June 25, 2021

Best of the States

AP marks 600,000-death milestone with distinctive data-driven look at COVID racial inequality

The 600,000th COVID-19 death in the U.S. presented a big challenge: How to bring fresh perspective to yet another milestone, just months after we crossed the 400,000 and 500,000 marks. The trio of medical writer Carla K. Johnson, data journalist Angel Kastanis and reporter Olga Rodriguez met the challenge and then some, delivering a data-driven Only on AP package that showed how the virus has exploited racial inequality as it cut a swath through the country.

Kastanis analyzed demographic data of all 600,000 deaths to show the uneven toll during the various phases of the pandemic, breaking down the disproportionate effect on the Black and Latino communities. Rodriguez reported on a family that led the story, while Johnson served as the lead writer, rounding out the piece with medical analysis, perspective and reporting. Contributions by AP’s top stories team included an engaging interactive map of the U.S. showing the virus advancing geographically to 600,000 souls.

The package resonated with readers and customers on the AP News platform, where it was among the top stories, as well as on social media and on newspaper front pages around the country.

For a shining example of AP collaboration across teams, using sharp data analysis and on-the-ground reporting to reveal the pandemic’s impact on communities of color, the team of Johnson, Kastanis and Rodriguez receives this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 11, 2018

Best of the States

Illinois coroner to poor: Pay $1000 or county keeps remains

The tip that led to an exclusive by Chicago reporter Sara Burnett seemed outlandish: When poor people couldn't afford to bury their loved ones, a western Illinois coroner was cremating the bodies and keeping the ashes until the family paid $1,000. He’s continued the policy even though the state has resumed a program to pay for the funerals.

Burnett reported on a woman whose ex-husband and father of their three children died. They were both on disability and she couldn’t come up with the money, leaving the family to hold a memorial service with just a photograph and an empty container. Wendy Smith said she felt the policy was unfair. "I just think they pick on the people that are poor."

The coroner told Burnett that the policy started after the state, which for years has faced billion-dollar deficits, announced it was too broke to pay for indigent funerals and burials – shifting the cost to funeral homes and county coroners. Further, the coroner claimed only one woman was unhappy. But Burnett tracked down other families, and had a back-and-forth with the state about how much money was appropriated for the burial program

Within days, the state comptroller, citing The Associated Press story, weighed in that the coroner's practice was "disgusting behavior" and called for a ramped-up campaign to alert local officials that state-funded burial is again available.

For illuminating a questionable practice and how the state’s budget crisis continues to cause pain for the poor and vulnerable, Burnett earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 13, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive visuals, reporting distinguish Vegas shooting coverage

It was just one of the many mysteries surrounding the Las Vegas concert shooting: How did the gunman, perched up on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort, fire off as many as 90 rounds onto thousands of concert-goers in just 10 seconds, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds?

Reporters Sadie Gurman and Mike Balsamo found the answer. Through sourcework, they learned that Stephen Paddock was able to carry out his assault in moments because he had used two “bump stocks,” devices that allow a semi-automatic rifle to repeatedly fire like a machine gun.

The scoop was part of an impressive week of coverage by staff in the Las Vegas bureau and across the AP that also included photographer John Locher’s dramatic images of police screaming for people to take cover as the gunman sprayed the crowd with bullets.

For their work in bringing critical details and images of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Gurman, Balsamo and Locher win this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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July 06, 2017

Best of the States

Long leads team coverage of fatal hospital shooting

New York City police reporter Colleen Long was taking the elevator at police headquarters on a quiet Friday afternoon before the Fourth of July weekend when she overheard a couple of patrol officers suddenly talking with alarm. “Oh my God,” one of them said. “Something’s going on at Bronx Lebanon Hospital. I think an active shooter.”

Long got off on the next stop and immediately called a source as she took the stairs down to her office in the second-floor press room, known as “the shack.” By the time she got to the desk, she had enough information to call the New York City bureau with a barebones APNewsAlert: “NEW YORK (AP) — Police are responding to a report of shots fired inside a New York City hospital.”

So began a bureau-wide reporting effort on a story that would unfold in unusual detail, even in the long litany of American gun violence. For leading a team effort that put the AP out front and kept us there, Colleen Long wins the Best of the States Award and the $300 that goes with it for the second week in a row.

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June 25, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years in the making, AP’s ‘AWOL Weapons’ investigation prompts immediate Pentagon reaction

Ten years ago, Kristin M. Hall noticed several cases in which U.S. troops stole military guns and sold them to the public. Hall, a military beat reporter at the time, then fired off the first of many Freedom of Information Act requests. The Army, however, refused to release any records and the story could easily have ended there, with Hall moving on to become a Nashville-based entertainment video journalist focused on country music. Yet, she kept at it.

Last week, Hall’s decade-long journey — and the work of a host of others on the global investigations, data and immersive storytelling teams — paid off in “AWOL Weapons,” a multilayered, visually rich project revealing that at least 1,900 military weapons — from handguns to rocket launchers — had been either lost or stolen during the 2010s, with some used in street violence in America.

