Oct. 02, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exposes palm oil labor abuses linked to the world’s top brands, major banks

While covering the Rohingya crisis, investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason knew tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Myanmar were vulnerable to exploitation. They suspected desperate men were being tricked or sold into the massive palm oil industry that supplies some of America’s most iconic food and cosmetic brands.

Working with photographers Gemunu Amarasinghe and Binsar Bakkara, they vividly documented the horrors some workers in Malyasia and Indonesia face. Workers spoke of brutal conditions including child labor, outright slavery and allegations of rape.

Reaction was swift, with the  U.S. government saying it would block shipments from a major Malaysian producer mentioned in the story.

For exposing abuses affecting tens of thousands of workers in a global industry that manufactures a vast array of products we buy and use daily, McDowell, Mason, Amarasinghe and Bakkara win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 08, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Unserved 1955 arrest warrant discovered for woman at center of Emmett Till case

“And I do not say this lightly: Holy shit.” That, from producer and Black List founder Franklin Leonard, sums up the collective reaction to the scoop by AP’s Jay Reeves and Emily Wagster Pettus: Searchers in Mississippi had discovered the nearly 70-year-old unserved warrant for the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman whose unproven accusation against Emmett Till led to the Black teenager’s lynching, a horror that galvanized the civil rights movement.

Reeves had reported previously that relatives and activists were still seeking the long-lost warrant, and years of source work paid off with a tip: The document had been found in the basement of a Mississippi courthouse. He confirmed it and teamed up with Wagster Pettus, contacting law enforcement officials and legal experts on what the discovery means to the case, which had been considered closed.

The resulting story made waves, scoring heavy play with customers and on AP platforms.For breaking news on one of the country’s most notorious civil rights cases, Reeves and Wagster Pettus share this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Aug. 13, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork dominates coverage of Pentagon officer’s fatal stabbing

teamed up in all formats to lead coverage of a police officer's fatal stabbing outside the Pentagon, delivering first, exclusive details over two days, decisively winning play and leaving other news organizations to cite AP or match us hours or days later.Veteran military reporter Lolita Baldor had been walking up the stairs to the Pentagon when she heard a sound familiar to her: gunshots. Moments later, she confirmed with a guard that there had indeed been shots fired near the Metro and that one person was down. At the same time, video journalist Sagar Meghani was in a credentialing office just inside the Metro entrance to the building, when he heard an officer yell “Shooter!” Since taking photos and videos inside the building is forbidden, Meghani pretended to look at his phone while surreptitiously snapping photographs of the scene and posting them in Slack. He also recorded and posted public address announcements about the building being in lockdown.Meanwhile, AP staffers across all formats responded. Washington photographer Andrew Harnik raced away from a football practice he’d been covering, producing some of the first photos of heavy police activity. Video journalist Nathan Ellgren established live shots at the Pentagon within 20 minutes of getting the call. Reporters Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker and Colleen Long worked sources throughout the day to report key details about how the violence unfolded and obtaining the assailant’s name from three separate sources. Investigative reporter Michael Biesecker confirmed previously pending charges against the alleged assailant, making AP first to report the man’s criminal history. The teamwork resulted in the most widely used story on the AP News app and website for the day.https://aplink.news/um0https://aplink.news/pjwhttps://aplink.video/g55https://aplink.video/3vf

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April 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tip from puzzled reader leads to 1600s pirate mystery

turned a reader’s polite complaint into an engaging mystery story of 17th century piracy. Amateur historian Jim Bailey questioned why AP had run an item on a 1796 penny found in a Maine churchyard. The coin was not significant but, he added, he had found one that was. The tip put Kole and Senne on the trail of ancient Arabian coins unearthed around New England that were traced to Henry Every, an English pirate whose crew raped, murdered and pillaged in 1695, making the captain the planet’s most-wanted man. Kole interviewed historians and archaeologists who said Bailey’s discovery — a 1693 Yemeni coin found with a metal detector in a pick-your-own fruit orchard — indeed was significant and that it provided evidence that the subject of the world’s first manhunt did not just vanish into the wind after plundering a ship carrying Muslim pilgrims home from a pilgrimage to Mecca — he and his crew may have spent time in colonial New England spending their loot. Bailey found documents showing that the way the pirates hid out was by posing as slave traders, then a “legitimate” profession in Newport, Rhode Island.Kole's story rocketed to the top of the news cycle on the day it was published, getting more clicks than any other story on apnews.com. https://bit.ly/2Ov95UV

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive analysis of 300 federal arrests leads to DOJ scoops

analyzed hundreds of federal arrest records to determine how U.S. Department of Justice officials are handling protester arrests nationwide. The Trump administration has used the arrests to argue there is extreme violence in some cities. The AP team combed through arrest records and created a database of some 300 arrests – some were serious, but others raised questions about their validity. Others were not related to left-wing violence at all, but rather right-wing or racist acts against the demonstrators themselves.The Only-on-AP examination was followed hours later with a pair of scoops by Balsamo – that the Justice Department had eyed possibly charging Portland officials with crimes, and that federal prosecutors had put together a memo on how to charge Americans with sedition.https://bit.ly/3kEavqqhttps://bit.ly/35ZsJia

