May 24, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Placing a value – $24 billion – on 'golden visas'

They’re called “golden visas” – legal permission for non-citizens to reside in the U.S. or other countries in exchange for investment. But how much are such investments worth, and who is making them?

These were questions that AP’s Nomaan Merchant set out to answer, encouraged by Greater China news director Gillian Wong.

After months of searching out data from 20-plus countries, analyzing it and interviewing investors, Merchant could report that more than 100,000 Chinese have poured $24 billion in the last decade into "golden visa" programs across the world, and notably in the U.S. – an exclusive AP analysis that earns the Beat of the Week.

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Nov. 10, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Inside story: How Russia hacked the Democrats’ emails and Putin’s foes

“Hi,” the email from Google began, before turning more ominous. “Someone just used your password to try to sign in to your Google Account.” Change your password immediately, it urged, by clicking here. But the email wasn’t actually from Google, and it wasn’t sent randomly. It was from hackers connected to Russia who were targeting Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

What eventually emerged from the successful hack – thousands of embarrassing emails from campaign chairman John Podesta and others – was widely reported in the summer and fall of 2016. But the anatomy of how that hack occurred had never been revealed, until now. That investigative story, by Raphael Satter, Justin Myers, Jeff Donn and Chad Day, and a companion piece about wider Russian efforts targeting an array of Kremlin opponents, is this week’s Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 16, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Lawmaker accused of meeting with prostitute used taxpayer money for hotel

Allegations that a lawmaker had been trysting with a prostitute while the Utah Legislature was in session rocked the state’s politics. The former lawmaker who had previously pushed for stricter laws cracking down on prostitution went into hiding. His attorney refused comment. The House speaker washed his hands of the scandal, and the prostitute was no longer talking, having sold the story to the tabloid site dailymail.com.

Political reporter Michelle Price needed another way into the story, so she started asking questions around the capitol.

She made a key discovery while looking at the screen grabs of the texts in the tabloid story: The dates lined up with the legislative session. She knew the lawmaker from southern Utah didn’t commute to the Legislature and would be staying in hotels while in Salt Lake City.

She started asking tougher questions. Was taxpayer money used to reimburse the lawmaker for hotel rooms where he met the prostitute? Now she had the attention of officials in state government.

Finally came the APNewsBreak: Price exclusively reported that the lawmaker used taxpayer money to book at least two hotel rooms he is accused of using to meet with the prostitute.

For determination and a commitment to exploring all angles even when the main characters weren’t talking, Price wins this week’s Best of the States.

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March 02, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Trump photo from emotional meeting with shooting victims and families goes viral

The tears, grief and tension of President Donald Trump’s listening session with shooting victims and families after the Florida high school massacre were profound. Washington photographer Carolyn Kaster’s job was to capture the compelling event in images. That’s no easy task at the White House, where events are tightly managed and photographers’ movements are highly restricted.

But Kaster, working with photo editor Jon Elswick, overcame these obstacles and delivered an image of a hand-written note held by the president that quickly went viral and became one of the most talked-about stories of the day. The image wins Kaster and Elswick the Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 21, 2018

Best of the States

Sourcework pays off with scoop on Julian Castro presidential bid

Getting a source to give AP a major scoop over competitors can take weeks or months of building credibility and trust. Sometimes that payoff takes years – as Austin, Texas, newsman Paul Weber discovered while breaking the news that former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro was becoming the first Democrat in the 2020 field to launch an exploratory committee for president.

Weber’s relationship with Castro goes back nearly a decade. Weber moved to AP’s San Antonio bureau in 2009, covering the 34-year-old mayor as a national political figure, including regular source meetings and face time with his family.

When Castro returned to Texas after two years as the nation’s housing secretary, Weber ran into him, stumping for other Democrats on the 2018 campaign trail. Months later Weber received a call from the number he had plugged into his phone eight years earlier: It was Castro calling to say he was “likely” to run for president.

The APNewsBreak immediately trended as a top story on social media and put AP hours ahead of major competitors, including The New York Times, which cited AP and quoted from Weber’s exclusive all-formats interview.

For exceptional source development and for negotiating an AP exclusive, Weber wins this week’s Best of the States.

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May 19, 2017

Best of the States

Eligible Wisconsin voters turned away by strict voter ID law

Republicans in Wisconsin had pledged that no eligible voter would be disenfranchised when they passed a strict voter ID law in 2011. After it was used for the first time last year in a presidential election, a group of AP reporters sought to put that promise to the test.

