverage of Barr’s memo. AP’s alert and a full story were on the wire more than 40 minutes before other major news organizations obtained a copy of the memo.Meanwhile, Las Vegas reporter Michelle Price was digging into how the DOJ was pursuing allegations from the Trump campaign that voters may have cast improper ballots in Nevada. Price and Balsamo teamed up with voting reporter Anthony Izaguirre to report out two ongoing investigations, and how they may not hold up to scrutiny. Price used her contacts to get exclusive first-person accounts from U.S. military members who thought they’d been wrongly accused of fraud for voting by mail from out of state by Nevada authorities and DOJ officials.https://bit.ly/2Kqu09ehttps://bit.ly/3lOlxKR

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Sept. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Desperate African migrants risk deadly Atlantic crossing

revealed that migration from Africa to Europe is still happening in the depths of the coronavirus pandemic – and shifting from the Mediterranean to the deadly Atlantic route. The Barcelona-based journalists traveled to the Canary Islands and saw firsthand boats full of migrants – including some who had died – arriving on the Spanish archipelago.The pair was kicked out of the port area for trying to document arrivals because it’s such a sensitive subject, and many sources, under government pressure, stopped talking to the AP. But the AP team worked around the restrictions, getting access to migrants and spending time with them. Brito and Morenatti reported that more than 250 people are known to have died or gone missing so far this year, and at least 20 bodies were recovered in the week we there, evidence of the extreme risk taken on the ocean crossing.The story attracted attention in Europa and Africa with high engagement, particularly for the photos and video.

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Nov. 11, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘Method to the violence’: Dogged investigation and groundbreaking visuals document Bucha ‘cleansing’

An all formats team of AP journalists, working in partnership with PBS “Frontline” and SITU Research, used surveillance camera footage, intercepted phone calls and an exclusive 3D animation of Bucha to detail Russia’s monthlong reign of terror in the Ukrainian city.

The evidence collected, including 80.000 video files and thousands of audio files, told the chilling tale of the fall of Bucha and how, over the month that followed, Russian occupiers terrorized the local population with raids, torture and summary executions. In phone calls home Russian soldiers described “zachistka” — cleansing — killing civilians under orders from their leaders.

No other news organization has conducted such a deep and revealing analysis of the atrocities in Bucha.

For their meticulous, innovative work and their collaboration across formats and continents, the team of Erika Kinetz, Oleksandr Stashevskyi, Vasilisa Stepanenko, Adam Pemble, Allen Breed, Michael Biesecker, Jeannie Ohm and Dario Lopez is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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May 31, 2018

Best of the States

Mentally disabled man made false confession to murder in 1998 – now it's used against him

A mentally disabled Louisiana man walked free last week after 20 years in prison for a killing his attorneys say he didn't commit. But New Orleans reporter Janet McConnaughey questioned why his plea agreement blames him for obstructing justice.

Corey Williams was a 16-year-old who still sucked his thumb, often wet himself and had been hospitalized for extreme lead poisoning when Shreveport, Louisiana, police brought him in for questioning in 1998 about a shooting that killed a pizza deliveryman.

For hours, he said he was innocent. Finally, Williams told police he did it and wanted to go home and lie down.

Two decades later, with doubts swirling around his murder conviction and the case submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court for review, Williams accepted a plea agreement, pleading guilty to manslaughter and obstructing justice.

McConnaughey asked the district attorney's office for documentation outlining the plea deal. There it was: Williams said he’d obstructed justice by removing evidence from the crime scene and by providing “a false inculpatory statement to police." Williams’ signature was in inch-high printing, with big circles over the i’s.

McConnaughey’s story received strong use by AP customers. For pursuing the underlying details and shining a light on a deal that set Williams free – but only after putting the blame on himself for a false confession – McConnaughey wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 11, 2020

Best of the States

AP examines troubling trend of women dropping out of the workforce

As parents scramble to manage their own work and their kids’ remote learning during the pandemic, AP business reporters Alexandra Olson and Cathy Bussewitz wanted to know how that shift impacted the careers of mothers and fathers. 

They dug into the data, finding that in order to tend to their children, working mothers were giving up their careers more so than working fathers. And they tapped into parenting networks to find families in this situation. What emerged was evidence of a trend that threatens decades of hard-fought gains by working women, who are still far from achieving labor force parity with men.

For timely reporting that documents a disturbing social and economic trend brought on by the pandemic, Olson and Bussewitz win this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 30, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

As Herschel Walker eyes US Senate run, AP reveals a turbulent past

broke news on former football star Herschel Walker, who is said to be considering a run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. The Georgia Senate race may be the most competitive in the nation next year and Walker, a former University of Georgia star and a friend of former President Donald Trump, would be an appealing Republican candidate. But Walker also has a history of mental illness and a tell-all book with extraordinary details about his troubled past.The tales in Walker’s 2008 book would have been enough for a good story, but Washington-based reporter Slodysko and his colleagues, Atlanta’s Barrow and Dallas’ Bleiberg, wanted to know more.The trio turned up records that had never been reported on, including claims by Walker’s ex-wife that he threatened her life, concerns by his business partners about his behavior; and evidence that he had exaggerated the size of his company in federal filings.Knowing that several other outlets were also working the story, the reporters wrote quickly from a strong paper trail and good source reporting that added important political context about Walker’s deliberations. They wrote carefully and precisely about Walker’s illness. The result was an extraordinary read that may influence the Georgia race for U.S. Senate. The piece was the most-read story on AP News last week — a stunning feat for a story that ran midday on a summer Friday. https://aplink.news/frs

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Oct. 26, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP unmatched in multiformat coverage of Saudi consulate investigation

The disappearance and killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey has been one of the biggest, and most competitive, stories in the world this month, and the AP’s team in Turkey dominated coverage last week with its reporting surrounding a crime scene search of the consulate.

