April 27, 2018

Best of the States

AP lands elusive first interview with two black men arrested at Starbucks

The arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia for sitting without ordering anything turned into a major crisis for the coffee chain and sparked a national conversation on unconscious bias and overt racism.

But the two men at the center of the controversy sought to maintain their privacy as they tried to make sense of the ordeal. They even moved to a hotel to hide out as the scandal unfolded with numerous interview requests to tell their story.

Knowing the sit-down with the men was essential, Pennsylvania Editor Larry Rosenthal pressed for an interview, noting that one conversation with AP would relieve the pressure they were feeling from so many outlets. Errin Haines Whack, the AP’s national race and ethnicity writer, followed up with a written pitch. She noted she was based in Philly and wanted to hear both their version of events and what they hoped to see moving forward. In the end, that sealed the deal.

For landing the critical interview and delivering it in multiple formats, Whack is this week’s winner of Best of the States.

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June 17, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Even the competition uses AP’s interview with new Sri Lankan PM

used perseverance and preparation to land a timely, news-making interview with Sri Lanka's newly appointed prime minister. AP’s Asia team had pressed for an interview as soon as Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed prime minister for a sixth time, faced with a disastrous economic crisis that has nearly bankrupted the country.Once the interview was secured, the team strategized on how to make it stand out and break news. The careful planning paid off, delivering to a timely, news-making interview with Wickremesinghe saying that as his nation hunts desperately for fuel, he’d be willing to buy more Russian oil despite pressure to isolate Moscow.The story earned widespread international play and credits, and even a major competitor took the rare step of citing AP in its own story.Read more

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Dec. 27, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Comprehensive impeachment coverage showcases AP’s speed, depth and reach

The world depends on The Associated Press during historic moments, and the impeachment of President Donald Trump was no exception. 

Journalists in Washington and beyond demonstrated the AP’s extraordinary power and depth to cover all angles of the story, including the monthslong footrace to tally votes ahead of proceedings, videos filed quickly of both the hearings and of Trump’s reaction, and the ground-level view of impeachment in six election battleground states.

Stellar post-vote stories included an analysis of how impeachment would affect Trump’s legacy and the 2020 campaign, as well as an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

For impeachment coverage that consistently broke news, gave crucial context and provided customers with materials they could localize and promote, the Washington bureau and the team of journalists behind the vote tracking effort win AP’s Best of the Week.

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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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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sources: Trump liaison banned from Justice Department

delivered a widely read scoop after working their sources to confirm a curious rumor: An official serving as President Donald Trump’s eyes and ears at the Department of Justice was banned from the building after pressuring Justice Department staffers to reveal insider information about ongoing cases and the department’s work on election fraud.Heidi Stirrup, an ally of top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, had also extended job offers to political allies for positions at some of the highest levels of the DOJ without consulting senior department officials or the White House counsel’s office, and also attempted to interfere in the hiring process for career staffers, a violation of the government’s human resources policies, a source told the AP. https://bit.ly/374EDaH

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Jan. 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Greece team tracks down nurse who built a home ICU

dug behind the scenes to reveal the extraordinary lengths one man went to in caring for his COVID-19-stricken mother-in-law and other relatives — the nurse created an intensive care unit in his home. Kantouris won the international competition to track down the man whose feat had begun to appear in local media reports. He interviewed nurse Gabriel Tachtatzoglou, delving into his motivations and methods for taking on the high-risk endeavor. Tachtatzoglou had spared his family members from hospitalization in an overburdened local facility while simultaneously easing the patient load in Greece’s most heavily affected region, where ICUs were already at capacity. Visuals were a challenge as the makeshift ICU was dismantled when the family recovered, but photo stringer Papanikos complemented the story with a visit to the home for a portrait shoot. Athens staffer Derek Gatopoulos drafted this installment of AP’s “One Good Thing” series, which was picked up even by the Greek press. https://bit.ly/3oy9nHv

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Feb. 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

With sourcing, preparedness, AP breaks news on death of pioneering actress Cicely Tyson

AP national writer Hillel Italie took a call Thursday evening from a longtime source with an unexpected tip: Groundbreaking actress Cicely Tyson, known for her roles playing strong, fiercely dignified Black women, was dead. 