Weeks of research and source work led them to a retired Milwaukee resident who had voted for years and brought to the polls her Social Security card, Medicare card and county-issued bus pass with photo ID; a Navy veteran whose Illinois driver's license was good enough to board a plane and open checking account; an 85-year-old man who had voted in the same small town for years; and a recent college graduate who went to the polls with her three forms of identification – her student ID, copies of her lease and utility bill, and her ID from her home state of Ohio.

In the end, all were turned away or had to cast provisional ballots that were never counted.

For exposing the practical effects of the ID law on Wisconsin citizens, the team of Cassidy, Moreno and Antlfinger wins this week's Best of the States award.

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June 22, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP first with news of 2,000 kids separated from families at US border

It was the answer to the question everyone was asking, about the biggest story in the world. Just how many children had been separated from their parents at the U.S. border as a result of the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance immigration policy?

Colleen Long, newly arrived on her Washington beat, got the hugely important scoop, beating all of her seasoned competitors with that very number: nearly 2,000.

Long had just moved to the nation’s capital after more than a decade covering law enforcement in New York, assigned to the Department of Homeland Security. She went right to work grilling sources – anybody she could find.

After speaking to some two dozen people, Long hit pay dirt. A source called and said, “I'm going to give you a big scoop.”

The information put AP more than an hour ahead with the news that, at that point, nearly 2,000 children had been forcibly removed from their families at the border over a six-week period. Long’s competitors – including reporters who have been covering the beat for years – had to wait for the numbers to be released on a conference call later in the day.

For determined, aggressive reporting that yielded a huge payoff, Long wins the Beat of the Week award.

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June 08, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Global video exclusives as North Korean official travels for summit prep with Trump

The low-key, secretive trip by senior official Kim Yong Chol from North Korea to the U.S., carrying a letter for President Donald Trump, could have gone undocumented were it not for clever, enterprising work by staffers on two continents.

Senior video producer Raf Wober, based in Hong Kong, noticed high security in Beijing's airport, recognized Kim, and used his cellphone to capture video as the North Korean walked through the airport. Wober's video and his alert to the Asia Desk set off a worldwide scramble as Trump later announced that Kim was heading to the U.S. for talks about the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit.

In New York, the team of video journalists Sara Gillesby, Joseph Frederick, Luke Sheridan, Ted Shaffrey, David Martin and Robert Bumsted picked up Wober’s efforts, using technology and street smarts to get exclusive live shots that included Kim’s plane arriving at John F. Kennedy airport, Kim walking on the tarmac to a motorcade, and his arrival at a Manhattan hotel.

All of which was unmatched by the competition, resulting in strong play in the U.S. and internationally.

For their quick and creative thinking to net AP worldwide exclusives, Wober and the New York video team share the Beat of the Week award.

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March 22, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Kushner organization routinely filed false NYC housing documents

It started with a tip about tenants being harassed at a cluster of New York apartment buildings owned by Jared Kushner's family.

Bernard Condon, a New York-based business writer, began reporting the story last year, visiting buildings and interviewing the tenants, some of whom told similar stories of being subjected to loud construction at all hours, dust, rodents, lead paint in the air and heat suddenly shut off in the winter. Then, some were approached with offers of money to get them to move so the company could install higher-paying tenants.

But the tip did not truly develop until a tenant advocate source told Condon that Kushner Cos. had filed false paperwork for two buildings elsewhere in the city that made it easier to harass tenants during construction. Further, the organization had filed paperwork saying it had zero rent-regulated tenants in buildings throughout the city when, in fact, it had hundreds.

If the Kushner Cos. had disclosed those rent-regulated tenants, it could have triggered stricter city oversight, including possibly unscheduled "sweeps" on site by inspectors to keep the company from harassing tenants.

For dogged reporting that exposed the falsehoods of a company led by the president's son-in-law and trusted adviser, Condon earns the Beat of the Week.

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March 09, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Phone tip leads to shady company linked to border wall contract

The short Associated Press story out of San Diego about the first border wall contract awarded under the Trump administration made only a brief mention of the Omaha, Nebraska, company that had won the contract. But that prompted a woman to call the AP. She made several claims to Chicago-based Central Desk editor Jeff McMurray without offering proof, but he figured it was interesting enough to pass along. Omaha breaking news staffer Margery Beck was asked to check into the company.

As Beck examined state business records and court documents, she discovered that the company, SWF Constructors, operated at the same address as another business that had been sued a dozen times, including at least three times by the federal government, for failing to pay subcontractors on government projects. That company, Coastal Environmental Group, was also the subject of an Interior Department audit questioning $2 million in billing for a Superstorm Sandy cleanup contract.

For aggressive records-based reporting that resulted in a timely story no one else had, Beck receives 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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Feb. 02, 2018

Best of the States

AP uncovers NJ utility lobbying for a bailout, and blackout of financial records

In the weeks before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left office, a measure quickly advanced through the Legislature that would give PSEG, the state’s largest utility, a $300 million bailout for its nuclear power plants.

