July 24, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Inside the first major outbreak at an ICE detention center

The reason the warden at a large San Diego detention center gave for not wearing masks amid the pandemic was astonishing – and likely helped fuel a large outbreak.

“Well, you can’t wear the mask because we don’t want to scare the employees and we don’t want to scare the inmates and detainees,” a guard recalled being told.

That’s just the lead of the story by AP’s Elliot Spagat, who landed the first detailed interviews with employees and detainees about the situation at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. Spagat also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and government data to provide the most complete account yet of the first major outbreak at a U.S. immigration facility.

For giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the factors that surely contributed to the virus outbreak, and for holding the warden and other officials accountable, Spagat wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 17, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP responds to US tornadoes with sweeping, distinctive all-formats coverage

When a tornado warning sounded Friday night, AP’s Appalachian staffers scrambled to find whatever information they could in the dead of night. By early Saturday morning it had become clear Kentucky was going to be the epicenter of one of the most powerful tornadoes to hit the region in recent memory.Staffers responded quickly in all formats, including the first live video from the devastated town of Mayfield. Coverage included residents’ wrenching accounts of survival and loss, and powerful visuals, but there was also an important pause in AP’s coverage: Many news outlets breathlessly reported the governor’s grim prediction that as many as 70 people may have died in the collapse of a candle factory. AP was more cautious, preserving its reputation for accuracy when the actual toll came in much lower.AP’s mainbar text stories, photos and video — live and edited — all earned heavy play.

For smart, fast, determined coverage in the days immediately following the storm, the team of Bruce Schreiner, Claire Galofaro, Dylan Lovan, John Raby, Travis Loller, Mark Humphrey, Gerald Herbert, Kristin Hall and Robert Bumsted is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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July 05, 2019

Best of the States

AP: Smoke from US wildfires boosting health risk for millions

After last year's deadly wildfires in California brought weeks of sooty skies to cities along the West Coast, the AP decided to take a closer look into the broader impacts of the massive smoke plumes.

Billings, Montana, correspondent and environment team member Matthew Brown teamed with Denver video journalist P. Solomon Banda to produce an all-formats report on the growing public health threat from wildfire smoke. Their work grew from a body of research that points to where smoke impacts will be worst – a broad swath of the West that includes more than 300 counties with tens of millions of people.

For diligent reporting that provided a deeper look into how wildfires affect communities throughout the region, Brown and Banda earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 02, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Got guns? Sourcing, data and subject expertise reveal record 300,000 rejected U.S. gun sales

At a time when gun sales in America are reaching record highs and political divisions run deep, Salt Lake City reporter Lindsay Whitehurst has become a recognized authority on shifting weapons laws at the state level. She has cultivated sources on both sides of the issue and earned a reputation as a fair and accurate interpreter of the national schism over guns.

That’s why, after working for months with sources at Everytown for Gun Safety, a major player in the gun control lobby, the nonprofit turned to her with a trove of exclusive records on attempted firearms purchases that were denied by the FBI last year.

Whitehurst dove into the FBI data that showed gun sale rejections at an all-time high. Nearly half of the denials were for convicted felons, at a time when fights for universal background checks continue to fail. And although lying on a firearms background check is a federal offense, Whitehurst also learned that such cases are rarely prosecuted, raising the questionof why — in a volatile America — authorities are not investigating those who try despite being banned.

For probing these questions, and her leadership on a beat that touches on some of the nation’s most fundamental and contentious rights, Whitehurst earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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July 23, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

