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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Oct. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive: DEA recruits describe agency racism, ‘monkey noises’

reported exclusively on a string of recent discrimination complaints by minority recruits at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s training academy, including one allegation that black trainees were taunted with “monkey noises.”Getting trainees to talk about such incidents was the real reporting feat of this story. After Mustian’s June piece about the chronic struggles the agency has had recruiting minorities, several people both inside and outside of the DEA contacted him with accounts of discrimination, saying racism permeated their time at the academy from their first day of basic training, alleging exceptions were routinely made for underperforming white trainees while Blacks were held to an appreciably higher standard.

In the most glaring case, a recruit told Mustian that a firearms instructor called a Black trainee a “monkey” to his face and subjected a group of Black trainees to monkey sounds over a loudspeaker. The DEA did not deny the incident and the instructor retired before he could be disciplined. Mustian’s story played heavily, but most significantly it prompted several more people to contact him with new accounts of discrimination within the DEA.

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP upends Venezuelan politics with scoop on secret US-socialist talks

for acting on a source’s tip to reveal the existence of a secret backchannel that the U.S. had opened up with socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello. The news was a shocking development in Venezuela’s grinding crisis and was bound to cause heartburn in Washington and Caracas because of Cabello’s alleged ties to drug trafficking — and allegations he ordered a hit on U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. Goodman took the off-the-record tip to senior Trump administration officials, who agreed to talk out of concern that the explosive scoop would make them look desperate.

The story dominated the week’s news cycle in Venezuela, and in a first for the AP’s aggressive coverage of the ongoing Venezuelan crisis, President Donald Trump confirmed the meetings from the White House, as did National Security Adviser John Bolton. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that he had authorized the contacts – even though the U.S. said Cabello and others were negotiating behind his back. The story received top billing in the Miami Herald and other news organizations scrambled to match the AP story.

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Aug. 19, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: DEA appeared to intervene after off-duty shooting by agent

investigated a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent’s deadly shooting of a mentally ill neighbor in Mississippi, revealing new details that raise questions about why the agent never faced trial on a murder charge — and the role played by DEA brass to quickly insert themselves into the case, blocking local authorities from talking to the agent.Mustian exclusively obtained hundreds of pages of investigative documents and transcripts, and spent days on the ground interviewing people with knowledge of the case for a story that questions the justification for the shooting, how Agent Harold Duane Poole avoided trial and whether the DEA overreached to protect one of its own amid a flurry of misconduct cases in the agency.Read more

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April 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Focus on COVID-19 patients for testing treatments

spent weeks searching for patients to put faces on two clinical trials testing COVID-19 treatments: One was a coronavirus survivor who opted to donate her blood for research; the other was a doctor turned patient who decided to join a study testing an experimental biotech drug. The stories were part of AP’s ongoing effort to tell the behind-the-scenes stories of people affected by the pandemic.https://bit.ly/2JQKbcwhttps://bit.ly/2XlHOWQ

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Nov. 11, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘Method to the violence’: Dogged investigation and groundbreaking visuals document Bucha ‘cleansing’

An all formats team of AP journalists, working in partnership with PBS “Frontline” and SITU Research, used surveillance camera footage, intercepted phone calls and an exclusive 3D animation of Bucha to detail Russia’s monthlong reign of terror in the Ukrainian city.

The evidence collected, including 80.000 video files and thousands of audio files, told the chilling tale of the fall of Bucha and how, over the month that followed, Russian occupiers terrorized the local population with raids, torture and summary executions. In phone calls home Russian soldiers described “zachistka” — cleansing — killing civilians under orders from their leaders.

No other news organization has conducted such a deep and revealing analysis of the atrocities in Bucha.

For their meticulous, innovative work and their collaboration across formats and continents, the team of Erika Kinetz, Oleksandr Stashevskyi, Vasilisa Stepanenko, Adam Pemble, Allen Breed, Michael Biesecker, Jeannie Ohm and Dario Lopez is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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June 28, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive photos as agents search ship for tons cocaine

for capturing exclusive images of agents searching a container ship found to be carrying more than 17 tons of cocaine. Rourke made the smart decision to shoot not at the Philadelphia port, where the massive ship was docked, but from a park across the river in New Jersey – enabling him to a make a variety of images of agents and drug-sniiffing dogs in action, while photographers at the dock were able to shoot little more than static photos of the ship. https://bit.ly/2Yqqg9C

