Feb. 24, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Twin tragedies give survivor a new face

A face transplant: It’s one of the rarest of surgeries, a medically complex, emotionally fraught procedure – and a challenge to cover as a truly revealing news story and not just a sensational headline.

That’s why AP National Writer Sharon Cohen’s narrative of the first face transplant performed at the renowned Mayo Clinic was so remarkable, combining detailed reporting on state-of-the-art medical science with a unique tragedy-to-triumph human story. The narrative, Andy’s New Face, which engaged readers and commanded front pages for days after its release, earns the Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 25, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Source work, reporting, exclusive data modeling put AP ahead on omicron immunity

For two years, as COVID-19 ravaged the world, AP health and science reporter Carla Johnson stayed in constant contact with disease modelers who were using careful analysis to predict what the coronavirus would do next.

This time her subject was the omicron wave — millions were infected and millions more had immunity through vaccination and/or past infection. Johnson knew those numbers might answer one of the most vexing questions of the pandemic: How much immunity had Americans developed from omicron?

Johnson leaned on her sources and asked one influential analyst to produce projections for the AP. The result was a key finding that gave the country the earliest and clearest sense yet of how the U.S. is navigating the pandemic: 73% of the country is believed to be protected from omicron.

Her deeply reported but straightforward story, explaining why future waves may be far less disruptive in the U.S., played widely with credit to AP’s exclusive reporting.

For recognizing that the data might hold answers on COVID immunity, and resourceful source work that delivered a unique projection of future infection, Johnson is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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June 28, 2019

Best of the States

AP Analysis: EPA data says US air quality is slipping; EPA regulation could make it worse

Washington science writer Seth Borenstein knew the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was not going to notify anyone when it posted new data on the nation’s air quality for 2018, but he knew where it would be posted. He also knew that the Trump administration was poised to replace an Obama-era clean-air rule with a new regulation that was friendlier to coal-fired power plants, so he kept checking for the agency’s data.

When the data finally showed up, Borenstein teamed with New York-based Health and Science data journalist Nicky Forster to evaluate the data, put it in context and run it by scientists. Forster even pointed out errors that the EPA was forced to correct.

Their persistence made AP the first to report that the annual number of days of poor air quality in the U.S. had increased for the second year in a row, after decades of improvement. The story ran on the eve of the EPA’s announcement of its loosened regulation, undermining the rationale for the new standards with the government’s own numbers. Trump’s new rule, experts told the AP, could turn what is so far a modest backslide into a deadly trend.

For diligent reporting and sophisticated analysis to hold a federal agency accountable for its data and regulatory policy, Borenstein and Forster earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 29, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive AP analysis: Extreme weather? That’s climate change

for a particularly accessible all-formats package connecting weather extremes to global warming. The pair analyzed a century’s worth of data from more than 400 U.S. weather stations, finding that over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to experience record-breaking heat rather than record-setting cold. One city – Pasadena, California – hit 145 heat records before it set a daily cold record. Forster also assigned the data to counties so that AP customers could localize what’s happening in their communities.https://bit.ly/2uvH55Lhttps://bit.ly/2OtNWWG

Dec. 27, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats look at volunteer doctors responding to border crisis

for calling attention to the migrant health care crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border with a compelling, all-formats look at how volunteer doctors are stepping in to care for sick, vulnerable and traumatized asylum seekers from Central America. The team followed Dr. Psyche Calderon as she made rounds in Tijuana, part of a movement of health professionals and medical students from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border that is quietly battling to keep asylum seekers healthy and safe while their lives remain in flux.https://bit.ly/2SmiY6Vhttps://bit.ly/2SpxgUf

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June 24, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: FDA skipped most baby formula plant inspections in 2020

turned seemingly mundane testimony of a legislative hearing into a timely scoop, breaking the news that the Food and Drug Administration had skipped nearly all its inspections of baby formula plants during the first year of COVID, likely contributing to the severe shortage of formula in the U.S. and raising questions about what the federal government could have done to prevent it.Using information he gleaned from Capitol Hill testimony by the three top baby formula manufacturers, Washington-based health writer Perrone identified the companies’ plants in the FDA’s online database and discovered the agency hadn’t inspected Abbott’s plant — responsible for a recall of formula that exacerbated the nationwide shortage — for two years between 2019 and 2021. In fact, the FDA later acknowledged only three of the nation’s 23 formula plants were inspected in the first year of the pandemic.Read more

