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

Dec. 02, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Source development leads to two sharply different beats – on Henderson’s death and truck safety

The auto industry and Hollywood entertainment could hardly be more different worlds. But for AP reporters covering them, they have this in common: Building sources is essential.

Last week, Tom Krisher, a Detroit-based auto writer, and Lynn Elber, the TV writer in Los Angeles, demonstrated the value of great beat reporting. Both scored scoops that left competitors scrambling. Their stories also created a very unusual situation: A tie for Beat of the Week honors.

Krisher was the first to report the U.S. government was taking the unusual step of allowing General Motors to delay a large recall of potentially defective air bags, giving the automaker time to prove the devices are safe and possibly avoid a huge financial hit.

Elber broke the news of the death of Florence Henderson, "The Brady Bunch" star, about an hour after the beloved TV mom passed away in Los Angeles.

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Nov. 21, 2016

Best of the States

Innocent suspects face terrible choice: plead guilty or risk life in prison

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit. But as Richmond-based reporter Alanna Durkin Richer and Miami legal affairs reporter Curt Anderson found, it happens more often than you might think.

Digging through publicly available data on exonerations, they found alarming statistics: More than 300 of the roughly 1,900 people who have been exonerated in the U.S. since 1989 pleaded guilty. So Richer and Anderson set out to explain why anyone would plead guilty to a crime he or she didn’t commit ...

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Nov. 11, 2016

Best of the States

Was California's $350 million experiment to replace lawns amid drought worth the cost?

In drought-stricken California, the state and dozens of water agencies embarked upon a unique social experiment: try to break the love affair with the lawn by paying residents to rip out their turf and replace it with less thirsty landscaping. San Francisco-based environment reporter Ellen Knickmeyer, who has been covering the state’s historic five-year drought, decided to dig into the water-saving strategy and determine whether it was worth the cost.

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Nov. 04, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

An up-close view of the battle for Mosul

for an all-out team effort that put AP ahead in multiple formats as the battle for Mosul unfolded in the biggest test of Iraq's military since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Bassam Hatoum and Mustafa Najjar kept AP's live feed up and running; a crew of photographer Khalid Mohammed, correspondent Qassim Abdul-Zahra and videojournalist Ali Abdulhassan were embedded with Iraqi special forces; videojournalist Bram Janssen and correspondent Susannah George gave AP customers the first glimpse inside tunnels built by IS to defend against advancing Iraqi forces; Balint Szlanko and Fay Abuelgasim produced original video, while Ahmed Sami produced freelance and uppick edits; Joe Krauss and Sinan Salaheddin kept the spot file solid; and Marko Drobnjakovic contributed to the prolific flow of photos. Coordinating it all was Gulf news director Adam Schreck, who relocated from his base in Dubai to Erbil to be closer to the action. http://apne.ws/2eDDrNC

Nov. 03, 2016

Best of the States

Lack of choice in health insurance markets a growing problem

The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is one of the most divisive political issues in America. So when word began circulating last summer of potential double-digit premium hikes, Washington health care reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar knew he'd have a major story on his hands. With those price hikes would come renewed fears insurers would leave the program.

Looking ahead to the autumn release of the data, Alonso-Zaldivar and data journalism Meghan Hoyer starting laying the groundwork for AP to offer something distinctive, that no other news organization would have.

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Nov. 04, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Getting the real story out in the Philippines

The Philippine defense secretary said it, and many major papers and news agencies ran with it.

China, the cabinet official said, had pulled its coast guard vessels out of Scarborough Shoal, a chain of reefs in the South China Sea that's at the center of a territorial dispute between Manila and Beijing. It appeared an astonishing diplomatic victory for new President Rodrigo Duterte just days after he visited China.

To Jim Gomez, AP's chief correspondent in Manila, it all seemed a bit too remarkable _ and he pushed officials to back up their claim. Within days, they clarified: Chinese vessels had not left the disputed reef, but had allowed in Filipino fishermen who had been denied access for years.

The story resulting from Gomez' persistent questioning debunked a key government claim and earns the Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 23, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Pro-painkiller echo chamber shaped policy amid drug epidemic

Combine the capabilities of The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity, and this is what you can get: A two-part blockbuster that exposed the efforts of the opioid industry and allied groups to stymie limits on the use of its powerful drugs, and detailed how they spent more than $880 million on lobbying and political contributions over the past decade.

