Sept. 22, 2017

Best of the States

Request denied? Sunshine Hub sheds light on state efforts to block public access

Beyond its dramatic effects, the audio from 911 calls can provide the kind of context that is essential to the public's understanding of what happened during a newsworthy crime or emergency. Those recordings are, with few exceptions, a matter of public record. That almost changed this year in Iowa, where the state House passed – unanimously – a bill that would end the public's ability to access many 911 calls. The bill eventually died after an outcry from the media, watchdog groups and civil rights organizations, but it was not unusual. A months-long project by AP reporters and data journalists found more than 150 bills introduced in state legislatures this year that were intended to eliminate or limit public access to a wide range of government records and meetings.

To help reporters find, track and provide input on those bills, Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen of the data team created a unique online tool that provided full access to AP customers.

Called the Sunshine Hub, it helps users keep track of legislative activity related to government transparency, suggest new bills, search for and categorize bills for research purposes, and discuss legislation with others. The Sunshine Hub directly complemented stories by Ryan Foley in Iowa, Andrew DeMillo in Arkansas and Laurie Kellman in Washington.

For their groundbreaking reporting and software development, Tumgoren, Rasmussen, Foley, DeMillo and Kellman win this week's Best of the States award.

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June 21, 2019

Best of the States

25 years after unresolved killings, O.J. Simpson tells AP: ‘life is fine’

Two weeks before the 25th anniversary of the killings that led to O.J. Simpson’s “Trial of the Century,” special correspondent Linda Deutsch was summoned from retirement to try to coax an interview from the fallen football star. Simpson hadn’t submitted to an interview since being released from prison in 2017, and he turned down an interview request from Deutsch last year. But Deutsch tried again, this time by phone. O.J. didn't want to talk, but he relented after Deutsch reminded him that if he spoke to her, AP’s story would reach all media.

Simpson wouldn’t discuss the crime, but he provided a glimpse into a life now very much outside the public eye, telling Deutsch “life is fine,” a quote that stung any who believed he got away with murder.

Deutsch’s story, including two photos of Simpson at home that were exclusive to the AP, was the day’s top-read AP story online, and the centerpiece of a multi-story package looking back at Simpson’s trial, its key figures and its impact.

For a timely, exclusive interview with a man who remains the focus of intense public interest, Linda Deutsch receives AP’s Best of the States award.

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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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Aug. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team dominates coverage of controversial Belarus vote

overcame a beating at the hands of police and an internet blackout to deliver compelling footage and images, including exclusive interviews, throughout the disputed Belarus presidential election. When the state-run exit poll was announced after the vote, showing longtime authoritarian president President Alexander Lukashenko with 80% of the vote, thousands took to the streets. They were met with force by riot police as the government shut down the internet and tried to close the country off from the rest of the world. Video journalist Mstyslav Chernov was among those beaten and detained as police clashed with protesters.Despite the obstacles, AP outperformed the competition, working around the blackout to transmit strong all-formats coverage to the world ahead of other agencies.https://bit.ly/31PWEWahttps://bit.ly/2DCMZKNhttps://bit.ly/2XSMuCYhttps://bit.ly/3kysJdT

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Oct. 13, 2016

Best of the States

Barely half of illegal border crossers caught

More than two years ago, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered a comprehensive review of border security and, as part of that effort, commissioned a report looking at who and what gets into the U.S. from Mexico. It was completed in May but never publicly released.

San Diego correspondent Elliot Spagat took note last month when The Arizona Republic and Fox News did stories about the secrecy surrounding the report. He also noted that U.S. House border security subcommittee Chairwoman Martha McSally sent a letter to Johnson demanding that the taxpayer-funded study be made public.

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Dec. 02, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

As women take to the streets, an in-depth look at domestic violence in France

Kamil Zihnioglu has seen lots of protests while working as a photo stringer for The Associated Press in Paris, but these campaigns were different, focused on a dark, unreconstructed side of an otherwise progressive France.

Every time a woman is killed by her partner, hundreds of activists take to the streets under cover of night to plaster signs decrying the deaths and pleading for government action. 

But Zihnioglu wanted to tell the story behind the protests. He spent weeks gaining the activists’ trust, and he teamed up with visiting video journalist Mstyslav Chernov to tell their story. Meanwhile, reporter Claire Parker and the Paris video team of Catherine Gaschka and Oleg Cetinic produced a powerful all-format package digging into deadly domestic violence in France.

For bringing attention to an issue that is often ignored, Kamil Zihnioglu, Claire Parker, Mystslav Chernov, Catherine Gaschka and Oleg Cetinic win AP’s Best of the Week.

