Oct. 02, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exposes palm oil labor abuses linked to the world’s top brands, major banks

While covering the Rohingya crisis, investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason knew tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Myanmar were vulnerable to exploitation. They suspected desperate men were being tricked or sold into the massive palm oil industry that supplies some of America’s most iconic food and cosmetic brands.

Working with photographers Gemunu Amarasinghe and Binsar Bakkara, they vividly documented the horrors some workers in Malyasia and Indonesia face. Workers spoke of brutal conditions including child labor, outright slavery and allegations of rape.

Reaction was swift, with the  U.S. government saying it would block shipments from a major Malaysian producer mentioned in the story.

For exposing abuses affecting tens of thousands of workers in a global industry that manufactures a vast array of products we buy and use daily, McDowell, Mason, Amarasinghe and Bakkara win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP connects palm oil industry, top brands to abuse of women

followed up on their initial reporting that exposed widespread labor abuse in the palm oil industry, conducting a comprehensive investigation into the brutal treatment of women in the production of the omnipresent ingredient, including rapes by plantation supervisors, serious health issues from toxic chemicals and injuries from back-breaking loads. The pair then traced the oil produced by these women to the supply chains of top Western beauty brands — including conglomerates that make billions of dollars as they market the empowerment of women.Mason and McDowell persuaded dozens of female workers to tell their searing stories, spending months getting the women to trust them and then arranging clandestine meetings in an effort to protect the workers from retaliation by plantation owners. They bypassed the stonewalling of major Western brands that refused to say whether their products contain palm oil by using company data and U.S. Customs records to link the workers’ abuse to the brands’ palm oil supply chains.The package featured striking digital display, video and evocative photos by Indonesia-based stringer Binsar Bakkara, as well as a powerful series of closeups of workers’ hands cradling familiar products containing the fruits of their labor.The story is nearing 250,000 page views on AP News. The Clorox Company, which owns Burt’s Bees Inc., said it would raise the allegations of abuses with its suppliers, calling AP’s findings “incredibly disturbing.” https://bit.ly/3liKAV3https://bit.ly/2VeVUXRhttps://bit.ly/3mlXgfd

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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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Aug. 04, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

'They kept us as slaves': AP Exclusive reveals abuse claims against church

"They kept us as slaves."

One man's tearful revelation to AP national investigative reporter Mitch Weiss helped unravel a horrible secret – the former congregant of the World of Faith Fellowship sect was among hundreds who'd been dispatched from the church's two Brazilian branches to the U.S., where many say they were forced to work for little or no pay and physically or verbally assaulted.

Dozens of former congregants told similar stories of abuse and exploitation in an exclusive AP multi-format story that earns Weiss, national investigative reporter Holbrook Mohr, and Peter Prengaman, news director in Rio de Janeiro, the Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 04, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive and explosive: WHO leader in Western Pacific accused of racism and abuse

London-based medical writer Maria Cheng, drawing on leaked emails, interviews, recordings and her deep understanding of the World Health Organization, revealed that dozens of staffers have accused Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the U.N. agency’s regional director for much of Asia, of racism and abuse, and that his actions allegedly hampered WHO’s efforts to curb the COVID pandemic in the region.

Cheng obtained internal complaints and talked to current and former staffers who said Kasai had engaged in racist, unethical and abusive behavior. Staffers said the departure of more than 55 WHO personnel from this critical region, most not replaced, significantly contributing to a surge in cases in many countries. Kasai was also accused of sharing COVID information improperly with his home country, Japan, for its political gain.

In an email to the AP, Kasai denied charges of racism and unethical behavior and said he had taken steps to communicate with all his staff.

Cheng’s story was explosive. At Saturday’s closing session of WHO’s board meeting, several countries pressured the organization to investigate the allegations reported by the AP. By Monday, the WHO director-general said an investigation had started.

For deeply reported, groundbreaking work that has had an impact, Cheng is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 08, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Gatlinburg fires leave personal devastation as well as physical damage

for their efforts in gaining exclusive access to some of the affected areas and shooting compelling video that captured the physical damage and the personal devastation of the Gatlinburg fires. New York-based Nathan Griffiths produced a 360 video, and Eric Schelzig shot aerial photos while on a flyover tour with the governor. https://apnews.com/b1b36cc743444b3b87a4e646fd1371a8

Oct. 11, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: Priests accused of abuse have access to children, dozens commit crimes

As the ranks of dioceses promising to release lists of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse began to mushroom at the beginning of this year, Philadelphia reporter Claudia Lauer and Washington-based data editor Meghan Hoyer started to strategize: How could they leverage the information on a scale never before accomplished? 