The genesis of the project was a conversation between Tom Verdin, editor of AP’s state government team, and Geoff Mulvihill, a member of that team. Mulvihill, based in Mount Laurel, N.J., has covered the opioid crisis sweeping the nation, and the two hit upon the idea of trying to determine the extent of the pharmaceutical industry’s exerting influence in state legislatures across the country.

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Oct. 27, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Divided America: Seeing options shrinking, white men ask why

As the bitter election season winds down, a recurring theme has been the conviction among many white men that they have been losing ground in society. National writer Matt Sedensky wanted to find a way to tell their story for a concluding installment in the series Divided America.

The yearlong assessment of America’s national disunity comprised more than two dozen deeply reported, multi-format stories exploring splits along racial, religious and socio-economic lines, as well as clashing attitudes on issues ranging from gun regulation to immigration.

Sedensky focused on the views of white men turning toward Republican nominee Donald Trump and rejecting Democrat Hillary Clinton. He listened to the voices on a call-in radio show in Texas _ both host and callers revealing their angst _ and then, through backgrounding interviews with them and reporting on research, showed why these men feel as they do.

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Oct. 23, 2016

Best of the States

Jailed without a Judge: AP reporter tells the story of woman jailed for months without due process

Reporter Jeff Amy in Jackson, Mississippi, often combs through recent federal court decisions, upcoming cases and random filings. Every once in a while that produces a whopper of a story. The story of Jessica Jauch, who was jailed for 96 days in Mississippi without seeing a judge, getting a lawyer or having a chance to make bail, was the result of such legwork.

“Oh, my God,” he thought, as he pored over court documents that laid out, in great detail how Jauch was charged with a felony based on a secretly recorded video and how when she finally got a hearing and prosecutors watched the video _ in which she committed no crime _ the case fell apart.

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Oct. 20, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

An accidental shooting kills a child every other day

The tragic stories pop up frequently in local media: a curious toddler gets hold of a gun and accidentally shoots himself or someone else. But how often does that happen? Under what circumstances? And what children are most at risk?

In a new investigative partnership, a team of reporters from the AP and USA TODAY Network spent six months seeking answers to those questions and others about accidental shootings involving minors. What they discovered is horrifying: A child dies every other day of an accidental shooting in the United States. What's more, the federal government significantly undercounts the problem.

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Oct. 19, 2016

Best of the States

Following Hoboken crash, AP team shows NJ Transit leads country in safety violations

After a New Jersey commuter train crashed into the Hoboken station, killing one woman and injuring more than 100 people, it became clear that there would be no quick answer to what caused the accident. But that didn’t stop East Social Media Editor Michael Sisak from wanting to know more about the deeper issues plaguing New Jersey Transit.

Sisak began diving into federal data and, working with New York-based freelancer Michael Balsamo and Newark reporter David Porter, discovered that the transit agency had paid more in fines for safety violations than any other commuter railroad in the country over the past five years. It also had a significantly higher accident rate than the rest of the nation’s 10 largest commuter railroads.

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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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Oct. 07, 2016

Best of the States

Why is Chicago a murder capital? Clues from a bloody month

As Chicago’s homicide rate has surged throughout the year, the police department’s tally of the previous month’s body count has taken on an air of the routine. Even as the city’s murder rate has passed new milestones, the figures have provided little more than a headline. And little insight into the causes and victims of the city’s violence.

Chicago reporter Don Babwin set out to shed light on that violence in the wake of the announcement that August was the deadliest month in the city in two decades.

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Sept. 30, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

The first fully televised interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad

More than three years ago, Lebanon-Syria News Director Zeina Karam in Beirut began her quest to get an interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Karam, along with AP’s longtime Damascus stringer Albert Aji, worked their sources, convincing reluctant Syrian officials about The Associated Press’ reach and significance. Last week, their work paid off: the first fully televised interview Assad has given to an international news agency, resulting in an exclusive, news-breaking all-formats package.

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Sept. 23, 2016

Best of the States

Deep-sea volcano a hotspot for mysterious life

When the World Conservation Congress came to Honolulu, Correspondent Caleb Jones did what any good AP reporter would. He sized up potential news and obtained releases early, including ones about the Great Elephant Census in Africa and a gorilla subspecies being classified as critically endangered.

But, while planning for an interview with Conservation International CEO Peter Seligman, Jones learned something that would take AP’s coverage to another level – and take him to the bottom of the sea – while other reporters sat through speeches and presentations. Scientists with the conservation group and the University of Hawaii were about to embark on the first-ever submarine exploration of two ancient undersea volcanoes 3,000 feet beneath the Pacific and 100 miles off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.

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