June 23, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

The Great Grift: How billions in COVID-19 relief aid was stolen or wasted

After a monthslong analysis, the AP revealed that at least 10% of $4 trillion in federal COVID-19 relief money was stolen or misspent.

The story was sparked by a simple question in January from Acting Global Investigations Editor Alison Kodjak: How much relief money was stolen? Richard Lardner, of the global investigations team, teamed up with climate reporter Jennifer McDermott and data team reporter Aaron Kessler to get an answer. They conducted scores of interviews, read dozens of government indictments and reports and tracked down experts.

In the end, they determined scam artists potentially stole more than $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding, and another $123 billion was wasted or misspent — a combined loss of 10% of the relief aid the U.S. government has so far disbursed. Senior video producer Jeannie Ohm and motion graphics designer Eva Malek created an animated video explainer, narrated by Kessler, that succinctly laid out how easy it was for fraudsters to make off with so much money. Multimedia editor Kevin Vineys created a series of compelling graphics that helped break down government spending and potential theft.

For spending months investigating and documenting how much of the federal government’s $4.2 trillion in COVID-19 relief was looted or misspent, Lardner, McDermott, Kessler, Vineys and Malek earn Best of the Week — First Winners.

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June 02, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cross-format team delivers a comprehensive, data-driven project on Black Americans’ experiences with health disparities

National investigative race writer Kat Stafford had wanted to create a project about lifelong health disparities Black people face for quite some time. Taking inspiration from her reporting about the toll COVID-19 exacted upon Black Americans, she sharpened her idea and embarked on reporting a five-part series.     

Driven by data and the experiences of several families, individuals and communities across five states and life stages, “From Birth to Death” examines five health crises: infant and maternal health, childhood asthma, mental health, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s disease.       

Stafford, who is based in Detroit, teamed up with video journalist Noreen Nasir and photojournalist Maye-E Wong, both of New York, for the comprehensive project that captures the health journey of Black people in America over a lifetime. The trio — along with national education writer Annie Ma, data journalist Angeliki Kastanis, illustrator Peter Hamlin, project site creator Linda Gorman, and graphics journalist Kevin Vineys — told the stories in a compelling and human way using an innovative presentation. They centered the project around the often-underrepresented voices and perspectives of Black Americans — and not just the main characters, but also Black medical experts, researchers and historians. The families featured said they feel seen and heard for the first time.   

In addition, an extensive social promotion plan created by Ed Medeles, Elise Ryan and Almaz Abedje enticed readers to delve into the project.

For an innovative series that gives a fuller picture of the health disparities Black people experience in a way that resonates with a broader audience, this team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.   

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May 05, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP leads on coverage of Montana transgender lawmaker with authoritative, visual and fast coverage

When protesters erupted in chants of “Let her speak” from the gallery inside the Montana statehouse, and silenced transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr lifted her microphone triumphantly in the air, longtime AP reporter Amy Hanson was there to capture the action with her cell phone for video, photos and words. It was the start of a week of agenda-setting, visual and comprehensive coverage by Hanson and her colleagues as Zephyr’s compelling dispute with Republican state leaders captivated audiences, culminating in the GOP voting to bar the freshman legislator from the House floor on Thursday. The powerful coverage throughout the week showcased the value of AP’s legislative footprint and was a textbook example of how we can dominate a story when we surge resources and harness our collective expertise.Hanson worked tirelessly from Helena, Montana, all week and tapped into her deep sourcing and knowledge of state politics to provide impeccable and fast reporting. Her previous source building with Zephyr after she was elected last year proved invaluable, giving the AP access to the lawmaker all week. Billings-based reporter Matt Brown and Salt Lake City-based reporter Sam Metz took turns stitching together well-written spot stories each day, updating the “What to Know” and prepping urgent new series for the next key moment in the saga. The duo also produced a smart takeout about the rise of conservative caucuses like the one in Montana that fueled the dispute.Denver-based video journalist Brittany Peterson and political reporter Nick Riccardi also went to Montana to supplement Amy’s on-the-ground reporting. Nick quickly pulled together a deeply reported and beautifully written story about support for Zephyr in her hometown, the college town of Missoula. Colleagues from around the AP coordinated with the Rockies staff to deliver several smart takes about the standoff, including a look at the underlying rhetoric in the dispute and how Republicans in Montana and Tennessee tried calling peaceful protests "insurrections" to downplay the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

For thorough, nuanced coverage that kept the AP out front, Hanson, Peterson, Riccardi, Brown and Metz win this week’s first citation for Best of the Week.