South Africa team delivers in all formats as violence spreads

drew on experience and stamina for comprehensive all-formats coverage of the worst civil unrest in the country's post-apartheid history.Starting with a weeklong stakeout and fast, accurate reporting on the midnight arrest of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court, the story quickly shifted: Zuma’s supporters burned trucks on a main highway, blocking it and severing the port city Durban from other parts of the country — the first sign of worse trouble to come.With violence spreading to various locations through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, leaving scores of people dead, the crew of staff and freelancers delivered strong, distinctive visuals, including multiple video edits, live video of rioting at a Soweto mall, drone images and dramatic photos despite attacks on journalists.Amid the chaos, multiple reports of violence, deaths, looting were deftly edited day after day into a comprehensive report that also provided political and societal context referencing South Africa’s underlying economic problems. The story “‘I was in tears’: South Africans take stand against rioting” stands out in the week’s strong body of work.https://aplink.news/qqjhttps://aplink.news/436https://aplink.news/brxhttps://aplink.video/q6ghttps://aplink.video/uchhttps://aplink.video/6uk

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April 30, 2021

Best of the States

A photographer’s affecting portrait of Korean American seniors, fearful amid anti-Asian violence

The Koreatown area of Los Angeles can be a challenging place to report — many residents are hesitant to speak to the press. That makes what Los Angeles-based photographer Jae Hong pulled off that much more impressive. 

Hong, a Korean American who moved to LA as a teenager, had recently spent a year on assignment in Tokyo. When he returned to the U.S., he was astonished by the increased aggression he saw toward Asian Americans, who were being blamed by some for COVID-19. 

After much outreach and many conversations with the local Korean community, he found a few families willing to let him into their lives. The end result — Hong’s somber photos and poignant text — is a compelling portrait of a community experiencing very real fear amid attacks targeting Asians. 

For timely, revealing enterprise reporting in both text and photos, Jae Hong wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 14, 2018

Best of the States

Years of planning pay off in ‘picture perfect’ coverage of Bush funeral events

For more than a decade, Washington photo editor Jon Elswick has negotiated with the Department of Defense over coverage plans for the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, while Houston photojournalist David Phillip fostered a relationship with the Bush family and their spokesman to secure AP’s shooting positions for the eventual funeral events.

Those relationships were crucial to arranging and executing coverage, paving the way for more than two dozen staffers to parachute into Washington, Houston and College Station, Texas, where they produced outstanding photos in real time and for the history books.

Among the highlights: Photographer Morry Gash fired a remote-controlled camera that captured a stunning bird’s-eye view of the U.S. Capitol rotunda during visitation and services, and David Phillip negotiated to shoot inside the railroad car carrying the coffin as the funeral train passed through Texas. Phillip called it “the most incredible event I have ever covered.”

The photo coverage was part of an impressive dayslong cross-format effort by scores of AP staff across the country and globe that included hours of live video and spot and breaking text, video, audio and graphics coverage that explored Bush’s life and presidency from every angle.

For exceptional planning and execution on one of the largest news events of the year, this week’s Best of the States goes to the team of photo staff covering the Bush funeral.

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Aug. 02, 2019

Best of the States

A century after hundreds of black killings, AP explores the enduring impact of ‘Red Summer’

While conducting research for another potential project, Jesse J. Holland, race and ethnicity reporter based in Washington, read about the upcoming anniversary of the “Red Summer” of 1919 and noticed a startling fact: Few people seemed to know that more than 200 African Americans died at the hands of white rioters across the country 100 years ago. The stream of violence that stretched from February to October that year, most of it in the U.S. South and Northeast, eluded history books and was largely forgotten.

Holland presented the information to the larger team, and the project took flight. The all-formats series ultimately included work by staffers Cedar Attanasio, El Paso, Texas; Russell Contreras, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Noreen Nasir, Chicago; and Rodrique Ngowi, Boston. AP was largely alone in its coverage and the team’s efforts were rewarded with prominent use by national outlets and strong engagement.

For taking a little-known event and turning it into a dynamic project with powerful historic and present-day context that no other news outlet could match, Attanasio, Contreras, Holland, Nasir and Ngowi win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 28, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Viral photo captures mood, fears, threats in pandemic-dominated 2020

For many in the U.S. and around the world, 2020 has been one of the most challenging years in recent memory – and a single wildfire photo by freelance photographer Noah Berger, on assignment for the AP, captured the danger, fear and uncertainty wrought by the pandemic. 

