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 08, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP leads fight for access and answers in Hanoi

for leading the way in two formats in Hanoi, asking tough questions of President Donald Trump and then fighting for media access when the White House retaliated. Lemire’s question to Trump about the Michael Cohen hearings prompted the White House to bar reporters – but not photographers – from a dinner for the two leaders. Vucci, recognizing the significance, quickly made a case to his fellow photographers, then approached Press Secretary Sarah Sanders: photographers would not cover the dinner unless reporters were allowed in as well. Sanders conceded to one pool reporter and one TV producer in the room, ensuring that the press – and therefore the public – had access to a historic meeting. https://bit.ly/2H4aSuC

Feb. 08, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive AP analysis: The NFL keeps getting younger and cheaper

The unusually short careers of NFL players have long been a thorny issue among the players, the league and even fans of one of the most injury-prone leagues in sports. A pair of high-profile contract disputes during the 2018 season placed the topic front-and-center yet again.

But what more was there to say?

Denver-based national sports writer Eddie Pells and Global Sports Editor Michael Giarrusso came up with the idea of mining data to illustrate how average experience on NFL rosters has changed since 2011, when the league and players agreed to a contract designed in part to help veterans get a bigger share of revenue.

Pells was joined by New York-based data journalist Larry Fenn who started digging. After scouring season-opening rosters from the last 14 years, Pells and Fenn had the data: Average experience in the league was going down consistently as every team chose younger players over veterans who would earn more – even if the veterans were better players.

Pells then asked more than a dozen AP writers in the field for reaction from key players on the teams they covered, while Fenn worked with Top Stories designer Phil Holm, who produced insightful illustrations of the data. Pells also collaborated on videos that were used on social media and embedded in the story.

Other stories in the package included a profile of a typical 4-year player who is cut just as he became eligible for a larger contract, a piece on shortened careers at the center position, and a column foreshadowing collective-bargaining hurdles. Pells also did a story looking at how Super Bowl champions shed expensive players after winning the title.

The package was released in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, commanding attention across the football landscape and getting about double the usage of typical top sports stories. Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee called it a blueprint for how to plan coverage around big events by timing enterprise and breaking news when attention is high.

For using data and creative storytelling to quantify one of the NFL’s central issues and break news during the biggest sports week of the year, Pells, Fenn and Holm share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 18, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Multiformat exclusive: Thousands of child and adolescent brides enter US – legally

You know your scoop has touched a nerve when it gets tweeted by both Ann Coulter and Chelsea Clinton.

Such was the case with Colleen Long’s multiplatform APNewsBreak that the U.S. approved thousands of requests by men to have their child or adolescent brides admitted to the United States. The story not only pointed to problems in immigration law, but also lax state laws that make immigration by child brides possible.

The story started with a tip from Ron Nixon, AP’s new international investigations editor, who had been told by a source that data requested by the Senate Homeland Security Committee would be startling.

Nixon passed the information to Long, the Washington-based homeland security reporter, who persuaded committee staff to give her the story exclusively. She also went beyond the striking data to give readers a sense of how the issue affects women’s lives, speaking with women who had been married as children. A compelling video accompanied the piece.

On a busy news day, the story was one of AP’s most widely used, fronting many news websites and posted to Facebook by multiple news organizations. The video piece also had a strong showing, receiving thousands of YouTube streams and 27 customer downloads.

For revealing a little-known loophole in immigration policy that raises concerns over security and exploitation, and for connecting the data to women victimized by the policy, Colleen Long wins this week’s Best of the AP.

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Dec. 14, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive: A young mayor and a fatal attraction to opioids

for a sensitive portrayal of the family of a 24-year-old Pennsylvania mayor whose cause of death a year ago had been kept under wraps. The family gave a detailed and heartbreaking account of his heroin overdose, enabling a hugely compelling story and beautiful portraits that generated high praise and AP chart-topping engagement from readers across the country, and front-page play in papers from one end of the state to the other. https://bit.ly/2Lh2jvU

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Nov. 30, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Chinese researcher claims first gene-edited babies

When a source told AP’s chief medical reporter Marilynn Marchione that a Chinese researcher had edited the DNA of several human embryos and implanted two into a woman, their conversation launched an aggressive but delicate reporting effort by AP journalists in the U.S. and China. That reporting led to the AP’s exclusive coverage of one of the most important and controversial claims in medical and science history. It was nothing less than an attempt to alter the trajectory of human heredity.

Science writer Christina Larson, videographer Emily Wang, researcher Fu Ting and photographer Mark Schiefelbein set out to interview the researcher and his colleagues in Shenzhen and Beijing, while Marchione and videographer Kathy Young worked the story from the U.S.

He's claim raised a laundry list of concerns. After talking with current and former colleagues and outside scientists, it became clear that his claim, while unverifiable, was plausible. AP knew it would be worthwhile reporting the claim, because the claim itself would be major scientific news. And it was – AP's exclusive on He's claim of the world’s first gene-edited babies made headlines worldwide.