After months of systematic, dogged work, the result was “Where Are They Now,” a blockbuster investigation that found almost 1,700 priests and other clergy members living with little to no oversight, many with positions giving them access to children. Dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault. 

The story received exceptional play online and in print, and AP Managing Editor Brian Carovillano called it, “One of the most monumental pieces of AP journalism in my memory.” 

For a stunning investigation that breaks new ground in the already impressive body of work that is “The Reckoning” series, Lauer and Hoyer win this week’s Best of the States award.

Combo

June 14, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation: Top US cardinal accused of mishandling abuse allegations against deputy

Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield’s five-month investigation revealed the stunning allegations: A high-ranking Catholic priest had a sexual relationship with a Houston woman for more than a year, counseled her husband on their marital problems, pressed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the couple and continued to hear her confession.

But the cardinal overseeing the church’s handling of sexual abuse allegations in the United States approved the priest’s transfer to a church two hours away.

The fallout from Winfield’s revelations was swift: The priest was suspended and church officials reopened their inquiry into the handling of parishioner Laura Pontikes’ accusations.

To tell the sensitive story, Winfield – and a team that included Raleigh-based national writer/video journalist Allen Breed, New York global enterprise photographer Wong Maye-E and Houston correspondent Nomaan Merchant – meticulously planned coverage in each format, including on-camera interviews with Pontikes and her husband, and photos and video of the cardinal and the accused priest.

For an investigation that cast doubt on a top church official’s handling of a case involving startling allegations of abuse, Winfield, Breed, Wong and Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 23, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals litigation over alleged abuse suffered by children separated at border

for their investigation breaking the news of dozens of unredacted legal claims seeking more than $200 million in damages for trauma and abuse alleged by parents and their children who had been separated at the border; these included children who were sexually molested by other children in foster homes.The administrative claims shared with The Associated Press were heartbreaking: Young children pulled from their parents’ arms by government agents were sent to foster homes and residential shelters where they suffered sexual and other physical and emotional abuse. The reporters revealed the high cost of the claims: more than $200 million for 38 claims is just “the tip of the iceberg” said lawyers. And this was the first report that some separated children in foster homes – considered safer and healthier – had been sexually molested. The story ran with exclusive photographs and video of a father whose young son, whose heart was failing, was put in a foster home where he was molested by other children.https://bit.ly/2YQwnbLhttps://bit.ly/2L0R1Mv

Jan. 31, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: NFL’s Saints allegedly do damage control for Catholic Church on abuse crisis

New York-based federal law enforcement reporter Jim Mustian never gives up on a story.

Sticking with a case he began covering at another news organization in another state more than two years ago, Mustian landed a jaw-dropping exclusive for the AP: That a trove of hundreds of confidential emails has surfaced allegedly showing executives of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints doing public relations damage control for the area’s Roman Catholic archdiocese amid its clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The story had an immediate, visceral impact with readers and earned praise from fellow journalists.

Mustian will continue to chip away at this story and, hopefully, reveal more about the Saints and their involvement with the church. But for now, Mustian’s sticktoitiveness and tough accountability reporting earns him this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 16, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In his own words: Ex-cardinal’s letters to his alleged abuse victims

for obtaining exclusive correspondence from disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to three seminarians he is accused of sexually molesting or abusing. Winfield was tipped off to the story by seeing the correspondence to one seminarian in AP’s project files for The Reckoning investigation. That led to examples of McCarrick’s correspondence with two more men. Appearing innocuous and warm, McCarrick’s letters and postcards to the young men are a window into the way a predator grooms his prey, according to abuse prevention experts consulted by the AP. https://bit.ly/2Mjlk45

Nov. 24, 2017

Best of the States

​APNewsBreak: Patients in three states accuse prominent Philadelphia doctor of sexual abuse

After a prominent Philadelphia neurologist was charged with groping several patients at his clinic, Pennsylvania reporter Michael Rubinkam began digging into the neurologist's past to see if he had been accused of wrongdoing elsewhere.

Reviewing documents in three states, and checking with medical centers and law enforcement, he was able to determine that at least 17 women in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have stepped forward to accuse Cruciani of sexual misconduct that goes back at least a dozen years. Two days after Rubinkam’s story ran, Cruciani pleaded guilty to groping seven patients.

For reporting exclusively that Cruciani has left behind a trail of sex abuse claims in at least three states, and obtaining powerful accounts of how he was able to prey on vulnerable patients, Rubinkam wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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