April 24, 2020

Best of the States

The cost of Trump environmental rollbacks: Health woes hit minority communities hardest

With African American and Hispanic communities in the Houston region already suffering higher rates of asthma and other diseases than the nation at large, AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer decided to focus on the area for a story on ordinary Americans living through the Trump administration’s public health and environmental rollbacks. 

The administration was cutting back on rules limiting and monitoring harmful industrial pollutants, slashing enforcement and weakening an industrial-disaster rule.

Knickmeyer, a Washington-based environmental issues reporter, spent months searching out Houston residents, telling their stories along with deep reporting on the regulatory actions and their consequences.

Former EPA Director Gina McCarthy was among many retweeting the story, calling it a “must read” article.

For a rich, insightful look at the consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks on vulnerable communities, Knickmeyer wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20085508503898 1920

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.

Ap 19065639388503 1024

Dec. 08, 2016

Best of the States

Digging in for winter at Dakota Access pipeline protest

The Associated Press has aggressively covered the Dakota Access pipeline since even before construction began on the four-state pipeline to carry oil from North Dakota. The AP tracked the approval process and then was there every step of the way as the project spawned demonstrations from Native Americans and others who set up protest camps by the pipeline’s final piece near the Missouri River, saying construction would damage cultural artifacts and that a pipeline leak could pollute tribal water supplies. In the past few months, the AP has had coverage almost every day.

While Bismarck staffer James MacPherson had covered the story cross-format with the help of colleagues, a visually-focused enterprise project was in the works for December, bringing in staff from afar to provide video and photo elements of the largest camp to accompany a piece that was to explore the protest in the context of other issues being faced by Native Americans now and into the Trump administration. On Friday, Nov. 25, the news forced us to speed up our timeline for visuals as the Army Corps of Engineers gave a Dec. 5 deadline for protesters to get off the land.

AP_16337194136381

July 26, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats coverage of new mother and baby in flood-ravaged India

for his exclusive all-formats coverage of a young mother and her just-delivered infant as she and her family were flooded out of their village.

Nath traveled solo – first by road and then by boat – to remote, flooded areas of Assam state in northeastern India, where he persuaded a doctor to let him accompany a medical team that was going to visit a newborn delivered while the mother was trying to reach a hospital by boat. She had given birth before being forced back to her own flooded village. After a risky ride through swollen waters, Nath and the medics reached 20-year-old Imrana Khatoon and her infant daughter, and the decision was made to move them both by boat to another nearby hospital.

Despite challenging logistics, including no power, Nath shot photos and video of the entire sequence as the team worked in candlelight. Then, once back in communication, he coordinated text, photos and video with editors. The result was an exclusive, visually-driven package of determination, hope and new life in the flood-ravaged region.https://bit.ly/2ZaJNeQhttps://bit.ly/2GtReX3https://bit.ly/2YjvWWr

Ap 19200603121364 Hm

Jan. 06, 2017

Best of the States

Disability and desperation

When federal prosecutors alleged that Kentucky attorney Eric Conn had funneled $600 million in fraudulent disability claims to Appalachia, Claire Galofaro saw a chance to tell a much bigger story.

Over a period of months, Galofaro, the AP’s administrative correspondent in Louisville, sat in on federal hearings and heard the anguish of Conn’s former clients, some severely disabled, others who seemed like they might be able-bodied enough to be working. She met with many who were being asked to prove their disability years after it had first been approved by the government, forced to go searching for old medical records in order to make a case they thought they had already made.

She learned about three people who killed themselves rather than face the prospect of demonstrating, once again, that they were disabled and unable to work.

Ap 16356631571844

March 24, 2017

Best of the States

Under radar, Florida spent about $250M on private lawyers, fees

AP Tallahassee reporter Gary Fineout started noticing how often Florida under Republican Gov. Rick Scott was losing court cases over its policies and was forced to pay opposing attorney fees. He decided to start a tally. But those fees would be just the tip of a quarter-billion-dollar iceberg. The money the state spent on private law firms to defend itself dwarfed that initial amount.

Getting that overall tally was the hard part. When Gary asked what was spent on outside legal counsel during Scott’s half-dozen years in office, the state attorney general told him: “We do not have that information."

So, Gary set out to search through the documents himself, revealing the true cost to taxpayers. For bringing to light a huge chunk of opaque spending and hold state leaders to account, Gary wins this week’s Best of the States.

Ap 17066737715911 1024

May 14, 2021

Best of the States

Nimble AP reporting reveals Alabama trooper charged in child rape hid alleged misconduct at FBI

In a classic case of keeping an open mind during reporting, AP’s Jim Mustian and Kim Chandler started out reporting one story, but found themselves reporting exclusively that an Alabama state trooper, arrested on charges he raped an 11-year-old girl, had used a forged letter and lied on his application to get hired after being removed from the FBI — also on serious allegations of sexual misconduct.

