Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Persistence pays off with story of bureaucrat blocking transition

wanted to know more about Emily Murphy, the little-known federal official who stalled the formal presidential transition by waiting more than two weeks to “ascertain” that Joe Biden was the apparent winner of the presidential race.Madhani reached out to every recent administrator of Muphy’s agency — the General Services Administration — as well as some lawmakers Murphy had worked for, but he wasn’t having any luck. His 10th call, a fortuitous cold call to Dave Barram, who ran the GSA during the Bush-Gore standoff in 2000, proved to be the jackpot. Madhani found Barram’s number in an online database.Barram revealed that he’d spoken with Murphy before the election to talk through how to handle ascertainment. He laid out his advice to her: “If you do the right thing, then all you have to do is live with the consequences of it.’”The call with Barram didn’t occur until late in the day, but Madhani instantly knew he had a story. He worked late to turn it around for AP’s most reader-engaged story of the day. https://bit.ly/32YG5ZQ

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June 04, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team probes the depth of racism in U.S. military ranks

teamed up to reveal how the roots of racism still run deep in all branches of the U.S. military, and how the Defense Department has done little to determine the scope of extremism in the ranks and take steps to address it.Although military members are often reluctant to speak out, fearful of damage to their careers or other forms of retaliation, this joint effort by AP race and ethnicity and investigative journalists landed searing interviews with active and former troops in nearly every branch of the armed services. They told of being taunted by racial slurs, disrespected by colleagues and discouraged by superiors from openly embracing their cultures.Among their other findings: The military’s judicial system has no explicit category for hate crimes, and the Defense Department still has no way to track the number of troops ousted for extremist views. The Defense Department had three weeks to respond to detailed questions, but failed to do so by the deadline. Once the piece was published and officials saw the depth and breadth of the AP’s reporting the DOD came forward with a 3,000-word statement that was incorporated in the live story.https://bit.ly/3gcO9fdhttps://bit.ly/3gcRXx1

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July 26, 2019

Best of the States

When worlds collide: FOIA reveals ousted Iowa official’s fixation with Tupac Shakur

When Gov. Kim Reynolds abruptly fired Jerry Foxhoven, the head of the Iowa Department of Human Services, she refused to say why.

But within days of the firing, Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley got a startling tip: The ouster may have been due to Foxhoven’s over-the-top fondness for the late Tupac Shakur. A Freedom of Information Act request yielded 350 pages of official emails referencing the hip-hop artist, and on the day before Foxhoven was asked to resign he had sent a mass email to all 4,300 DHS employees telling them to commemorate Shakur’s birthday.

Foley’s story caused a nearly instant sensation in Iowa and among national outlets that credited the AP for the scoop while giving their own spin on the story.

For investigating a tip rather than laughing it off, and then writing a story that managed the rare feat of connecting state government to a 1990s rap icon, Foley wins 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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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: Mexico diverted development funds under US pressure

used public records requests and persistent reporting to scoop the competition on Mexico’s diversion, under U.S. pressure, of more than $4 million from a fund meant to address the root causes of migration. The money was instead used to bus asylum seekers away from the U.S. border and renovate immigration detention centers. Former officials and experts reacted to the story with harsh criticism of the administration of President Andrés Manual López Obrador. https://bit.ly/33Dn5iK

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March 13, 2020

Best of the States

Tennessee team does double duty when tornadoes strike on Super Tuesday

When tornadoes tore through Middle Tennessee in the early-morning hours of Super Tuesday, AP’s staff deftly pivoted from preparing for the state’s primary to covering a natural disaster. 

From first light on Tuesday and throughout the day, Nashville and Memphis staffers delivered compelling all-formats coverage of the devastation that left at least 24 dead statewide. The team also connected the disaster to the primary, monitoring the impact on voting.

Strong aftermath coverage followed, including a presidential visit on Friday and well-received pieces on recovery efforts and a worship service at a damaged church. With out-of-state staffers and the entire South Desk contributing to the coverage, the sustained effort showed the AP at its best.

For proving nimble, responsive and collaborative coverage on a major breaking news story under chaotic conditions, the multiformat Tennessee team of Travis Loller, Kristin Hall, Kimberlee Kruesi, Mark Humphrey, Jonathan Mattise, Adrian Sainz and Teresa Walker shares this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP story gets stranded Easter Islanders home after 6 months

reported exclusively on 25 Easter Islanders who were stranded far from home for more than six months because their flights had been canceled during the coronavirus. Within two weeks of AP’s story, authorities in France, French Polynesia and Chile repatriated the travelers on a French military plane.Perry in New Zealand learned about the group and their situation on a French Polynesia Facebook page he monitors. He collaborated with colleague Vergara in Santiago, Chile, who was able to conduct interviews in Spanish and provide context from the Chilean side.The repatriation of the islanders was more rewarding than story metrics or a win over the competition, providing a welcome moment of brightness during the global pandemic.https://bit.ly/34L0mSFhttps://bit.ly/3lBwaQz

April 10, 2020

Best of the States

Only on AP: The delicate subject of funerals, now held at a distance

When a South Carolina Army veteran died last month, his family decided to invite The Associated Press to take one of the few spots the funeral home would allow for people at the service. His loved ones knew this funeral and their mourning would look different from the usual rituals, and they wanted to share that with other families faced with grief in the coronavirus outbreak. 

