July 31, 2020

Best of the States

AP all-formats team delivers stunning coverage of Portland protests

When the arrival of militarized federal agents in Portland, Oregon, escalated tensions in the state’s largest city – energizing the racial justice movement and inflaming protests outside the federal courthouse – AP’s all-formats coverage shined all week. 

The AP team, often at risk themselves, delivered a steady stream of breaking news developments, searing images of nightly clashes involving lasers, fires, homemade bombs and tear gas, as well as exclusive coverage from inside the courthouse.

For a week’s worth of powerful, revealing stories and startling images that provided insight into the events in Portland, the team of Flaccus, Berger, Sanchez, Ranen, Balsamo, Selsky, Cline and Fauria wins AP’s Best of the States award.

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April 21, 2017

Best of the States

AP investigation reveals federal judge impaired by alcoholism

Baton Rouge-based reporter Michael Kunzelman was reporting on the police killing of a black man outside a convenience store last summer when a source called to encourage him to look into a case in front of a federal judge that had been mysteriously reassigned. It wasn’t the easiest time to be chasing down tips: the Alton Sterling shooting was swiftly followed by the killings of three law enforcement officials and then catastrophic flooding in Louisiana’s capital.

But Kunzelman didn’t forget about it.

When he was free, he began an investigation into the performance of U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi, work that would take months and aggressive use of public records. It culminated with the discovery last week she’d been ordered to seek treatment for alcoholism so severe that a colleague believed she couldn’t take care of herself. For his work Kunzelman wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 09, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: Police can track your phone with ‘Fog’ tech tool

delivered an all-formats package revealing a startling truth: U.S. law enforcement agencies have used a smartphone tracking tool called “Fog Reveal” — made by a company that has no website or public information — to track people’s movements going back months, if not years, sometimes without search warrants.A tip to AP early this year launched the in-depth investigation of Fog Data Science, a company whose marketing materials said it drew from data generated by thousands of popular apps. Police have used the company’s Fog Reveal to search hundreds of billions of records from some 250 million mobile devices, according to documents reviewed by AP.The exclusive package, with an engaging presentation of illustrations, video and photos, attracted a global audience online, in broadcast and in print.Read more

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Nov. 30, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Acting AG Whitaker erroneously says NY-area bomber had help

for being first to report that acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker made a glaring error when he told an audience of law enforcement officials that a terrorist who set off bombs in New York City and New Jersey had two co-conspirators overseas and that one was in custody. They checked it out and found none of it was true. The Justice Department was forced to issue a correction and the reference to Rahimi having co-conspirators was taken out of a transcript posted on the Justice Department website. https://bit.ly/2DS1k3r

Oct. 16, 2020

Best of the States

11 weeks in the bubble: AP writer’s exhaustive NBA report goes well beyond the games

Through 78 days at Walt Disney World, basketball writer Tim Reynolds proved himself virtually unstoppable, turning out game stories on deadline while also spinning insightful pieces that examined the major topics of 2020, from coronavirus concerns to racial injustice issues and the presidential election – not to mention the league’s work stoppage. The so-called bubble may have confined him to an arena in central Florida, but Reynolds’ relentless NBA coverage reminded readers that sports illuminate our lives in ways big and small.

In all, Reynolds wrote an eye-popping 200-plus stories, collecting exclusives along the way. He capped his efforts with his insightful analysis of LeBron James’ legacy after James led the Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA title. 

For his exhaustive, and exhausting, work that went well beyond the games in the NBA bubble, Reynolds wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 08, 2017

Best of the States

AP analysis finds disproportionate segregation in charter schools

It began as an effort to find something new to say about a well-documented trend: the growing levels of racial segregation in American schools. Data journalist Larry Fenn, working with Ivan Moreno and the Education Beat Team, began analyzing enrollment data, looking for areas where segregation has become especially severe. Fenn spent long hours building the data set, both for AP reporting and for distribution to AP members.

What jumped out, in city after city, was the prevalence of charters among schools with the most extreme racial segregation. After months of analysis and reporting, AP revealed that fully 17 percent of charter schools nationally, or over 1,000 of them, have 99 percent minority enrollment.