The ironic image of a sign, surrounded by flames while urging safety, was widely interpreted as a pointed commentary on 2020. The photo went viral and was among AP’s most downloaded images of the month.

And that was just one of many photos and videos by Berger that helped put the AP ahead of the competition in recent coverage of fires in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

For his courageous and committed work, and a remarkable photo that frames much of 2020 in the context of a raging wildfire, Noah Berger wins AP’s Best of the Week award. 

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July 30, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

As Herschel Walker eyes US Senate run, AP reveals a turbulent past

broke news on former football star Herschel Walker, who is said to be considering a run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. The Georgia Senate race may be the most competitive in the nation next year and Walker, a former University of Georgia star and a friend of former President Donald Trump, would be an appealing Republican candidate. But Walker also has a history of mental illness and a tell-all book with extraordinary details about his troubled past.The tales in Walker’s 2008 book would have been enough for a good story, but Washington-based reporter Slodysko and his colleagues, Atlanta’s Barrow and Dallas’ Bleiberg, wanted to know more.The trio turned up records that had never been reported on, including claims by Walker’s ex-wife that he threatened her life, concerns by his business partners about his behavior; and evidence that he had exaggerated the size of his company in federal filings.Knowing that several other outlets were also working the story, the reporters wrote quickly from a strong paper trail and good source reporting that added important political context about Walker’s deliberations. They wrote carefully and precisely about Walker’s illness. The result was an extraordinary read that may influence the Georgia race for U.S. Senate. The piece was the most-read story on AP News last week — a stunning feat for a story that ran midday on a summer Friday. https://aplink.news/frs

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Aug. 09, 2019

Best of the States

AP mobilizes cross-formats response to deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio

AP’s U.S. staff has a lot of practice in responding to mass shootings. But two major events in 24 hours tested even the most experienced staff.

They rose to the challenge.

Soon after noon Central time on Saturday, Aug. 3, reports began to surface about an active shooter at an El Paso, Texas, mall. A local news station initially reported that 18 people were shot inside a Walmart – a number which by Monday would rise to 22 dead and two dozen injured.

The quick reaction of AP staff around the country and beyond – in the office, at home and even on vacation – ensured the AP was fast, accurate and leading the way on what would become one of the biggest stories of the year. Text, photo and video staffers converged on El Paso, while colleagues around the country worked sources, contributed to the stories and managed the coverage.

Among the standout reporting was an early interview with a woman who told the heartbreaking story of her sister who died while shielding her 2-month-old son – just a small part of the terrific cross-format continuing coverage.

As the Texas team was just catching its breath, reports of another massacre emerged overnight, this time in Ohio. AP’s initial alert was followed four minutes later by the alert that a shooter killed nine people, including his own sister, before police shot him dead. The East Desk immediately dispatched Ohio staff and others to Dayton.

AP beat competitive agencies with photos and numerous live shots, as well as an incredibly compelling interview with a man who watched his father die in his arms. Elsewhere, many of the same supporting cast already working the El Paso story from afar stepped in on Ohio as well, complementing the coverage on the ground.

For its quick, nimble response, precise reporting and robust, cross-format content on two highly competitive breaking stories, the U.S. staff is recognized with this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 29, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Stories of lives lost, told with photos: 2 remarkable projects share Best of the Week

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged across the world last week, and the confirmed U.S. death toll approached 100,000, AP photographers on two continents found unusual and meaningful ways to bring home the tragedy of lives lost. They were:

– Photographer David Goldman, who met with the families of COVID-19 victims at a Massachusetts soldiers’ home, literally projecting veterans’ images onto the exterior of the families’ homes for a series of arresting, ghostly and emotion-laden scenes.

– And Rodrigo Abd, who spent weeks with Venezuelan migrants collecting bodies in a poor area of Lima, Peru, showing the abject desperation of that city’s victims. Also honored is Lima reporter Franklin Briceño who accompanied Abd, documenting for text and video the funeral home workers on their grueling rounds.

