Nov. 13, 2020

Best of the States

Tenacious source work leads to national newsbreak on census fraud

The on-the-record accounts from two census workers were stunning: Under pressure from supervisors amid the Trump administration’s push to bring the census to an end, they were encouraged to falsify records in the 2020 headcount.

Whom did they reveal this to? Not surprisingly, they spoke to Mike Schneider, AP’s authority on the census, who leveraged months of source development and reporting to break the story. Posted just an hour before the presidential race was called for former Vice President Joe Biden, the story still broke through with strong play and reader engagement.

For keeping the AP ahead in a critical coverage area with a terrific scoop, Schneider wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 04, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

An up-close view of the battle for Mosul

for an all-out team effort that put AP ahead in multiple formats as the battle for Mosul unfolded in the biggest test of Iraq's military since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Bassam Hatoum and Mustafa Najjar kept AP's live feed up and running; a crew of photographer Khalid Mohammed, correspondent Qassim Abdul-Zahra and videojournalist Ali Abdulhassan were embedded with Iraqi special forces; videojournalist Bram Janssen and correspondent Susannah George gave AP customers the first glimpse inside tunnels built by IS to defend against advancing Iraqi forces; Balint Szlanko and Fay Abuelgasim produced original video, while Ahmed Sami produced freelance and uppick edits; Joe Krauss and Sinan Salaheddin kept the spot file solid; and Marko Drobnjakovic contributed to the prolific flow of photos. Coordinating it all was Gulf news director Adam Schreck, who relocated from his base in Dubai to Erbil to be closer to the action. http://apne.ws/2eDDrNC

Jan. 29, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Standout coverage of historic Biden-Harris inauguration

in Washington for the 59th Presidential Inauguration excelled in all-formats despite COVID restrictions and unprecedented security just two weeks after the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol. Video was a particular standout — hundreds of millions of viewers around the world received AP’s live coverage, and video edits were ahead of the competition by an astonishing average of 15-20 minutes. Text and photo coverage was no less impressive, vividly capturing history in the making.https://bit.ly/2MzmTfwhttps://bit.ly/2Mdq0tVhttps://bit.ly/3otR5WGhttps://bit.ly/2KXbFkFhttps://bit.ly/3psgRMvhttps://bit.ly/39pm6qyhttps://apnews.com/hub/biden-inauguration

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March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Giving voice to Native Americans on historic Cabinet pick

produced a vignettes package that provided an unparalleled, inside look at a historic moment in Indian Country: the potential first Native American Cabinet secretary. In the days leading up to the Senate confirmation hearing for Deb Haaland, President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Interior Department, Fonseca, AP’s correspondent based in Flagstaff, Arizona, captured what this nomination meant to Native Americans on a personal level. Interviewing people of different ages, genders and tribes across the U.S., she compiled their stories into a series of vignettes and took extra steps to arrange for each source to share a photo that represented their tale. The result was a richly layered, insightful package that brought a range of unique voices to the forefront and offered a window into an important moment in Native American history.https://bit.ly/3sPv7QJhttps://bit.ly/3e9Lvr9

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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP interview: Mom threatened by crowd leaned on faith

gave AP the first national interview with a black woman who faced down an armed all-white group – led by a sheriff’s deputy – that tried to force its way into her home. The woman, Monica Shepard, had talked to two local television stations but was avoiding further media contact. Foreman, however, felt there was a deeper story to be told.

He eventually reached Shepard and her son through their attorney, arranging for an online interview to capture video. “I was vulnerable. They had the crowd. They had the weapons. I had nothing,” Shepard told Foreman. “I was standing before a crowd, but I had the faith.” Foreman’s compelling story gave AP the beat on other media that were trying to interview the family, and was used even by outlets that had previously covered the incident.https://bit.ly/2Xfxtdnhttps://bit.ly/2zl3sB5

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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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Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP captures the essential work of Spain’s mortuary workers

produced a powerful set of images that captures the grim but essential work of mortuary workers collecting the bodies of COVID-19 victims from hospitals, nursing homes and private residences in Spain. Since the pandemic began in the spring, Morenatti has recorded the impact of the coronavirus on Spain with moving and sometimes jarring photo packages from spaces not often open to journalists: hospitals, funeral parlors and even private homes. While the images may shock, Morenatti consistently documents his subjects with sensitivity and respect. His latest package is no exception.After weeks of trying, Morenatti managed to embed with the Barcelona mortuary workers. His photos, accompanied by colleague Joe Wilson’s text, revealed the important work done by people in a profession that rarely makes headlines, and also captured the emotional toll on the workers. One image from a nursing home showed workers in protective suits removing the body of an elderly COVID victim as another resident slept in an adjacent bed. The images played widely, including the front-page of Spain’s leading daily, El Pais, and made The Guardian’s “20 Photographs of the Week.”https://bit.ly/36yJvVdhttps://bit.ly/36BFfnM

