Sept. 30, 2016

Best of the States

Lead crisis in housing project was actually no surprise

The down-at-the-heels industrial city of East Chicago, Indiana, made headlines around the world in August after the mayor ordered 1,000 people to get out of a 40-year-old public-housing complex because of lead contamination.

Many residents and observers expressed surprise: How could such a problem go overlooked for so many decades?

The Chicago bureau’s Sara Burnett and Jason Keyser teamed up for several weeks of intensive document and street reporting. What they found was as disturbing as the original news: The hazard shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone – because the housing complex had been built on the former site of a lead-products factory.

Ap 16266794561429

Sept. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Brazil’s plan to protect rainforest has opposite effect

revealed the disturbing truth about environmental enforcement in Brazil’s Amazon. While reporting on the first days of the 2020 burning season they found that agents of Brazil’s environmental crime enforcement agency had gone almost totally inactive, and that since President Jair Bolsonaro put the army in charge of protecting the rainforest, Brazil’s once-effective investigation and prosecution of rainforest destruction has come to a virtual halt.Investigating on the ground and by phone with sources around Brazil, the team found that Brazil’s army is focusing on small road-and-bridge-building projects that allow exports to flow faster to ports and ease access to protected areas. Meanwhile, the enforcement agency has stopped using satellite maps to locate deforestation sites and fine their owners — a once-widely used technique — and is no longer penalizing illegal logging, mining and farming. On the heels of massive fires last year, this year’s burning season is on track to be as bad as 2019.The all-formats story received heavy play globally in broadcast, print and hundreds of online news outlets.https://bit.ly/3hWs3gKhttps://bit.ly/31U1fbnhttps://bit.ly/2YWpHXp

Ap 20239654941760 Hm Brazil1

Sept. 23, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Pro-painkiller echo chamber shaped policy amid drug epidemic

Combine the capabilities of The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity, and this is what you can get: A two-part blockbuster that exposed the efforts of the opioid industry and allied groups to stymie limits on the use of its powerful drugs, and detailed how they spent more than $880 million on lobbying and political contributions over the past decade.

The genesis of the project was a conversation between Tom Verdin, editor of AP’s state government team, and Geoff Mulvihill, a member of that team. Mulvihill, based in Mount Laurel, N.J., has covered the opioid crisis sweeping the nation, and the two hit upon the idea of trying to determine the extent of the pharmaceutical industry’s exerting influence in state legislatures across the country.

Ap 16253810937091

Jan. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Criminal charges for ex-governor in Flint water crisis

worked sources to report exclusively that criminal charges would be filed against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and others in the Flint water crisis, one of the worst human-made environmental disasters in U.S. history.White was reporting an unrelated story when he asked a source about any developments in the Flint investigation. That paid off with a tip — confirmed with a second source by Eggert — about the imminent charges.The bombshell exclusive hit a full two days before the official announcement and was AP’s most-used story by customers online that day, widely credited by local and national news outlets, including the Detroit Free Press and the New York Times. https://bit.ly/35T67z6

Ap 17284674880560 Hm Flint Water 1

March 12, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Solid sourcing leads to AP’s most-used story of 2021: 6 Dr. Seuss books retired for racist images

Mark Pratt, a breaking news staffer in Boston, has written several stories exploring the complicated past of Theodor Seuss Geisel — Dr. Seuss. The company that preserves and protects the author’s legacy knew it could trust him.

So Dr. Seuss Enterprises gave Pratt early word on a story that would become a global bestseller for AP, generating off-the-charts customer use for three days and eventually becoming the single most-used AP story of 2021 to date: The company was ceasing publication and sales of six Seuss books because of their offensive imagery.

Pratt’s story instantly rocketed to the very top of a hectic news cycle, touching off a firestorm of commentary and conservative claims of “cancel culture.” The piece exceeded 2.5 million pageviews — catapulting it past the Capitol insurrection coverage in terms of customer use and clicks.

