Oct. 16, 2020

Best of the States

11 weeks in the bubble: AP writer’s exhaustive NBA report goes well beyond the games

Through 78 days at Walt Disney World, basketball writer Tim Reynolds proved himself virtually unstoppable, turning out game stories on deadline while also spinning insightful pieces that examined the major topics of 2020, from coronavirus concerns to racial injustice issues and the presidential election – not to mention the league’s work stoppage. The so-called bubble may have confined him to an arena in central Florida, but Reynolds’ relentless NBA coverage reminded readers that sports illuminate our lives in ways big and small.

In all, Reynolds wrote an eye-popping 200-plus stories, collecting exclusives along the way. He capped his efforts with his insightful analysis of LeBron James’ legacy after James led the Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA title. 

For his exhaustive, and exhausting, work that went well beyond the games in the NBA bubble, Reynolds wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 08, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Blum breaks news on a new baseball labor deal and the scoops keep coming

All week, AP Baseball Writer Ron Blum knew that a new labor contract between Major League Baseball and its players was close. Each day, he stayed on the phone, talking to both sides, figuring out how far apart they were. Wednesday night, they were close. Then, the call came: They had a deal. “You’re the only person we trust to get it right,” the source told Blum about why he got the story.

Over the next few hours, Blum got more. The terms of the deal began to emerge. New players would not be able to use smokeless tobacco. The league that won the All-Star Game would no longer get home-field advantage in the World Series.

For those scoops — and more — Blum earns the Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP dunks on NBA All-Star weekend coverage

for providing comprehensive coverage of the NBA All-Star weekend, including cell phone video he shot of former President Barack Obama making a surprise appearance at an event. The footage was one of several stories that Reynolds produced that made AP the go-to news source during the weekend, including stories on Kobe Bryant tributes, the league’s plans to play in China despite the COVID-19 outbreak, and a story with Steve Reed revisiting the 1988 dunk contest through interviews with Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.https://bit.ly/2HFAo7Mhttps://bit.ly/327QWyKhttps://bit.ly/2vJIwld

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Jan. 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exposes Vatican’s failure in Mexico abuse case

for a cross-format, trans-Atlantic exposé of a 30-year cover-up of a horrific case of clergy sexual abuse in Mexico. The pair revealed how the Vatican’s reform of the Legion of Christ had failed, as the papal envoy who ran the Legion starting in 2010 refused to punish or even investigate the abusing priest or the superiors who covered up his crimes, many of whom are still in power and ministry today. https://bit.ly/38NCjmdhttps://bit.ly/2UiftPZ

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP connects palm oil industry, top brands to abuse of women

followed up on their initial reporting that exposed widespread labor abuse in the palm oil industry, conducting a comprehensive investigation into the brutal treatment of women in the production of the omnipresent ingredient, including rapes by plantation supervisors, serious health issues from toxic chemicals and injuries from back-breaking loads. The pair then traced the oil produced by these women to the supply chains of top Western beauty brands — including conglomerates that make billions of dollars as they market the empowerment of women.Mason and McDowell persuaded dozens of female workers to tell their searing stories, spending months getting the women to trust them and then arranging clandestine meetings in an effort to protect the workers from retaliation by plantation owners. They bypassed the stonewalling of major Western brands that refused to say whether their products contain palm oil by using company data and U.S. Customs records to link the workers’ abuse to the brands’ palm oil supply chains.The package featured striking digital display, video and evocative photos by Indonesia-based stringer Binsar Bakkara, as well as a powerful series of closeups of workers’ hands cradling familiar products containing the fruits of their labor.The story is nearing 250,000 page views on AP News. The Clorox Company, which owns Burt’s Bees Inc., said it would raise the allegations of abuses with its suppliers, calling AP’s findings “incredibly disturbing.” https://bit.ly/3liKAV3https://bit.ly/2VeVUXRhttps://bit.ly/3mlXgfd

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Nov. 13, 2020

Best of the States

Tenacious source work leads to national newsbreak on census fraud

The on-the-record accounts from two census workers were stunning: Under pressure from supervisors amid the Trump administration’s push to bring the census to an end, they were encouraged to falsify records in the 2020 headcount.

Whom did they reveal this to? Not surprisingly, they spoke to Mike Schneider, AP’s authority on the census, who leveraged months of source development and reporting to break the story. Posted just an hour before the presidential race was called for former Vice President Joe Biden, the story still broke through with strong play and reader engagement.