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Sept. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: In drought-stricken West, farmers of weed are stealing water

revealed that illegal marijuana growers are taking water in uncontrolled amounts, draining wells used by landowners and farmers — and that overstretched law enforcement can do little about it.Selsky, based in Salem, Oregon, has reported on the impact of drought in the West and for years has tracked the burgeoning market for legal pot. But when he checked with sources about water theft by illegal marijuana grows, he quickly found that the situation was dire. Hundreds of huge illegal grows have been erected, too many for law enforcement officials to raid.The problem is showing up in parts of Oregon and California. Selsky visited a neighborhood in central Oregon where a homeowner was having a new well drilled after his existing well ran dry just a block away from a recently busted illegal grow. And he tracked down a resident in southern Oregon who for decades has depended on a creek for growing food. That creek has gone completely dry since large illegal marijuana grows began popping up in the area last spring. The local sheriff described “catastrophic” consequences for natural water resources, citing “blatant theft.” https://aplink.news/v3c

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Persistence pays off with story of bureaucrat blocking transition

wanted to know more about Emily Murphy, the little-known federal official who stalled the formal presidential transition by waiting more than two weeks to “ascertain” that Joe Biden was the apparent winner of the presidential race.Madhani reached out to every recent administrator of Muphy’s agency — the General Services Administration — as well as some lawmakers Murphy had worked for, but he wasn’t having any luck. His 10th call, a fortuitous cold call to Dave Barram, who ran the GSA during the Bush-Gore standoff in 2000, proved to be the jackpot. Madhani found Barram’s number in an online database.Barram revealed that he’d spoken with Murphy before the election to talk through how to handle ascertainment. He laid out his advice to her: “If you do the right thing, then all you have to do is live with the consequences of it.’”The call with Barram didn’t occur until late in the day, but Madhani instantly knew he had a story. He worked late to turn it around for AP’s most reader-engaged story of the day. https://bit.ly/32YG5ZQ

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Dec. 15, 2016

Best of the States

AP provides superior coverage of Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36

As soon as the flames were doused on an Oakland, California, warehouse known as the Ghost Ship two things were clear: The death toll would be huge, and telling the story would be complicated. It took a cross-format team effort to tell the story, and the staff in California rose to the occasion, including incoming San Francisco news editor Juliet Williams, who got an early start on her new job, dashing to the bureau from Sacramento to run the story.

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May 31, 2019

Best of the States

The one that got away: Survivor of serial killer adds emotion, depth to execution coverage

Execution coverage often focuses on the condemned inmate or the manner of death. So, faced with covering his eighth execution – a Florida serial killer – Tallahassee correspondent Brendan Farrington told the extraordinary personal story of a victim who escaped and helped police find the man after he raped her decades ago. That woman had chosen to witness the man’s execution.

Farrington doggedly tracked down the woman, now a sheriff’s deputy, who finally agreed to an interview on the eve of the execution. Her compelling story resonated with readers everywhere.

For his persistence and sensitivity in telling a personal and emotional victim’s story in what could have been a rote story on a serial killer’s execution, Farrington wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 21, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals constitutional challenge to ’Big Lie’ candidates

landed a scoop with impact: Voting reform groups were preparing constitutional challenges against the candidacy of GOP members of Congress who supported the Jan. 6 uprising or attempts to overturn President Joe Biden’s win.Just days after the Jan. 6 anniversary, Robertson, AP Raleigh, North Carolina, statehouse reporter, received a tip from an advocacy group that its first target would be Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., challenging his candidacy in 2022 by citing a portion of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, originally used to bar Confederates who took up arms during the Civil War. Other members of Congress who have supported efforts to overturn the 2020 election would be subject to similar challenges.Robertson conducted interviews and used his connections with a former state Supreme Court attorney to ensure he got immediate word of the complaint being filed with the State Board of Elections. His story, written in advance, moved within minutes of the confirmation, quickly amassing an impressive 176,000 social media views. It was credited in media outlets from Raleigh’s News & Observer to People magazine, and was cited in a Washington Post opinion piece.The story drew more attention after a producer for ”The Rachel Maddow Show“ emailed it to a colleague while accidentally copying Cawthorn’s office, prompting the conservative congressman to lash out at MSNBC. https://aplink.news/8xa