Italie set off to get the news on the wire quickly, while also alerting colleagues. That included entertainment writer Mark Kennedy who had met Tyson years earlier. Kennedy had decided that when the time came, the AP obituary would have to capture the breadth and achievement of her life and career. And he had prepared just that.

The AP story moved at least 15 minutes before other outlets, earning more than 265,000 page views and front page headlines.

Celebrity obituaries are intensely competitive; Italie and Kennedy kept AP well in front, through source work, commitment and solid preparation. For that, they win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 13, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

‘Viral Questions’ series cuts through the COVID confusion

captured the biggest audience yet for AP’s “Viral Questions” series, addressing two questions: one on the delta variant and a second on the potential for long-term symptoms after being vaccinated.The week’s first piece, “What should I know about the delta variant?,” gave readers the most up-to-date and accurate information the AP could provide about the delta variant. The item was first done by Ghosal in late June as the variant was gaining attention, and was recently updated by Neergaard to note that it has become the “most contagious coronavirus mutant so far in the pandemic.”Meanwhile, Tanner, who has been reporting on “long haulers” since early in the pandemic, looked at a growing question among experts: Could breakthrough infections result in long COVID? Tanner addressed the issue in a manner that was frank without being alarming, just as the topic was gaining traction with the broader public.Each piece — as have all of the 117 “Viral Questions” since the series began — has been accompanied by Hamlin’s illustrations. The series is produced weekly — sometimes several times a week — with contributions from reporters around the AP. It serves as a model for engaging harried audiences, cutting through clutter and misinformation by delivering quick, accessible answers to the most pressing coronavirus questions in a language, tone and format that meets readers where they are in their lives.https://aplink.news/sizhttps://aplink.news/drx

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP traces source of Pope’s comment on same-sex civil unions

teamed up to trace the elusive origin of Pope Francis’ bombshell comment on same-sex civil unions in a three-day run of stories that broke news.After Winfield reported that Pope Francis had endorsed civil unions in a new documentary, she discovered that the origin of the quote in the film was not clear. When Winfield asked the director whether he had understood at the time that the civil union comment was news, his longwinded and indirect answer was the first hint that something was off – triggering a 36-hour reporting effort.Thomas, who was covering the premiere of “Francesco” in Rome, got a top papal communications aide on camera insisting that the quote didn’t come from an interview for the film, but a 2019 interview Francis granted Mexican broadcaster Televisa. After three days of contradictory claims, the reporters nailed down that the comments were made during a May 2019 Televisa interview that was never broadcast in its entirety. Verza pressed and elicited a sourced confirmation that the Vatican had cut the quote out of the raw interview footage it provided to Televisa.AP’s story with the information from Mexico moved three hours before major newspapers reported the story. The Vatican, meanwhile, has refused all comment.https://bit.ly/3kBGZlyhttps://bit.ly/31R6VCq

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March 22, 2019

Best of the States

Sunshine Week investigation: Public regularly denied access to police videos

Police videos of officers shooting unarmed black men have sparked angry protests in Chicago, Sacramento and other U.S. cities. But AP’s Ryan Foley wondered: Is it the norm for departments to release footage from body-worn and dashboard cameras?

Foley, based in Iowa City, Iowa, a member of AP’s state government team, investigated and found that many departments routinely deny public access to their videos of officer-involved shootings and other uses of force.

Foley filed open records requests related to roughly 20 recent use-of-force incidents in a dozen states. His letters were met with denial after denial as police departments routinely cited a broad exemption to state open records laws: They claimed that releasing the video would undermine an ongoing investigation. But critics say the exemption is often misapplied to keep embarrassing or compromising video footage from public view.

