Feb. 16, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Lawmaker accused of meeting with prostitute used taxpayer money for hotel

Allegations that a lawmaker had been trysting with a prostitute while the Utah Legislature was in session rocked the state’s politics. The former lawmaker who had previously pushed for stricter laws cracking down on prostitution went into hiding. His attorney refused comment. The House speaker washed his hands of the scandal, and the prostitute was no longer talking, having sold the story to the tabloid site dailymail.com.

Political reporter Michelle Price needed another way into the story, so she started asking questions around the capitol.

She made a key discovery while looking at the screen grabs of the texts in the tabloid story: The dates lined up with the legislative session. She knew the lawmaker from southern Utah didn’t commute to the Legislature and would be staying in hotels while in Salt Lake City.

She started asking tougher questions. Was taxpayer money used to reimburse the lawmaker for hotel rooms where he met the prostitute? Now she had the attention of officials in state government.

Finally came the APNewsBreak: Price exclusively reported that the lawmaker used taxpayer money to book at least two hotel rooms he is accused of using to meet with the prostitute.

For determination and a commitment to exploring all angles even when the main characters weren’t talking, Price wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Aug. 09, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Of Peacock and Gypsy: New Australian law helps unite sperm donors and offspring

The best stories sometimes present themselves not in the newsroom but in our personal lives, in the most random of ways. We just have to be paying attention – and thinking like reporters – to notice them.

That’s what Sydney-based enterprise writer Kristen Gelineau was doing when a friend mentioned he’d found out through an Ancestry.com DNA test that his biological father was a sperm donor. The friend then told Gelineau about a new law in the Australian state of Victoria, which gave offspring of long-anonymous sperm and egg donors the right to know who the donors were. Gelineau had missed the news of the law, but immediately started researching it and thought “Wow. Now THIS is a story!!”

She was right – and her multi-format account of one such unique reunion, told in ways both comic and moving, wins Beat of the Week for Gelineau, enterprise photographer Maye-E Wong, NY-based digital storytelling producer Natalie Castañeda and New Delhi-based videojournalist Shonal Ganguly.

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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.

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May 10, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tip leads to exposé on ‘lawless’ service dog industry

for turning a tip about a service dog trainer with a troubling track record into an exposé on the shocking lack of regulation in the industry. Breed found several examples around the country that highlight what one expert calls a “lawless” industry with a near complete absence of standards and oversight that leaves needy families vulnerable to incompetence and fraud. https://bit.ly/2J6t1sU

Jan. 17, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Lawsuit alleges decades of abuse at New Hampshire youth center

for breaking the news of a lawsuit alleging dozens of victims and decades of abuse at a state-run New Hampshire youth detention center. The lead plaintiff in the suit gave Ramer an exclusive interview and he allowed AP to photograph him, something no other media outlet had done. Ramer also reported that one of the plaintiff’s alleged abusers worked as a clubhouse attendant for the Boston Red Sox until he was suspended without pay in July. https://bit.ly/35U707C

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Sept. 20, 2019

Best of the States

Going to extremes to tell the story of sexual violence and shortcomings of enforcement

In western Alaska, rape survivors and their supporters say Nome’s police department has often failed to investigate sexual assaults, especially when the victims are Alaska Native women.

Delivering sensitive-but-powerful coverage from a challenging environment, enterprise photographer Maye-E Wong and freelance correspondent Victoria Mckenzie tell the story of average Americans struggling with sexual violence and law enforcement in small communities. Their work made clear that Nome’s struggles don’t represent an isolated case; it is a microcosm of how police and towns and cities across the U.S. have failed survivors of sexual assaults.

