July 02, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

As demand for medical oxygen soars, AP reveals inequality in the global supply

The AP story came to a startling conclusion: In much of the world, medical oxygen is expensive and hard to get – a basic marker of inequality both between and within countries. 

With the pandemic exposing this stark fact, AP looked primarily to Guinea to illustrate the global challenges of supplying bottled oxygen in the world’s least developed nations. Correspondents Lori Hinnant and Carley Petesch conducted scores of interviews with health officials and nongovernmental organizations around the world, while stringers Boubacar Diallo and Youssouf Bah reported from the heart of the pandemic in the West African nation. 

Their all-formats package, including wrenching accounts of families directly affected by oxygen shortages, sparked immediate reaction, including a plan outlined by the World Health Organization. 

For aggressive and resourceful coverage of lethal inequities in the supply of medical oxygen to the developing world, the team of Hinnant, Petesch, Diallo and Bah earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Sept. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

US didn't track more than $150B in pandemic school aid. AP did.

teamed up on an all-formats project documenting what happened to historic sums of pandemic aid released to the nation’s schools.Congress has sent more than $150 billion to the states to help K-12 schools since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but the federal government has no accounting of where that money went. Over a period of months, reporter Mulvihill and data journalists Fassett and Fenn did that painstaking work, going state by state to ferret out how multiple streams of congressional funding as used. The result was a massive but granular database shared with AP customers in advance of publication, showing how much federal money each school district in the country received and how it compared to other schools — public, private and charter.With reporting help from Binkley, the team also produced three distinctive news leads: Most school districts do not intend to spend the money in the transformative ways the Biden administration envisions; virtual schools that were already fully online before the pandemic received as much or more as traditional school districts; and some Republican governors used the windfall to further school choice policies that had previously been blocked by legislatures or courts. Householder delivered the video while Krupa and Osorio handled photos in Massachusetts and Detroit respectively.Drawing on AP’s national reach, the work resulted in data that customers could localize as well as two explanatory webinars and sidebars in more than a dozen states by AP statehouse reporters.https://aplink.news/jbehttps://aplink.news/usjhttps://aplink.news/thrhttps://aplink.video/b65

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Feb. 02, 2018

Best of the States

AP uncovers NJ utility lobbying for a bailout, and blackout of financial records

In the weeks before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left office, a measure quickly advanced through the Legislature that would give PSEG, the state’s largest utility, a $300 million bailout for its nuclear power plants.

That got the curiosity of statehouse reporter Michael Catalini, who started digging.

A records request turned up more than a dozen emails showing that the company had lobbied for the bailout and wrote in a clause itself to prevent the public release of financial information proving it needed the money.

The bill introduced in the Legislature included language to shield the company’s books from the public, but failed to get to Christie’s desk during December’s lame-duck session. It re-emerged after Democrat Phil Murphy took office.

Catalini’s story revealing the lobbying effort was published a day before a committee hearing on the bill. Lawmakers rewrote the measure after the story appeared to clarify that PSEG would be required to submit “any financial information” to the state utility regulator.

For holding the utility and state lawmakers accountable, Catalani receives this week's Best of the States award.

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Sept. 06, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP probes a pharmaceutical fortune, dispersed in a global labyrinth

Amid reports of an opioid settlement, an investigation shows the myriad ways that the Sackler family which owns Purdue Pharma in a web of companies and trusts, many of them overseas.Adam Geller, national writer, New York. Geller reviewed court papers, securities filings and documents leaked from an exclusive Bermuda law firm. He found that the family has shielded its wealth in ways that could complicate efforts to recover the money in opioid settlements.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/familys-web-makes-it-hard-to-track-cash-from-opioid-maker/2019/08/29/80d4f43e-ca99-11e9-9615-8f1a32962e04_story.html

Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: Mexico diverted development funds under US pressure

used public records requests and persistent reporting to scoop the competition on Mexico’s diversion, under U.S. pressure, of more than $4 million from a fund meant to address the root causes of migration. The money was instead used to bus asylum seekers away from the U.S. border and renovate immigration detention centers. Former officials and experts reacted to the story with harsh criticism of the administration of President Andrés Manual López Obrador. https://bit.ly/33Dn5iK

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Dec. 02, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

"What Can Be Saved?”: The butterfly on a bomb range

for the 10th installment of the “What Can Be Saved?” series, an in-depth package on the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The all-formats team went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to spend time with researchers working to protect two species: a rare butterfly that receives very little money from the U.S. government, and a woodpecker that gets much more, illustrating inconsistencies in the act. The team produced a visually rich package with stunning images of the creatures and scientists, a compelling minidocumentary that pushed total views or the AP series past 1 million and an interactive that allowed readers to explore which endangered species live in their neighborhoods.https://bit.ly/35PkiTmhttps://bit.ly/2Y3782j

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July 13, 2017

Best of the States

AP reporting prompts bill forcing Nevada agencies to reveal federal reviews

Statehouse reporters know to follow the money, that to hold government accountable we need to know where taxpayer money goes and how it is used. Nevada temporary legislative reporter Alison Noon did just that recently and helped bring about a promised change in policy that will make the workings of the state capital more transparent.

Noon first began reporting a story that rural health clinics offering family planning services to low-income women had slashed services and were turning women away for lack of funding after federal grant money dried up.

In the course of her reporting, Noon learned the program’s federal funding had been cut after a scathing federal review that showed widespread mismanagement and poor medical practices at the rural clinics. That highly critical federal report went unmentioned when the program’s administrator sought additional state funds during the legislative session.

Noon set out to learn why. She found Nevada did not require state administrators to share the results of such federal reviews with anyone – not the governor, not department heads, not state auditors. Her reporting led to a recently proposed requirement that such reviews be shared with Nevada auditors.