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Feb. 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP figure skating crew leads breaking news from Olympics

dominated coverage of figure skating from Beijing, reporting the top breaking news stories of the 2022 Olympics. With help from colleagues working in all formats, along with the Moscow staff and fellow staffers promoting AP’s content on social media, they covered all the angles with some of the biggest stories of the Winter Olympics, including AP’s most-read story of the month.Even before the pivotal night of the women’s competition, Skretta and the team delivered standout work, setting up the Games and the expected dominance of both the Russian women and American favorite Nathan Chen. And when a positive drug test was revealed for Russian favorite Kamila Valieva, the team kept AP well ahead of the competition.Among the highlights were Ellingworth’s definitive piece on Valieva's controversial coach, a follow-up the morning after the eventful women’s final, and fresh takes on the sport from Ho and Morrison, highlighting issues of body image, racism and the impact of the sport on such young skaters. Read more

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Sept. 06, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

In the face of death, the party of a lifetime

In a world focused on life and survival, death is often unseen, endured in private and acknowledged in glowing obituaries or tragic news stories. It’s also mostly out of the control of the person who is dying.

Now, with nine U.S. states allowing terminally ill people to end their lives with fatal drugs, thousands of people have legally chosen how and when to end their lives.

Seattle Photographer Elaine Thompson has long wanted to show the real, personal side of what often comes across as an impersonal process. She spent months looking for the right subject, getting tantalizingly close to success before plans fell through. She stuck with it, and when she found Bob Fuller, she enlisted reporter Gene Johnson to tell his story.

This week’s Best of the Week goes to the team of Elaine Thompson and Gene Johnson who chronicled how one man, in the face of death, created the party of a lifetime.

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Sept. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Hanoi producer documents his 9-week lockdown ‘weekend’

had embarked on a midsummer weekend getaway with his partner in the seaside resort of Vung Tau, Vietnam. But when when a surge of COVID-19 prompted tight restrictions, turning his visit into more than nine weeks of lockdown, Dinh delivered an all-formats first-person account of his life stuck in an apartment away from home.In text, photos and video, Hanoi-based video producer Dinh opened the doors to his lockdown home, creatively documenting what one does with so much time indoors while restricted to a quick once-a-week trip to a nearby drug store and grocery. He said he sometimes lost track of time, but a stark reminder of how long he’d been in lockdown was an avocado plant. A seed when he took it from a restaurant just before the lockdown, he watched it grow more than 30 centimeters (1 foot) tall.https://aplink.news/3o9https://aplink.video/mzo

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP documents the push to increase diversity in vaccine studies

explored the obstacles to recruiting diverse groups for medical studies of new drugs, treatments and vaccines. During the pandemic, the two leading U.S. vaccine candidates are lagging behind in diverse enrollment, although participation has inched up in recent weeks.

Thousands more volunteers who identify as people of color are needed for upcoming studies. Staffers from the AP Health and Science team and the South region took an inside look at how health officials are trying to recruit participants, focusing on Maryland and Florida. Narancio spent a day at a local farmers market outside the nation’s capital where “promotoras,” or health promoters, are working to sign up Latinos for the vaccine being tested by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna. Neergard used her contacts to get access to the University of Miami, where there’s a similar push to recruit underserved populations for the same trial. The story appeared on more than 200 online news sites.https://bit.ly/331ms3whttps://bit.ly/2G8EHuM

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Breaking news on US ramp-up of federal executions

have broken exclusives on this year’s resumption of federal executions following a 17-year hiatus, and the accelerated pace of executions during President Donald Trump’s lame-duck period. They have also witnessed every federal execution.Their stories have revealed that the Justice Department considered using firing squads or borrowing electric chairs due to a possible shortage of drugs used for lethal injection, and that the execution team at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where the executions are carried out, was sickened with COVID-19, even as they planned more deaths.But above all, the AP witnesses have risked their own health to enter the federal prison in Terre Haute to attend every execution. The team has been unstoppable, delivering fast, accurate reporting that has made AP the definitive source for news on this topic.https://bit.ly/3nlUxTHhttps://bit.ly/2ITQTkShttps://bit.ly/3ahw91Lhttps://bit.ly/3h13Shl

