March 12, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Hundreds claim abuse by staffers at New Hampshire youth detention facility

Concord-based reporter Holly Ramer, who has owned the story of abuse allegations at New Hampshire’s state-run youth detention center for more than a year, used source work to break news once again: A lawsuit filed in early 2020 has grown to include 230 men and women who say they were abused as children by 150 staffers over the course of six decades.  

Ramer’s story was based on exclusive interviews with the plaintiffs’ attorney and three victims, who described sickening allegations including broken bones, gang rape and impregnation. Powerful images by Boston photographer Charlie Krupa and video journalist Rodrique Ngowi complemented the piece.  

AP’s coverage prompted three Democratic lawmakers to call on Gov. Chris Sununu to shut down the center, and at least 40 more victims have come forward since the story ran. 

For this latest example of impactful storytelling that has helped expose a grave scandal at the state’s youth detention center, Ramer, Krupa and Ngowi earn Best of the States honors. 

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July 19, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Outdated software makes even new election systems vulnerable to hackers

The source’s text said there was something “really troubling” to pass along.

Tami Abdollah, Washington national security reporter, had just returned to covering cybersecurity – a topic she has followed off-and-on since 2015. What the source told her was big: New election systems purchased across the United States were running on outdated Windows 7 systems, making them vulnerable to hackers.

It was a great tip, but it required a lot of work to determine the scope of the problem. The result was an exclusive text and video package that received huge play and raised alarm among state and national lawmakers. Abdollah revealed that the vast majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions nationwide use Windows 7 or an older operating system to create ballots, program voting machines, tally votes and report counts.

For combining source reporting with meticulous research to break major news on one of the biggest issues ahead of the 2020 election, Abdollah wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 03, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Washington team breaks multiple stories; keeps AP ahead during Afghanistan withdrawal

As AP’s staff in Afghanistan grappled with the turmoil of the U.S. evacuation, an AP trio half a world away — Pentagon reporters Bob Burns and Lita Baldor and State Department reporter Matt Lee, with contributions by colleagues — set the standard, breaking news on the month’s most competitive story.

Whether posing tough questions at government briefings or getting the deeper story through one-on-one reporting, the reporters turned out crisp stories that were fair, accurate and authoritative. From the eyebrow-raising visit of two U.S. lawmakers, to the suicide bombing outside Kabul’s airport, to analysis of the ultimate beneficiary of America’s $83 billion expenditure, their coverage kept AP consistently out front.

For repeatedly scooping the competition and setting the news agenda on the closely watched, fast-developing events in Afghanistan, the team of Bob Burns, Lita Baldor and Matthew Lee is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP breaks news on Trump involvement in Michigan certification

delivered two jarring scoops as President Donald Trump shifted to a new tactic in his effort to upend the results of the 2020 presidential election.When the two Republicans on the Wayne County, Michigan, canvass board tried to rescind their vote to certify local results, White House Reporter Zeke Miller wondered if Trump was behind their move and started connecting the dots. Working with Washington colleague Colleen Long and others on the law enforcement team, Miller called around to sources he had developed around the country and uncovered major news: The president had made personal calls to the two canvass board members before they tried to rescind their votes. It showed that Trump’s game had shifted from the courtrooms, where his team was constantly losing, to personally trying to intervene. Miller’s scoop went viral — used by hundreds of websites and tweeted by every major election watcher in the country as a shocking example of the lengths Trump would go to in order to subvert the election. Lansing correspondent David Eggert, working with Miller and Long, followed up with a scoop of his own, reporting that state lawmakers had been summoned to Washington to meet with Trump. The trio’s stories on the drama in Michigan were stocked with news but also wove in critical context on the baseless and extraordinary claims that Trump was making and the damage he was doing to confidence in democratic traditions. Their stories were clear, authoritative, and comprehensive, including important fact check material. https://bit.ly/3lc8IJ6https://bit.ly/36huruX