That got the curiosity of statehouse reporter Michael Catalini, who started digging.

A records request turned up more than a dozen emails showing that the company had lobbied for the bailout and wrote in a clause itself to prevent the public release of financial information proving it needed the money.

The bill introduced in the Legislature included language to shield the company’s books from the public, but failed to get to Christie’s desk during December’s lame-duck session. It re-emerged after Democrat Phil Murphy took office.

Catalini’s story revealing the lobbying effort was published a day before a committee hearing on the bill. Lawmakers rewrote the measure after the story appeared to clarify that PSEG would be required to submit “any financial information” to the state utility regulator.

For holding the utility and state lawmakers accountable, Catalani receives this week's Best of the States award.

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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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Nov. 03, 2017

Best of the States

Georgia election server wiped clean – days after lawsuit against officials

Georgia's centralized and aging election system has been the subject of several controversies – most recently in June, when a whistleblower revealed that state contractors had failed to secure an important election server. Hackers could potentially have affected the results of both 2016 races and a special congressional election last June that drew national attention.

The Houston bureau’s Frank Bajak wrote up the initial news of Georgia’s server problem. But that didn't answer the larger question of whether the vulnerable server had actually been hacked, so Bajak developed new sources and kept pressing for more information.

His efforts paid off when a source provided him with an email disclosing that the troubled server had been wiped clean of all data. Even more interesting, this destruction of evidence happened just a few days after a lawsuit was filed seeking a forensic examination of the server in an effort invalidate the state's vulnerable election technology.

For his enterprise and dogged pursuit of the story behind the story, Bajak wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 03, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Myanmar attacks, sea voyage rob young father of everything

Asia's worst refugee crisis in decades is a tragedy of epic proportions as more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled state-led violence.

Beyond the enormous scope of the exodus are the individual harrowing stories of life, death and the struggle for survival. Reporter Todd Pitman and photographer Gemunu Amarasinghe from Bangkok, videojournalist Rishabh Jain from Delhi and photographer Dar Yasin from Kashmir teamed up to produce a riveting package that reconstructed the heartbreaking journey of one Rohingya man and his family from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

Their package earns the Beat of the Week.

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Oct. 06, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP photo team produces unparalleled coverage of Catalonia referendum

The days leading up to Catalonia’s independence referendum pointed toward trouble on the day of the vote. The autonomous region in northeast Spain was pushing ahead with the election despite the country’s constitutional court ordering it to be stopped. In the weeks leading up to the vote, thousands took to the streets, demonstrating for and against independence. The election, set for Oct. 1, was sure to be a defining moment for the region and the country.

It also posed a challenge to those planning AP’s visual report: How best to capture the expected chaos? How to navigate its major city, Barcelona, which would be flooded with demonstrators and police? How to get photographers and video journalists in the right positions, knowing they might be stuck there for hours?

These decisions fell to Emilio Morenatti, AP’s chief photographer for Spain and Portugal. A longtime Barcelona resident, he anticipated those obstacles as he deployed AP’s staff and freelance photographers.

The result was some 200 photographs that captured the violence and passion of a remarkable moment in Spanish history. For planning creatively, making smart in-the-moment decisions and risking personal safety, Morenatti and his team of photographers win this week’s Beat of the Week.

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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. 25, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deep reporting, startling images reveal shaky faith and depths of despair in Trump Country

It’s a difficult thing, interviewing people about their desolation. But an Associated Press team went to Grays Harbor County, Washington, and came away with a deeply reported portrait of a place that had voted Democrat in every presidential election since 1932, but placed a bet on Donald Trump in November as its rescuer from addiction and economic malaise.

Sensitively and penetratingly, the team of Claire Galofaro, David Goldman and Martha Irvine used text, photos and video to tell the tale of an old logging county that “answered Donald Trump's call to the country's forgotten corners.” A half-year into the Republican’s term, they found varying degrees of faith in his ability to make a difference in their lives.

The latest installment in the AP’s Trump Country series is the Beat of the Week.

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May 05, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

At middle-of-the-night removal of Confederate statue in New Orleans, AP offers exclusive

AP’s race and ethnicity beat writer Jesse J. Holland was on vacation in Mississippi when a source called with a tip: New Orleans’ mayor was ordering the removal of the first of four Confederate-related statues in the middle of the night to avoid a racially-charged scene in the city.

Holland’s quick work to negotiate an exclusive on the monument’s removal, including an interview with the mayor, and photographer Gerald Herbert’s dramatic pre-dawn photos and video, earn the Beat of the Week.

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