For nurturing trust with a newsmaker that yielded an AP exclusive still resonating with customers and news consumers, Pratt wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

Ap 21060773303558 2000

March 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: One man’s fight against an oil pipeline on his land

reported on a land grab for a proposed oil pipeline, conveying the news in the most compelling way possible, from the perspective of the people involved. The story is told largely through the eyes of Clyde Robinson, a 80-year-old Memphis, Tennessee, landowner fighting against larger forces to keep his land in what advocates say is textbook environmental racism.Robinson, who is Black, compared the effort to seize his land through eminent domain to slavery, when members of his own family were not compensated for their work. He vowed that no amount of money would convince him to change his mind.Environmental lawyers who have taken up Robinson’s cause say there’s no public interest that would justify seizure of the land for a business project, while a spokeswoman for the pipeline project walked back a statement by a land agent that the company had chosen “a point of least resistance” for the pipeline's proposed path. That statement was interpreted by the project’s opponents as having discriminatory undertones. https://bit.ly/3bDr1VZ

Ap 2106471437254 Hm Sainz

April 02, 2021

Best of the States

All-formats reporting from a Michigan potato farm reveals how climate change threatens crop storage

After reporting for years on life-or-death results of global warming such as floods and wildfires, Traverse City, Michigan, correspondent John Flesher uncovered another serious but little-recognized consequence: Climate change poses an increasingly troublesome and costly threat to food crop storage in the United States and much of the world. 

To illustrate the problem, Flesher teamed with Detroit-based video journalist Mike Householder and photographer Carlos Osorio on the farm of a Michigan family now using refrigerators to cool their harvested potatoes. Michigan has been the top U.S. producer of potatoes used for chips, thanks to a mild climate that has — until now at least — let farmers store their crops for months using only outdoor air to cool them. Scientists say those conditions are likely become scarcer as the planet gets hotter.

The team’s exclusive, all-formats package drew strong play nationally. 

For relatable coverage that calls attention to an underreported consequence of climate change — one with widespread implications — the team of Flesher, Householder and Osorio wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 21083576492761 2000

July 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team explores NASA climate research in Louisiana delta

explained in all formats an intensive, highly technical NASA study of Louisiana’s deltas designed to help protect and bolster the world’s deltas dwindling with climate change.McConnaughey and Herbert captured the start of the five-year study that is expected to help countries around the globe decide which of their deltas can be saved and which are beyond help. New Orleans reporter McConnaughey, who has been writing for decades about Louisiana’s land loss, learned about the project through a news release and stayed in touch with NASA and Louisiana State University researchers for more than a year. She and photojournalist Herbert eventually joined one of the researchers on his own boat to interview scientists doing research in the field.Herbert also used his own small plane and a kayak — trips frequently delayed by storms and major breaking news — to get exquisite environmental shots and video of the delta to illustrate the wetlands and wildlife scientists hope to protect. Video journalist Plaisance combined her own video with Herbert’s for a piece bringing the research to life. A separate photo gallery of Herbert’s striking nature photos in Hog Bayou, with poetic text by McConnaughey, completed the multiformat package, making a complex scientific effort understandable.https://aplink.news/nh6https://aplink.photos/e2phttps://aplink.video/2t9

AP 21179740647871 hm delta1

Dec. 13, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘What Can Be Saved?’: Global series explores heroic efforts to revive ecosystems

The brief for the project was anything but simple: find a way to cover climate change’s effects on the planet in a way that avoided turning the audience off with a gloom-and-doom or heavily text-centric approach. 

The result was a sprawling environmental series that expanded the boundaries of AP’s visual storytelling. The series traveled to 10 countries on five continents, focusing on everything from attempts to bring back Jamaica’s coral reefs, to the conservation of lions and gorillas in Africa, to China’s ambitious plans to build a national park system, to a trip down one of Europe’s last wild rivers.

It was the work of 33 journalists, 15 editors and four translators throughout AP’s global newsroom, reaching millions of people across all formats – and not just because Leonardo DiCaprio touted some of the installments on Instagram and Twitter. 

For ambitious storytelling and compelling display on a subject of global significance, the extended team behind the “What Can Be Saved?” series wins AP’s Best of the Week award. This week’s cash award will be donated to AP’s Employee Relief Fund.

Ap 19269633978400 1920Opt

Dec. 08, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reveals how dirty US fuel byproduct contributes to India’s dangerously polluted air

Oil extracted from the tar sands of Canada has contributed to booming production among American refineries, but it also has created a messy legacy: Ton upon ton of a filthy byproduct called petroleum coke. U.S. utilities don’t want it because of its extremely high sulfur content, leaving refineries with one option – getting rid of it – because stockpiling had stirred community outcries. Tammy Webber, a Chicago-based reporter with the environmental beat team, wondered: If refineries couldn’t offload the substance in the U.S., what were they doing with it?

Through a year’s worth of detective work, Webber and her beat team colleague in New Delhi, Katy Daigle, traced the shadowy network that trades in oil refineries' bottom-of-the-barrel leftovers. They found that India was the leading destination of “petcoke” from the U.S., and Indian officials had no idea the amount of petcoke flowing into the country was 20 times more than just six years before. Nor did they know how it was being used in a country already choking on some of the world’s dirtiest air.