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: States spent billions on medical supplies

took the lead in obtaining and analyzing public records that disclosed state coronavirus-related spending that had largely been kept from the public. The reporters filed Freedom of Information Act requests in all 50 states seeking purchase order records to determine how much was being spent on what items, which suppliers the states were using and how the spending compared across the states.The findings revealed that overall the states spent at least $7 billion on medical gear in the first few months of the pandemic, a massive amount that had not been reported until AP’s investigation. Even lawmakers in most states did not know the scope of spending, much of which was inflated by competition between states and huge price markups for routine items.The project reflected a signature goal of the AP news department this year: to “connect the dots” across the states for our U.S. customers in a way that only AP can. After months spent analyzing the state-by-state information, the data team made all the information available in an easy-to-use format for AP members and for our own state reporters. In addition to the national stories, more than a dozen AP reporters wrote state sidebars, receiving prominent play online and in print. https://bit.ly/37HJS07

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Oct. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Some chiropractors profiteering, undermining vaccines

joined forces to document anti-vaccine activism among a vocal group of chiropractors.Rhode Island-based reporter Smith has been closely tracking anti-vaccine activists. That diligence paid off with a story on a group of influential chiropractors who are becoming leading voices against vaccines and coronavirus safety measures. They’re making money by peddling alternatives as they work to weaken vaccine-related state laws and policies across the U.S., undermining one of the key tools in fighting the pandemic.

The report by Smith and statehouse reporters Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, and Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey, spotlighted an industry that has had little scrutiny during the pandemic. It started out as a tip: Chiropractors attending an anti-vaccine conference in Wisconsin had earned continuing education credits valid toward their licenses. It reminded Smith that a group lobbying against vaccines, Stand for Health Freedom, had been co-founded with chiropractors.The trio scoured public databases to find states allowing CE credits for the anti-vaccine conference, dug up chiropractic board meeting minutes, tracked down statehouse testimony and public comment by chiropractors in numerous states, reviewed news reports and mined digital tools along with interviews of chiropractors, lawmakers and public health advocates to establish that:

— 10 states gave CE credits for the anti-vaccine conference, and that it brought in tens of thousands of dollars in revenue to the chiropractic group and college that sponsored it— Chiropractors have worked to influence vaccine-related legislation and policy in at least 24 states since 2019; a chiropractor-backed group running several lobbying campaigns has never registered as a lobbyist— Dozens of chiropractors use their websites to discourage patients from getting vaccines— Chiropractors are advertising on Facebook and Instagram to sell anti-vaccine products— A California chiropractic group raised $545,000 for anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.— Chiropractic professional groups have taken anti-vaccine stands, including one now run by a longtime anti-vaccine activisthttps://aplink.news/z1m

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Nov. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP’s latest on Louisiana State Police: A culture of impunity, nepotism, abuse

deconstructed how the Louisiana State Police scandal of beatings and cover-ups could have gone on for so long, digging deeper into the institutional thinking of the agency, its history and the background of key figures. They interviewed dozens of current and former troopers and uncovered thousands of pages of documents that described an entrenched culture of impunity, nepotism and in some cases outright racism.This story, the latest in their investigative series stemming from the deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene, was built around a father who rose to second in command of the state agency despite being reprimanded for racist behavior, and his son who became one of the state police’s most violent troopers — with the brunt of his use of force directed at Black people.Mustian and Bleiberg, federal law enforcement reporters, also had never-before-reported details of a 2019 cheating scandal in the state police academy that targeted the entire class for dismissal. In the end, nearly everyone in the class was allowed to graduate. And they conducted a revealing interview with the head of the state police in which he admitted he doesn’t know how many other cases like Ronald Greene’s could still be out there because “we’ve not looked at every video.”The story, accompanied by video and photos by multiformat journalist Allen Breed, added to calls for a federal investigation, and Louisiana lawmakers created a special committee to dig into reports of excessive force. The piece also resonated with readers, scoring strong play online and ranking as one of the most-engaged stories of the week.https://aplink.news/3zuhttps://aplink.video/ysmhttps://aplink.news/xda

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July 27, 2018

Best of the States

Private messaging apps used for official business test open records laws

Smart phone private messaging apps are great for keeping secrets. The apps delete messages almost immediately and do not allow them to be saved, copied or captured with a screenshot.

