May 10, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: California synagogue hadn’t used security funds received shortly before shooting

After a gunman opened fire in a Southern California synagogue on Passover, killing a woman and wounding a man, his 8-year-old niece and the rabbi leading the service, the inevitable question was asked: Could anything have been done to stop the violence?

Reporters Don Thompson and Adam Beam in Sacramento and Julie Watson in San Diego combined to report exclusively that the synagogue itself had recognized security deficiencies and even received a state grant to address them.

But it hadn’t spent the money, the AP team revealed.

For their exclusive follow-up to a crime that generated global attention, Thompson, Watson and Beam win this week’s Best of the States.

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Aug. 12, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: As imperiled species recover, some pose threat to others

reported exclusively and in all formats on a little-noticed ripple effect of saving endangerd wildlife: Some formerly imperiled species such as bald eagles, gray seals and merlin falcons are harming the recovery of others in dire shape by outcompeting them for food and living space.Studying scientific papers, interviewing experts and reporting from field — where researchers were using a robotic owl — the journalists found the pattern was showing up repeatedly. It didn’t mean conservation laws and programs were flawed, biologists said, but it showed that rescuing individual species wasn’t always enough — ecosystems need protection as well.Read more

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April 07, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: North Carolina’s costs for ‘bathroom bill’ calculated in billions

It began as an anniversary story, but one that would break news. With North Carolina’s hotly-contested “bathroom bill,” HB2, in place for nearly a year, AP’s Raleigh bureau was asked by the South Desk to assess the economic impact of the law limiting protections for the LGBT community.

Reporters Jonathan Drew and Emery Dalesio created a spreadsheet tallying the results of their digging, including searches of public records, among them previously unseen state calculations of lost business; they interviewed corporate leaders and state and local officials. And they were able to put a hard minimum figure on huge losses to the state economy even as legislators were negotiating a revision of HB2. “The deal was struck,” The New York Times noted, “days after The Associated Press reported that the backlash against the law would cost North Carolina at least $3.7 billion in business over 12 years.”

The timely exclusive by Drew and Dalesio is the Beat of the Week.

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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.

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Aug. 07, 2020

Best of the States

Players open up to AP, describe coach’s abusive practices at Oregon State

National sports writer Eddie Pells was first approached in February by the mom of a player who said she had some concerns about abuses going on in the volleyball program at Oregon State. 

Over the next five months, Pells conducted dozens of interviews both in and out of the program, and checked with experts to learn if volleyball coach Mark Barnard was over the line. Several athletes spoke to Pells, including a former OSU player who described how the coach’s abusive practices contributed to a suicide attempt. 

Pells’ exclusive led to immediate calls for the coach’s firing and questions about the university officials who didn’t take action after hearing complaints. 

For months of persistent and sensitive reporting despite uncertain prospects, resulting in an impressive story with impact, Pells wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 02, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Analysis: ‘Obamacare’ shapes state spending on opioid crisis

for their Health and Science accountability data project that revealed how millions is being spent to fight the opioid crisis. The AP analysis of FOIA records found that states with expanded Medicaid under “Obamacare” spent the funding more slowly than states that didn’t expand the health insurance program because the Medicaid already covers nearly everyone who is poor and needs treatment for addiction. https://bit.ly/2yVcqRm

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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May 01, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: VA struggles to protect patients, staff from virus

studied internal Veterans Affairs documents and inspector general reports, and worked sources among VA nurses and on Capitol Hill to report that the agency responsible for the health care of 9 million veterans was struggling to deal with the coronavirus. VA nurses were going to work without adequate protection against the virus and some 1,900 VA health care workers have contracted the coronavirus, according to agency documents obtained by the AP. Twenty have died. https://bit.ly/35msqLY

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July 13, 2017

Best of the States

AP reporting prompts bill forcing Nevada agencies to reveal federal reviews

Statehouse reporters know to follow the money, that to hold government accountable we need to know where taxpayer money goes and how it is used. Nevada temporary legislative reporter Alison Noon did just that recently and helped bring about a promised change in policy that will make the workings of the state capital more transparent.

Noon first began reporting a story that rural health clinics offering family planning services to low-income women had slashed services and were turning women away for lack of funding after federal grant money dried up.

In the course of her reporting, Noon learned the program’s federal funding had been cut after a scathing federal review that showed widespread mismanagement and poor medical practices at the rural clinics. That highly critical federal report went unmentioned when the program’s administrator sought additional state funds during the legislative session.

Noon set out to learn why. She found Nevada did not require state administrators to share the results of such federal reviews with anyone – not the governor, not department heads, not state auditors. Her reporting led to a recently proposed requirement that such reviews be shared with Nevada auditors.