Within 24 hours of the story hitting the wire, India’s government announced it would phase out imports of petcoke and had begun working on a policy to end the practice.

For revealing the secretive transport of petroleum coke from the U.S. to one of the world’s most polluted countries, and for drawing an immediate reaction from the government of India, Webber and Daigle win this week’s Beat of the Week.

Ap 17335568264268 1024

Oct. 27, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Divided America: Seeing options shrinking, white men ask why

As the bitter election season winds down, a recurring theme has been the conviction among many white men that they have been losing ground in society. National writer Matt Sedensky wanted to find a way to tell their story for a concluding installment in the series Divided America.

The yearlong assessment of America’s national disunity comprised more than two dozen deeply reported, multi-format stories exploring splits along racial, religious and socio-economic lines, as well as clashing attitudes on issues ranging from gun regulation to immigration.

Sedensky focused on the views of white men turning toward Republican nominee Donald Trump and rejecting Democrat Hillary Clinton. He listened to the voices on a call-in radio show in Texas _ both host and callers revealing their angst _ and then, through backgrounding interviews with them and reporting on research, showed why these men feel as they do.

Ap 16288720144976

March 31, 2017

Best of the States

Coal ash: "Why would we be importing it?"

AP Richmond reporter Sarah Rankin learned from a state lawmaker that Chinese coal ash was being imported into Virginia, despite millions of tons of ash already stored near power plants, threatening surface and ground water with contamination by heavy metals. Like other states, Virginia is struggling with how to dispose of its existing waste.

Her story pinpointed where the overseas ash was coming from: China, India and Poland over the past two years. While the foreign shipments of the industrial byproduct were moving through Virginia to Wisconsin and Ohio, interviews with concrete producers and coal ash recyclers and sellers showed more ash was being imported into Virginia from other states.

One environmentalist raised the irony of the situation: "We have millions of tons of this sitting along our riverbanks. Why in the world would we be importing it from other states and countries?"

For exposing a problematic industry practice with statewide environmental and health implications, Rankin's story wins this week's Best of the States.

Ap 745597136413 1024

Sept. 08, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Toxic waste sites flooded; AP on the scene ahead of EPA

Hurricane Harvey inundated homes, flooded freeways and swamped entire neighborhoods. Florida-based reporter Jason Dearen, who was deployed to Houston to help cover the disaster, knew there might be something else submerged beneath the turbid floodwaters. Superfund sites, some of the nation’s most contaminated places, are scattered along the low-lying Gulf coastline, including in the Houston area.

Dearen had been trying to obtain a copy of a federal study about the risks of flooding at those sites from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but had been stonewalled for two weeks. Harvey’s destruction provided new urgency to his request. For help, he reached out to Washington investigative reporter Michael Biesecker, a fellow member of the AP’s environmental beat team.

Through creative reporting that relied on data, collaboration and Dearen’s newfound skills as a boat man, they became the first journalists to report on the extent of flooding at contaminated waste sites in and around Houston. The on-site observations by Dearen and freelance 360-video producer Claudia Prat raised concerns that some of the decades-old toxic stew left over from the oil, gas and chemical industries may have mixed with floodwaters. They also were on the ground – and on the water – before the EPA’s own inspectors. For their efforts, Dearen, Biesecker and Prat win Beat of the Week.

Ap 17244855765671 1024

March 15, 2019

Best of the States

Between the lines of a press release: Gray wolves could lose federal protection

The passing reference in a draft statement on an unrelated topic would have been easy miss. But Billings, Montana, correspondent Matthew Brown instantly recognized its significance – the U.S. was planning to lift protections for gray wolves, an action that would reignite the emotional debate over the predators’ resurgence.

Brown was reporting on sage grouse when he came across the draft Interior Department press release. It mentioned remarks that Acting Secretary David Bernhardt planned to make the next day at a wildlife conference in Denver: Gray wolves had recovered across the Lower 48 states.

Brown recognized the implication of that one sentence, and teamed up with fellow environmental beat team writer John Flesher of Traverse City, Michigan, to begin a race against the clock. Brown and Flesher scrambled to break the news before Bernhardt took the stage the next morning at the closed-press wildlife conference. Finally a source confirmed: Protections for wolves were again in the agency’s crosshairs.

The APNewsAlert moved at 8:45 a.m., a full 15 minutes before Bernhardt was scheduled to speak. Other news outlets were forced to follow in AP’s wake, posting their own stories that relied on a statement put out by Interior.

For seizing on a stray reference and reporting it out into a significant APNewsBreak on wolves, Brown and Flesher win this week’s Best of the States.

Ap 19065639388503 1024