March 16, 2018

Best of the States

AP analysis: NRA contributes to schools; few willing to decline the money

Major corporations were cutting ties with the National Rifle Association after the massacre at a Florida high school, but what about schools that had received grants from the gun organization? It was a natural follow to the Associated Press’ exclusive story that the alleged shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had belonged to a school JROTC program that received NRA grants.

Data journalist Meghan Hoyer dug through tax records to identify the schools that had received more than $7 million in NRA grants. Education beat team member Collin Binkley began calling recipients around the country to see if they would forgo the money. Few said they would.

For their work breaking news on a story that everyone is reporting and providing data that allowed AP members to localize the story, Binkley and Hoyer will receive this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Feb. 23, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP photo and reporting beats from Florida school shooting

– Photographer Joel Auerbach’s poignant image of two women crying outside a Florida high school as parents awaited news about their children after a gunman’s deadly rampage on the campus.

– Reporters Michael Biesecker and Collin Binkley’s exclusive reporting that the suspect was a “good shot” on a National Rifle Association-backed rifle team at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The two exclusives helped distinguish the coverage of the shooting at the school that left 17 dead. For capturing the human toll in a single iconic image and shedding light on the suspect’s marksmanship training, Auerbach, Biesecker and Binkley win this week’s Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 02, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Investigation: Secret report linked Honduran national police chief to cartel coke delivery

Reporters Christopher Sherman, Martha Mendoza and Garance Burke were weeks into a deep look at police misconduct in Honduras, where public mistrust of law enforcement is among the highest in the world. So when they heard a new national police chief had been appointed, they immediately shifted gears and began asking questions about him.

What they found was explosive – a confidential government security document that detailed a troubling allegation regarding the force. It said the newly named National Police Chief Jose David Aguilar Moran had once helped a drug cartel leader pull off the delivery of nearly a ton of cocaine. The clandestine haul, worth at least $20 million on U.S. streets, was packed inside a tanker truck that, the report said, was escorted by corrupt police officers to the home of Wilter Blanco, a drug trafficker recently convicted in Florida and now serving a 20-year sentence.

For their dogged reporting, Sherman, Mendoza and Burke share the Beat of the Week.

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Jan. 19, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP NewsBreak: AP scoops everyone on ICE's 7-Eleven hiring sweep, biggest raid under Trump

Associated Press reporter Elliot Spagat has spent years covering the U.S.-Mexico border, building sources within the federal agencies that enforce the nation’s immigration laws and earning the respect of senior officials.

That source work paid off when Spagat scored an exclusive ride-along as federal agents executed what officials called the largest immigration action against an employer under Donald Trump’s presidency: An early-morning sweep of nearly 100 7-Eleven stories that targeted the stores’ owners, rather than the workers.

One U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said the operation was “a harbinger of what’s to come” for employers.

For his efforts to put AP ahead of the competition (some news organizations cited AP while their own reporters rushed to confirm the story), Spagat wins this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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Jan. 05, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP NewsBreak: US soldier fought to the end after ambush in Niger

The horror tales from Niger – as reported by some of the world’s most reputable media – were gruesome: Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four Americans who died on a mysterious U.S. Army Special Forces mission in early October, had been captured alive, tortured, killed execution-style at close range and his remains had been mutilated.

The details were all erroneous, it turned out.

It took the AP’s Pentagon reporter Lita Baldor to set the record straight with a stunning scoop on an otherwise quiet Washington Sunday in December, revealing the findings of a still confidential Pentagon report.

For an unmatched story that revealed the heroism of an American soldier who died in the line of duty, Baldor wins this week’s Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 15, 2017

Best of the States

AP photo team owns Southern California wildfire coverage

Late in the evening on Dec. 4, West Region photo editor Stephanie Mullen was monitoring a fire that broke out in Ventura County, about 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Mullen knew that if the notorious Santa Ana winds really picked up the flames could start burning homes.

