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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Jan. 27, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP's Boone spearheads 20-outlet legal challenge to Idaho college stabbings gag order

The fatal stabbings of four college students at the University of Idaho campus in Moscow, Idaho, in November 2022 were initially shrouded in mystery and misinformation. As Boise, Idaho, Supervisory Correspondent Rebecca Boone worked to untangle all of this, a judge put up yet another barrier to getting the story to the public: a sweeping gag order prohibiting law enforcement agencies, attorneys or anyone else associated with the case from discussing it publicly.   

In the middle of one of the biggest stories in the nation, Boone suddenly had a new task on her plate: singlehandedly spearheading a legal challenge to the gag order — ultimately recruiting a coalition of 22 print and TV media outlets, including The New York Times, to join the cause.  

The AP couldn't have had a better advocate for the task. Boone has a track record of fighting for press access and has made the issue a top priority in her lengthy AP career. 

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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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June 21, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Team coverage of African migrants at US-Mexican border

for impressive teamwork and collaboration, using AP’s footprint to tell the story of African immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in record numbers. When the migrants started showing up in remote areas of Texas, the immigration beat team deployed Selsky, a former Africa bureau chief. He found many of the African migrants being put on buses to Maine, where Whittle and Amendola picked up the story, covering Congolese and Angolan asylum seekers at a Portland gymnasium converted into a shelter. Selsky also coordinated relevant reporting from Europe, Africa and Latin America. https://bit.ly/2XVjbhc

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Aug. 06, 2021

Best of the States

As wells dry up in parched US West, AP reports on residents now without running water

The extreme drought in the American West has already taken a dramatic toll. And now, near the Oregon-California border, as many as several hundred wells have dried up in the past few weeks, leaving dozens of homeowners in the parched region with no running water at all. Reporter Gillian Flaccus and freelance photographer Nathan Howard documented the residents’ plight and the challenges facing authorities responding to the situation.

Flaccus used sources she had built in months of reporting on the dire conditions in the Klamath River Basin, convincing people to let Howard depict their hardship over water in photos and video. Digital storyteller Samantha Shotzbarger then weaved all the elements into a compelling multimedia offering. The story drew widespread play in the U.S., especially in the West.

For continuing to shine light on the effects of the drought afflicting the U.S. West, Flaccus, Howard and Shotzbarger win this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 03, 2019

Best of the States

‘Destined to Burn’: AP, media organizations join forces to expose California wildfire risks

A groundbreaking collaboration among California newspapers and The Associated Press started with a tweet.

Northern California News Editor Juliet Williams saw on Twitter that the editor of The Sacramento Bee, a McClatchy paper, was driving to meet with the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record, a MediaNews paper, to talk about wildfire coverage. Williams reached out, offered the AP’s help, and a partnership was born, with the goal of illuminating problems and pointing to potential solutions to California’s increasingly deadly wildfires.

The results: nearly a dozen stories, including an analysis of data by McClatchy and AP Los Angeles-based data journalist Angeliki Kastanis revealing that more than 350,000 Californians live in towns and cities almost entirely within zones of very high wildfire risk. An analysis also found that a 2008 building code for California’s fire-prone regions can make the difference in whether homes burn or not, but there’s little retrofitting of older homes.

The partnership’s next installment was focused on evacuation planning, revealing that many communities wouldn’t share the information or didn’t have an adequate plan, or any plan at all. Data analysis by USA TODAY Network-California showed many communities had too few roads to get everyone out.

We heavily publicized the package and play was impressive, with hundreds of downloads of the first two installments. Many outlets used the data to report their own stories about local fire risks. And this isn’t the end of the partnership: The next phase will focus on legislative action on wildfire coverage.

When AP engages in collaborations like these we become more than just a content provider to our customers; we’re helping them produce high-impact local coverage that wouldn’t exist otherwise. In this case, the “Destined to Burn” partnership was managed at every level by West Deputy Director of Newsgathering Anna Jo Bratton, who worked for six months with people throughout the AP and the collaborators to make the partnership a success.

For putting the AP at the center of an important collaboration, driving important journalism in a state ravaged by wildfires, and forging a stronger relationship with members, Williams, Kastanis and Bratton win this AP’s Best of the States.

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Jan. 07, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Resourceful AP team dominates all-formats coverage of Colorado inferno

When a winter grassland fire exploded along Colorado’s Front Range two days before New Year’s, destroying nearly 1,000 homes and forcing tens of thousands to flee, AP staffers in all formats rushed to document what is likely the state’s most destructive fire ever.

