Oct. 02, 2020

Best of the States

Planning, teamwork, fast filing lead to all-formats wins on Breonna Taylor story

With weeks to prepare, the Louisville, Kentucky, news staff and all-formats reinforcements from other AP bureaus were well positioned for the closely watched grand jury decision in the Breonna Taylor case. 

When the announcement finally came – no officers charged with Taylor’s death – the breaking news was expedited to the wire, cutting through confusion over the decision. Video and photo coverage excelled with fast edits and filing from the protests that followed, capturing the anguish and despair expressed by many in Louisville and keeping the AP well ahead of other agencies.

For their fast, in-depth work on a sensitive, highly competitive story, the team of Lovan, Schreiner, Blackburn, Galofaro, Minchillo, Cummings, Morrison and Householder wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Myanmar military, police declare war on medics

continued AP’s dominant coverage of Myanmar’s unrest, this time revealing how Myanmar security forces were deliberately and systematically attacking medics in the middle of the pandemic. In an extremely difficult story to report, the AP team was able to track down health workers who were in hiding and carefully contacted them using encrypted apps.One interviewee spoke of a newborn in the embattled town of Mindat who had died due to suspected pneumonia because his parents could not find a doctor. Going on scant information, AP finally broke that story open thanks to a tweet by someone in Myanmar referencing the baby's death that included the parents' names. Stringers then overcame bad communications, an adversarial military and monsoon season to locate the parents of the dead child in a refugee camp. The resulting story by Sydney-based Gelineau and Jakarta-based Milko was one of heartbreak and sensitivity with disturbing but compelling video produced by multiformat journalist Allen Breed, including medics being beaten by police, and photos that laid out how, despite the brutality, the health care workers continued trying to save lives.Physicians for Human Rights called it an ”amazing piece,” and the “deepest dive” so far into the attack on doctors in Myanmar. It was shared on Twitter by prominent human rights advocates and called a “gripping and important investigation” and a “devastating investigative report.”https://aplink.news/o02https://aplink.video/i3n

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April 19, 2019

Best of the States

FOIA checklist enables reporter to break news in case of missing boy’s impostor

Knowing what information can be obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs) from various public agencies is critical to breaking news. And keeping a checklist of those information gold mines is key to accessing that knowledge, Columbus, Ohio-based reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins has found.

Welsh-Huggins used those skills to great effect in the case of the man accused of pulling a cruel hoax by pretending to be a long-missing Illinois boy. The story captured the nation’s attention and set reporters in motion trying to flesh out the background of a 23-year-old ex-con who Ohio authorities say faked being Timmothy Pitzen. Pitzen was 6 years old when he disappeared in 2011.

Welsh-Huggins’ checklist for enterprise off the news includes FOIAs to all agencies a suspect has had contact with. He filed a FOIA with the Ohio corrections department to obtain access to the disciplinary records of suspect Brian Rini, knowing from experience that the agency would release them.

A few days later the agency handed him 15 disciplinary reports showing that Rini was someone who liked to fabricate stories – including things as mundane as being short of toilet paper and as serious as being raped by a guard.

The AP was alone with the story, which got strong play in Ohio and across the country.

For using his knowledge of FOIA to break news on this highly competitive story, Welsh-Huggins wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Nov. 08, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Migrants risk sea crossing to Yemen; disembark in hell

for bringing to light, with dramatic words and images, the largely unseen story of Ethiopians trying to reach jobs in Saudi Arabia who instead are systematically imprisoned, tortured, raped and starved by traffickers in a remote village on Yemen’s coast. The team brought the victims to life by reaching the site and finding migrants who had escaped only hours earlier, their wounds still fresh; one man died of starvation just hours after the AP saw him.https://bit.ly/2oPBTKOhttps://bit.ly/34Ma5GPhttps://bit.ly/32nYtIr

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Nov. 21, 2016

Best of the States

Innocent suspects face terrible choice: plead guilty or risk life in prison

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit. But as Richmond-based reporter Alanna Durkin Richer and Miami legal affairs reporter Curt Anderson found, it happens more often than you might think.