She hired Northern California freelance photographer Noah Berger, an expert at shooting wildfires, and partnered him with Los Angeles-based staff photographer Jae Hong. Berger and Hong were in place as daylight broke and the fire surged into the city of Ventura, where it burned hundreds of homes. They rapidly shot and filed, allowing AP to deliver striking imagery before our competitors had even started their day.

The AP owned the coverage in those important early hours with impressive play globally.

Later that morning, Orange County-based photographer Chris Carlson worked his way through road closures to make images of horses being rescued and flames overwhelming homes in Los Angeles County. And as the week wore on, photographer Greg Bull snaked his way through roadblocks and heavy traffic to capture nighttime images of fires in San Diego County, then slept in his car and got haunting daybreak photos of the destruction.

For providing a photo package no competitor could rival, Hong, Carlson, Bull and Berger share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Nov. 10, 2017

Best of the States

Rapid response after truck driver kills eight on New York bike path

AP photographers often scramble to the scene of a news story before it’s clear what is happening.

That was the case on a beautiful Halloween afternoon last week when a call came in to the New York City bureau that there was a swarm of police activity near the AP’s lower Manhattan headquarters. News Editor David Caruso ran to the windows and saw an unbroken string of police cars speeding south on the West Side Highway, going down the wrong side of the street. That was enough for him to scramble reporters, photographers and videographers out the door.

At the scene, AP photographer Bebeto Matthews slipped behind police lines and started walking up the street near the west side bike path. He noticed something white on the path and soon realized it was a body covered in a sheet, surrounded by crumpled bicycles and other debris. He began furiously taking pictures, called in what he saw to the desk and then ducked behind some construction equipment to start transmitting his photos on the spot.

Meanwhile, AP photographer Mark Lennihan and stringer photographers Craig Ruttle and Andres Kudacki had also rushed to the scene, making dramatic photos of what would become the worst terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11.

For strong breaking news work that put AP ahead and kept us there, Matthews, Lennihan, Ruttle and Kudacki win this weeks’ Best of the States Award.

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Oct. 13, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive visuals, reporting distinguish Vegas shooting coverage

It was just one of the many mysteries surrounding the Las Vegas concert shooting: How did the gunman, perched up on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort, fire off as many as 90 rounds onto thousands of concert-goers in just 10 seconds, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds?

Reporters Sadie Gurman and Mike Balsamo found the answer. Through sourcework, they learned that Stephen Paddock was able to carry out his assault in moments because he had used two “bump stocks,” devices that allow a semi-automatic rifle to repeatedly fire like a machine gun.

The scoop was part of an impressive week of coverage by staff in the Las Vegas bureau and across the AP that also included photographer John Locher’s dramatic images of police screaming for people to take cover as the gunman sprayed the crowd with bullets.

For their work in bringing critical details and images of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Gurman, Balsamo and Locher win this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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Sept. 15, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team captures plight of Rohingya, casts doubt on Myanmar government claims

It was a tide of humanity that just kept getting larger.

Driven from their homes by mass violence after a clash between insurgents and police, Rohingya Muslims from a borderland state in Buddhist-majority Myanmar streamed into neighboring Bangladesh where they faced homelessness, more potential violence and deeply uncertain futures.

Day after excruciating day, an AP team of journalists on both sides of the border painted a portrait of human misery and the hope that always lurks within it – and cast doubt on claims by Myanmar’s government that Rohingya villagers set fire to their own homes.

For their work to focus the world’s attention on the Rohingya’s exodus, Delhi staffers – photographer Bernat Armangue, correspondent Muneeza Naqvi and video journalist Al-emrun Garjon – and Myanmar correspondent Esther Htusan win this week’s Beat of the Week award.

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Aug. 31, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Image of Hurricane Harvey rescue tells story of tenderness and unity, dominates front pages

Young Aiden Pham wasn't even awake for his brief moment in the spotlight. But Houston photographer David Phillip was there to capture the toddler in what would become an iconic image of Hurricane Harvey and the historic floods.