The coverage included first video and photos of the massive flames on Day One, giving AP a quick competitive edge from the start. AP stayed ahead in the days that followed with staffers trekking for miles into the burn area, quickly delivering text, video and photos as residents returned to the remains of their homes. The reporting also placed the blaze in the larger context of global warming in the American West.

During a busy news week, the initial fire coverage was among AP’s top stories.

For compelling all-formats content from this rare, horrific winter fire, the team of Eugene Garcia, Dave Zelio, Thomas Peipert, Colleen Slevin, Jim Anderson, Martha Bellisle, Brittany Peterson, Patty Nieberg, David Zalubowski and Jack Dempsey is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP explores minority groups’ experience with being ‘othered’ in US

for telling the stories of people in minority groups who feel “othered”: separated from the majority and viewed with suspicion in America. Tapping into the current tension between the U.S. and Iran, the story focused on Iranian American activist Hoda Katebi. For many young Iranian Americans, this is a mobilizing moment: They are embracing their identity as part of an ethnic community and as part of a larger struggle for inclusion in the U.S., a sentiment shared by minorities interviewed for the piece.https://bit.ly/2SmK6Ckhttps://bit.ly/2Sn8TGc

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July 16, 2021

Best of the States

AP takes immersive look as drought puts ‘flatlining’ Great Salt Lake at historic risk

As the western U.S. finds itself in the grips of one of the worst droughts in recent history, the AP West region staff has delved into every aspect of the drought’s impact across the region. In one of the hardest-hit areas, the Salt Lake City-based team of Rick Bowmer, Lindsay Whitehurst and Brady McCombs documented that Utah’s Great Salt Lake may be headed to the lowest water levels in 170 years.

Reporting ahead of other news outlets, they delivered an all-formats package with stunning visuals showing readers how the dying lake is impacting people and wildlife and is a harbinger of worrisome drought-related consequences ahead. Decades of drought and water diversion in the booming region have hurt bird habitats, forced boats from shallow water and exposed dry lakebed that could send arsenic-laced dust into the air that millions breathe.

The result was a compelling package that had the highest engagement of all AP stories on July 6 and fourth-most for the week.

For distinctive work that expands AP’s ongoing coverage of climate and drought in the West, the team of Bowmer, Whitehurst and McCombs wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 18, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Mother and child reunion is only a photo away; determined AP team is there to record it

On a midnight assignment at the U.S.-Mexico border in mid-May, the all-formats team of Greg Bull, Eugene Garcia and Adriana Gómez Licón reported on an 8-year-old Honduran migrant named Emely. Bull made a striking image as Emely stood alone and barefoot after crossing into Texas with strangers and turning herself into border agents.

Thanks to Bull’s photograph, just more than three weeks later another AP team — reporter Acacia Coronado, photographer Eric Gay and video journalist Angie Wang — were on hand when Emely hugged her mother for the first time in six years. The girl’s mother had seen Bull’s photo on television, setting her on a desperate mission to find Emely and setting in motion a determined AP effort to report on the reunion. 

The result was a vivid and emotional package with remarkably high reader engagement and outstanding customer use in all formats.

For spotlighting the stories that persist even when a nation’s attention to the U.S-Mexico border does not — and commitment and compassion in seeing it through — Coronado, Gay, Wang, Bull, Garcia and Gómez Licón earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Sept. 14, 2018

Best of the States

#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing, dying?

It’s a subject that has been largely ignored by the public and mainstream press in the U.S.: the plight of thousands of missing and murdered Native American women across the country.

Albuquerque reporter Mary Hudetz and national enterprise journalists Sharon Cohen and David Goldman teamed up to deliver an impressive all-formats package that illuminated these tragedies, engaging readers on one of the busiest news days in recent memory and earning praise from the industry.

For their efforts, Hudetz, Goldman and Cohen win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

10 years after Sandy, AP looks ahead to the next superstorm

teamed up for enterprising coverage to mark the 10th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, looking at the recovery from Sandy and how the nation prepares for major storms to come.The all-formats coverage included an examination of what remains to be done in the Northeast and the across the nation as sea levels rise and severe storms become more common; survivors’ post-storm experiences — not just after Sandy — revealing that the nation’s disaster response system is broken and needs reform to get money into victims’ hands more quickly; and an in-depth look at inequity in the distribution of post-storm aid and resources.Read more

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July 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop on US ruling to free immigrant children

scored a 90-minute beat on a closely watched federal court ruling that ordered the release of children held with their parents in U.S. immigration jails during the pandemic. Merchant was tipped earlier in the day and had much of the story written ahead of the decision. He had set the stage earlier in the week with an unmatched story on families being isolated in Texas at the largest of three family detention centers run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. https://bit.ly/3iclNlv

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