To federal law enforcement reporter Mustian, this initially appeared as yet another case of the FBI allowing an accused agent to quietly move on with his career. But just as he was about to publish, the FBI said the bureau letter Christopher Bauer submitted to Alabama authorities when he was hired was “not legitimate.” Meanwhile, Chandler, Montgomery statehouse reporter, tracked down Bauer’s application for the trooper job, in which he said he was still employed by the FBI and had never been forced to resign because of disciplinary action.

This had become the story of a former agent, and perhaps others, falsifying his record. The piece was among the week’s top stories on AP News, with nearly 200,000 pageviews.

For deep reporting that followed the story wherever it took them, Mustian and Chandler earn this week’s Best of the States award.

Bauer Combo 2000

Dec. 16, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP spotlights remarkable rise of federal prison official accused of misconduct

Mike Balsamo in Washington and Mike Sisak in New York trained a lens on a single Bureau of Prisons official, Thomas Ray Hinkle, who received promotions across four decades despite repeated allegations of abuse, misconduct and even admissions by him that he’d beaten inmates in the past as part of a gang of guards called “The Cowboys.”

After being tipped earlier this year to Hinkle’s past, Sisak and Balsamo went about securing and scrutinizing 1,600 pages of documents that provided details of the allegations and developed key sources within the prisons system who corroborated the accusations. Finally, toward the end of the reporting process, they secured comment from Hinkle and the bureau, both of which acknowledged his previous excesses but said he was a changed man.

For a dogged and impactful investigation that caps a year in which their reporting has shaken the hierarchy of the federal prison systems and forced officials to confront abuses long out of public view, Balsamo and Sisak are Best of the Week 1st Winners.

AP 22339860811549 1

July 13, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Hallmarks of AP journalism showcased in scoops on immigration, Thai cave rescue

Exclusivity and precision – both hallmarks of the AP – were on full display last week as teams of journalists covered the roiling immigration debate in the U.S. and the gripping story of the Thai boys soccer team trapped deep inside a flooded cave.

A day after America’s Independence Day, investigative reporters Martha Mendoza and Garance Burke revealed that some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship were being discharged.

In Thailand days later, an AP team was first to accurately report that Thai authorities had freed four boys from the cave, rather than six as other media said. It was part of a two-week, around-the-clock multi-format effort that included unmatched live shots from the scene.

For exclusive reporting that forced readers – and customers – to take notice, Mendoza and Burke and the Thailand team of Tassanee Vejpongsa, Chris Blake, Yves Dam Van, Shonal Ganguly, Sakchai Lalit, Kaweewit Kaewjinda, Jason Corben, Grant Peck, Somphong Saisomboon and Preeyapa Khunsong share Beat of the Week prizes.

Botw Combo 1024

Oct. 05, 2018

Best of the States

Oklahoma Republicans targeted by GOP colleague, dark money

Oklahomans widely assumed that 12 Republican state lawmakers who lost their bids for re-election came up short at the polls because of their opposition to raising pay for the state’s public school teachers.

While opposition to education funding may have been one factor in incumbent losses in the GOP primaries, Oklahoma City-based reporter Sean Murphy began hearing scuttlebutt about an organized effort from within the Republican Party to kick out incumbents from their own party.

Using campaign finance reports and solid sourcing at the Capitol, Murphy was alone in showing that the rumors were true.

Public records showed a top state House GOP leader had given money to opponents of two of his own colleagues, and the opponents unseated the incumbents. Murphy also leveraged a relationship developed over years of reporting to get the lawmaker to talk. He acknowledged a plan to punish fellow Republicans for taking hardline stances that forced a compromise with Democrats on a plan to raise taxes to pay for teacher raises.

For combining shoe-leather reporting with smart document work, Murphy wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 18269769088891 1024

Sept. 14, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Trafficked Myanmar ‘bride’ escapes Chinese captivity – but loses her son

The team – Todd Pitman, Esther Htusan and Jerry Harmer – had gone to Kachin state to report on the war between Kachin rebels and Myanmar’s army. Near the end of their trip, they decided to look into a story Htusan wanted to do on bride trafficking. The lead was vague and the team wasn’t sure where it would take them.

But then, at a refugee camp, they met Marip Lu. And they knew immediately this was a story that had to be told.

With major contribution by Beijing staffers Shanshan Wang, Yanan Wang, Han Guan Ng and Dake Kang, they tell the harrowing tale of a woman who was kidnapped, held in captivity, raped and then forced to make the choice between freedom and her child. This powerful story, reported and told with great sensitivity, earns Beat of the Week.