To tell the story visually, Central Region video journalist Noreen Nasir dug through AP’s archives to highlight the moments and emotions that followed the deaths of unarmed black men, including the fatal police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. She also interviewed a woman in North Dakota whose brother died after being shot in the back of the head during a struggle with police, adding a crucial perspective to the video.

At the same time, Panagiotis Mouzakis, multimedia animation producer in London, used the many denial letters Foley had collected to create a video graphic that was incorporated into Nasir’s video, and Beat Team visuals editor Alina Hartounian developed a social plan that helped the package find a huge audience.

For shining a light on how police departments continue to withhold visual evidence and for devising creative ways to illustrate the story, Foley, Nassir and Mouzakis share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 04, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP ahead with two scoops on NC election investigation

for putting AP ahead on two major stories related to the investigation of ballot fraud in a 2018 congressional race in North Carolina – first with news that election officials had pressed prosecutors after the 2016 election to charge the man at the center of fraud allegations in 2018, and then obtaining a January 2017 letter predicting that ballot fraud would happen again unless the administration pursued a criminal case.https://bit.ly/2BXS8Inhttps://bit.ly/2R3LaMe

Oct. 05, 2018

Best of the States

Oklahoma Republicans targeted by GOP colleague, dark money

Oklahomans widely assumed that 12 Republican state lawmakers who lost their bids for re-election came up short at the polls because of their opposition to raising pay for the state’s public school teachers.

While opposition to education funding may have been one factor in incumbent losses in the GOP primaries, Oklahoma City-based reporter Sean Murphy began hearing scuttlebutt about an organized effort from within the Republican Party to kick out incumbents from their own party.

Using campaign finance reports and solid sourcing at the Capitol, Murphy was alone in showing that the rumors were true.

Public records showed a top state House GOP leader had given money to opponents of two of his own colleagues, and the opponents unseated the incumbents. Murphy also leveraged a relationship developed over years of reporting to get the lawmaker to talk. He acknowledged a plan to punish fellow Republicans for taking hardline stances that forced a compromise with Democrats on a plan to raise taxes to pay for teacher raises.

For combining shoe-leather reporting with smart document work, Murphy wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 17, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Bodies of Mariupol steel-plant defenders returned

teamed up to scoop Ukrainian media and the international press corps by revealing the return of Ukrainian fighters’ remains following the weekslong last stand at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.Leicester first learned of the return of the defenders’ bodies while interviewing a soldier for another story. He and Arhirova then pursued multiple sources in a difficult environment, including family members, unit commanders and spokespersons, confirming on the record, ahead of the competition, that several hundred bodies had been swapped with the Russians, including dozens from a regiment that took a lead in defending the complex during the Russian siege of the port city.Read more

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March 09, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Nothing routine about it: Larger-than-life photo of Putin dominates play

It's hard to pull off a truly distinctive photo at a set-piece event with the world's press also gathered there. Russia's Chief Photographer Alexander (Sasha) Zemlianichenko, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, did just this with a low angle on the big screen of Putin's face, staring down and dominating the audience at Putin's state-of-the nation address March 1. The photo, which graced front pages and websites around the world, wins the Beat of the Week.

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March 29, 2019

Best of the States

AP analysis: Partisan redistricting limited GOP losses in 2018 midterms

With two major cases over partisan redistricting coming before the Supreme Court, how could the AP’s coverage stand out?

Missouri-based reporter David Lieb of the state government team provided the answer, taking the results of last year’s midterm election and applying a formula called the “efficiency gap” to measure the potential effects of highly partisan map-making on races for the U.S. House and state legislatures. The efficiency gap, developed at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California and The University of Chicago, measures a party’s advantage on a statewide basis.

His finding: Democrats could have done even better last November had it not been for boundaries created by Republicans during the last round of redistricting – otherwise known as “gerrymandering.” His analysis showed that Republicans won about 16 more U.S. House seats – and held on to as many as seven state legislative chambers – than would have been expected based on their share of the vote.

