Oct. 20, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reporters jump to cover Hamas rampage and sudden new Israel-Hamas war 

The first word came at 6:25 a.m., Oct. 7 local time: Red alerts were issued via WhatsApp for several locations in Israel. Sirens could be heard in Tel Aviv. AP journalists saw rockets being shot from Rafah in Gaza towards Israel. Then word filtered in from the Israeli army that there were numerous security breaches in central and southern Israel. More rockets fell, with Israeli ambulances dispatched to areas where residents had reported strikes. Taken together, it told of an ominous new day in the region. 

The first of what would be many AP news alerts moved 20 minutes later: Israel says Palestinian militants have infiltrated into Israeli territory from Gaza. 

What unfolded over the days was massive in its scope: The militant armed group Hamas executed a well-planned surprise attack on what would normally be a joyful holiday, Simchat Torah.

The Israeli army, caught off guard, struggled for days to regain control of the invaded towns. Israel released counterstrikes into Gaza, killing hundreds. Over the next 10 days the toll would rise to thousands dead in Gaza and in Israel.

Throughout the conflict, the teams in Israel and Gaza worked with courage, determination and excellence under extremely challenging circumstances to report on the painful events affecting them and their families. They earn Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 29, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP secures intimate access to Ukraine’s counteroffensive 

The Associated Press spent two weeks with a Ukrainian assault brigade for an intimate glimpse into the speed, direction and cost of the counteroffensive to regain Bakhmut. 

Mstyslav Chernov’s reporting was unparalleled and gathered at great risk. He spent two weeks with members of the brigade and even accompanied a commander as he raised the Ukrainian flag in a village under shelling. Using self-shot material, drone footage and helmet camera video Chernov wove together the narrative of the brigade’s struggle. Viewers were taken on their journey and exposed to the stark realities of the war — foxholes, close-quarter gun battles, trauma and death. 

Global investigations correspondent Lori Hinnant, reporting from Paris, brought this story alive in words with a gripping blow-by-blow account of what the men had to go through, while photographer Alex Babenko and producer Volodymyr Yurchuk also helped put the stunning package together. 

The story’s timing was perfect, coming just as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was trying to build support for the Ukrainian counteroffensive at the United Nations and was also among the most engaged of the entire week at a time, showing the importance of continuing to bear witness. 

For securing unparalleled access and taking great personal risk to produce an intimate picture of Ukraine’s frontline, Chernov and Hinnant are awarded Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 22, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP’s team reporting alerts the world to Libya’s disastrous floods

Years of reporting on Libya from afar and a local freelancer’s willingness to travel treacherous roads allowed AP’s team to alert the world about a disaster of massive proportions, after heavy floods burst two dams above the city of Derna, washing away and killing thousands.

It took nearly 24 hours for news to emerge from Libya of the deadly floods. But with the country divided between rival governments with spotty records for accuracy, it was tricky to grasp the extent of the devastation.

When one of the governments reported more than 2,000 dead and counting, Libya video producer Adel Omran was the first to alert the team, after which Cairo reporter Samy Magdy called contacts in the health care and aid community, who confirmed that toll and said it was likely to rise.

Misrata-based freelance photographer Yousef Murad drove hours to the scene, sending an initial dispatch showing mass burials for the rising number of bodies. On the ground, Murad faced difficult conditions and lack of basic amenities as the stench of death overtook the city. His subsequent stories documented the immense recovery effort and the stories of survivors.

For their harrowing work revealing a complex story of disaster and recovery, Magdy, Murad and Omran are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 15, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team provides fast — and exclusive — coverage of devastating Morocco earthquake

Sam Metz had been on the job for four days. The newly appointed North Africa reporter had just arrived in Rabat, fresh from Utah, when Morocco’s strongest earthquake in more than a century hit late Friday.

As Metz got alerts and a story going, photographer Mosa’ab Elshamy knew exactly what to do. He organized a car and driver, and the duo headed to the epicenter hours away, navigating rubble-blocked roads. Their all-nighter paid off: AP had the first international journalists on-site.

Both Elshamy and Metz shot video from their phones as Brussels-based video journalist Mark Carlson rushed to get there with a LiveU and satellite phone. Freelancers helped keep AP ahead, while colleagues around the world pitched in on all formats.

AP had the first confirmed death tolls and stayed ahead throughout that crucial first day. Metz’s firsthand accounts and Elshamy’s photojournalism yielded exclusive stories that led websites beyond AP News and topped the Los Angeles Times print edition two days in a row. The Day 1 story was the third-most-viewed story on AP News for that week.

