April 07, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

3 days, 2 nights, 1 train: Kyiv team crosses Ukraine with Zelenskyy in unprecedented embed

Months of building trust with the Ukrainian government led to unmatched access to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his travels across Ukraine. It resulted in a powerful all-formats series of stories that made headlines across the world and gave an in-depth portrait of a wartime leader in perpetual motion. 

For months, The AP team has been working on improving our links with the Kyiv government. Persistence paid off. AP was offered an exclusive interview with the president, to be carried out by Executive Editor Julie Pace. She traveled into the country, accompanied by Europe and Africa News Director James Jordan and teamed up with Arhirova and Lukatsky and on-deployment Prague video journalist Adam Pemble for two nights and three days on the president’s train.  

For their herculean efforts to organize and deliver the meeting, engineering an opportunity for AP to conduct the most extensive embed with the Ukrainian president to date, Arhirova, Lukatsky and Pemble share Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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May 05, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP leads on coverage of Montana transgender lawmaker with authoritative, visual and fast coverage

When protesters erupted in chants of “Let her speak” from the gallery inside the Montana statehouse, and silenced transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr lifted her microphone triumphantly in the air, longtime AP reporter Amy Hanson was there to capture the action with her cell phone for video, photos and words. It was the start of a week of agenda-setting, visual and comprehensive coverage by Hanson and her colleagues as Zephyr’s compelling dispute with Republican state leaders captivated audiences, culminating in the GOP voting to bar the freshman legislator from the House floor on Thursday. The powerful coverage throughout the week showcased the value of AP’s legislative footprint and was a textbook example of how we can dominate a story when we surge resources and harness our collective expertise.Hanson worked tirelessly from Helena, Montana, all week and tapped into her deep sourcing and knowledge of state politics to provide impeccable and fast reporting. Her previous source building with Zephyr after she was elected last year proved invaluable, giving the AP access to the lawmaker all week. Billings-based reporter Matt Brown and Salt Lake City-based reporter Sam Metz took turns stitching together well-written spot stories each day, updating the “What to Know” and prepping urgent new series for the next key moment in the saga. The duo also produced a smart takeout about the rise of conservative caucuses like the one in Montana that fueled the dispute.Denver-based video journalist Brittany Peterson and political reporter Nick Riccardi also went to Montana to supplement Amy’s on-the-ground reporting. Nick quickly pulled together a deeply reported and beautifully written story about support for Zephyr in her hometown, the college town of Missoula. Colleagues from around the AP coordinated with the Rockies staff to deliver several smart takes about the standoff, including a look at the underlying rhetoric in the dispute and how Republicans in Montana and Tennessee tried calling peaceful protests "insurrections" to downplay the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

For thorough, nuanced coverage that kept the AP out front, Hanson, Peterson, Riccardi, Brown and Metz win this week’s first citation for Best of the Week.

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April 28, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reveals DEA chief is being investigated for contracts to past associates 

Josh Goodman and Jim Mustian reported exclusively that a federal watchdog is investigating whether the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration under chief Anne Milgram improperly used millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to flout normal governing hiring procedures to hire past associates at a very high cost.   

The two followed up on a previous scoop about the arrest of former DEA agent Jose Irizarry, who confessed to laundering money for Colombian drug cartels and skimming millions of dollars from asset seizures and informants.   

After an external review of the DEA’s foreign operations was slammed for underplaying its scandals, Latin America reporter Goodman and investigative reporter Mustian began asking questions.   

What they found was that a Washington law firm that was hired as part of a no-bid contract did the review, and that its author was the former right-hand man to one of Milgram’s closest friends, former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. That led to more reporting, more questions and more sources talking about how the DEA used other no-bid contracts to hire Milgram’s past associates.  

For expert source reporting that holds accountable the DEA and its highest-ranking official, Goodman and Mustian win Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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April 14, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation uncovers brutal murder of a 16-year-old by Burkina Faso soldiers

A video in Burkina Faso showing men in military fatigues walking among the bloodied bodies of boys with their hands bound surfaced on social media in mid-February. A six-week AP project delivered a frame-by-frame analysis of the graphic, 83-second video of the killings and tracked down the relatives of one of the victims: Adama, a 16-year-old cattle herder, piecing together his final hours. A soldier smashed his head with a large rock.

Government officials denied involvement in the killings, but analysis by Global Investigative Reporter Michael Biesecker was able to show the soldiers were wearing uniforms and had vehicles consistent with members of the Burkinabe military. After West Africa Correspondent Sam Mednick got a tip, Biesecker was able to geolocate the killings to Camp Zondoma, a military base near Ouahigouya.