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July 17, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exposing how ‘desperation science’ slows the race for a remedy

revealed how pressure and politics have corrupted and delayed the scientific process, slowing the development of effective treatments against the coronavirus pandemic.Marchione reviewed studies that are underway and interviewed dozens of doctors, researchers, patients and policy experts as she looked at organizations trying to do rigorous science, as well as the issues undermining that research. Young found creative ways to tell the story visually, including a GoPro mounted on a medical cart. Together they document a Pennsylvania COVID-19 patient enrolled in a clinical trial.The story – challenging to report because of the fluid and chaotic nature of the subject itself – attracted readers and generated interest on social media, a strong showing for non-breaking news.https://bit.ly/2B1uyxRhttps://bit.ly/2CFLpqo

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Aug. 05, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Rare access to barrier islands reveals loss of pelican habitat

reported from the ground, the water and from the air to document the impact of climate change and land loss on the vanishing island breeding grounds of Louisiana’s brown pelicans, as well as the people and other wildlife that depend on this coastal ecosystem.After obtaining permission to visit the off-limits barrier islands, the all-formats trio revealed in words and striking visuals the effects of erosion and sea level rise on the coastal habitat and Louisiana’s saltwater marshes, and what remains to be lost: Louisiana’s state bird, the brown pelican, brought back over decades from the edge of extinction.Read more

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July 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Intimate all-formats package: Malawian women forgo prenatal care

reported in all formats over several months to tell the important story of women in Malawi going without prenatal care during the pandemic, undoing progress in improving maternal health in one of the world’s poorest nations.The freelance trio’s commitment earned them access to birthing rooms, nursing colleges, and, most challengingly, to camera-averse traditional (and officially illegal) midwives to create a visually powerful, character-driven package. The story was anchored by powerful detail — bus fare to the hospital is more expensive than medical care — and brought to life by intimate photos, including a mother and her newborn minutes after giving birth. In a country where hospitals are so bare that women are expected to bring their own razor blades for cutting their babies’ umbilical cords, the AP showed how deepening poverty brought on by the pandemic is further imperiling women’s lives.The tender, deeply reported package was initiated by photographer Chikondi, with text reporting by Gondwe and video by Jali, the team supported in all formats by AP staffers internationally.https://aplink.news/5ryhttps://aplink.video/8sh

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May 20, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP looks at real-world issues of viability and the earliest babies

visited Eutaw, Alabama, to better understand the issue of viability — a key word in the superheated debate over abortion — as experienced by families who know what it means to have a baby born at the edge of life.Ungar, who has covered maternal and newborn health for years, knew doctors were getting better at keeping very premature babies alive. She reviewed data and research, interviewed physicians and was connected to Michelle Butler who was in just her fifth month of pregnancy when she she gave birth to twins, including Curtis, the world’s earliest surviving premature baby.Butler let the all-formats team of Ungar, Wang and Dill into family’s life. What emerged was an emotional narrative of extreme joy and profound loss, explaining the science and ethics involved and bringing deeply reported, balanced, real-world context to one of the biggest, most provocative issues of the year.Read more

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Sept. 09, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP multiformat pair gains access to Midwest abortion clinics, documents one woman’s procedure

Two of the most challenging aspects of covering the ongoing abortion story in the U.S. are getting inside abortion clinics and telling the stories of women who have decided to end their pregnancies. So it was significant when two AP journalists gained exclusive access to a pair of abortion clinics — and to a woman who allowed them to follow her through the entire abortion process.

Medical writer Lindsey Tanner used her sources to find a clinic in Ohio sending patients to Indiana, where tighter abortion restrictions were still weeks away. She and video journalist Patrick Orsagos saw both clinics in operation, and they documented —with sensitivity and candor — patient Monica Eberhart’s experience, from her morning routine to the clinic room during her abortion. The resulting package delicately wove together Eberhart’s story with others who are navigating the ever-changing state laws on abortion.