When crime scene investigators arrived at the consulate without notice on Oct. 15, Turkey news editor Ayse Wieting already had one camera fixed on the consulate door for 24-hour live coverage and quickly scrambled two more cameras with LiveU units. The AP beat the competition by more than two hours with the first edit of investigators entering the consulate.

On the text side, Ankara correspondent Suzan Fraser later got a high-level Turkish source to confirm that the consulate search turned up “evidence” that Khashoggi was killed there, a scoop that was cited across international and Turkish media.

And AP’s photo coverage of the story was also dominant, complementing the outstanding the video and text efforts. Photographers worked hard to find new angles on a visually challenging story, where often the only visible activity was people walking in and out of a building.

For impressive efforts and ingenuity in covering a worldwide top story of paramount importance to AP members and customers in all formats, the AP team earns Best of the Week honors.

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June 03, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reconstruction suggests Israeli shots killed reporter

conducted an exclusive in-depth reconstruction of the death of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, shot dead during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank on May 11.With the Palestinians and Israelis offering opposing accounts of the killing, AP visited all the relevant locations, interviewed multiple witnesses, examined videos from social media and spoke to a weapons expert.While acknowledging the obstacles to a definitive answer, the work by Krauss and Mohammad — the only on-the-ground investigation by an international media organization — lends support to Palestinian claims that the prominent journalist was hit by Israeli gunfire.Read more

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July 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Resourceful reporting, legal challenge reveal FBI going for the gold

has been breaking news about buried treasure since 2018, when the FBI conducted a secretive dig in a remote area of Pennsylvania, aimed at recovering a legendary cache of stolen Civil War-era gold. The FBI has long refused to confirm it was searching for the fabled gold — while also insisting it didn’t find whatever it was hoping to dig up.Rubinkam knew the FBI needed a federal search warrant to gain access to the site, but every document in the case was sealed ... as if the case didn’t exist. With help from AP attorney Brian Barrett and a Philadelphia-based media lawyer, a judge lifted the sealing order, revealing a veritable gold mine of news and confirming Rubinkam’s previous reporting: that the feds were, indeed, looking for gold. Among the details in the FBI’s unsealed affidavit: A contractor’s sensitive instruments had detected a huge underground mass with the density of gold.What the unsealed case didn’t include was a document describing what the FBI actually found. Federal prosecutors assert no such document exists because the dig came up empty. But the treasure hunters who led the FBI to the site in the first place believe the evidence says otherwise. They are seeking FBI records of the dig.Rubinkam’s story was among the top 10 most-viewed stories on apnews.com last week. It appeared on newspapers' front pages and spurred follow-ups, including by The Washington Post.https://aplink.news/gcohttps://aplink.news/jyq

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Nov. 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP/‘Frontline’ investigation: Russian brutality was strategic

of the AP teamed up with PBS “Frontline” on a joint investigation showing that the much-reported Russian violence against civilians in and around Bucha, Ukraine, was not carried out by rogue soldiers. Rather, it was strategic and organized brutality, perpetrated in areas under tight Russian control and where military officers — including a prominent general — were present.For a pair of stories, AP and “Frontline” interviewed dozens of witnesses and survivors, reviewed audio intercepts and surveillance camera footage, and obtained Russian battle plans.One of Kinetz’s stories tied the violence to Russian Col. Gen. Alexander Chaiko, who was in command. The other shows the wrenching impact of the Russian terror campaign on one woman who lost the man she called her “big, big love.”Read more

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March 19, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

With extraordinary access to a psychiatric unit, AP reveals pandemic’s toll on children’s mental health

To explore the pandemic’s devastating toll on children’s mental health, AP’s Paris team gained extraordinary access to the psychiatric unit at France’s busiest pediatric hospital. 

Paris correspondent John Leicester worked for months to build trust with hospital authorities and workers. Once inside, Leicester, photographer Christophe Ena and video journalist Nicolas Garriga discreetly documented activity in the unit while protecting the privacy of the young patients. Told notably through the story of an 11-year-old who starved himself so severely that he required emergency care, the package showed how the mental health of children is affected under the weight of lockdowns, curfews, family upheavals and school closures. 

The resulting all-formats package — including evidence of the problem in other parts of the world — was widely used by AP customers.

For a sustained effort to gain access, and sensitive, revealing coverage on this issue touching children and families globally, the trio of Leicester, Ena and Garriga earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP/‘Frontline’ investigation: Russia stealing, selling Ukraine’s grain

used satellite imagery and open source video and photos, as well as ship-tracking data to document a massive operation in which Russia has been stealing Ukrainian grain and selling it to countries in the Middle East. Russia has denied the practice; AP and its partner, PBS “Frontline,” proved otherwise.While other news organizations have reported on the grain theft, the AP team first to track the smuggling operation, from silos in occupied Ukraine all the way to grocery store shelves in Turkey and Syria. The jnvestigation was also the first to name names, tracing the owners of the companies that were shipping and receiving the grain, and their ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.Read more

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