July 14, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Follow-up reporting after Texas mass shooting reveals long-standing complaints about police response

When a Texas sheriff’s story about a mass shooting didn’t add up, Dallas-based reporter Jake Bleiberg dug in.  

During the four-day search for a man accused of fatally shooting five of his neighbors in April, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told a crush of reporters that his deputies got to the scene in 11 minutes, but the suspect had vanished. Bleiberg was among the Texas reporters covering the shooting who heard from area residents that deputies rarely responded to calls faster than 30 minutes. As he worked the phone to get a fuller picture, Bleiberg connected with a source who provided him with the report of a police consultant who county officials hired to examine the sheriff’s office. Bleiberg quickly authenticated the document and headed down to the rural corner of East Texas to continue reporting along with video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi and freelance photographer Michael Wyke.  

They conducted more than 20 interviews with current and former deputies, county officials and residents. Bleiberg successfully pressed for the release of public records related to the shooting and obtained revealing court documents and evidence gathered in a whistleblower lawsuit against the sheriff. The reporting revealed that the latest inaccuracies were part of years’ worth of accusations against the sheriff, including neglecting basic police work, evidence of the improper seizure of tens of thousands of dollars of property, ignoring previous concerns over the alleged shooter, and his deputies failing to follow up on reports of 4,000 crimes — including sexual and child abuse.  

For a tireless effort to reveal years of corruption accusations and dysfunction previously unknown outside of the local area, Jake Bleiberg earns Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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June 30, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP sets authoritative tone in Titanic submersible coverage

AP journalists followed the sun and worked across regions and formats to document the saga of the missing Titan submersible for a full week of nonstop coverage that broke news, offered smart enterprise and analysis, live updates, chunky digital first explainers, graphics, live and produced video content, radio pieces and a comprehensive photo report.   

A report that a deep-ocean submersible was missing near the site of the Titanic was confirmed early in the week by a small group of AP reporters. What came next was a marathon of coverage that spanned nearly every hour of the day for several days, the world waiting as 96 hours of breathable air would have been slipping away along with hopes of finding survivors inside the doomed Titan. As the story unfolded, it revealed an industry that largely lacks regulation and oversight.   

The coverage contributed to AP digital platforms’ strongest week of the year, with 9.6 million page views across the web and app on Wednesday. Ramirez’s fact-check about the Titan was the week’s most-viewed story. The Titan sub explainer detailing the latest in the investigation was AP’s second most-engaged story, with an engagement score of 95. Traffic was enhanced by multiple breakout stories to highlight key topics of interest among readers.   

For using the breadth of the AP to successfully tell a fast-moving story from multiple angles, the AP Titan team wins this week’s first citation for Best of the Week. 

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June 23, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

The Great Grift: How billions in COVID-19 relief aid was stolen or wasted

After a monthslong analysis, the AP revealed that at least 10% of $4 trillion in federal COVID-19 relief money was stolen or misspent.

The story was sparked by a simple question in January from Acting Global Investigations Editor Alison Kodjak: How much relief money was stolen? Richard Lardner, of the global investigations team, teamed up with climate reporter Jennifer McDermott and data team reporter Aaron Kessler to get an answer. They conducted scores of interviews, read dozens of government indictments and reports and tracked down experts.

In the end, they determined scam artists potentially stole more than $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding, and another $123 billion was wasted or misspent — a combined loss of 10% of the relief aid the U.S. government has so far disbursed. Senior video producer Jeannie Ohm and motion graphics designer Eva Malek created an animated video explainer, narrated by Kessler, that succinctly laid out how easy it was for fraudsters to make off with so much money. Multimedia editor Kevin Vineys created a series of compelling graphics that helped break down government spending and potential theft.

For spending months investigating and documenting how much of the federal government’s $4.2 trillion in COVID-19 relief was looted or misspent, Lardner, McDermott, Kessler, Vineys and Malek earn Best of the Week — First Winners.

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June 02, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cross-format team delivers a comprehensive, data-driven project on Black Americans’ experiences with health disparities

National investigative race writer Kat Stafford had wanted to create a project about lifelong health disparities Black people face for quite some time. Taking inspiration from her reporting about the toll COVID-19 exacted upon Black Americans, she sharpened her idea and embarked on reporting a five-part series.     

Driven by data and the experiences of several families, individuals and communities across five states and life stages, “From Birth to Death” examines five health crises: infant and maternal health, childhood asthma, mental health, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s disease.       

Stafford, who is based in Detroit, teamed up with video journalist Noreen Nasir and photojournalist Maye-E Wong, both of New York, for the comprehensive project that captures the health journey of Black people in America over a lifetime. The trio — along with national education writer Annie Ma, data journalist Angeliki Kastanis, illustrator Peter Hamlin, project site creator Linda Gorman, and graphics journalist Kevin Vineys — told the stories in a compelling and human way using an innovative presentation. They centered the project around the often-underrepresented voices and perspectives of Black Americans — and not just the main characters, but also Black medical experts, researchers and historians. The families featured said they feel seen and heard for the first time.   

In addition, an extensive social promotion plan created by Ed Medeles, Elise Ryan and Almaz Abedje enticed readers to delve into the project.

For an innovative series that gives a fuller picture of the health disparities Black people experience in a way that resonates with a broader audience, this team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.   

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May 26, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

The secret networks that circumvent Honduras’ abortion ban: How an AP team documented the invisible

For years, AP Mexico photo stringer Ginnette Riquelme was aware of clandestine networks helping women obtain abortions in Honduras, where they are banned under all circumstances.   

The locations were hidden, the phones untraceable, the contacts used code words to communicate. But Riquelme had a vision of how — and why — to document something that is both illegal and heavily stigmatized. With a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation, she joined forces with Honduran journalist Iolany Pérez in El Progreso and Mexico City reporter María Verza.   

Persistence and the ability to build the trust of more than a dozen women who helped or had received the networks’ assistance resulted in a previously unseen composite of an underground system built up over years of prohibition.   

For journalism that illustrates the invisible, and in-depth and unmatched coverage of an issue that resonates far outside Honduras, this team earns Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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