For access and reporting that bought a rare and timely perspective to the issue of abortion, Tanner and Orsagos earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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May 15, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Blockbuster AP scoop reveals shelving of CDC guidelines on safe reopening

For weeks, critics had complained that the Trump administration was putting political concerns ahead of scientific recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

A blockbuster AP scoop amplified those complaints: Reporters Jason Dearen and Mike Stobbe worked sources to reveal that President Donald Trump’s administration shelved the CDC’s guidelines containing step-by-step advice to authorities on how and when to reopen businesses and other public places during the pandemic.

The story dominated news media and was by far the best-performing story on AP News for the week. And in a follow-up exclusive, Dearen reported on documents showing the decision to withhold came from the highest levels of the White House, and that the Trump administration ordered key parts of the CDC guidelines fast-tracked for approval after the AP’s story appeared.

For a major scoop that resonated among customers and readers and finally brought to light the scientists’ suppressed guidelines for how the country should reopen, Dearen and Stobbe win AP’s Best of The Week award.

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May 21, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: WHO knew of sex misconduct by personnel in Congo

revealed that, contrary to World Health Organization claims, WHO senior management did know about at least two cases of doctors accused of sex abuse and misconduct during the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but did not fire or even apparently discipline them.Health and science reporter Cheng advanced the story by putting names, for the first time, to the implicated doctors and a senior manager. She discovered that WHO managers even witnessed an agreement in which a WHO doctor agreed to pay a young woman he had allegedly impregnated.While Cheng worked with her sources, Congo stringer Kudra Maliro tracked down several alleged victims of both doctors, adding text and images. The investigation was based on interviews with dozens of WHO staffers, Ebola officials in Congo, private emails, legal documents and recordings of internal meetings obtained by the AP.The story drew strong and immediate international response. Paula Donovan, co-director of a group that tracks sex abuse, wrote: “Never ... have I seen such a detailed exposé containing so many unanswerable indictments against so many UN personnel. You’ve broken real ground here.”https://aplink.news/f39https://aplink.video/pk5

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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP review finds states understaffed for contact tracing

found that as states begin to reopen, local health departments charged with tracking down everyone who has been in close contact with a person who tests positive for the new coronavirus are still scrambling to hire the number of people they need to do the job. AP’s review showed that states are often hundreds – even thousands – of people short of the targets for contact tracing. https://bit.ly/2XgDcQn

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation, sourcing pay off with standout vaccine coverage

worked nonstop for weeks to gain access to the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine campaign, the largest vaccination program in U.S. history. They reached out to old sources and spent weeks cultivating new ones, breaking down barriers to ensure that AP was positioned to cover the story – from trucks rolling with vaccine deliveries to the first jabs in arms.The source reporting paid off. Tips were aggressively followed and coordination between video, photo and regional news desks led to robust back-to-back all-formats pieces on the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, including healthcare workers receiving injections. Video went live from several hospitals that were among the first to vaccinate front-line workers.Play was unmatched. The vaccine shipment story appeared appeared on more than 2,500 news sites and landed on at least 69 front pages including the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit News, the Kansas City Star and others.The story of the initial vaccinations appeared on at least 1,300 news sites and 64 front pages, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Orange County Register and others. And The New York Times used AP photos as its lead image on consecutive days.https://bit.ly/3nYf15rhttps://bit.ly/3hdKNIUhttps://bit.ly/3mKf57o

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Nov. 17, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Minnesota widow meets man who received her husband’s face via transplant

When a Minnesota woman was preparing to meet the man who received her dead husband’s face in a transplant operation, the hospital that performed the surgery – the Mayo Clinic – immediately recommended that The Associated Press be the news organization to tell their story.

In early 2016 AP national writer Sharon Cohen, video journalist Teresa Crawford and photographer Charlie Neibergall had been first with the tale of Andy Sandness and Calen “Rudy” Ross. The AP team's sensitive portrayal of two men who had each attempted suicide, with the one who lived (Sandness) ultimately receiving the face of the one who did not (Ross), had been well-regarded by Sandness and by Ross’ widow, Lilly.

In the months following, Mayo was besieged with requests from news outlets to cover the first meeting between Andy and Lilly, but when the pair began making plans to meet in fall 2017, they wanted only AP in the room.

For their exclusive coverage of that poignant meeting, Crawford, Neibergall and correspondent Kyle Potter win this week’s Best of the States award.

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