The response from readers, customers and other scientists was immediate and intense. The inventors of the gene-editing technology He used condemned the claim. U.S. and Chinese universities that He was affiliated with launched investigations, and more than 100 Chinese scientists called for a ban on work of this kind in China.

AP’s reporting was credited or linked to by at least 44 media outlets and generated numerous downloads. At more than half a million page views it was by far the most read story on APNews for the week.

For responsibly breaking a story in all formats of a major scientific claim while exploring the ethical quandaries that He’s research has raised, Marchione, Larson, Wang, Young, Ting and Schiefelbein earn AP's Best of the Week.

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Nov. 24, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: US scientists try first gene editing in the body

Brian Madeux made medical history on Nov. 13 when he became the first person to have his genes edited inside his body in an attempt to cure a genetic disease. And the Associated Press was the only news organization to document this experiment, which could advance medicine by giving a potentially safer, more precise and permanent way to do gene therapy.

Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione got word earlier this year that the gene editing work would soon begin. She negotiated exclusive rights to the story, giving AP sole access to the patient, doctors and scientists involved. She spent six months reporting the story, teaming with journalists in three cities through several false starts and twists and turns to deliver an all-formats package.

For their enterprising work on a groundbreaking story, the team of Marchione, Kathy Young, Terry Chea, Eric Risberg and Marshall Ritzel wins Beat of the Week.

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Nov. 23, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Tim Reiterman, survivor of airstrip attack, tells story of the Jonestown mass murders

When Tim Reiterman set out to tell the story of the 40th anniversary of the Jonestown mass murders and suicides, he didn’t want to retread territory he’d covered with previous anniversary stories, or rely solely on his own harrowing experiences in the South American jungle.

Instead, Reiterman mainly focused on those he hadn’t interviewed before, including the adopted black son of the Rev. Jim Jones. He also focused on those who grew up in the Peoples Temple, or joined as teenagers. These survivors, due to happenstance or their own efforts, were all away from the Jonestown community in Guyana when Jones ordered his followers to drink flavored poison.

The order that ended 900 lives came after a California congressman, temple defectors and journalists including Reiterman were ambushed on a nearby airstrip. The Nov. 18, 1978 attack killed U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan, as well as Reiterman’s photojournalist colleague at the San Francisco Examiner, and three others. Reiterman was wounded in the attack, but went on to shoot photos of the bloody aftermath and write a detailed account two days later.

Reiterman’s approach to the 40th anniversary provided an unparalleled look into the massacre through the eyes of survivors who had to go on grieving close family members and forge new lives back in the United States. It also allowed Reiterman the opportunity to explain the tragedy for readers and viewers who might only know its broad outlines, if that. The all-formats package Reiterman wrote and helped coordinate – with assistance from staffers in all formats throughout the AP – wins this week’s Best of the Week.

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Oct. 05, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Casual remark from CDC leads to scoop on flu deaths

for being first to report that influenza claimed 80,000 American lives in 2017-18, making it the deadliest flu season in decades. Attending an evening event to build sources, Stobbe heard the CDC’s leader, Dr. Robert Redfield, refer nonchalantly to a death toll of 80,000 last flu season. Realizing the figure had not been made public, Stobbe did follow-up reporting and landed the scoop just a day before the CDC made the figure public. https://bit.ly/2xIBgUK

Sept. 28, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Florence's environmental toll: coal ash and hog waste

for leading strong AP coverage of the devastation of Hurricane Florence. Biesecker drew on experience to warn readers that the storm would likely cause widespread water pollution from ruptured hog lagoons and swamped coal ash dumps, and scored a series of storm-related scoops. Helber captured iconic images including a widely used aerial shot that earned a rare two-page spread in Time magazine.https://bit.ly/2xMWdwMhttps://bit.ly/2NEn7lrhttps://bit.ly/2zw7WlNhttps://bit.ly/2Og1G9U

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May 04, 2018

Best of the States

FOIA reveal: Governor shields ally and agency in alleged harassment case

When Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds abruptly fired a longtime friend and political ally last month, she said it was due to “credible” sexual harassment allegations. But her staff said no other information would be available about the behavior of Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison.

Statehouse reporter Barbara Rodriguez and Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley knew there was more to the story, but after filing FOIA requests, the governor's office told them there were no such records, prompting a rare case where reporting the denial would be newsworthy: that there was no evidence, correspondence or investigation into the allegations before Jamison was terminated.

Hours after that story moved, the governor’s office acknowledged they had made a mistake. There was a written detailed complaint against Jamison, but the office insisted it was exempt from FOIA.

Rodriguez and Foley didn’t stop there. They appealed the denial, leading the governor’s office to reverse course again and release the document, which immediately caused a firestorm.

It showed that Jamison had allegedly been harassing female subordinates for years, and that senior officials in the agency were aware of his behavior but apparently didn’t report it – which led to calls for an independent investigation. The governor initially rejected those calls but as pressure built, she announced she had hired a prominent outside lawyer to conduct such an investigation.

For aggressive reporting that shed light on accusations of sexual misconduct by a public official – including the lack of transparency surrounding the charges – the pair shares this week's Best of the States award.

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