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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work breaks news of attorney general nominee

had been asking around for weeks about President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for attorney general. They pressed their sources inside the transition once it became clear that the decision came down to just a few names.Finally, Tucker scored — a transition source gave AP the entire slate of nominees for the department, and not just the stunning choice of Merrick Garland, the former candidate for the Supreme Court who had been spurned by Republicans during the Obama administration. Also included were names for the second in command and leaders of top offices at the Department of Justice.Tucker had prepped for this and gathered his material while Balsamo checked in with another source and came back with confirmation. They swiftly filed a news alert and story, beating major news outlets by a solid half-hour. This all came two hours before the Capitol siege. The pair’s story was still picked up 580 times with some 200,000 pageviews — especially strong considering the U.S. Capitol was ransacked by rioters the same day. https://bit.ly/2XCjOOe

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Nov. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Reporter’s flight gains attitude as pilot uses ‘coded crudity’

was taking some much-deserved time off for a trip with her mom. But a good reporter and good timing came together for a very good story.The ultimate news hook fell out of the sky, almost literally, as she flew from Houston to Albuquerque. The Southwest Airlines captain signed off his greeting to passengers with the “Let’s Go Brandon” phrase that is a right-wing euphemism for an expletive against President Joe Biden.Coincidentally, Long — with contributions from fellow AP Washington reporters Aamer Madhani, Mary Clare Jalonick, Brian Slodysko and Will Weissert, and Jenna Fryer in Charlotte, North Carolina — had been working on an explainer about the origin of the phrase, which she coined a “coded crudity.” The pilot’s announcement was the perfect peg. She immediately sent an update to her story back to the Washington bureau and emailed the airline for comment. Then, as she departed the plane, she asked permission to knock on the cockpit door and speak with the pilot. She was firmly instructed by flight attendants to exit the plane.Long’s story, laying out how the phrase began at a NASCAR race and had become part of insult culture, was the most-read on apnews.com with more than a million page views, and the Southwest angle featured prominently on Twitter, amplifying the story. The piece also generated follow-up stories by major news outlets, many citing Long's eye-witness account. Southwest initiated an investigation of the incident and denounced the pilot’s conduct.https://aplink.news/r1zhttps://aplink.video/yy9

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July 08, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Unserved 1955 arrest warrant discovered for woman at center of Emmett Till case

“And I do not say this lightly: Holy shit.” That, from producer and Black List founder Franklin Leonard, sums up the collective reaction to the scoop by AP’s Jay Reeves and Emily Wagster Pettus: Searchers in Mississippi had discovered the nearly 70-year-old unserved warrant for the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman whose unproven accusation against Emmett Till led to the Black teenager’s lynching, a horror that galvanized the civil rights movement.

Reeves had reported previously that relatives and activists were still seeking the long-lost warrant, and years of source work paid off with a tip: The document had been found in the basement of a Mississippi courthouse. He confirmed it and teamed up with Wagster Pettus, contacting law enforcement officials and legal experts on what the discovery means to the case, which had been considered closed.

The resulting story made waves, scoring heavy play with customers and on AP platforms.For breaking news on one of the country’s most notorious civil rights cases, Reeves and Wagster Pettus share this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Dr. Birx in violation of government’s COVID guidelines

unraveled some messy decisions by Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, that appeared to contradict the government’s own COVID-19 safety guidelines.When it was first reported that Birx was angling for some kind of role on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team, one of her relatives reached out to Madhani and suggested he look into Birx, who spent Thanksgiving weekend at a Delaware beach house with extended family, and who also made many visits to a multigenerational family home in Maryland between her widespread travels to coronavirus hotspots for the government.Madhani and Slodysko contrasted Birx’s activity with her warnings to Americans to “be vigilant” and limit celebrations to “your immediate household,” and with CDC guidelines to avoid travel for the holidays. The two Washington reporters also discovered that while Birx was in Delaware, she conducted an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” in which she noted some Americans “went across the country or even into the next state” for the holiday weekend. Birx declined to be interviewed for the story but provided a statement acknowledging she went to her Delaware property, insisting she was there to winterize the property.The story received strong play and reader engagement, and continued to generate discussion on cable TV well beyond its weekend release.Birx has a since said she plans to retire, but is willing to first help President-elect Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response as needed.https://bit.ly/38sWmb7https://politi.co/2WFxDeh

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Aug. 20, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work breaks news of Pentagon’s vaccine mandate

used strong source work to break the news that members of the U.S. military will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.Baldor, a veteran Pentagon reporter, spoke to contacts every day on the issue, and while some news outlets reported incorrectly that the Pentagon announcement would come Aug. 6, Baldor’s sources told her the decision was being pushed to the following week because of legal wrangling at the White House.She prepped a story on Friday, then got word mid-morning on Monday that an announcement was expected later in the day. She kept making calls until a longtime source gave her the memo on vaccine policy.