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Oct. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Doctors tell AP of rampant misinformation among unvaccinated

tapped into her network of sourcing among doctors around the country to deliver an all-formats story that offered new perspective on the rampant misinformation that they're experiencing in dealing with unvaccinated patients during the delta surge of COVID-19.Hollingsworth, based in Kansas City, Missouri, conducted interviews with six doctors, each giving new examples of the misinformation that has underpinned the recent surge. One doctor, for example, said he had resorted to showing vaccine-hesitant patients a Twinkie ingredient label to make the point that it’s hard for anyone to fully understand every item that goes into federally approved food and drugs. Hollingsworth did all the interviews on Zoom and teamed up with AP Central Region video journalist Carrie Antlfinger on packaged video pieces. She also shared sound clips with the audio and digital teams; those were embedded in the piece.The story generated strong play and huge reader engagement numbers. It was a shining example of how deep sourcing on a newsworthy topic can lead to a sharply focused, well-executed story.https://aplink.news/iubhttps://aplink.video/4n0

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June 24, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: FDA skipped most baby formula plant inspections in 2020

turned seemingly mundane testimony of a legislative hearing into a timely scoop, breaking the news that the Food and Drug Administration had skipped nearly all its inspections of baby formula plants during the first year of COVID, likely contributing to the severe shortage of formula in the U.S. and raising questions about what the federal government could have done to prevent it.Using information he gleaned from Capitol Hill testimony by the three top baby formula manufacturers, Washington-based health writer Perrone identified the companies’ plants in the FDA’s online database and discovered the agency hadn’t inspected Abbott’s plant — responsible for a recall of formula that exacerbated the nationwide shortage — for two years between 2019 and 2021. In fact, the FDA later acknowledged only three of the nation’s 23 formula plants were inspected in the first year of the pandemic.Read more

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Jan. 20, 2017

Best of the States

Lie detectors trip up border agency applicants

San Diego correspondent Elliot Spagat was chatting with a longtime government source and she mentioned her son applied to Customs and Border Protection but was rejected after failing a polygraph test. She and her son were mystified by the result. Soon after, a member of Spagat’s running group – a military veteran with a stellar resume – told the same story of a failed Border Patrol test.

Intrigued, Spagat brought up the issue during a regular check-in call with an official involved in recruiting for the Border Patrol. The official told him the polygraph failure rate was very high. Spagat knew he was on to something and kept pressing, next talking to Border Patrol Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, who gave him a failure rate – 65 percent.

But Kerlikowske didn’t see the number as a negative – it meant the agency was applying tough standards to find its officers. Still, a two-thirds failure rate struck Spagat as abnormal but how could he prove it? Comparable data was hard to find.

So Spagat set about creating it.

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March 06, 2020

Best of the States

AP looks at race in Baltimore through the lens of ‘squeegee kids’

Reporter Regina Garcia Cano took what could have been a dense, pro forma story on complaints about Baltimore’s “squeegee kids” and turned it into a layered piece about inequality in post-Freddie Gray Baltimore. The timing was perfect, as a way for AP to mark the end of 2020’s Black History Month. 

She reviewed figures related to reports on the practice and found one squeegee kid in particular who was willing to open up about the daily grind of dashing into intersections to wash windshields, and how it helped him support his family. 

For her keen eye, and a deft hand, on a complicated topic that would have most likely gone overlooked, Garcia Cano wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 02, 2017

Best of the States

Fight for access leads to Porter's breaking news in Bridgegate case

The Associated Press has been working for more than a year with a group of media organizations to lobby the federal court system in New Jersey to release pre-sentencing memos in criminal court cases to pull back the veil on what goes into judge’s sentencing decisions.

With two former allies of Gov. Chris Christie convicted in the Bridgegate case set to find out their fates last week, New Jersey law enforcement reporter David Porter was done waiting.

For his work collaborating with AP members in New Jersey to fight for public access to the memos and then being the first to report on them, Porter wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Guilty Parties

May 06, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation reveals traumatic backlog of Mississippi autopsies

investigated Mississippi’s massive autopsy backlog for more than a year, gathering new data and personal stories revealing the terrible cost of the backlog which has traumatized families and jeopardized investigations.The state’s public officials had talked previously about understaffing in the medical examiner’s office, but Willingham’s reporting went much further, revealing a system long operating outside of accepted national standards for death investigations. She found that coroners were waiting years — and in some cases more than a decade — for autopsy reports. District attorneys and coroners who trusted Willingham told her about specific cases and connected her to families who told deeply personal accounts of waiting a year or more for results on loved ones.Read more

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