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Sept. 28, 2018

Best of the States

How 65 women came to Kavanaugh's defense in a matter of hours

Within hours of their high school friend being accused publicly of sexual assault against a young woman 36 years ago, 65 women stepped forward to sign a letter supporting Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was now at risk.

Many in newsrooms asked themselves, how was it possible that 65 people could be marshalled so quickly to attest to someone’s moral character, including people who may not have seen Kavanaugh in decades. Reporters in four states, Jennifer Peltz in New York, Michael Kunzelman in Baltimore, Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston and Dan Sewell in Ohio, set out to reach every single one.

They learned that the campaign had started with phone calls among several high-school friends of Kavanaugh, and organizers used social media to expand their search.

The story, demonstrating AP's ability to marshal staffers across state lines on a tight timeline, was the top non-spot story of the week.

For their efforts, Shafner, Peltz, Kunzelman, Richer and Sewell share this week's Best of the States award.

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Nov. 19, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

At the intersection of population growth and extreme heat, AP interactive brings global climate data to life

The team of data journalist Nicky Forster, science writer Drew Costley and storytelling producer Peter Hamlin, joined by AP colleagues, worked for months on an immersive interactive that takes readers across the globe, visualizing how and where exposure to extreme heat is escalating and its impact on population centers.

After securing early access to historical data tracking both population growth and a specific metric that gauges the impact of extreme temperatures on human health, AP’s analysis found that between 1983 and 2016, exposure to dangerous heat tripled, and now affects about a quarter of the world’s population.

The team spent weeks building an engaging presentation with 3D graphics and illustrations that brought the piece to life, drawing in readers. The interactive marked the latest example of AP’s new storytelling formats and stood out from the deluge of coverage during the United Nations climate summit in Scotland.

For their resourcefulness, creativity and dedication in helping AP’s audience understand the far-ranging impact of global warming in a new way, the team of Forster, Costley and Hamlin is this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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May 28, 2021

Best of the States

Only on AP: A report of college rape, a Facebook admission years later and a woman’s fight for justice

“So I raped you.” 

That message on Facebook, years after Shannon Keeler left college, sent her back to the night as a freshman that changed her life. It also was the basis for her continued fight for justice, as well as this exclusive, powerful examination of campus sexual assault. AP’s Maryclaire Dale, a legal affairs reporter in Philadelphia, and video journalist Allen Breed interviewed Keeler and others, including a student who befriended Keeler on the night of the 2013 attack. That woman, Katayoun Amir-Aslani, told her story, too: She was raped later, by a different man.

The deeply reported all-formats package sheds light on often unreported college rapes, and the systemic obstacles students like Keeler face in their search for justice when they do report. The story drew major attention on AP News, where it was the most-read story for days. Other media rushed to match it, and Keeler has since told her story on network TV.

For sensitive and insightful reporting on a system that one of the victims describes as “broken,” Dale and Breed receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 03, 2020

Best of the States

Surviving the coronavirus upheaval may depend on your paycheck – a tale of 2 families

California's Bay Area is full of extremes: poverty and wealth; homelessness and opulence; high-end industry and the service workers who support it. Those extremes matter when it comes to weathering the shutdown in response to the coronavirus.

 Jocelyn Gecker and Olga Rodriguez set out to show how that divide plays out, telling the stories of Rebecca Biernat, a San Francisco attorney, and Sonia Bautista, a hotel worker, and their families. With photographer Jeff Chiu they developed an intimate portrait of the two families – what they have in common and the differences in how they are adjusting to the shutdown.

 For doggedly seeking out the right subjects, overcoming distancing restrictions and expertly weaving together two tales to tell a deeper story about inequality amid turmoil, Gecker, Rodriguez and Chiu earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 14, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​AP investigation: Children suffered as Vatican hospital chased profits

The approach to Vatican Correspondent Nicole Winfield came from a member of a task force that had investigated care at Italy’s foremost pediatric facility, known as “the pope’s hospital.” The contact feared that serious concerns raised by the task force hadn’t been addressed two years later.

That tip, in late 2015, set the AP on a 20-month investigation of the Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) Pediatric Hospital. Winfield teamed up with London-based Medical Writer Maria Cheng to reveal a dark chapter in the facility's history. They found that children sometimes paid the price as administrators tried to make the money-losing enterprise turn a profit, and Vatican officials took pains to keep the concerns quiet.

Their work earns the Beat of the Week.

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May 17, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP examines patient consent before pelvic exams; states, med schools split on legislation

“Don’t dismiss a [story] idea just because it’s unfamiliar. Pelvic exams aren’t exactly in the wheelhouse of the State Government Team, but it turned out to be a really terrific and distinctive topic.”