Ap 18245193289949 1024

April 09, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sourcing, teamwork deliver major AP scoop on WHO-China report of virus origins

AP scooped the rest of the world with the contents of the highly anticipated report by Chinese and World Health Organization experts on the origins of the COVID-19 virus. The scoop was so significant that it forced our direct competitors to quote AP in their headlines and stories for hours, as they and others scrambled to match it. 

How did AP do it?

Tipped that the report was imminent, Geneva chief correspondent Jamey Keaten cast a wide net among trusted sources, seeking a copy whenever it became available — and AP’s repeated scoops on WHO have made it the go-to news organization for reliable reporting on the U.N. agency. That paid off: A source Keaten had cultivated for years sent the report to him electronically early Monday morning. He quickly relayed the file to Greater China news director Ken Moritsugu, launching an urgent multiformat effort. Working with colleagues in Asia, Moritsugu had a carefully worded alert and story on the wire as day dawned in Europe. AP video colleagues followed with a six-minute archive package, footage of the report itself and official on-camera reaction.

For giving the AP a massive lead on the day’s biggest story, and harnessing AP’s global presence to produce news with speed and accuracy, Keaten and Moritsugu earn AP’s Best of the Week honors.

Ap 21088220594863 2000

Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

A year in the making: Exclusive AP interview with Placido Domingo

scored a coveted exclusive: an all-formats interview with Placido Domingo. Barry spent a year convincing Domingo’s team that the singer should sit down and talk to the news agency that broke the story about investigations and sexual misconduct allegations against him. When Domingo’s team finally agreed, Barry was able to negotiate access for photos and video to cover not just the interview, but the concert on the eve of the interview, which for cultural events in Italy is not always the case.Barry conducted the interview in English and Italian, keeping her composure even when her line of questioning prompted Domingo’s family to “swarm” her. The story received wide play with news outlets directly crediting the AP’s interview and previous reporting. Some non-AP customers, including the BBC, were forced to credit the AP in their stories on the interview and Domingo’s denial of abusing power.https://bit.ly/34CurW0https://bit.ly/3ltJKGG

Ap 20236498669488 Hm Domingo1

July 23, 2021

Best of the States

Smart prep, sharp execution put AP out front on obit of prominent civil rights leader Gloria Richardson

Among the toughest obits to write on the fly are those for people who were hugely influential but rarely heard from in their later years. AP’s Brian Witte, however, was fully prepared when he got an exclusive tip on a Friday evening that prominent civil rights figure Gloria Richardson had died at 99.

Witte, AP’s Annapolis, Maryland, correspondent, used carefully crafted, detailed prep and source work to break news of the death of the first Black woman to lead a sustained desegregation movement outside the South. Thanks in part to a striking 1963 AP photo of Richardson pushing away the bayonet of a National Guardsman, she came to symbolize fearlessness among civil rights activists.

Witte’s prep included an interview with Richardson’s biographer, building enough trust for the author to email him with first word of her death. He persuaded the biographer to share family contacts, scoring quotes that forced many outlets to cite AP. Witte’s story, linked with archival photos, hit the wire early Friday evening, beating all competition and receiving strong play.

For insightful, resourceful reporting that puts Richardson's significant legacy back in the public eye, Witte earns this week’s Best of the States award.

AP 21197784475079 2000

Dec. 04, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats package reveals challenges of rural education during the pandemic

On the sparsely populated fringe of the Navajo Nation, AP Report for America journalist Cedar Attanasio saw a storytelling opportunity: the bus system used by the Cuba, New Mexico, school district to solve distance-learning challenges for some of the country’s most isolated, vulnerable students during the pandemic. 

Reporting for text, photos and video, Attanasio rode one of the school buses used to transport meals, assignments and counselors to remote students, a number of whom do not have electricity, let alone internet. When the bus driver was forced to quarantine, Attanasio took to his car, chasing buses on their routes and interviewing students and their families.

For delivering an insightful multiformat package that reveals the pandemic’s impact on education in a disadvantaged community — prompting one reader to donate $1000 to the school board — Attanasio earns this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20323693758812 2000

Jan. 07, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Resourceful AP team dominates all-formats coverage of Colorado inferno

When a winter grassland fire exploded along Colorado’s Front Range two days before New Year’s, destroying nearly 1,000 homes and forcing tens of thousands to flee, AP staffers in all formats rushed to document what is likely the state’s most destructive fire ever.