Immediately after AP’s alert, Baldor had a full story on the wire with quotes from the memo explaining the rationale behind the mandate. AP was the only news organization to get the memo and was first with the story and details, sending competitors scrambling to catch up; many news organizations cited AP as the news broke. The story had the most pageviews of the day on the AP News app and site. https://aplink.news/s2z

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Nov. 22, 2019

Best of the States

LA photographer’s son locked down in school shooting; team coverage stands out

AP staffers displayed remarkable professionalism and composure under extraordinary circumstances in their coverage of the Nov. 14 mass shooting at Saugus High School in a Los Angeles suburb.

LA photographer Marcio Sanchez found himself in a nearly unfathomable position: He was making news photos outside a high school where a gunman had opened fire while one of his sons was locked down inside. Later, when Sanchez was safely home with his 15-year-old son Noah, his longtime LA colleague, reporter Brian Melley, did a sensitive interview with the teenager about his experience during the shooting and lockdown.

Meanwhile, veteran breaking news staffer John Antczak in the LA bureau reported the shifting numbers of casualties with careful sourcing and attribution, anchoring the coverage and avoiding the false reports put out by some media. 

AP’s full complement of all-format coverage was the product of excellent reporting and editing by staffers in the field and in the bureau. That team effort was highlighted by the remarkable work of Sanchez, Antczak and Melley, who earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP partnership examines Biden’s troubled border policy

produced an authoritative look at President Joe Biden’s border policy, drawing on interviews with administration officials, internal documents and intelligence reports, and on-the-ground reporting. The story was AP’s first collaboration in partnership with AIM Media Texas, a consortium of newspapers in the Rio Grande Valley, including The (McAllen, Texas) Monitor.Well before the arrival of some 15,000 Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in September, Spagat, AP’s lead immigration reporter, had been looking closely at the Biden administration’s border policy. The uneven and often chaotic response to that September surge underscored that Biden, despite campaign promises to overhaul immigration and now with nearly a year in office, lacked a coherent plan for the border.To uncover how Biden's policy, or lack thereof, had come to this point, Spagat teamed up with Monitor investigative reporter Gonzalez, obtaining memos that detailed early conversations about border policy, conducted interviews with high-ranking current and former U.S. officials and Mexican authorities. Exclusive internal documents, obtained through sources and Freedom of Information Act requests, included email traffic between Border Patrol officials during the surge and a tally of the thousands of migrants released into the U.S. despite the administration’s tough talk of expelling migrants.Editors Katie Oyan, Jerry Schwartz and Peter Prengaman worked closely on the text and photo editor Alyssa Goodman built a striking presentation. Video journalist Manuel Valdes produced a strong piece that elegantly broke down the weak points in Biden's border policy.The end result was arguably the most comprehensive look to date at how Biden's border went from hopeful to chaotic. The piece appeared widely in news outlets across the U.S.https://aplink.news/8ojhttps://aplink.video/8wv

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Feb. 26, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Executioners sanitized official reports of federal inmates’ last moments

AP legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm witnessed 10 of the unprecedented 13 federal executions in the final months of the Trump administration, diligently taking notes on what he saw in the chamber, from the inmates’ last words to their last breaths. 

But weeks after the last execution in mid-January, something nagged at him: The executioner’s official account did not jibe with what he had observed during the execution. Tarm went back, looking through hundreds of filings and court transcripts. His reporting resulted in a stunning exclusive on how the executioners all used euphemisms like “snored” and “fell asleep” while Tarm and other witnesses saw inmates’ stomachs dramatically shuddering and jerking in the minutes after lethal injections.

The sanitized accounts, Tarm realized, raised serious questions about whether officials misled courts to ensure the executions would be completed before Joe Biden, a death penalty foe, took office. His story — the latest exclusive in AP’s coverage of the federal executions — received prominent play and reader engagement.

For backing up his own observations with rigorous reporting to hold the federal government accountable for its official accounts of the executions, Tarm earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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