That’s one editor’s takeaway from a story by Providence, Rhode Island, reporter Jennifer McDermott and Seattle medical writer Carla Johnson, both of whom, acting on a heads-up from New York photo editor Jenny Kane, found that it’s common practice for medical students to perform a pelvic exam on women under anesthesia as part of their training. Whether the patients have given consent for that exam is not clear, drawing the interest of state lawmakers.

The pair faced multiple obstacles in reporting the story, including initial reluctance by doctors and harried legislators to discuss the issue, but McDermott and Johnson succeeded in defining the conflict between medical schools and elected officials seeking to protect patient rights. Their efforts resulted in a unique story that received heavy play among major AP customers, both online and in print.

For their teamwork, execution and sensitive handling of a complex topic, McDermott, Johnson and Kane win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Sept. 06, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

4 Hours in Huntington: how the heroin epidemic choked a city

The scene, presented in the most vivid close-up, shows a paramedic frantically pushing an IV full of an opioid blocker into the vein of a woman turning blue and barely breathing. Then the radio squawks: Two more overdoses just reported. Where will Claire Galofaro’s riveting narrative go from here?

“The woman’s eyes blinked open” she writes next. Then: “Red lights on the phone at the 911 dispatch center flashed faster and faster until all 16 lines were screaming. They called from the dining room of a rickety house, the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, the bathroom of a gas station. `People are dying everywhere,’ one caller said.”

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Nov. 15, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: At least 1,680 aging US dams pose a risk to thousands

Severe storms, extreme flooding and aging infrastructure present a rising peril throughout much of the U.S., but trying to assess the risks has been extremely difficult. The reason: The federal agency overseeing the nation’s dams has sealed off the most essential information about their condition and the potential threats to those living downstream.

Prying that information loose took the kind of dedicated, 50-state effort that the AP is uniquely positioned to pursue. Data journalist Michelle Minkoff and Northern New England correspondent Michael Casey, collaborating with state government team member David Lieb and a visual team led by video journalist Allen Breed – as well as a cast of AP state reporters, photographers and data journalists – produced a deeply reported and visually stunning package revealing the dangers of nearly 1,700 aging dams, from Hawaii to Massachusetts.

Some two years in the making, the package resulted in explosive play – more than 100,000 page views on AP News and more than 80 front pages. 

For their exhaustive efforts to unlock critical public information and relay the findings in an engaging fashion, Minkoff, Casey, Lieb and Breed win this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 26, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sensitive reporting from Greece tells harrowing story of migrant father charged in son’s shipwreck death

Among the human tragedies stemming from irregular migration, an Afghan boy’s drowning leapt out at Athens-based bureau chief Elena Becatoros when Greek authorities took the unprecedented step of charging his father with child endangerment, for embarking on the perilous journey from Turkey to Greece with his son. 

Led by Becatoros, the AP’s all-formats team in Athens tracked down the father, then spent weeks using formidable people skills and patience to gently persuade the grieving man to recount how his 5-year-old son slipped from his arms and drowned when the boat carrying migrants smashed against rocks and broke in two. The journalists also overcame the father’s initial refusal to appear in photos or on video, while another survivor added depth and detail too painful for the father to describe.

For their dogged pursuit and sensitive telling of this heart-wrenching story that puts human faces to the grim statistics on migration, the team of Becatoros, senior producer Theodora Tongas, video journalist Srdjan Nedeljkovic, freelancer Michalis Svarnias, chief photographer Thanassis Stavrakis and newsperson Derek Gatopoulos wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Sept. 20, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP offers compelling takes on two oft-reported crises: Migrant rescues and opioid trafficking

They are crises that have received significant attention while playing out in different parts of the world, but the efforts of a trio of AP journalists have shed new light on both the perilous journey of migrants in the Mediterranean and the opioid epidemic in America.

The work of the journalists, Renata Brito aboard the Ocean Viking humanitarian ship sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, and Lindsay Whitehurst and Claire Galofaro in the U.S., tells the respective stories with a captivating clarity that resonated with readers and earned a rare tie in the Best of the Week contest. Each story demonstrated the profound storytelling power the AP can bring to complex stories with ingenuity, smart planning and teamwork.

Barcelona-based Brito wins for a story that she’s still living, and telling, from the Ocean Viking. Embedded with a ship that last week rescued 50 migrants fleeing violence in Africa, her dispatch, “Migrant escaping Libya torture: We will go to Europe or die,” showed in stark terms the journey that for many has ended in death.

Galofaro and Whitehurst, meanwhile, share the win with a very different but no-less-gripping tale: “The rise and fall of an Eagle Scout’s deadly fentanyl empire,” about a millennial who built a million-dollar empire of mail-order fentanyl-laced pills.

For packages that brought new insight and perspective to heavily covered stories with significant global impact, Brito, Galofaro and Whitehurst win AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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