But what about use of the apps by government officials and elected representatives? State Government Team reporter Ryan Foley spotted a trend of public officials increasingly using such apps for official business. It’s a trend that alarms advocates for open government, who say it undermines state laws designed to ensure transparency and access to records.

Foley’s research was based in large part on use of a new legislative tracking tool called the Sunshine Hub that was developed by AP Data Team members Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen. The tool allowed Foley to see whether bills addressing the trend were being introduced in state legislatures across the country. And indeed they were.

The resulting story won play on more than two dozen front pages and prompted several editorials, including one in The Columbus Dispatch warning that officials’ use of message-vanishing apps was the same as destroying public records.

For their efforts in exposing a potentially dangerous anti-transparency trend among government officials, and developing a unique tool to track it, Foley, Tumgoren and Rasmussen win the Best of the States award.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Latest on New York COVID policy: State sent more than 9,000 virus patients to nursing homes

For nine months, AP has led all media on the story of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial directive to return recovering coronavirus patients from hospitals to nursing homes during the pandemic.

Last week, reporters Bernard Condon and Jennifer Peltz added to that record. Using data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, they reported exclusively that more than 9,000 patients in New York were released under the state’s policy, amid criticism that it accelerated nursing home outbreaks. The latest AP scoop has helped put Cuomo and his administration on the defensive at home and nationally.

For keeping AP at the forefront of this accountability story for the better part of a year — including their latest break documenting the release of COVID patients into nursing homes — Condon and Peltz earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 12, 2020

Best of the States

AP Analysis: After previous police killings, states slow to reform use-of-force

Calls for police reforms after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis have echoed the calls to action after a wave of killings of young black men by police in 2014. 

So what happened after those killings? 

Ohio statehouse reporter Julie Carr Smyth, working with AP colleagues around the country, found that while nearly half the states have since enacted some type of reform, only a third passed legislation limiting use of force. The reporting revealed that contributions from politically influential police unions were a key factor in stalling legislation, while a separate analysis by the data team showed that Minneapolis police disproportionately used force against blacks when compared with other racial groups. 

The day Smyth’s story moved, a number of states made proposals to limit the use of deadly force.

For quickly reporting out and leading a national look at what reforms have taken place in the last six years, Smyth wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 23, 2018

Best of the States

AP collaboration exposes unequal lending practices across the country

When editors with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting approached AP with a story on unfair lending practices, data editor Meghan Hoyer and data journalist Angel Kastanis saw an opportunity to use AP’s reach to expand the story and generate real impact.

Starting with 31 million records, representing nearly every mortgage loan application submitted in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, they found that 50 years after the federal Fair Housing Act, people of color are still denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts. The analysis found a pattern of denials across the country, including in major metropolitan areas.

While Reveal took the lead on the national story, Kastanis and Hoyer took the story deeper. The data distribution they prepared and shared with AP reporters and members showed 61 metro areas where applicants of color were more likely to be denied a conventional home purchase mortgage, even controlling for factors such as income, loan amount and neighborhood.

For taking the story to the next level in a way only AP can, Kastanis and Hoyer receive this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.

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Jan. 14, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘You had me at AP’: Sweeping coverage of Jan. 6 anniversary showcases AP’s depth and range

Rolled out over the week of Jan. 6, AP's one-year anniversary coverage of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol stood out in a highly competitive field, with exclusive content across text, photos and video, including an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Weeks of preparation and reporting paid off in broad, deep, insightful coverage. Among the offerings: lawmakers recounting their experiences inside the Capitol on the fateful day, a profile of protester Ashli Babbitt, AP staffers’ first-person accounts of covering the riot, the stubborn hold of conspiracy theories, teachers around the country debating how to teach the event, and much more.