For keeping the AP ahead in a critical coverage area with a terrific scoop, Schneider wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Florida has used ‘red flag’ law 3,500 times since Parkland

marked the anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. – where 17 people were killed, allegedly by a mentally disturbed man – with smart accountability journalism about a key Florida “red flag” bill passed in the massacre’s wake.

Working over several months to get county-by-county breakdowns that no other outlet had, Spencer found that the law had been used to get weapons away from people deemed dangerous no less than 3,500 times since the Parkland shooting. Even so, his analysis showed the law is applied inconsistently, with some counties and cities using it rarely and others not at all.

The story was a strong look at how red flag laws – now passed in nearly a dozen states – are playing out on the ground, and it drew widespread attention and engagement. https://bit.ly/2P7Zws2

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March 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP story helps derail partisan effort to oust Tennessee judge

revealed a move by the Tennessee House to oust Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle, a judge who allowed widespread access to absentee voting before the 2020 election.That ruling last summer by Lyle didn't sit well with Tennessee Republicans. So not long after the legislature reconvened for the first time after the 2020 election, an effort to remove her began in earnest. With GOP supermajorities in both chambers, the measure had a chance to pass despite concerns that it represented a breach of judicial independence.Mattise’s March 8 story went deep on the mounting criticism, including colorful context on Tennessee’s previous efforts to remove judges over the past 50 years. The day after the story hit the wire, the push to oust Lyle went down to defeat in a House subcommittee, demonstrating the power of sunshine to upend questionable policy making. https://bit.ly/3tvbttG

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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Experience, source work put AP ahead on NFL virus outbreak

used her sources and experience as the AP’s long-established Tennessee Titans beat writer the keep the AP out front on the week’s biggest NFL story – not on the field but in the lab, as COVID-19 broke out among the Titans. Walker checked in with her well-developed sources on many early mornings to break news on the latest tests and team status updates. She had her name on the NFL mainbar for seven days straight: Working with pro football writer Barry Wilner, she revealed details of test results, team protocol violations, NFL coronavirus protocol changes and threats of punishment to organizations. Here deep knowledge of the Titans enriching her analysis of the situation that postponed the team’s last two games.https://bit.ly/3j1nMImhttps://bit.ly/3iZhGZchttps://bit.ly/3lMnWFu

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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. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Rihanna tells AP: Expect the unexpected in upcoming album

used his red carpet video interview with Rihanna to get the superstar’s take on her long-delayed album, getting a response that became on online sensation.Rihanna’s answer, during a Los Angeles premiere of her fashion lingerie line, described a departure from the sounds that have won her nine Grammys so far. “You’re not going to expect what you hear. Just put that in your mind,” she told entertainment journalist Landrum, immediately piquing the interest of her legion of fans. AP Entertainment’s original social post was viewed more than 1.1 million times and widely retweeted, while numerous media outlets picked up on the quotes, crediting AP.https://aplink.news/a5uhttps://aplink.video/fzh

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June 04, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP lands Newsmaker interview with fugitive auto executive Ghosn

had been maneuvering for an interview with Carlos Ghosn ever since the automotive executive escaped Japan inside a box 17 months ago. The senior producer, based in Paris, plied sources from Ghosn’s days at the top of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, and insisted that AP wanted a no-holds-barred, in-person session with the man once feted as a superstar and whose career came crashing down when he was arrested in Japan on accusations of financial misconduct. Schaeffer’s tenacity and insistence on high standards won AP an exceptional three-language interview that was Ghosn’s most comprehensive to date, making headlines on three continents on the eve of his latest legal drama. This was also a pioneering effort in AP’s Newsmaker Interview initiative and a stellar example of teamwork across AP’s formats and departments, including all the others in the room for the interview: regional news director Zeina Karam, photographer Hussein Malla, video journalist Alex Turnbull, senior producer Fay Abuelgasim and camera operator Fadi Tawil.https://bit.ly/34Md7g7https://bit.ly/2SY1MGY

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Fast, nimble response puts AP far ahead on major Beirut fire

delivered fast, outstanding coverage as a major fire broke out at Beirut’s port, site of last month’s massive explosion.Ammar was nearby when the fire broke out and within minutes was streaming live video using the Bambuser app. Malla and Tawil also rushed to the scene, Malla shooting stills and sending direct to AP’s Middle East photo desk from his camera while Tawil set up a second live shot. AP was streaming live video for more than an hour before a competitive agency had its live shot up.AP’s video edits were also superior and much faster than the opposition, running quick edits of the fire, helicopters dropping water and two powerful edits shot with a drone, captured by Malla, who deftly switched between his camera and operating his drone to capture aerial photos and videos.And thanks to Ammar’s early response, AP’s news alert moved at least 20 minutes ahead of other major news outlets, further cementing the competitive advantage.