Digging through publicly available data on exonerations, they found alarming statistics: More than 300 of the roughly 1,900 people who have been exonerated in the U.S. since 1989 pleaded guilty. So Richer and Anderson set out to explain why anyone would plead guilty to a crime he or she didn’t commit ...

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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds diversity of US attorneys declining under Trump

used years of data on U.S. attorneys to reveal how any diversity gains made under previous administrations have faltered under President Donald Trump. AP’s analysis found the 85% of Trump’s Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys are white men, significantly more than the three previous administrations going back to 1993. But the numbers were just part of the story. The AP team reported on why it mattered in this moment of national reckoning over racial inequality and the fairness of the criminal justice system. The story articulated how Black and brown people are disproportionately imprisoned but underrepresented in the system that puts them there. The piece included an impressive photo combo of all the attorneys, showing row after row – predominantly of white men – and video interviews on the value of diversity in the U.S. attorney ranks.https://bit.ly/3drn6e6https://bit.ly/318gc8J

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April 07, 2017

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Red Bull heir accused in fatal hit-and-run has been living jet-set life for 4 years

for a detailed examination of one of Thailand's most notorious criminal cases, revealing that the Red Bull heir accused in a fatal hit-and-run has been living the high life around the world since shortly after the crash four years ago. The story served as fresh evidence for critics of Thailand's court system who say the rich and powerful get their own form of justice. http://apne.ws/2p9EMAM

July 10, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: China forces Uighurs to cut births with IUDs, abortions, sterilization

The shocking story exposed a serious human rights issue: The Chinese government has forced the use of IUDs, abortions and sterilization on members of China’s Muslim minority in an apparent effort to reduce its population. 

The piece, which ran without a byline for security reasons, established that China is imposing birth control on Uighurs and other Muslims in a far more widespread and systematic way than previously known. The exclusive reporting drew on Uighur and Kazakh sources, research by a prominent China scholar and hours-long interviews with ex-detainees, family members and even a former detention camp instructor. 

The story elicited a strong global response from government officials, news media and the public.

For uncovering another major chapter on the plight of the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China, the unidentified AP reporter wins this week’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP reveals chronic problems, personal stories behind a deadly period in Mississippi prisons

The Associated Press began chronicling rising violence across Mississippi’s troubled prison system in late 2019, but after four deaths in four days it became clear that something bigger was going on.

Reporters Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus explored the history of underfunding and other problems in the state’s prison system. In addition to official documents describing understaffing, the pair obtained photos and video shot by a prisoner that showed the conditions inside the infamous penitentiary at Parchman. 

AP also published all-formats interviews with grieving mothers of prisoners killed, and reported on the state’s decision to house inmates at a private prison.

For bringing much-needed insight and context to a chaotic, evolving situation and giving voice to those affected by the deadly violence, Amy and Wagster Pettus receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 25, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Innocent suspects face terrible choice: Plead guilty or risk life in prison

for using data and shoe-leather reporting to spotlight a terrible choice faced by many innocent people in a judicial system full of overworked defense lawyers and expedient judges and prosecutors: Plead guilty or risk going to prison for life. Last year, they found, 68 of 157 exonerations were in cases in which the defendant had pleaded guilty after facing that choice. http://apne.ws/2fVEf1O

April 05, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Money madness: AP analyzes, how much is that NCAA berth worth?

It’s no secret that the NCAA college basketball tournament is big business. But just how big, and how has the pie been divided?

The New York-based team of college sports reporter Ralph Russo and data journalist Larry Fenn took on that reporting and accounting challenge, making AP the first news organization to document who received more than $3 billion in March Madness payouts over two decades.