Fenn's dataset for distribution to members had the most downloads and most unique users of any of AP's data offerings to date. For a project that led to record levels of engagement, Fenn and Moreno share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Families push to reopen cases of Black men killed by police

pivoted off the nationwide protests against racial injustice to reveal that families around the country are pushing authorities to reinvestigate police killings of Black men in which no officers were charged.Lavoie had developed a relationship over two years with the family of a man who was killed in 2018 by Richmond, Virginia, police during a mental health crisis. When nightly protests began in Richmond after George Floyd’s killing, she noticed that protesters made reopening the local investigation one of their top demands for reform. Additional reporting found at least a dozen calls to reinvestigate such cases around the country. Lavoie focused on three of those in different states, with victims of different backgrounds who were killed under different circumstances. Over the course of two months she convinced the families to talk about their loved ones and their efforts to persuade prosecutors to reopen closed investigations. https://bit.ly/36ZC36d

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March 22, 2018

Best of the States

Sex assaults among children on US military bases routinely ignored

Last May, as Reese Dunklin and Justin Pritchard sifted through readers' email responses to AP's 2017 investigation into schoolhouse sex assault, both reporters flagged the same messages for follow-up: The tips described problems with the handling of sex assaults reported on U.S. military bases among the children and teens of service members.

Through dozens of FOIA requests and interviews, they found that reports of sexual assaults and rapes among military kids were getting lost in a dead zone of justice, with neither victim nor offender receiving help. Cases often died on the desks of prosecutors, even when an attacker confessed. And criminal investigators shelved other cases, despite requirements they be pursued, the reporters found.

Using government records and data released by the Pentagon’s military branches and school system, Dunklin and Pritchard catalogued nearly 600 cases of sex assaults among children on military bases, often after protracted FOIA negotiations. Though an acknowledged undercount, it was the first such quantification – something neither the Pentagon nor its global school system had previously done.

For shedding light on a problem too long ignored, and localizing it for AP members in their states, Dunklin and Pritchard share this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 31, 2018

Best of the States

Mentally disabled man made false confession to murder in 1998 – now it's used against him

A mentally disabled Louisiana man walked free last week after 20 years in prison for a killing his attorneys say he didn't commit. But New Orleans reporter Janet McConnaughey questioned why his plea agreement blames him for obstructing justice.

Corey Williams was a 16-year-old who still sucked his thumb, often wet himself and had been hospitalized for extreme lead poisoning when Shreveport, Louisiana, police brought him in for questioning in 1998 about a shooting that killed a pizza deliveryman.

For hours, he said he was innocent. Finally, Williams told police he did it and wanted to go home and lie down.

Two decades later, with doubts swirling around his murder conviction and the case submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court for review, Williams accepted a plea agreement, pleading guilty to manslaughter and obstructing justice.

McConnaughey asked the district attorney's office for documentation outlining the plea deal. There it was: Williams said he’d obstructed justice by removing evidence from the crime scene and by providing “a false inculpatory statement to police." Williams’ signature was in inch-high printing, with big circles over the i’s.

McConnaughey’s story received strong use by AP customers. For pursuing the underlying details and shining a light on a deal that set Williams free – but only after putting the blame on himself for a false confession – McConnaughey wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 04, 2021

Best of the States

Multiformat team delivers expansive AP coverage during centennial of Tulsa Race Massacre

With the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre months away, text and visual journalists from AP’s Race and Ethnicity, Central Region and Enterprise teams embarked on a plan to dig deeper into the story of the atrocity, well beyond just covering the centennial events.

The team started arriving in Tulsa weeks ahead of the anniversary to explore the city and meet descendants of massacre survivors, who opened up about the horrific event and how it continues to impact their families and the community. Among those they met was the family of Ernestine Alpha Gibbs, who survived the massacre and died 18 years ago at age 100.

Their efforts resulted in a comprehensive package of enterprise stories, from the lost wealth and racial inequality that Black Tulsans have endured, to the descendants of Black victims preparing to resume a search for mass graves, to an examination of how history books and law enforcement have depicted the massacre, and much more. 

The coverage was not without breaking news. In addition to a visit by President Joe Biden, AP learned that the weekend’s headline event was canceled because of a disagreement over payments to three survivors for their appearance at the event. 