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May 21, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds college activists pushing for reparations over past injustice

broke new ground on a competitive and fast-evolving national story: Amid accelerating efforts to pay reparations to Blacks and Indigenous Americans for injustices suffered over centuries, some of the most strident arguments for amends were coming from U.S. college campuses.Boston reporter Marcelo found that nearly a year after the killing of George Floyd sparked the latest national reckoning on racism, student and community activists from New England to the Deep South are demanding institutions take more ambitious steps to atone for past sins — from colonial-era slavery to more recent campus expansion projects that have pushed out entire communities of color.Marcelo anchored the project from Providence, Rhode Island, home to Brown University. The Ivy League school released an exhaustive historical report in 2006 and dedicated a slavery memorial in 2014, among continuing efforts to promote racial equity.Marcelo’s reporting was powerfully illustrated with visuals from Boston video journalist Rodrique Ngowi, photographer Steven Senne, as well as work from photographers Jacquelyn Martin in Washington, John Bazemore in Atlanta and Steve Helber in Richmond, Virginia.https://aplink.news/bdxhttps://aplink.video/p00

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Nov. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoops White House press on Biden’s Communion in Rome

relied on instinct, local knowledge and a deep awareness of the significance of President Joe Biden receiving Communion in Rome to report exclusively that he had slipped into the American Catholic church for a Saturday vigil Mass a day after meeting Pope Francis.The story and an exclusive photo of the Bidens standing in the pew, shot by Winfiield with her smartphone, scooped even White House press officers, who didn’t know where the president had gone until AP’s pool reporter, Joshua Boak, informed them.Reporters had been expecting Biden would attend Mass on Sunday at St. Peter’s Basilica. Biden regularly attends Mass and receives Communion, but some American Catholic bishops believe he should be denied the sacrament because of his support for abortion rights.The AP story, picked up around the world, was made possible by close coordination with traveling AP reporters Zeke Miller and Boak, the Washington trip desk’s Darlene Superville and White House editor Nancy Benac. https://aplink.news/00j

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Dec. 04, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats package reveals challenges of rural education during the pandemic

On the sparsely populated fringe of the Navajo Nation, AP Report for America journalist Cedar Attanasio saw a storytelling opportunity: the bus system used by the Cuba, New Mexico, school district to solve distance-learning challenges for some of the country’s most isolated, vulnerable students during the pandemic. 

Reporting for text, photos and video, Attanasio rode one of the school buses used to transport meals, assignments and counselors to remote students, a number of whom do not have electricity, let alone internet. When the bus driver was forced to quarantine, Attanasio took to his car, chasing buses on their routes and interviewing students and their families.

For delivering an insightful multiformat package that reveals the pandemic’s impact on education in a disadvantaged community — prompting one reader to donate $1000 to the school board — Attanasio earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 15, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

All-formats coverage of deadly Guatemala volcano dominates play

After Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire erupted June 3, sending a fast-moving flow of superheated ash, rock and debris into villages, AP staffers sprang into action. Over the next week, they worked around the clock in difficult and often-perilous conditions to produce all-formats dispatches from the scene and from shelters and funerals. They told the stories of people who had lost dozens of family members in the explosion, authorities’ search for survivors and victims, and relatives’ own return to homes buried up to the rooftops in ash to dig, in many cases with their own hands.

For scoring numerous exclusives that included highly detailed drone video of the disaster and spectacular photos and video, Guatemala-based journalist Sonia Perez, Mexico City-based reporter Mark Stevenson, Bogota camera operator Marko Alvarez, Guatemala photographer Moises Castillo, Peru-based senior photographer Rodrigo Abd, and stringer photographer Luis Soto have earned 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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