Two days after publication, the Pentagon’s top general and the Army each said they would seek systematic fixes for the missing weapon problem, and through a spokesman, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called AP’s investigation “another example of the free press shining a light on the important subjects we need to get right.”

With deep reporting and a riveting digital presentation, the multistory package saw outstanding customer use and reader engagement.

For remarkable persistence that revealed a problem the military wanted to keep quiet, generating immediate prospects for reform, Hall receives special distinction alongside colleagues Justin Pritchard, James LaPorta, Justin Myers and Jeannie Ohm as winners of AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 16, 2018

Best of the States

AP analysis: NRA contributes to schools; few willing to decline the money

Major corporations were cutting ties with the National Rifle Association after the massacre at a Florida high school, but what about schools that had received grants from the gun organization? It was a natural follow to the Associated Press’ exclusive story that the alleged shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had belonged to a school JROTC program that received NRA grants.

Data journalist Meghan Hoyer dug through tax records to identify the schools that had received more than $7 million in NRA grants. Education beat team member Collin Binkley began calling recipients around the country to see if they would forgo the money. Few said they would.

For their work breaking news on a story that everyone is reporting and providing data that allowed AP members to localize the story, Binkley and Hoyer will receive this week’s Best of the States prize.

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March 02, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Trump photo from emotional meeting with shooting victims and families goes viral

The tears, grief and tension of President Donald Trump’s listening session with shooting victims and families after the Florida high school massacre were profound. Washington photographer Carolyn Kaster’s job was to capture the compelling event in images. That’s no easy task at the White House, where events are tightly managed and photographers’ movements are highly restricted.

But Kaster, working with photo editor Jon Elswick, overcame these obstacles and delivered an image of a hand-written note held by the president that quickly went viral and became one of the most talked-about stories of the day. The image wins Kaster and Elswick the Beat of the Week.

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June 22, 2018

Best of the States

Chicago gangs embrace social media – often with deadly results

Chicago legal affairs writer Michael Tarm had been anticipating the release of a 400-page report on gangs, compiled about once every six years by the Chicago Crime Commission. He touched base with the commission every few months for years, asking for advanced access to the documents.

It paid off.

Tarm obtained exclusive access to new law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, then he spent weeks going through police and court records to find a gang-related killing to serve as a narrative of the findings. He uncovered the case of Lamanta Reese, a story illustrating how social media is transforming the city’s street-gang culture with deadly consequences. Gang member Reese, 19, had posted a smiley-face emoji on Facebook in response to an off-color joke about the mother of a rival gang member. Days later, that rival crossed the street between their gang factions, sneaked up on Reese and fatally shot him 11 times.

The story got strong play, with more than 10,000 page views on AP’s site the first day – almost 17,000 overall. The main story was published by 220 sites, including The New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the hometown Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. The Sun-Times and Daily Herald also ran it in their papers.

For obtaining exclusive access to law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, poring over police and court records, and drawing on in-depth sourcing to produce a multiformat, compelling narrative, Tarm wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 03, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP delivers fast, comprehensive, all-formats coverage of Uvalde, Texas, school shooting

AP journalists were on the U.S-Mexico border for an immigration assignment May 24 when they got word of a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. They quickly gathered their gear and rushed to Robb Elementary School, where they found chaotic scenes of law enforcement surrounding the school. The staffers immediately went to work providing photos and live video.

That swift response to the unfolding tragedy made the AP the first national news organization on the scene and set the tone for the rest of the week. As more staff deployed, AP delivered dominant, all-formats coverage that explored with sensitivity not only the shooting that left 19 fourth graders and two teachers dead, but inconsistencies in the actions and statements of police — and much more.

Readers and customers responded with exceptional engagement.

For a powerful example of the AP at its finest on a major news story that has led to an outpouring of sympathy for the families, questions about police practices and the latest reckoning on guns and school safety, the AP Uvalde coverage team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Heads-up response delivers on shooting at NY cathedral

knew almost immediately that the popping sound — at a church where he had just attended a concert — was gunfire. The New York video journalist didn't hesitate, moving toward it to put AP ahead in all formats on one of the most-used stories of the day.Along with his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe and her mother, Shaffrey had just walked away from a classical Christmas concert at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan when he heard several loud bangs, screaming and the restaurants clearing as people ran for cover. He turned his daughter’s mother and said, “You guys go that way. I’m going to see what’s going on.”While people ran past him, Shaffrey moved in a non-threatening manner toward the sound of the gunfire. One woman stopped to tell him that there was a “terrorist” on the steps of the cathedral firing shots. Shaffrey captured audio and video of the police shooting the man, and the scene in front of the church as people took cover on the ground while police moved in on the suspect.Shaffrey contacted East regional news director Sara Gillesby who coordinated fast filing of photos and video and a Shaffrey story co-bylined with reporter Mary Esch, putting AP ahead of the competition.https://bit.ly/2WDyJHrhttps://bit.ly/37IPeIBhttps://yhoo.it/3pgR4Gr

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April 23, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

One shot: AP photographers reflect on covering the pandemic, and the image that most affected them

Since the start of the pandemic, AP photographers have been on the front lines of coverage, taking on risks to bring the world scenes of struggle, death, comfort and hope. And in many ways the images had a profound impact on the photographers themselves.