Mednick and her Ouagadougou translator located the teen’s family after people in the capital with ties to Ouahigouya connected them with Adama’s uncle, the first person willing to talk. The translator whose identity cannot be disclosed played a key role in getting the family to speak, despite great personal risk. Mednick persuaded the uncle to let her interview the boy’s mother, who was unaware that her son’s death had been filmed.

Visual journalist Marshall Ritzel produced a video highlighting the visual investigation and exclusive interviews with Adama’s family. An edit of the video by digital audiences producer McKinnon de Kuyper was among AP’s top social posts of the week.

For shining a spotlight on the sort of casual murder that takes place in countries around the world, Mednick, Biesecker, Ritzel, the anonymous translator in Ouagadougou and de Kuyper win this week’s first place best of the week.

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March 31, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years of source work in Texas leads to power narrative enterprise story

Jake Bleiberg spent years reporting on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, including an investigation in September into the dropped cases. That story caught the attention of Irma Reyes, a South Texas mother, who reached out to Bleiberg to say that something similar was probably about to happen in the cases of two men charged with sex trafficking her daughter. Bleiberg checked sources and records and then headed to court, where he and Eric Gay witnessed Reyes’s worst fears come to pass.    

The resulting story became the most engaged story of the week on APNews. It also received extensive play across Texas and national media outlets, and won praise from elected officials critical of Paxton, as well as from prosecutors, and even a lawyer for one of the men accused in the case.    

For their compelling all-formats narrative story that put a human face on the dysfunction in Texas that led prosecutors to drop human trafficking and child sexual abuse cases, writer Jake Bleiberg, photographer Eric Gay and video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi are the first winners of this week’s Best of the Week award. 

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March 24, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP looks ahead at new generation’s hopes 20 years after U.S. invasion of Iraq, not just behind at destruction

AP boasts about its global reach. An all-formats package reported from Iraq demonstrates how the deep expertise of its journalists also reaches back through history. 

We have an amazing team that covers Iraq day in and day out. But we also have a hidden resource: people who were there when history happened and are with us today. When we see the opportunity, we can offer our readers and customers that context. That was the case with Jerome Delay and John Daniszewski, both of whom were there in 2003 at the beginning of it all. They went back to offer some context about what has changed.

Delay and Daniszewski were both among the few international journalists in Baghdad when the U.S. launched its “shock and awe” campaign. They joined with video journalist Lujain Jo, a native Iraqi, and video journalist Jerry Marmer, who was embedded with Marines who invaded by land 20 years ago, to deliver an authoritative and nuanced portrait of a country that’s been out of the spotlight since the defeat of the Islamic State group five years ago.  

Instead of focusing solely on the war-torn image that many Iraqis say is outdated, the AP team’s package also focused on what’s ahead for Iraq. Beyond exclusive interviews with the Iraqi president and prime minister, they also conducted dozens of interviews with Iraqi youth. These gave a deeper and sometimes counterintuitive look at a generation interrupted by war and terrorism, whose voices are rarely heard outside their home country. Half of Iraq’s population of 40 million is too young to remember Saddam Hussein.   

For their sensitive and forward-looking view of an invasion that hit Iraq 20 years in the past, bolstered by their own lived experiences of it, Delay, Daniszewski, Jo and Harmer are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.  

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March 17, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP shows why young Americans are shunning college

News outlets had widely reported a drop in U.S. college enrollment, but nobody had really explained why. Education reporter Collin Binkley and Ohio-based video journalist Patrick Orsagos figured the best way to find out was to talk with young adults themselves.   

Binkley won a grant from the Education Writers Association and traveled with Orsagos to western Tennessee, where the pair conducted cross-format interviews with high school graduates whose stories exposed the reasons behind the trend: The high cost of higher education. Fear of student debt. A hot job market. General disillusionment with education after high school experiences disrupted by the pandemic and school closures.   

The story sparked wide discussion about the cost of college, the need for reform in higher education and the relevance of a bachelor’s degree in today’s economy. The day after publication the story landed on Reddit’s “popular” page, thanks to a post on the “Futurology” subreddit that received more than 25,000 upvotes and 3,000 comments. It appeared on at least 21 newspaper front pages, with good play on The Tennessean, The Jackson Sun, The Columbus Dispatch, The Roanoke Times and the Ithaca Journal, among others.

The story was tweeted by several members of Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio. Parents, professors and other readers reached out via email and social media, saying the story resonated with them and demonstrated the need for America’s colleges to offer something young people see value in. And the former admissions director at Jackson State Community College offered to advise one of the students in the story on her college options; that student said she plans to contact him.  

For going to the source to find the reasons behind a major trend, Binkley and Orsagos share this week’s Best of the Week — First Place honors.

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