For going to extremes – literally and figuratively – to shed light on a remote corner of the larger issue of sexual violence and enforcement, Wong and Mckenzie share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 13, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP’s tally of lawmakers: Cuomo was almost certain to be impeached

made AP first to report authoritatively that a majority of New York lawmakers favored removing Gov. Andrew Cuomo from office in the days before he resigned.As soon as New York's attorney general released a report concluding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women — and with Cuomo appearing to resist top Democrats’ calls for his resignation — the AP journalists began working the phones and reviewing social media postings, pressing to get every member of the Assembly on the record about whether they would move to impeach Cuomo.By midday on Aug. 4, a day after the report’s release, their tally of lawmakers favoring impeachment had climbed to 86, allowing AP to move an alert saying that more than half of the body’s 150 members favored initiating the process of ousting Cuomo — enough to authorize an impeachment trial. Peltz crafted the findings and other developments into a newsmaking story about the governor's perilous position, and over the next few days the team continued updating their tally as it climbed to nearly two-thirds of the Assembly.The reporting was widely used by online, print and broadcast members, with CBS reading the report on air and CNN crediting the AP’s work. https://aplink.news/8ar

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June 14, 2018

Best of the States

Lobbyists – including House speaker’s brother – influence Florida’s payments to victims

In Florida, the Legislature has to approve court awards – beyond a capped amount – for lawsuits alleging wrongdoing by a state or local agency.

So when Florida Tallahassee reporter Gary Fineout began hearing about a surge in payouts to victims and families harmed by government actions, he began digging into public and legislative records. What he found confirmed the influence of lobbyists, and of one lobbyist in particular: the House speaker’s brother.

Fineout found that claims lobbied by the speaker’s brother had a substantial rate of success. Of the $37.5 million in claims bills approved over the past two years, nearly half was awarded to victims represented by Michael Corcoran, brother of Florida’s House speaker.

One state lawmaker, a candidate for attorney general, said the process needs fixing, and said that Florida should have a codified, egalitarian process for awarding payments, one that doesn’t rely on who has the best lobbyist.

Fineout's story received extensive play, including a rare banner headline atop A1 in the state's largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times. The Sun-Sentinel newspaper said in an editorial that “Florida owes thanks to Gary Fineout ... for shedding light on a dark side of Florida government.”

For work that South News Director Ravi Nessman called a “perfect example of the kind of tough, accountability reporting that we prize so much from our statehouses,” Fineout wins this week's Best of the States award.

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Nov. 11, 2016

Best of the States

Was California's $350 million experiment to replace lawns amid drought worth the cost?

In drought-stricken California, the state and dozens of water agencies embarked upon a unique social experiment: try to break the love affair with the lawn by paying residents to rip out their turf and replace it with less thirsty landscaping. San Francisco-based environment reporter Ellen Knickmeyer, who has been covering the state’s historic five-year drought, decided to dig into the water-saving strategy and determine whether it was worth the cost.

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May 20, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Inside the 11-day search for escaped Alabama inmate and his jailer accomplice

As the search for Alabama fugitives Casey White and Vicky White captured the attention of the world, Washington-based federal law enforcement reporter Mike Balsamo reached out, working his network of sources in the Justice Department and the U.S. Marshals Service for details.

Balsamo also connected with the U.S. marshal for the Northern District of Alabama, knowing he would be the person most likely to have the inside information that would enable AP to put together a clear timeline of a messy escape saga littered with gaps and confusing accounts.

That contact turned out to be pivotal after the pursuit came to a violent end in Indiana on May 9. The marshal’s exclusive account of the 11-day search, coupled with details Balsamo picked up from other sources, gave AP a story rich with previously unreported detail and context. It also made for an exceptionally easy-to-follow narrative. The resulting story played widely, from Alabama to Australia.

For using all his resources to distinguish AP’s coverage on this extremely competitive story, Mike Balsamo is AP’s Best of the Week – First Winner.

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March 17, 2017

Best of the States

From grave to lab, professor throws science, passion at cold cases

AP correspondent Tamara Lush first met renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle while reporting on Florida’s Dozier School for Boys – a now-shuttered site where former students accused officials of abuse and dozens of students died. Kimmerle was investigating graves, and local media paid plenty of attention to the positive, bubbly woman with a high-pitched voice – unexpected from someone who jumps in graves and scrubs bones with a toothbrush.

Lush found Kimmerle and her work fascinating – in a state full of colorful characters, she calls the professor one of Florida’s most interesting and brilliant women.

So Lush stayed in touch, and when her sources at the University of South Florida – where Kimmerle teaches and has a lab – offered an exclusive opportunity to follow Kimmerle as she investigated cold cases through a new grant, she jumped at the chance. Lush's all-formats Only on AP package wins this week's Best of States award.

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