Photos and video were no less compelling, highlighted by the exclusive and widely used on-camera interview of Pelosi, who chose to sit down with AP rather than the networks on the eve of the anniversary.

For demonstrating the AP’s ability to deliver best-in-class content across platforms on this major anniversary, the team behind the Jan. 6 coverage is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 02, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: Catholic review boards often fail sex abuse survivors

In addressing its clergy sex abuse crisis, the Catholic church has touted a key reform: independent review boards with lay people. 

But an exhaustive investigation by the AP team of Reese Dunklin, Matt Sedensky and Mitch Weiss methodically discredited that claim. 

The reporters unearthed dozens of cases nationwide in which review boards rejected complaints from survivors, only to have them later validated by secular authorities. They also found that bishops stacked the boards with their own aides and attorneys. In a few cases, board members were themselves clergy accused of sexual misconduct. 

The rock-solid reporting was brought alive by the storytelling, with revealing details down to the pink sweater one board member was knitting while listening to a survivor’s story of abuse. 

For their comprehensive investigation into the Catholic church’s deeply flawed system for addressing claims of abuse, Dunklin, Sedensky and Weiss earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 17, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Schedules reveal West Virginia governor largely absent from work

Anthony Izaguirre began hearing the chatter about West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice as soon as he started work as the AP’s statehouse correspondent in Charleston, West Virginia, in late February. Sources told him Justice – a billionaire who owns mines, farms and a swanky resort – wasn’t fully engaged and hadn’t even been in the capital, Charleston, much since taking office in 2017.

Izaguirre's initial request for the governor’s schedules was declined, but he pressed with the help of AP’s legal department, finally getting the records. Armed with those calendars and his own resourceful reporting, he cobbled together a record of the governor’s activities, confirming what many suspected: Justice appeared to have better things to do than govern.

West Virginia media pounced on the exclusive story, which also played well outside the state.

For his resolute work to obtain public records and his thorough reporting to fill out a story no one else in the state could land, Izaguirre wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 04, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Two AP exclusives: China’s forced labor and US detention of migrant youths

Welcome to the first Best of the Week of 2019. Among a series of very strong end-of-the-year nominations, the judges have selected two winners from opposite sides of the world.

A sweeping AP investigation by California-based investigative reporters Garance “Poppy” Burke and Martha Mendoza found that the U.S. is once again institutionalizing thousands of migrant children in crowded shelters, despite warnings that the experience could lead to lifelong trauma. Their national story, complemented with a comprehensive data package by Washington-based data editor Meghan Hoyer and NY-based data journalist Larry Fenn, was the first to provide shelter-by-shelter detention statistics, numbers the government had been withholding all year.

Our other winner comes from an equally impactful AP investigation by Beijing-based video journalist Dake Kang, newsperson Yanan Wang and Mendoza, again, which showed that clothing made inside a Chinese internment camp housing Muslim Uighurs is being shipped to a U.S. company that supplies sportswear to American schools and universities.

To do this, they cross-referenced satellite imagery, Chinese state media reports and the address of a Chinese supplier on bills of lading destined for Badger Sportswear in North Carolina. Kang then travelled to Kazakhstan to get multiple on-camera accounts of forced labor in the Chinese camps.

For enterprising, important work, the team of Burke, Mendoza, Hoyer and Fenn, and the team of Kang, Wang and Mendoza share AP’s Best of the Week.

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Jan. 11, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP traces child labor from Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields to major brands, Girl Scout cookies

For the third installment of their groundbreaking investigation into labor abuse in Asia’s palm oil industry, reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason linked child labor to the supply chains of the makers of popular cereals, candies and ice creams, including KitKats, Oreos and Cap’n Crunch. They also traced the oil to that most American treat: Girl Scout cookies. 

