Feb. 27, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Ex-congregants reveal years of ungodly abuse

This story begins in 2014, when five members of Word of Faith Fellowship, an evangelical congregation in western North Carolina, were indicted for beating a young man because they thought he was gay. Mitch Weiss, an investigative reporter based in Charlotte, reached out to the man, Matthew Fenner, who told a harrowing tale.

For Weiss, that conversation was the beginning of a nearly two-year quest to tell the story of Word of Faith and its controlling leader, Jane Whaley, a 77-year-old petite former math teacher with a thick Southern accent. Working alongside Atlanta-based video journalist Alex Sanz, Weiss eventually pieced together a startling and comprehensive look at a religious community that promised its members peace and prosperity. What they got was violence and abuse, administered in the name of God, former followers told him.

Part one of that series, published this week, wins Best of the States, and there is more to come.

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March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documents expose misconduct by elite federal prosecutors

started digging after federal prosecutors in New York took the unusual step last spring of abruptly dismissing all charges against a banker convicted of evading U.S. sanctions by funneling $115 million to his family’s business in Iran. Goodman’s curiosity was rewarded with an exclusive.Goodman worked with AP assistant general counsel Brian Barrett to convince a court to release internal communications within the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York detailing how the elite unit tried to conceal their mishandling of evidence in the botched prosecution. A plethora of private correspondence between prosecutors showed a coordinated effort to mislead the court. In one exchange of text messages, supervising prosecutors admitted “we lied” to the defense during the trial. “This is going to be a bloodbath,” one wrote, anticipating the judge’s reaction to the disclosure. https://bit.ly/30bwLzEhttps://bit.ly/30aQmAf

Oct. 14, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP: 'Apprentice' cast and crew say Trump was lewd and sexist

Donald Trump's public comments about women have been a familiar theme in the tumultuous presidential campaign. But what had he said behind the scenes on "The Apprentice," the TV show that made him a household name?

That's the question AP’s Garance Burke set out to answer. Combining shoe-leather reporting with an adept use of social media, the San Francisco-based national investigative reporter tracked down more than 20 people willing to talk about the Republican nominee's language on the set. They recalled Trump making demeaning, crude and sexist comments toward and about female cast and crew members, and that he discussed which contestants he would like to have sex with.

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Feb. 04, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive and explosive: WHO leader in Western Pacific accused of racism and abuse

London-based medical writer Maria Cheng, drawing on leaked emails, interviews, recordings and her deep understanding of the World Health Organization, revealed that dozens of staffers have accused Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the U.N. agency’s regional director for much of Asia, of racism and abuse, and that his actions allegedly hampered WHO’s efforts to curb the COVID pandemic in the region.

Cheng obtained internal complaints and talked to current and former staffers who said Kasai had engaged in racist, unethical and abusive behavior. Staffers said the departure of more than 55 WHO personnel from this critical region, most not replaced, significantly contributing to a surge in cases in many countries. Kasai was also accused of sharing COVID information improperly with his home country, Japan, for its political gain.

In an email to the AP, Kasai denied charges of racism and unethical behavior and said he had taken steps to communicate with all his staff.

Cheng’s story was explosive. At Saturday’s closing session of WHO’s board meeting, several countries pressured the organization to investigate the allegations reported by the AP. By Monday, the WHO director-general said an investigation had started.

For deeply reported, groundbreaking work that has had an impact, Cheng is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Oct. 28, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Proposal to hide import data would shield labor abuses

broke the story of a proposal backed by leading U.S. corporations to hide key import data — data vitally important to researchers and investigative journalists seeking to hold corporations accountable for the mistreatment of workers in their overseas supply chains. A tip from an industry source brought Goodman’s attention to a group of 20 major companies seeking to keep vessel manifests, and thus sourcing, confidential.AP published Goodman’s scoop as the corporate group pitched its proposal behind closed doors in Washington. The piece prompted an outcry from members of Congress and groups advocating for responsible sourcing and greater transparency in global supply chains.Read more

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Dec. 13, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: New abuse suits could cost church billions

for taking a hard look at the financial reckoning of the U.S. Roman Catholic sex abuse trials, and reporting exclusively that changing laws and attitudes could translate into a flood of lawsuits with potential payouts topping $4 billion. Condon and Mustian reported on the potential impact of new laws, enacted in 15 states, that extend or suspend the statute of limitations governing claims. The pair found several attorneys who have turned their entire practices over to such cases, with TV ads and billboards seeking clients. https://bit.ly/36oRoJX

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March 08, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Women say New York agency ignored blatant sex harassment

for an AP Exclusive revealing a particularly egregious case of sexual harassment in New York’s state government, complete with an interview with the accused in which the man asked incredulously, “I tell her to ‘shut her whore mouth’ and I’m the big villain?” Klepper also interviewed three women who say that supervisors did not act over the course of two years despite their claims that the man groped them and exposed himself. https://bit.ly/2ETadtX

April 09, 2021

Best of the States

Exclusive data analysis, reporting on child abuse reveal worrying pandemic trend, heartbreaking tale

A true multiformat team of AP journalists produced this Only on AP piece by tracking down data on child abuse from every state to reveal a worrying trend: Reports of abuse are down while signs of severity are up. The team complemented that dogged data work and hard news with the tragic story of one girl who fell through the cracks during the pandemic. 

Acting on information sourced by video journalist Manuel Valdes, Seattle reporter Sally Ho coordinated the 50-state data survey and an ambitious analysis with data journalist Camille Fassett. Ho also read through hundreds of child abuse reports to find the case of 9-year-old Ava Lerario, killed by her father in a small Pennsylvania town. Ho worked with Philadelphia photojournalists Matt Rourke and Matt Slocum, and New York video journalist David Martin, to tell the story of about how the system failed Ava. 

The team’s deeply reported package drew remarkably high reader engagement, and many news outlets localized the work using AP’s data distribution.

For exposing another disturbing inequality stemming from the pandemic, Ho and colleagues Valdes, Fassett, Rourke, Slocum and Martin share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 16, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Hawaiian seafood caught by foreign crews confined on boats

AP’s Martha Mendoza, an investigative reporter based in Bangkok, and Margie Mason, medical writer in Jakarta, found that hundreds of undocumented men, many from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific nations, work in this U.S. fishing fleet. They have no visas and aren't protected by basic labor laws because of a loophole passed by Congress.

A story detailing the men’s plight, by Mendoza and Mason, resulted from a tip following their award-winning Seafood from Slaves investigation last year. It earns the Beat of the Week.

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March 09, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​Ex-sect members tell AP that prosecutors obstructed abuse cases

It’s one of the most important lessons of investigative journalism: One good story can lead to another. Don’t give up after the first round. Keep digging.

That’s what Mitch Weiss of the national investigative team did after his explosive first story on the Word of Faith Fellowship. His follow-up story earns the Beat of the Week.

It took Weiss many months to persuade 43 former members of the Fellowship to open up – on the record and identified – with stories of adults and children being slapped, punched, choked and slammed to the floor in the name of the Lord. But getting so many of the reluctant ex-congregants to talk was only the start of his journalistic journey.

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