Complicating their task was the fact that the NCAA referred to payments with a complex “unit” formula, while 32 different athletic conferences had their own rules for distributing the funds back to schools. Russo peppered the NCAA with questions, ultimately getting detailed numbers back to 1997. Fenn parsed tournament results to quantify wins and bids that qualified for payment under the system.

The work led to several stories by Russo and his colleagues in Sports detailing the money side of the annual tournament, including diminishing shares for smaller conferences, an explainer on the system itself and the value of the final invitations to the field. Fenn also collaborated on a data distribution for members doing their own stories focused on individual schools, as well as a robust interactive.

The AP-exclusive stories drew extensive play in the heat of March Madness, showcasing the power of AP when we think ambitiously and outside the box, even around annual events already in the glare of the media spotlight. For their outstanding work, Russo and Fenn win AP’s Best of the Week.

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July 22, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation reveals childhood vaccine crisis in Venezuela

produced a distinctive, exclusive investigative story using data analysis and deep reporting to reveal that many Venezuelan children lack access to essential vaccines, putting the country among the world’s worst for inoculating children against potentially fatal diseases and leaving neighboring countries vulnerable to outbreaks.Data on vaccination rates is elusive in Venezuela, where institutions are shrouded in secrecy, corruption and bureaucracy. The country hasn’t published rates since 2015. But Garcia Cano, Caracas-based Andes correspondent, obtained rare government data from a source, as well as estimates from public health agencies, showing the vaccination crisis is growing.She also visited clinics, spoke with families and interviewed public health experts for a comprehensive look at the availability of vaccines in Venezuela’s unraveling health-care system.Read more

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June 18, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Secret panel investigating Louisiana State Police unit’s treatment of Black motorists

From the very beginning of Jim Mustian’s stellar reporting on the death of Black motorist Ronald Greene, he has been driven by two main questions: What really happened to Greene on the night of his 2019 arrest? And was this a pattern of how Louisiana state troopers treated Black motorists?

Mustian answered the first last month when he obtained body camera video showing troopers stunning, choking, punching and dragging the unarmed Greene as he apologized and begged for mercy. 

And he began answering the second this past week when he exclusively reported that the Louisiana State Police has convened a secret panel to investigate whether Troop F — the same unit involved in Greene’s arrest  — was systematically targeting other Black motorists. Mustian’s detailed reporting and solid sourcing turned up new cases and new video, and he landed the first-ever interview with one of the victims. 

His scoop scored with heavy play and strong engagement. For dogged reporting to keep the AP ahead on a searing case of racial injustice and its continuing fallout, Mustian earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 22, 2018

Best of the States

Sex assaults among children on US military bases routinely ignored

Last May, as Reese Dunklin and Justin Pritchard sifted through readers' email responses to AP's 2017 investigation into schoolhouse sex assault, both reporters flagged the same messages for follow-up: The tips described problems with the handling of sex assaults reported on U.S. military bases among the children and teens of service members.

Through dozens of FOIA requests and interviews, they found that reports of sexual assaults and rapes among military kids were getting lost in a dead zone of justice, with neither victim nor offender receiving help. Cases often died on the desks of prosecutors, even when an attacker confessed. And criminal investigators shelved other cases, despite requirements they be pursued, the reporters found.

Using government records and data released by the Pentagon’s military branches and school system, Dunklin and Pritchard catalogued nearly 600 cases of sex assaults among children on military bases, often after protracted FOIA negotiations. Though an acknowledged undercount, it was the first such quantification – something neither the Pentagon nor its global school system had previously done.