North Carolina-based journalist Sarah Blake Morgan took on the delicate task. She shot photos and video from an appropriate social distance, not only to stay safe but out of respect for the family. In her images and words, she painted a picture of a ritual that once brought people comfort but now brings new tension and challenges. 

For her sensitive work delivering a moving Only on AP package on a human angle of the virus outbreak, Morgan wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 26, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Determined source work exposes horrific massacre in holy city of Ethiopia’s isolated Tigray region

Ethiopia’s military campaign in its defiant Tigray province has been shrouded in secrecy since the conflict started in November, but AP East Africa correspondent Cara Anna has been determined to report what happened in the virtually sealed-off region. She has chased every lead through relentless source work, building contacts and networks as she reported one exclusive after another.

For this latest exclusive, Anna had been hearing rumors of a massacre in the holy city of Axum. When phone service returned to the city recently, she was able to reach the deacon of the Axum church who described in disturbing detail the mass killings by Eritrean troops. He believes some 800 people were killed that weekend at the church and around the city, and that thousands in Axum have died in all. Anna found other survivors who corroborated the deacon’s story and offered additional details.

Her reporting scooped all other media and even human rights groups who had been investigating Axum. It also drew rare and surprisingly quick responses from the governments of both Eritrea and Ethiopia.

For determined and resourceful reporting to break through the secrecy surrounding the Tigray conflict and expose the atrocity at Axum, Anna wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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May 28, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Indians rich and poor face pandemic hardship on their own

revealed how failures of India’s government during the pandemic have left Indians across the country — from the poor to the rich — struggling virtually on their own. Despite a surge of coronavirus illness and death within the AP staff in India, the team put together an intimate story that showed how the pandemic impacted Indians from all walks of life.The story was born when, during a call, health and science reporter Ghosal noted that Indians across the social spectrum faced severe shortages of services and resources. Someone he knew was even asking where he could get wood for a funeral pyre. The team went out to look for people to tell the story, eventually narrowing the list to three families.Photographer Rahi went to the home of a woman who scavenged human hair in Bengaluru despite coronavirus concerns, and Ghosal provided photos from Delhi. Hussain reported details from family members whose stories were chronicled in the article, and enterprise correspondent Sullivan wove the piece together, capturing the poignancy and despair of the situation on the ground in India. From diplomats to sewer cleaners, no has been immune to the hardships wrought by the virus, as the medical system neared collapse and the government found itself unprepared. https://aplink.news/plz

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Oct. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: First reports of starvation deaths in Tigray

continued AP’s standout coverage of conflict in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, revealing evidence of the first starvation deaths since the Ethiopian government imposed a blockade in June.Getting any information at all out of Tigray right now is a coup — the government has blocked Internet access and humanitarian groups are terrified to talk to the press for fear of being thrown out of the region. Despite these conditions, Nairobi-based East Africa correspondent Anna managed to paint a picture of the desperate food shortage in Tigray.Anna obtained internal documents showing that an aid group reported starvation deaths in every single district it covered, the most extensive account yet of the blockade’s impact. She also obtained a list of items aid workers are no longer allowed to bring into Tigray — multivitamins, can openers, even personal medicines.

The story clearly exposed the government’s assertion of no hunger in Tigray as a lie, the latest example of AP holding the government accountable for what is turning into a humanitarian catastrophe.Any story on famine relies strongly on visuals. With no access to the region, Nairobi-based chief photographer Ben Curtis dedicated himself to securing the necessary permissions and added information to use exclusive handout photos from sources in Tigray, including a former hospital director. The photos are horrifying, showing children on the brink of starvation, including one child who died.AP’s story drew widespread attention and praise. Anna was interviewed by the BBC World Service and NPR, and the piece was tweeted, including by Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Other news organizations have followed AP’s lead on the story. https://aplink.news/3hq