Both projects had immense impact online and in print, drawing praise from readers and editors. For intrepid and creative multiformat storytelling emphasized by unforgettable images, Goldman, Abd and Briceño share AP’s Best of the Week honors. 

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July 31, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exclusive leads to release of migrant kids held in US hotels for deportation

Earmarked for deportation, the immigrant children, some mere toddlers, were parked in nondescript hotels – out of sight and, the Trump administration thought, out of mind.  But not out of reach of an Associated Press exclusive.

With an investigation based on source work, court records and witness accounts, immigration reporter Nomaan Merchant exposed how the Trump administration held children in hotels despite federal anti-trafficking laws and court rulings that mandate child-appropriate facilities.

Merchant’s exclusive sparked outrage and accusations of child abuse. Five days later, the Trump administration said it would not expel 17 people, including children, detained at one Texas hotel, and the hotels pledged to stop allowing the practice.

For his investigative story that punctured layers of secrecy and changed the fortunes of all-but-invisible immigrant children, Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award. 

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Dec. 08, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Gatlinburg fires leave personal devastation as well as physical damage

for their efforts in gaining exclusive access to some of the affected areas and shooting compelling video that captured the physical damage and the personal devastation of the Gatlinburg fires. New York-based Nathan Griffiths produced a 360 video, and Eric Schelzig shot aerial photos while on a flyover tour with the governor. https://apnews.com/b1b36cc743444b3b87a4e646fd1371a8

May 05, 2017

Best of the States

Witnessing death: AP reporters describe problem executions

The last of four executions carried out by Arkansas in April highlighted concerns about the drug midazolam. The sedative has been adopted by many states in recent years as part of their lethal injection protocol in place of barbiturates and anesthetics no longer available because manufacturers don't want them used in executions.

How did that midazolam execution compare to others, some in other states, where problems were alleged?

It was a question the AP – with its nationwide profile – was uniquely positioned to answer. For its depth of coverage, the multi-state AP team wins this week's Best of States award.

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May 17, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Schedules reveal West Virginia governor largely absent from work

Anthony Izaguirre began hearing the chatter about West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice as soon as he started work as the AP’s statehouse correspondent in Charleston, West Virginia, in late February. Sources told him Justice – a billionaire who owns mines, farms and a swanky resort – wasn’t fully engaged and hadn’t even been in the capital, Charleston, much since taking office in 2017.

Izaguirre's initial request for the governor’s schedules was declined, but he pressed with the help of AP’s legal department, finally getting the records. Armed with those calendars and his own resourceful reporting, he cobbled together a record of the governor’s activities, confirming what many suspected: Justice appeared to have better things to do than govern.

West Virginia media pounced on the exclusive story, which also played well outside the state.

For his resolute work to obtain public records and his thorough reporting to fill out a story no one else in the state could land, Izaguirre wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 11, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Documenting the US surge in identifying molester Catholic priests

In the months after a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report on sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests, scattered dioceses across the country started putting out their own lists of molester priests. Some state and local authorities also announced they would investigate the church.

News outlets began reporting the varied efforts piecemeal. But no one was capturing the big picture – including the sudden urgency being shown by the church to open its books on past abuse.

Reporter Claudia Lauer in the Philadelphia bureau set out to fix that. Starting in November, she began systematically documenting every investigation taking place around the country and every instance of a diocese naming abusive priests in the wake of the Pennsylvania report.

With the number of US dioceses totaling 187, it was a time-consuming task. But that work paid off with her Jan. 3 exclusive. Lauer tallied more than 1,000 names publicized by 50 or so dioceses and established that over 50 more dioceses were committed to naming names. She also identified nearly 20 outside investigations taking place across the country, both criminal and civil.

The story won phenomenal play online and in print and generated huge interest on social media. Some Catholic publications used her story to provide an update on developments in the church.

For her painstaking and dogged work to document what has been happening in the church nationally in the wake of the Pennsylvania report, Lauer wins this week’s Best of the States.

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