The coverage included first video and photos of the massive flames on Day One, giving AP a quick competitive edge from the start. AP stayed ahead in the days that followed with staffers trekking for miles into the burn area, quickly delivering text, video and photos as residents returned to the remains of their homes. The reporting also placed the blaze in the larger context of global warming in the American West.

During a busy news week, the initial fire coverage was among AP’s top stories.

For compelling all-formats content from this rare, horrific winter fire, the team of Eugene Garcia, Dave Zelio, Thomas Peipert, Colleen Slevin, Jim Anderson, Martha Bellisle, Brittany Peterson, Patty Nieberg, David Zalubowski and Jack Dempsey is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP 21365103756992 2000

Oct. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Iberian team delivers stunning coverage of Canaries eruption

overcame roadblocks and other obstacles to deliver outstanding coverage of the violent volcanic eruption on La Palma in the Canary Islands. That included some of the most striking visuals of the week showing the destructive power of the eruption and the evacuations of thousands of residents.Knowing the earliest AP could get a crew on the ground would be the next day, journalists Wilson, Brito, Morenatti and Leon spent the first few hours after Sunday’s eruption remotely gathering material for all formats from sources on the island.

The next morning video freelancer Leon and Aritz Parra, chief correspondent for Spain and Portugal, took the first flight from Madrid to La Palma and hit the ground running, interviewing shocked residents who had grabbed what they could before abandoning their homes to the advancing wall of molten rock.They were joined by video journalist Brito and photographer Morenatti who made images with his drone and from a rescue helicopter, capturing the vast reach of the lava flows from above, including iconic shots of an isolated house left seemingly untouched amid a sea of lava.Meanwhile, in Lisbon, correspondent Barry Hatton wrote the stories, gathering material from the team on the ground and others. Helena Alves, did the same for video, handling incoming footage from various sources. The video edits and live shots were among the AP’s most-used throughout the week while the photos and text received prominent play in major online media.https://aplink.news/4zthttps://aplink.video/c5nhttps://aplink.video/djn

AP 21265731527474 hm volcano 1

May 07, 2021

Best of the States

Intern’s rape accusation against Idaho lawmaker prompts AP national review of state legislatures

When a 19-year-old legislative intern reported that a state lawmaker in Idaho raped her, she almost immediately faced a campaign of harassment from right-wing groups in the state, and even from other state representatives, who publicized her identity against her will. A legislative panel then forced her to testify from behind a screen at an ethics hearing, after which she was followed and subjected to still further abuse by the accused lawmaker’s supporters.

The sordid story of the young woman’s ordeal was covered with sensitivity by Boise correspondent Rebecca Boone in a series of pieces that included an exclusive interview with the alleged victim, and it prompted a wider look by AP’s State Government Team at allegations of sexual misconduct in statehouses around the country. That story, led by correspondent David Lieb and Report for America data journalist Camille Fassett, provided state-by-state details to AP customers and revealed public allegations against at least 109 state lawmakers in 40 states.

For aggressive yet respectful coverage that put one woman’s voice at the center of the story while providing distinctive national context, Boone, Lieb and Fassett share this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 21118699898862 2000

Dec. 21, 2017

Best of the States

Reporters spotlight burgeoning crisis: More kids entering foster care due to the opioid epidemic

They are the littlest victims of the opioid crisis: Tens of thousands of children forced into foster care because of a parent’s drug use. On Nov. 30, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released data from 2016 showing new foster care cases involving parents using drugs have hit the highest point in more than three decades of record-keeping.

Less than two weeks after that data was released, the AP transmitted a package of stories focused on two of the states with the biggest one-year increases: Indiana and Georgia.

The project came about thanks to an analysis begun months earlier by Washington-based data journalist Meghan Hoyer. Hoyer worked with an analyst to access exclusive county-level data on foster care entries over the past 15 years, giving the AP a unique, comprehensive and localized look at the issues surrounding children entering the system.

That data allowed New York-based national writers Matt Sedensky to focus his reporting in Indiana, where parental drug use was increasingly cited as the reason for foster care removals. Sedensky convinced the chief juvenile court judge to grant him access to courtrooms and files normally shielded from public view. He also worked to get a caseworker to let him follow her as she visited families caring for children removed from their birth parents’ custody, and spent time with adoptive families, medical professionals and others affected.

A second story, by national writer David Crary, also based in New York, zoomed in on one mother who had lost her three daughters to foster care and her battle to overcome addiction and win them back. In interviews and email exchanges over several months, mother of three Kim Silvers told wrenching details of her experience – including an interview at her joyous graduation ceremony after completing the program.

For providing moving insight into the plight of the youngest victims of the opioid crisis and the struggle of some families to break free, Hoyer, Sedensky and Crary share this week’s Best of the States prize.

Ap 17311784405356 1024