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Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AWOL weapons: ’Explosive’ investigation of missing military ordnance

expanded AP’s “AWOL Weapons” investigation, revealing how explosives are lost or stolen from the U.S. armed services, sometimes with deadly consequences.When AP reported in June that the U.S. military couldn’t account for all its firearms, the team knew there was more to uncover. Their latest installment reports that hundreds (if not thousands) of armor-piercing grenades and hundreds of pounds of plastic explosives also vanished.AP’s investigation was built on data the team extracted from the military, and which data editor Myers marshaled for analysis. Investigative reporter LaPorta filed the original Freedom of Information Act request with the Marines, obtaining data that was crucial to framing the scope of the problem, while video journalist Hall and investigative reporter Pritchard used exclusive investigative case files to detail how troops stole plastic explosives. At a major Marine base a sergeant hoarded C4 because he feared Donald Trump would lose; after another insider theft, explosives ended up with high school kids.Hall found a man who survived the explosion of an artillery shell at the Mississippi recycling yard where he worked. His co-worker died. That emotional interview alone drew more than 56,000 Twitter views. Combined with exclusive interrogation footage of Marines, video journalists Serginho Roosblad and Jeannie Ohm wove together a compelling video package using interviews by colleagues Stacey Plaisance and Robert Bumsted. Senior researcher Jennifer Farrar also contributed.The online presentation by Raghu Vadarevu, Natalie Castañeda and Peter Hamlin took the distinctive visual language they previously developed for the series and gave it even more impact. Thanks also to the expert wordsmithing of editor Jerry Schwartz and a well-conceived social media plan by audience engagement specialist Elise Ryan, the package scored over 130,000 views on AP News, more than double other top stories. The story also generated media buzz, including a prominent interview with Hall by CNBC’s Shepard Smith.https://aplink.news/xjghttps://aplink.news/d7yhttps://aplink.video/xnn

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds diversity of politics and religion among West Virginia evangelicals

A tweet was the seed for this illuminating story. “Most people in my rural, Appalachian hometown are being radicalized at church by their pastor, which is the person they trust the most,” it read. AP’s Global Religion team ran with it.

Reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski visited the parishioners of three churches in Bluefield, West Virginia, including one pastor who had attended the Jan. 6 Washington rally that degenerated into a riot. The AP pair spent weeks convincing him to sit down for an interview. The result was an all-formats package of diverse congregations seeking common ground, even as they are divided on the role of evangelical Christianity in American politics. 

For applying gentle persuasion and balanced reporting to produce a nuanced look at religion and politics in one West Virginia town, Henao and Wardarski win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Dec. 14, 2018

Best of the States

Years of planning pay off in ‘picture perfect’ coverage of Bush funeral events

For more than a decade, Washington photo editor Jon Elswick has negotiated with the Department of Defense over coverage plans for the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, while Houston photojournalist David Phillip fostered a relationship with the Bush family and their spokesman to secure AP’s shooting positions for the eventual funeral events.

Those relationships were crucial to arranging and executing coverage, paving the way for more than two dozen staffers to parachute into Washington, Houston and College Station, Texas, where they produced outstanding photos in real time and for the history books.

Among the highlights: Photographer Morry Gash fired a remote-controlled camera that captured a stunning bird’s-eye view of the U.S. Capitol rotunda during visitation and services, and David Phillip negotiated to shoot inside the railroad car carrying the coffin as the funeral train passed through Texas. Phillip called it “the most incredible event I have ever covered.”

The photo coverage was part of an impressive dayslong cross-format effort by scores of AP staff across the country and globe that included hours of live video and spot and breaking text, video, audio and graphics coverage that explored Bush’s life and presidency from every angle.

For exceptional planning and execution on one of the largest news events of the year, this week’s Best of the States goes to the team of photo staff covering the Bush funeral.

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Nov. 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Distinctive AP photo project depicts Israelis, Palestinians sharing summer on distant shores

For years, AP’s Khalil Hamra and Oded Balilty have captured the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through their award-winning photography. This summer they turned their lenses away from the violence and onto a place of refuge for both sides: the stretch of beaches along the Mediterranean Sea.

With Balilty making images from Tel Aviv and Hamra from Gaza, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers produced an evocative essay showing Palestinians and Israelis basking on the beach, separated by 70 kilometers (40 miles) and free from fear of the next eruption of fighting. The photographers have met just once, years ago, but communicated online about what they were seeing, made pictures, shared them and then set out to find similar ones from their respective sides.

The immersive presentation includes an engaging video revealing more about the photographers and how they applied their craft.

For a strikingly unique, creative collaboration that brought, in Balilty’s words, “something positive” from a part of the world beset by conflict, Hamra and Balilty earn this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner award.