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April 14, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation uncovers brutal murder of a 16-year-old by Burkina Faso soldiers

A video in Burkina Faso showing men in military fatigues walking among the bloodied bodies of boys with their hands bound surfaced on social media in mid-February. A six-week AP project delivered a frame-by-frame analysis of the graphic, 83-second video of the killings and tracked down the relatives of one of the victims: Adama, a 16-year-old cattle herder, piecing together his final hours. A soldier smashed his head with a large rock.

Government officials denied involvement in the killings, but analysis by Global Investigative Reporter Michael Biesecker was able to show the soldiers were wearing uniforms and had vehicles consistent with members of the Burkinabe military. After West Africa Correspondent Sam Mednick got a tip, Biesecker was able to geolocate the killings to Camp Zondoma, a military base near Ouahigouya.

Mednick and her Ouagadougou translator located the teen’s family after people in the capital with ties to Ouahigouya connected them with Adama’s uncle, the first person willing to talk. The translator whose identity cannot be disclosed played a key role in getting the family to speak, despite great personal risk. Mednick persuaded the uncle to let her interview the boy’s mother, who was unaware that her son’s death had been filmed.

Visual journalist Marshall Ritzel produced a video highlighting the visual investigation and exclusive interviews with Adama’s family. An edit of the video by digital audiences producer McKinnon de Kuyper was among AP’s top social posts of the week.

For shining a spotlight on the sort of casual murder that takes place in countries around the world, Mednick, Biesecker, Ritzel, the anonymous translator in Ouagadougou and de Kuyper win this week’s first place best of the week.

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April 07, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

3 days, 2 nights, 1 train: Kyiv team crosses Ukraine with Zelenskyy in unprecedented embed

Months of building trust with the Ukrainian government led to unmatched access to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his travels across Ukraine. It resulted in a powerful all-formats series of stories that made headlines across the world and gave an in-depth portrait of a wartime leader in perpetual motion. 

For months, The AP team has been working on improving our links with the Kyiv government. Persistence paid off. AP was offered an exclusive interview with the president, to be carried out by Executive Editor Julie Pace. She traveled into the country, accompanied by Europe and Africa News Director James Jordan and teamed up with Arhirova and Lukatsky and on-deployment Prague video journalist Adam Pemble for two nights and three days on the president’s train.  

For their herculean efforts to organize and deliver the meeting, engineering an opportunity for AP to conduct the most extensive embed with the Ukrainian president to date, Arhirova, Lukatsky and Pemble share Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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March 31, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years of source work in Texas leads to power narrative enterprise story

Jake Bleiberg spent years reporting on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, including an investigation in September into the dropped cases. That story caught the attention of Irma Reyes, a South Texas mother, who reached out to Bleiberg to say that something similar was probably about to happen in the cases of two men charged with sex trafficking her daughter. Bleiberg checked sources and records and then headed to court, where he and Eric Gay witnessed Reyes’s worst fears come to pass.    

The resulting story became the most engaged story of the week on APNews. It also received extensive play across Texas and national media outlets, and won praise from elected officials critical of Paxton, as well as from prosecutors, and even a lawyer for one of the men accused in the case.    

For their compelling all-formats narrative story that put a human face on the dysfunction in Texas that led prosecutors to drop human trafficking and child sexual abuse cases, writer Jake Bleiberg, photographer Eric Gay and video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi are the first winners of this week’s Best of the Week award. 

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