For her unmatched APNewsBreak, Noon wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 03, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

‘One Good Thing’ highlights humanity in the time of coronavirus

From the weepy New Jersey pizzeria owner reflecting on the kindness of his customers to tales of balcony applause and serenades for first responders in Europe, AP’s daily “One Good Thing” feature has highlighted our better selves amid the coronavirus landscape. The series has proven a hit with readers looking for glimmers of hope and humanity during the pandemic. https://apnews.com/OneGoodThing

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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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July 10, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation details hollowed-out US public health departments

While it is widely understood that U.S. public health departments have suffered budget cuts over the years, a collaborative AP/Kaiser Health News team used data and deep reporting to show exactly how expansive those cuts have been.

The investigation by AP’s Michelle Smith, Meghan Hoyer and Mike Householder, teamed with KHN’s Lauren Weber, Laura Ungar, Hannah Recht and Anna Maria Barry-Jester, drew on data from disparate sources and interviews with more than 150 people to reveal a system starved of money and staff for years, and facing more cuts amid the worst health crisis in a century. 

The team’s all-formats package drew kudos and high-profile reaction from health officials, to the halls of Congress, to editorial pages.

For an ambitious story that laid bare the state of America’s public health system, the joint AP/KHN team of Smith, Hoyer, Householder, Weber, Ungar, Recht and Barry-Jester shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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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.

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March 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Vaccine production hampered by pharma patents

broke the news that governments and aid groups worldwide, along with the World Health Organization, are calling on pharmaceutical companies to share their vaccine information more broadly to meet a yawning global shortfall and inequities in vaccine distribution. The companies say they can only sign deals on a one-on-one basis to protect their intellectual property, but critics believe they have broader obligations because they took taxpayer money to develop the vaccines. The London-based correspondents found three factories on three continents whose owners say they could start producing hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines on short notice if only they had the blueprints and technical know-how. A former director of chemistry at Moderna confirmed that, and photographer Al-emrun Garjon delivered photos of a high-tech factory in Bangladesh producing vaccine at about 25% of its capacity.After the AP story ran, the head of WHO, citing a health emergency, called for patent rights to be waived until the end of the pandemic so that vaccine supplies can be dramatically increased. https://bit.ly/38vMgXI

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March 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

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

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

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July 14, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​AP investigation: Children suffered as Vatican hospital chased profits

The approach to Vatican Correspondent Nicole Winfield came from a member of a task force that had investigated care at Italy’s foremost pediatric facility, known as “the pope’s hospital.” The contact feared that serious concerns raised by the task force hadn’t been addressed two years later.

That tip, in late 2015, set the AP on a 20-month investigation of the Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) Pediatric Hospital. Winfield teamed up with London-based Medical Writer Maria Cheng to reveal a dark chapter in the facility's history. They found that children sometimes paid the price as administrators tried to make the money-losing enterprise turn a profit, and Vatican officials took pains to keep the concerns quiet.

Their work earns the Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, analysis expose allegations against Lincoln Project

used a network of sources and financial records to break news on sexual harassment accusations and questionable financial practices inside the Lincoln Project, a high-powered anti-Trump organization founded by prominent Republican consultants and known for its slick, sophisticated ads attacking Trump.Relying on deep sourcing, political reporter Peoples learned that one of the Lincoln Project’s co-founders, Jeff Weaver, faced a far more expansive range of sexual harassment accusations than previously known, with some of the accusations coming from staff inside the Lincoln Project who informed senior leaders the allegations. Yet the leaders did nothing.On a separate track, Washington-based congressional reporter Slodysko dug into financial records that suggested there was a reason the Lincoln Project leadership didn’t want to shake things up: They were making a ton of money. By sifting through dozens of documents, Slodysko learned that of the $90 million the group raised, $50 million went to firms controlled by Lincoln Project leaders. The pair’s story had immediate impact. By the end of the day, the Lincoln Project announced it would hire an outside firm to review the allegations and encouraged potential victims of sexual harassment to reach out to the organization. https://bit.ly/2OIYFk9

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April 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive interview with Swiss banker in Venezuela corruption

spent months gaining the trust of Matthias Krull, a press-shy convicted felon, but the payoff was an exclusive story of how the Swiss banker facilitated the looting of Venezuela’s state coffers. Krull’s government testimony is credited with boosting multiple criminal investigations against corrupt allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. During a series of off-the-record meetings over 10 months, Latin America correspondent Goodman developed a rapport with Krull, allaying concerns of the former banker and his attorney. Krull shared documents bolstering his claim that his former firm, driven by profits, ignored indications of money laundering by its clients. And at one point Krull allowed Miami-based video journalist Cody Jackson to record the removal of his court-ordered ankle monitor. The access and trust were key in helping Goodman stave off major competitors also chasing the interview.On a busy news day, Goodman’s story — just his latest exposing corruption in Venezuela — was the most-read on apnews.com, with remarkable reader engagement. Social media in Venezuela buzzed, while a leading Swiss website for financial news, competing against Goodman on this story, even put it atop their “Best of the Month” selections.https://bit.ly/3wAch2Khttps://bit.ly/3fRD7gD

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Sept. 17, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

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

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

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Jan. 13, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP first with word US taxpayers to pay for US-Mexico wall

“Build the wall!" That chant became a frequent rallying cry at rallies for Donald Trump, who vowed to stem illegal immigration by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The candidate, now president-elect, would routinely engage in a back-and-forth with crowds. "Who's going to pay for it?" Trump would ask. "Mexico!" they'd shout back.

Not so, as it turns out. In an APNewsBreak, congressional correspondent Erica Werner and new White House reporter Jill Colvin were the first to report that Trump and congressional Republicans were exploring ways to use existing law – and U.S. taxpayer dollars – to build the border wall.

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