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Oct. 15, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP all-formats team gets rare, exclusive access to Taliban crackdown on drug users

From a fetid bridge underpass frequented by addicts, to a police station, to a grim drug detoxification ward, this all-formats package driven by powerful visuals takes a stunning look at Afghanistan’s drug underworld and the severe treatment of heavy drug users by the Taliban. The work also bears witness to AP’s robust reporting from Afghanistan, which has continued unabated since the Taliban takeover.

Video journalist Mstyslav Chernov, photographer Felipe Dana and correspondent Samya Kullab, all currently on assignment in Kabul, gained rare access to this especially bleak segment of Afghan life, earning the trust of street addicts and, through a combination of persistence and luck, documenting Taliban detention of users, all amid a difficult and dangerous environment for journalists.For a rare exclusive that sets a high standard for coverage while shedding light on a harsh reality in Afghanistan, the team of Chernov, Dana and Kullab is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 11, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Accountability reporting uncovers taxpayer-funded anti-abortion centers, racial disparities in access

With the continued weakening of state laws protecting women’s rights to abortion in the U.S., the AP’s strong coverage of abortion continues with two stories earning Best of the Week for impressive state accountability reporting and analysis.

A story that surfaced in Tennessee, finding federal dollars being spent on nonprofits aligned with the anti-abortion movement, revealed that legislatures in about a dozen U.S. states were funneling millions of taxpayer dollars to so-called crisis pregnancy centers that are typically unlicensed and have been accused of engaging in misinformation campaigns targeting pregnant women.

A second story focused on racial inequities in access to abortion, an idea sparked by an observation during a visit to the Shreveport, La., abortion clinic where almost every woman in the waiting room was Black. The all-formats package showed how minority women in states where abortion is under attack have the most to lose if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Both stories drew strong play on AP News and customer platforms.

For revelatory state stories on two elements in the pitched national debate over abortion rights, Kruesi, Willingham, Wagster Pettus, Nasir, Solis and Lo earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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April 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP examines vaccine inequity for already marginalized workers

teamed up with international colleagues for a compelling account of vaccine inequity in India, Africa and Latin America, exposing the plight of an estimated 20 million informal waste workers who keep cities clean and divert waste away from landfills but are not yet eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine.Health and science reporter Ghosal was exploring vaccine policy in India when he was stuck by the sheer invisibility of the scavengers who live on the fringes, far from the public discourse around who should be prioritized for vaccination. Ghosal worked with photographer Qadri and video journalist Ganguly for on-the-ground reporting at the massive garbage mountain on the outskirts of New Delhi. They came back with moving personal stories that added depth to the narrative, with powerful visuals laying bare the workers’ experience amid grinding poverty.To amplify the work, Ghosal reached out to colleagues across Africa and in Latin America, who shared similar accounts of exclusion and deep-rooted inequalities in access to health care. They delivered, adding to a story that included contributions by Brian Inganga and Tom Odula in Nairobi, Farai Mutsaka in Zimbabwe, Mogomotsi Magome in Johannesburg, Marco Ugarte in Mexico City, Ariana Cubillos in Venezuela and Manish Swarup in New Delhi.The arresting all-formats package highlighted how the pandemic has exacerbated existing income inequalities. The words and images of trash pickers wearing discarded protective suits in Nairobi, and scavengers plunging their bare hands into thousands of tons of garbage in New Delhi, reveal a community of marginalized workers who struggle to get vaccinated despite providing a service many consider essential.https://bit.ly/3utbKO7https://bit.ly/3fNIDAZhttps://bit.ly/2R8XA6l

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Sept. 07, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team parlays Aretha Franklin pool coverage into exclusives

The farewell to the Queen of Soul promised to be an extravaganza – days of tributes, musical performances and a marathon funeral.

The AP team diligently prepared for the events and when the time came, the combined efforts of Detroit-based photographer Paul Sancya and Miami-based visual journalist Josh Replogle turned a pair of pool opportunities into two exclusives during the week of mourning for Aretha Franklin in Detroit.

Among the highlights: Sancya’s shot of Franklin lying in her casket with red heels clearly visible, video and photos of the singer in her final resting place and an exclusive interview with a controversial pastor.

Their work earns the Beat of the Week.

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May 04, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

CDC director accepts pay cut after AP examines his salary

A small reference to a big number in a Wall Street Journal story about the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caught medical writer Mike Stobbe’s attention. It reported that Dr. Robert Redfield’s salary was $375,000.

That seemed like a large sum, much more than previous CDC directors had been paid, thought Stobbe, who has covered the nation’s top public health agency for more than 12 years.

His hunch proved correct. His subsequent reporting showed that Redfield’s compensation was nearly double that of the previous Trump administration nominee, who resigned after six months, and more than the government’s other top health officials.

The scoop – which led Redfield to later ask for a pay cut – nets Stobbe this week’s Beat of the Week.

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