Lieb and Data Team editor Meghan Hoyer previewed the state-by-state findings for customers and other AP reporters so the data could be used for localizations. The resulting package landed the week before the Supreme Court arguments, and the play was spectacular, both online and print.

The package was complemented by video and photos from national enterprise reporter Allen Breed, based in Raleigh, who traveled to a historically black college in North Carolina, where Republicans had split the campus between two districts, diluting the votes of the left-leaning student body.

Breed’s full-length video ran with the spot stories surrounding the Supreme Court arguments and parts of it were folded into a video graphic produced by New York deputy director for digital graphics Darrell Allen and Minneapolis-based video graphics newsperson Heidi Morrow. It became a key part of the extensive social promotion plan created by Alina Hartounian, the Phoenix-based multimedia coordinator for the beat teams.

For producing a distinctive multimedia package that made the AP stand out on one of the most important and competitive political topics of the day, Lieb, Hoyer, Breed, Allen, Morrow and Hartounian win this week’s Best of the States.

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Testing, testing: A portrait of French nursing homes

spent two days chronicling three nursing homes in France’s Haut-Rhin region as the patients and staff all underwent comprehensive testing to determine who must be isolated and who would be allowed the freedom to leave their rooms. One goal: to give patients who are not infected the opportunity to chat face to face, to play board games, to share meals. Badias had rare and exclusive access to the nursing homes, providing compelling photos, video and key text elements for the story he bylined with Paris reporter Lori Hinnant. https://bit.ly/2Y23kAm

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Dec. 08, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reveals how dirty US fuel byproduct contributes to India’s dangerously polluted air

Oil extracted from the tar sands of Canada has contributed to booming production among American refineries, but it also has created a messy legacy: Ton upon ton of a filthy byproduct called petroleum coke. U.S. utilities don’t want it because of its extremely high sulfur content, leaving refineries with one option – getting rid of it – because stockpiling had stirred community outcries. Tammy Webber, a Chicago-based reporter with the environmental beat team, wondered: If refineries couldn’t offload the substance in the U.S., what were they doing with it?

Through a year’s worth of detective work, Webber and her beat team colleague in New Delhi, Katy Daigle, traced the shadowy network that trades in oil refineries' bottom-of-the-barrel leftovers. They found that India was the leading destination of “petcoke” from the U.S., and Indian officials had no idea the amount of petcoke flowing into the country was 20 times more than just six years before. Nor did they know how it was being used in a country already choking on some of the world’s dirtiest air.

Within 24 hours of the story hitting the wire, India’s government announced it would phase out imports of petcoke and had begun working on a policy to end the practice.

For revealing the secretive transport of petroleum coke from the U.S. to one of the world’s most polluted countries, and for drawing an immediate reaction from the government of India, Webber and Daigle win this week’s Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 13, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP holds off on unverified posts about R. Kelly

for holding AP to high standards by not reporting on Instagram posts, apparently by long-loyal R. Kelly girlfriend Joycelyn Savage, attacking the singer. With news sites including The New York Times and the Chicago Sun-Times reporting on the salacious posts, there was huge pressure to publish, but Savage’s lawyer could offer only 85-90% assurance the posts were actually Savage’s. AP held off – and Savage eventually denied the account was hers.

Jan. 24, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reporting reveals nonstop chaos in overburdened immigration courtrooms

Led by reporters Amy Taxin and Deepti Hajela, the AP harnessed its vast geographic reach and expertise on the topic of immigration to deliver a striking, all-formats examination of the nation’s beleaguered immigration court system. 

AP journalists fanned out to courtrooms across the U.S. to vividly illustrate chaos in the nation’s immigration courts, plagued by a 1 million case backlog. 

The reporting uncovered personal stories of immigrants entangled in the system, including an in-depth package from rural Georgia by reporter Kate Brumback and photographer David Goldman, and video by producer Noreen Nasir.

For a revealing look at a legal system struggling to cope with the influx of immigrants, and families caught up in the grinding legal process, Taxin, Hajela, Brumback, Goldman and Nasir share AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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