For her unmatched APNewsBreak, Noon wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 08, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Data: Most California health volunteers not eligible

obtained data revealing that more than 85% of the 93,000 people who signed up for the California Health Corps either didn't have the required medical license or failed to fill out an application. Gov. Gavin Newsom had described the program as an army of volunteers to accommodate the expected massive surge of COVID-19 cases. Thompson found only about 5% of the sign-up total had been cleared to participate, and that 233 were being paid to staff an emergency hospital established in a vacant arena with no patients.https://bit.ly/2WyP53Khttps://bit.ly/3fkJvKV

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July 05, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Potential conflict for Trump’s UN nominee

for exclusively obtaining documents that expose a potential conflict of interest for Kelly Craft, President Donald Trump’s nominee for United Nations ambassador, on the topics of climate change and fossil fuels. When senior Environmental Protection Agency officials sent an email to Craft, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, the acknowledgment email they received wasn’t from the ambassador. It was from her husband, coal magnate Joseph Craft, a wealthy GOP donor who has joined the coal industry in pressing for access and regulatory relief from the EPA and the Trump administration. It wasn’t the first time the Crafts had blurred roles – and email accounts – raising questions as senators consider her nomination to the U.N. Knickmeyer found several other examples of potential conflicts. https://bit.ly/2LugYWy

July 01, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP delivers sweeping multiformat coverage of Title IX at 50

collaborated on a comprehensive all-formats package marking the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the groundbreaking law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools or education programs.Journalists in multiple disciplines — sports, education, race and ethnicity, and others — teamed up to develop story ideas and execution, coordinating resources to address the most important topics regarding Title IX: how the law was born, the impact it has had on athletes and women in general, the challenges it faces, the progress made and where the law falls short.The package included exclusive interviews with sports legends Billie Jean King and Ann Meyers, stories on transgender athletes, campus sexual assault, inequalities in opportunities for women of color, a scoop on an NCAA report examining the current status of Title IX, an AP Poll of Americans' perception of the progress made by Title IX, and more. All delivered over the course of 10 days in a curated presentation incorporating text, video, photos and graphics.Read more

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June 02, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

As Olympics loom, violence flares in Rio's slums, even those termed ‘pacified’

Ahead of the Olympics, an AP team in Rio wanted a close look at the city's slums, which have long been plagued with violence, to learn whether high-profile community policing programs are working in areas deemed `pacified.' Braving gunfire in what is considered a no-go area for reporters, AP produced up-close, all-formats coverage showing deadly violence continues to flare.

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Feb. 18, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Dogged reporting reveals DOJ studying safe drug injection sites

teamed up to break the news that the U.S. Department of Justice is reversing course and is now “evaluating” opening sites for people to use heroin and other narcotics with protections against fatal overdoses.New York reporter Jennifer Peltz had pressed the DOJ for months before the department signaled it might be open to such sites, and lead DOJ reporter Balsamo used his extensive experience to expand on the department’s measured comments, which represent a drastic change from their hard-line stance in the Trump administration. Read more

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Sept. 04, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigation: Thousands of environmental waivers granted amid pandemic

When the Trump administration waived enforcement of environmental protections because of the pandemic, a former EPA administrator called it a “license to pollute,” while public health officials told AP that it would be difficult to determine the impact.

At that, five AP reporters around the country embarked on a two-month, brute force effort to wrest loose state data on the suspended regulations.

They found more than 3,000 instances of environmental waivers to oil and gas companies, government facilities and other operations, with nationwide implications for public health. 

For deep reporting and painstaking analysis to document the potential consequences of relaxed environmental regulation, the team of Knickmeyer, Bussewitz, Flesher, Brown and Casey wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 02, 2018

Best of the States

Texas effort to streamline hurricane recovery backfires

As the six-month mark approached of Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas, Austin Administrative Correspondent Will Weissert and Fort Worth Correspondent Emily Schmall teamed up to report exclusively that the state’s decision to lead housing recovery – meant to be faster and better than anything the federal government could muster – was actually resulting in backlogs that made the chaotic response after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina look good by comparison.

Acting on a tip, the duo dug into federal records and added field reporting to produce a multi-format report showing that delay by the governor, and the state land office’s steep learning curve, meant temporary shelter and quick-fix home repair programs were rolling out at a startlingly slow pace.

For excellent sourcing and taking a deeper look at Texas’ hurricane recovery process, Weissert and Schmall share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Nov. 03, 2016

Best of the States

Lack of choice in health insurance markets a growing problem

The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is one of the most divisive political issues in America. So when word began circulating last summer of potential double-digit premium hikes, Washington health care reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar knew he'd have a major story on his hands. With those price hikes would come renewed fears insurers would leave the program.

Looking ahead to the autumn release of the data, Alonso-Zaldivar and data journalism Meghan Hoyer starting laying the groundwork for AP to offer something distinctive, that no other news organization would have.

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Jan. 29, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Up close, personal reporting on the US political divide

wanted to explore how people on different sides of the political gulf in the U.S. view the election and transfer of power.They found two Maryland residents who represent polar political opposites: one a Trump Republican who has two TVs tuned to conservative media; the other a staunch Democrat eager for the inauguration of Joe Biden. Both are members of a program designed to bridge the nation’s extraordinary political divide.The AP team followed as the pair navigated the turbulent transition between administrations, careful to report fairly while not making their divergent positions equivalent — the journalists made it clear that the facts establish Biden’s win and do not support claims of a stolen election. The all-formats package attracted attention and yes, sparked heated discussion online. https://bit.ly/3ckElj2https://bit.ly/2Yn9r19

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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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