Joined by photographers Binsar Bakkara and Mark Humphrey, and video journalist Allen Breed, their reporting found that some tens of thousands of children toil in the palm fields, some kept from school and forced to work for free or for little pay. Some are trafficked.

The framing of the story — through the eyes of a young girl in the fields in Indonesia and a Tennessee Girl Scout campaigning to have palm oil removed from the cookies — resonated with readers; reaction on social media led the Girl Scouts to address the issue with their suppliers.

For shedding unprecedented light on the children toiling in Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields, and connecting the abusive practice to major consumer brands, McDowell, Mason, Bakkara, Breed and Humphrey share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 28.

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Oct. 19, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

The Battle for Alexa: How deported parents could lose their kids to US adoptions

When family separations began under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, widespread rumors circulated that some separated children could end up being adopted by families in the United States – without their deported parents even being notified. California-based investigative reporters Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza set out to learn if this was true and eventually uncovered the case of 5-year-old Alexa Flores, exposing holes in the U.S. legal system that could allow deported mothers and fathers to lose their children.

Alexa’s story illustrates the fate that could await some of the hundreds of children who remain in federal custody after being separated from their parents at the border.

Burke and Mendoza sifted through hundreds of court records and dozens of interviews with immigrants, attorneys, and advocates in the U.S. and Central America. Teaming up with multiformat colleagues David Barraza and Rebecca Blackwell in El Salvador, Mike Householder and Paul Sancya in Michigan, and Mexico City-based Dario Lopez, they revealed how migrant children can become cloaked in the maze of state and federal courts, which are rarely in contact with each other.

For producing a complex, powerful story that spanned two countries in heartbreakingly human terms, Burke, Mendoza, Lopez, Blackwell, Sancya, Householder and Barraza win this week’s Best of the Week.

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May 10, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: California synagogue hadn’t used security funds received shortly before shooting

After a gunman opened fire in a Southern California synagogue on Passover, killing a woman and wounding a man, his 8-year-old niece and the rabbi leading the service, the inevitable question was asked: Could anything have been done to stop the violence?

Reporters Don Thompson and Adam Beam in Sacramento and Julie Watson in San Diego combined to report exclusively that the synagogue itself had recognized security deficiencies and even received a state grant to address them.

But it hadn’t spent the money, the AP team revealed.

For their exclusive follow-up to a crime that generated global attention, Thompson, Watson and Beam win this week’s Best of the States.

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Feb. 05, 2021

Best of the States

AP months ahead of New York state in identifying undercount of nursing home deaths

When AP reported exclusively last August that New York state was undercounting its COVID nursing home death toll by thousands, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped the story as part of a politically motivated “blame game.”

But the state’s own investigation, announced last week, reached a nearly identical conclusion, affirming AP’s reporting.

AP’s 2020 investigation had seized on the fact that New York counts just residents who died at nursing homes, not those who were transported to hospitals and died there. AP’s analysis of federal data indicated that the state’s official toll was undercounted by 65%, or well over 4,000 deaths. 

For sharp reporting that led the media pack, withstood criticism from the governor and months later was vindicated, this week’s Best of the States award goes to Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Meghan Hoyer (now data director at The Washington Post).

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Nov. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP documents the surge in non-COVID deaths due to nursing home neglect

An exclusive analysis conducted for AP showed that in the shadow of the pandemic, a quiet surge in non-COVID “excess deaths” in U.S. nursing homes could top 40,000 above and beyond what is normal. 

To find out why, the AP team of reporters Matt Sedensky and Bernard Condon, with video journalist Allen Breed and colleagues, interviewed nursing home authorities and family members, documenting severe cases of neglect and prolonged isolation for residents not infected with the virus, much of it due to chronic understaffing. The text story and video piece received prominent play and were among the most widely viewed on the AP News app on the day of publication. 

For exposing a grim consequence of the pandemic affecting an already vulnerable population, the team of Sedensky, Condon and Breed earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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