For shedding light on a problem too long ignored, and localizing it for AP members in their states, Dunklin and Pritchard share this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: California rejected 100,000 botched mail-in ballots

obtained state data showing 102,000 mail ballots for California’s March presidential primary were rejected for lateness or other mistakes. In his exclusive report, Blood showed that mail-in voting can be fraught with problems at a time when the pandemic is driving many states to gear up for near-universal vote-by-mail in November, and as President Trump casts doubt on the system’s validity. The story played widely online and The New York Times flagged the story on its live election briefing. https://bit.ly/2BmTfoF

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Sept. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Breaches of voting software raise election security concerns

broke the news that copies of confidential software for a widely used voting machine had been released publicly during an event held by supporters of former President Donald Trump, leading to wider concerns about election security.After a local elections clerk in Colorado leaked confidential information about her county’s voting machines, Cassidy, an Atlanta-based state government reporter, began calling her sources to get a sense of what the breach could mean for other states that used the same voting machines produced by Dominion Voting Systems. Her source reporting uncovered yet another leak, this time in a county in Michigan where Trump allies had challenged his election loss. The software copies ended up being distributed publicly at a symposium hosted by the CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, a major Trump supporter who has helped spread his lies of election fraud.The software leak from Antrim County, Michigan, had not previously been reported until Cassidy learned of it. Election security experts said taken together, the leaked software could provide hackers with a “practice environment” to probe for vulnerabilities in Dominion machines, which are used in 30 states. https://aplink.news/kj8

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July 10, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation details hollowed-out US public health departments

While it is widely understood that U.S. public health departments have suffered budget cuts over the years, a collaborative AP/Kaiser Health News team used data and deep reporting to show exactly how expansive those cuts have been.

The investigation by AP’s Michelle Smith, Meghan Hoyer and Mike Householder, teamed with KHN’s Lauren Weber, Laura Ungar, Hannah Recht and Anna Maria Barry-Jester, drew on data from disparate sources and interviews with more than 150 people to reveal a system starved of money and staff for years, and facing more cuts amid the worst health crisis in a century. 

The team’s all-formats package drew kudos and high-profile reaction from health officials, to the halls of Congress, to editorial pages.

For an ambitious story that laid bare the state of America’s public health system, the joint AP/KHN team of Smith, Hoyer, Householder, Weber, Ungar, Recht and Barry-Jester shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 03, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive reporting on federal prisons amid COVID-19 fears

have dominated reporting on the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the dysfunction inside. Their latest exclusive used rich sourcing to reveal how the system is struggling to manage the coronavirus in federal prisons. The pair heard from inmates who said there has been little guidance on what to do if they experience symptoms, and very little social distancing. Corrections officers described a lack of supplies inside prisons, and rules on protective gear that vary widely from prison to prison. Balsamo and Sisak highlighted scattershot policies that show zero uniformity despite growing fears over outbreaks of the virus. https://bit.ly/2R1aOiG

Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP catches Georgia presidential certification announcement error

alertly caught a discrepancy in an official news release announcing that the Georgia secretary of state had certified the state’s election results, naming Joe Biden as the winner. As other news organizations rushed to publish, Brumback sought confirmation and learned that the release had been sent in error — Georgia hadn’t certified its results yet. AP quickly reported the mix-up and others had to update their stories; one major publication needed 90 minutes to correct its reporting.Catching the mistaken announcement was just the latest example of Brumback’s outstanding coverage of Georgia’s closely contested election. She relied on her deep understanding of Georgia’s voting system and a strong source network built over years. https://bit.ly/39keohM

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Dec. 04, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats package reveals challenges of rural education during the pandemic

On the sparsely populated fringe of the Navajo Nation, AP Report for America journalist Cedar Attanasio saw a storytelling opportunity: the bus system used by the Cuba, New Mexico, school district to solve distance-learning challenges for some of the country’s most isolated, vulnerable students during the pandemic. 

Reporting for text, photos and video, Attanasio rode one of the school buses used to transport meals, assignments and counselors to remote students, a number of whom do not have electricity, let alone internet. When the bus driver was forced to quarantine, Attanasio took to his car, chasing buses on their routes and interviewing students and their families.

For delivering an insightful multiformat package that reveals the pandemic’s impact on education in a disadvantaged community — prompting one reader to donate $1000 to the school board — Attanasio earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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