For fast and fearless work under complex circumstances, Metz, Elshamy and Carlson are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 08, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Reporting raises questions about abortion story told during GOP debate, scores several firsts

It was among the most puzzling moments of the first Republican presidential debate: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to answer a question about supporting a national abortion ban and instead offered a story about a woman he met who had survived “multiple abortion attempts” and was saved after being “discarded in a pan.” The tale was clearly meant to curry favor with the conservative voters who decide GOP primaries, but was it true?

Dogged reporting over several days by a team of three reporters — democracy team misinformation reporters Ali Swenson and Christine Fernando, and Miami-based national political reporter Adriana Gomez Licon — found that the woman did exist but that her birth story was far more complicated than the version described by DeSantis. While other outlets also pursued DeSantis’ story, the AP team had several significant firsts: They were was the first to interview the woman and get her story first hand; the first to surface newspaper stories from the 1950s that offered a much different version of events; and the first to get historical photos from the time she was born, including one showing her as a baby being discharged from the hospital. These allowed AP to distinguish its coverage of a nationally significant moment in the GOP presidential primary.

Swenson quickly found a few old news articles about the woman and two YouTube videos that featured her telling her story for anti-abortion advocacy groups and looped in Gomez Licon, who had spent years covering DeSantis in Florida, and Fernando, who had covered the national abortion debate extensively in her previous job.

It was Fernando who reached the woman, Miriam “Penny” Hopper, and persuaded her to talk to the AP. Gomez Licon meanwhile worked with news researcher Rhonda Shafner and local libraries in central Florida to surface newspaper clippings from 1956 about the medical effort to save the baby.

For scoring significant firsts on a story that widely resonated, Swenson, Fernando and Gomez Licon win this week’s first citation for Best of the Week.

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Aug. 18, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Speedy, smart coverage on Hawaii’s wildfire breaks AP engagement records

When a wildfire broke out in Maui and obliterated the centuries-old town of Lahaina, staff in AP’s Pacific Northwest sprang into action. Honolulu’s Audrey McAvoy was on the ground within hours, leveraging the AP’s unique Hawaii footprint for the first of many days of aggressive coverage that allowed AP to own the story from the beginning.

McAvoy was quickly joined by Portland, Oregon, reporter Claire Rush, who canceled her vacation; photographer Rick Bowmer and video journalists Ty O’Neil and Haven Daley. Jennifer Kelleher joined the reporting effort from Honolulu, where she anchored the story for days with help from Chris Weber in Los Angeles and worked longtime sources, including Gov. Josh Green, to keep AP ahead. Rush, O’Neil and Bowmer slept in an SUV for two days in the burn zone.

On Aug. 9, apnews.com received 7.6 million page views — a new record and a 32% increase over traffic the previous Wednesday, and the following day also broke previous records with 7.5 million page views.

The Live Updates fixture, artfully anchored by a changing cast of characters, was also a huge winner for AP and served as a “search tree” that led readers back to AP’s content again and again.

For extraordinary coverage of the devastating fire, accomplished despite huge logistical challenges, the AP Maui team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Aug. 11, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cross-format reporting keeps AP ahead on coverage of Niger’s coup 

West Africa correspondent Sam Mednick was in Niamey — by chance to make use of a visa nearing expiration — when mutinous bodyguards launched a coup against their president. But her stellar, singlehanded all-formats coverage is due entirely to her extraordinary multimedia skills and perseverance.

Day after day, Mednick produced live video, photos of demonstrations, WhatsApp clips to colleagues and interviews on and off the record to show the importance of the coup in a country that has long been considered a bulwark of democracy against Islamic extremism and autocracy.

The result: A story that Mednick owned alone among international journalists.

For her tireless, astonishing multimedia coverage in a place where few of our competitors, if any, had a presence on the ground, we are honored to award Sam Mednick the Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Aug. 04, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

A photo and source work spark a compelling, emotional tale on migration

Migration-focused video journalist Renata Brito in Barcelona took note of a heartbreaking photo on social media to spark a story about the situation at the Tunisia-Libya border — and she used her years of source work, expertise on the border and help from around AP to confirm the story.

On July 19, the photo of a woman and child lying dead, barefoot and face down in the tawny desert sand began circulating on social media. It was retweeted by activists who accused Tunisia of abandoning migrants to their fates on the other side of Tunisia’s desert border with Libya.

But little was known about the photo or the stories of the two who had died.

On social media, some said the photo spoke to that growing crisis, but others insisted it was an old image from another country.

Three days after the photo surfaced, a source of Brito’s in Libya messaged her, saying he knew the woman and child in the photo. From afar, Brito had developed a relationship with the source for years. For this story, Brito asked the source: How did he know it was them? Could she speak to friends or family? With whom did they travel?

That resulted in a tale of dashed hope and tragedy as told to the AP by the late woman’s husband, with additional details and key context contributed by Elaine Ganley and Samy Magdy, who together are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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