For sweeping enterprise and spot coverage that raises awareness of this grim milestone in American race relations, this multiformat team earns AP’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 11, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

In exclusive AP interview, AG Barr says no evidence of widespread election fraud, undermining Trump

Justice Department reporter Mike Balsamo has spent months cultivating sources at the Department of Justice, earning a reputation as an objective journalist who reports fairly and accurately. 

His relationships paid off with an exclusive interview of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in which Barr said the DOJ could find no evidence of widespread voting fraud, dramatically undercutting President Donald Trump’s insistence to the contrary.

“I knew ... he had made probably the biggest news he has in his tenure as AG,” said Balsamo. His story topped the news cycle and resonated for days. No other news outlet could match it and AP was widely cited for the scoop.

For persistent, evenhanded reporting on the Justice Department beat resulting in the interview that netted one of AP’s most consequential news coups of the year, Balsamo wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Nov. 30, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP query to SCOTUS chief triggers rare rebuke of Trump

for seeking comment from Chief Justice John Roberts after President Donald Trump made disparaging remarks about judges on a federal court circuit. Roberts’ response, an unprecedented rebuke of Trump, scored a major scoop on what quickly became the top story in the United States. The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and most, if not all other news organizations, mentioned that Roberts’ statement was the result of AP’s inquiry. https://bit.ly/2PGAUsK

Jan. 12, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Persistence pays: APNewsbreak on major changes in US marijuana policy

The source's message delivered by text was short and simple: "I have big news."

Sadie Gurman, a Justice Department reporter, had covered Colorado's first-in-the-nation pot experiment when she was a staffer in Denver, cultivating activists and law enforcement officials as sources. So when she transferred to Washington about a year ago, she had a burning question: When would Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fierce opponent of decriminalization of marijuana, reverse the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to states that have legalized the drug?

The answer came last week and Gurman had the scoop – long before the competition and hours ahead of the official announcement. Her story earns the Beat of the Week.

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May 06, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Algorithm screening for child neglect raises bias concerns

teamed up on an exclusive package that revealed concerns over racial disparity in an algorithm used by one child welfare agency to help decide if a family should be investigated by child protective services.Long-term source work allowed the reporters to obtain research on the impact of the tool used to support social workers in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, who make split-second decisions meant to protect children from neglect. The research showed the algorithm flagging a disproportionate number of Black children for a “mandatory” neglect investigation when compared with white children, and that social workers disagreed with the risk scores the tool produced about one-third of the time.Read more

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June 19, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Race and Ethnicity team explores question: ‘What is a black life worth?’

In the course of covering protests and a memorial service for George Floyd in Minneapolis, AP race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison started thinking about other cases that began over minor offenses and ended with a black person dying. Morrison visited the scene where Floyd took his last breaths, talked to members of Floyd’s family and interviewed protesters with this question in mind: 

What is a black life worth? 

AP video journalist Noreen Nasir, also in the Twin Cities, was picking up on the same theme in her own reporting. Joined by New York-based photographer Bebeto Matthews, the team took a deep and unflinching look the at the circumstances behind Floyd’s death, and what many see as a pivotal moment in the struggle against institutional racism. Their story led the AP News site, was featured at the launch of the Facebook’s News Feed and was widely used by AP members. 

For sharp reporting and analysis that cast George Floyd’s killing in light of systemic issues of race inequality, Morrison, Nasir and Matthews win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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April 27, 2018

Best of the States

AP lands elusive first interview with two black men arrested at Starbucks

The arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia for sitting without ordering anything turned into a major crisis for the coffee chain and sparked a national conversation on unconscious bias and overt racism.

But the two men at the center of the controversy sought to maintain their privacy as they tried to make sense of the ordeal. They even moved to a hotel to hide out as the scandal unfolded with numerous interview requests to tell their story.

Knowing the sit-down with the men was essential, Pennsylvania Editor Larry Rosenthal pressed for an interview, noting that one conversation with AP would relieve the pressure they were feeling from so many outlets. Errin Haines Whack, the AP’s national race and ethnicity writer, followed up with a written pitch. She noted she was based in Philly and wanted to hear both their version of events and what they hoped to see moving forward. In the end, that sealed the deal.

For landing the critical interview and delivering it in multiple formats, Whack is this week’s winner of Best of the States.

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