So as the world approached another grim pandemic milestone of 3 million deaths, New York photo editor Alyssa Goodman asked a group of 15 photographers from 13 countries to each select the one image from their virus coverage that affected them most, and describe why.  

The resulting package, elevated by the elegant writing of Rome reporter Nicole Winfield, offers compelling insight into the emotional impact of bearing witness and documenting the pandemic.

For adding a new and creative dimension to some of AP’s most deeply moving photography of the coronavirus pandemic, Goodman, Winfield and this dedicated team of photojournalists — representing their AP colleagues worldwide — earn AP’s Best of the Week honors. 

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Oct. 29, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

As COVID surges in Russia, AP wins access to Moscow ICU

used months of strong contact-building in Moscow’s hospitals to get first access to an intensive care unit — several days ahead of the competition — at a time when Russia is facing almost daily records for both COVID infections and deaths.Video journalist Manenkov and chief photographer Zemlianichenko won permission to work inside the “Red Zone” at Moscow City Clinical Hospital 52, where the staff is facing the crush of the country’s COVID-19 crisis. The pair gave Moscow writer Isachenkov perfect material to explore the lagging pace of vaccination across the country, a source of despair among the front-line doctors and nurses. And their visuals gave AP global customers an array of powerful images telling the story of COVID in Russia.https://aplink.news/rm0https://aplink.video/f63

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April 17, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP among first to examine racial disparities of COVID-19

requested data on racial breakdowns for the COVID-19 disease in states, cities and counties nationwide, ultimately analyzing data from eight states, six major U.S. cities and six of Florida’s largest counties. The result was one of the first and most deeply reported examinations of the racial disparities of U.S. cases and deaths, reviewing more than 4,450 deaths and 52,000 COVID-19 cases across the country. https://bit.ly/2Xy7TSO

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Feb. 28, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

With speed and smarts, AP Germany team dominates mass shooting coverage

As news of a racially motivated café shooting started trickling out shortly before midnight on Feb. 19, the AP team in Germany burst into action with an all-hands-on-desk effort that dominated coverage of this major story. 

AP’s success included a huge win on live video coordinated by Kerstin Sopke, brisk filing of the breaking story by Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans, and Michael Probst’s photos from the scene that landed on the front pages of major publications.

Their effort was supplemented by a strong effort from other corners of the AP as journalists interviewed survivors and members of the immigrant community, wrote about the rise of far-right violence in Germany and followed the written trail left by the killer. Play for the story was phenomenal. 

For their speed, smart news judgment and superior coordination that gave AP a massive lead on a big story as it broke, Probst, Moulson, Sopke and Jordans are AP’s Best of the Week winners.

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July 16, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Only on AP: Heartrending images capture children across the globe who lost parents to COVID

Rarely does AP’s Best of the Week award go to an editor. But this week — a particularly strong one for AP with multiple exclusives — the honor is truly deserved by Top Stories Hub photo editor Alyssa Goodman. Goodman was the driving force behind “Kids Left Behind,” an extraordinarily moving photo package that takes an intimate look at children who have lost parents to the pandemic.

Goodman coordinated with photographers around the globe to find the young subjects, get permission to photograph and interview them, then make their portraits in a cohesive style.

The result was one of the most compelling packages AP has done in recent years, the photos complemented by poignant text moving many readers to tears, with stories ranging from a 10-year old in India who lost both parents in a matter of weeks, to video of a California 13-year-old performing the song she composed for her father’s funeral, on the guitar he gave her days before he died.

For generating an inspired and challenging project, handling it with sensitivity and tenaciously seeing it through in collaboration with global colleagues, Alyssa Goodman wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 19, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Revealing look at Canada’s troubled euthanasia system

reported extensively on Canada’s euthanasia laws, which are some of the world’s most permissive and have spurred criticism from the United Nations and even the pope. AP medical writer Cheng noticed a pattern after several troubling incidents in the country; she found Canada has fewer safeguards in place than many other countries. Terminal illness is not a requirement for euthanasia, and treatment of the disabled is a particular outlier.The piece includes families’ experiences: Detroit-based video journalist Householder crossed the border to Ontario, telling the story of a woman who was shocked that her father was accorded euthanasia within days of a fall, and Cheng reported on a man whose application for euthanasia listed just one condition: hearing loss.Read more

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May 17, 2018

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Texas biker accused of killing man who was shot by police

In the three years since the deadliest biker shooting in U.S. history, Fort Worth correspondent Emily Schmall has meticulously gathered documents, reports and court records to put together a spreadsheet that integrates autopsy reports, firearms analyses and ballistics evidence, including the names and serial numbers of the weapons, to whom they were traced, where they were recovered from and whether they were linked to a death or injury.

Her work paid off last week when prosecutors handed down the first murder charges in the case. Schmall was able to exclusively report that prosecutors had charged one of the bikers for murdering a man who was shot twice by a SWAT officer.

For persistent, investigative reporting that exclusively illuminated potential problems with a shifting strategy in a closely-watched case, Schmall wins this week’s Best of the States.

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