The photo of the sleeping 13-month-old, swaddled in a blanket and held in his mother's arms as they're carried to safety, was among the many dramatic rescues of the floods that have inundated southeast Texas.

The image – which appeared on the web and front pages across the country, including the Wall Street Journal – along with others taken by Phillip earn him the Beat of the Week.

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Aug. 10, 2017

Best of the States

Photographer reports exclusive details of Oakland player using gay slur against fan

A photographer needs more than a good eye to do the job.

On Friday night, August 4, Los Angeles-based photographer Mark J. Terrill landed the AP a scoop with sharp hearing.

In the eighth inning of the Angels’ game against the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles’ CJ Cron made a diving stop of Matt Joyce’s hard-hit line drive, which elicited loud cheers from the crowd in Anaheim. As Joyce ran back to the dugout Terrill heard the Oakland player in a heated exchange with a fan, cursing at the fan using a gay slur.

Terrill's reporting was used by AP's stringer covering the game for Sports, and expanded by Baseball Writer Ron Blum who recognized the importance of the incident. The AP story went unmatched overnight. Even after the A's addressed the incident, most media outlets continued to cite the AP story throughout.

For their enterprising efforts, Terrill and Blum split this week’s $300 Best of the States award.

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July 06, 2017

Best of the States

Long leads team coverage of fatal hospital shooting

New York City police reporter Colleen Long was taking the elevator at police headquarters on a quiet Friday afternoon before the Fourth of July weekend when she overheard a couple of patrol officers suddenly talking with alarm. “Oh my God,” one of them said. “Something’s going on at Bronx Lebanon Hospital. I think an active shooter.”

Long got off on the next stop and immediately called a source as she took the stairs down to her office in the second-floor press room, known as “the shack.” By the time she got to the desk, she had enough information to call the New York City bureau with a barebones APNewsAlert: “NEW YORK (AP) — Police are responding to a report of shots fired inside a New York City hospital.”

So began a bureau-wide reporting effort on a story that would unfold in unusual detail, even in the long litany of American gun violence. For leading a team effort that put the AP out front and kept us there, Colleen Long wins the Best of the States Award and the $300 that goes with it for the second week in a row.

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July 06, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Long-form 360 video project provides riveting look at battle for Mosul

Iraqi Humvees wind their way through the pockmarked streets of Mosul. The rattle of gunfire and thud of a nearby airstrike fill the air. Terrified civilians scurry across the road to safety.

In the APs first long-form 360 video project, Middle East Photo Editor Maya Alleruzzo teamed up with video editor Claudia Prat to produce a riveting and harrowing video, "House to House: The Battle for Mosul." The 8-minute video earns Alleruzzo the Beat of the Week.

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May 19, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Where’s Comey? Sleuthing skills locate him, leading to exclusive AP photos

When major news breaks – such as President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey – journalism 101 dictates: Find the principals. We knew where the president was. Locating Comey, on the other hand, was more difficult.

The determined, diligent sleuthing efforts of news researcher Monika Mathur tracked Comey, allowing The Associated Press to get exclusive and widely used photos of him. Those efforts earn the Beat of the Week.

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April 14, 2017

Best of the States

Brown reveals thousands of safety defects on oil train lines in 44 states

As domestic production of oil has increased in recent years, Billings, Montana, Correspondent Matthew Brown closely followed derailments of trains carrying volatile crude. A train from North Dakota jumped the track, exploded and killed 47 people in Canada in 2013. In Brown’s own state, a derailment near the town of Culbertson spilled 27,000 gallons of oil in 2015. Last year, Brown reported that more than 800 potential safety violations were discovered on Union Pacific freight lines after a fiery June 2016 oil train derailment in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

But Brown wanted to know how widespread the problem really was. By pushing repeatedly for public records and working with a longtime source, Brown was able to exclusively report the results of a two-year federal inspection program for the nation’s oil trains – and he revealed that some safety defects uncovered where similar to ones blamed in derailments that triggered huge fires or oil spills in Oregon, Virginia, Montana and elsewhere. For his AP NewsBreak, Brown wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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