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Dec. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Rapid all-formats AP response after SUV plows into holiday parade

quickly swung into action when an SUV plowed into a holiday parade just as many in Wakesha, Wisconsin, were sitting down to Sunday dinner. AP delivered vivid all-formats coverage, broke news and followed up with detail-rich enterprise that included a reconstruction of the vehicle's deadly path.AP’s swiftly updated mainbar balanced the evolving information on casualties with heart-wrenching detail gleaned from livestreamed video, the smartphones of spectators and telephone interviews with marchers and witnesses. Madison-based supervisory correspondent Scott Bauer anchored the first night’s coverage, with video journalist Mike Householder speeding to the scene from nearby Kenosha, where he had been on assignment for the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.Early the next morning, lead Justice Department reporter Michael Balsamo tapped his sources to break the news that that police were looking into whether the driver had been fleeing from a crime. Investigative reporters Michael Biesecker and Bernard Condon contributed key research and reporting to flesh out the suspect, and Condon and Bauer teamed up for a fresh take when it emerged that the suspect had been free on astonishingly low bond of $1,000 — for an alleged crime that involved intentionally running over a person. Reporters Tammy Webber, Todd Richmond and Condon broke down the case for intentional homicide charges.But the most powerful offerings of the week revolved around the victims. Chicago-based Sara Burnett, with reporting from Katie Foody, Tim Sullivan, Webber and Bauer, took readers along the parade route with a reconstruction of the tragedy that a senior news manager described as “amazing writing.” And Sullivan, with reporting from Foody and Webber, brought to life the “Dancing Grannies” — the troupe of cheerful women who lost three of their number plus a volunteer.https://bit.ly/3cZeTyuhttps://bit.ly/3rksadfhttps://bit.ly/31fD757https://bit.ly/3cYN89ihttps://bit.ly/3pf1gkihttps://bit.ly/3D5q6Ixhttps://aplink.video/jaa

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Aug. 16, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation: Guam’s ex-archbishop protected culture of clergy sex abuse of children

Knowledge of clergy sex abuse is widespread on the mainland of the United States. But it has long been a secret in the small, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic U.S. territory of Guam.

Washington-based investigative reporter Michael Biesecker, working with Atlanta-based enterprise photographer David Goldman and Seattle video journalist Manuel Valdes, helped to puncture that veil of silence when AP examined thousands of pages of court documents in lawsuits brought by abuse victims and then conducted extensive interviews.

The AP team detailed a pattern of repeated collusion among predator priests, with abuse that spanned generations and reached all the way to the top of the territory’s church hierarchy, ruled over by then-Archbishop Tony Apuron, who himself had been accused of the rape of a 13-year-old choir boy when Apuron was a parish priest.

The care and sensitivity of the reporting and images were essential to the project’s power. “To see my story told in this way gives me a lot of peace, that I have a purpose,” said Walter Denton, a former U.S. Army sergeant and survivor of abuse nearly 40 years ago.

For telling a sensitive and little-known story of systemic clerical abuse dating from the 1950s to as recently as 2013, Biesecker, Goldman and Valdes share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 18, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Deep preparation and experience put AP ahead on Mladic verdict

teamed up to provide exceptional coverage in all formats of the final verdict for Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, in which U.N. judges rejected his appeals on charges of orchestrating genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, affirming his life sentence.Chief correspondent Corder worked closely with AP colleagues in the Balkans in the days leading up to the verdict to prepare for all the possible outcomes, preparing alerts and urgents for each, as well as for the possibility that victims’ groups could leak the verdict early. Knowing that the victims’ representatives are not always accurate, Corder held off on the alert until AP had the full verdict from the judges, and other major world media followed his lead.Photographer Dejong, who had covered Mladic’s appearances at the court over several years, patiently waited for the one moment during the long verdict when the ex-commander made a hand gesture — holding up his fingers as if clicking a shutter to mimic the photographers fixed on him. The image circled the world.AP had four different live shots up for a good part of the day on AP Direct and Live Choice, compared with a single courtroom feed that a major competitor accessed at the last minute. AP put out a video edit of the verdict 44 minutes ahead of the competition, and was much faster with reaction from the victims and their families in Sarajevo and Srebrenica, and from Serb veterans, comrades of Mladic and people in Belgrade.https://aplink.news/h1rhttps://aplink.video/ub0https://aplink.video/rz4https://aplink.video/gmx

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May 12, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​AP reveals hidden horror of school sex assaults

The email to AP confided: “Up until reading your article I believed that my daughter's assault was an anomaly. It's not something that is talked about. School officials must take immediate and proactive steps to protect students from being assaulted on school grounds. The first step is to bring it out in the open.”

The anguished mother was responding to the first installment of an Associated Press series running through May exploring the untold story of student-on-student sexual assaults, not on college campuses but in U.S. elementary and secondary schools. The result of a yearlong investigation, the expose by Emily Schmall, Reese Dunklin, Robin McDowell and Justin Pritchard earns the Beat of the Week.

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June 17, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP connects therapist accused of sexual assault to a dark past

was the first and only journalist to reveal that a New Hampshire therapist accused of sexual assault previously spent 12 years in prison, where he changed his name and earned a degree in counseling after a conviction for a notorious drunk driving incident that resulted in the death of a 12-year-old girl.A tip from the client accusing Peter Stone of abuse started Ramer’s in-depth reporting on the therapist’s dark past and the ethical questions raised over whether professionals should disclose prior criminal convictions.Even major New England news outlets that reported Stone’s 2021 arrest on sexual assault charges did not link him to his previous conviction as Pete Dushame; Ramer alone made that connection. Her story played widely with news outlets in the Northeast and beyond, and ranked near AP’s top for pageviews and reader engagement over the weekend.Read more

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March 22, 2018

Best of the States

Sex assaults among children on US military bases routinely ignored

Last May, as Reese Dunklin and Justin Pritchard sifted through readers' email responses to AP's 2017 investigation into schoolhouse sex assault, both reporters flagged the same messages for follow-up: The tips described problems with the handling of sex assaults reported on U.S. military bases among the children and teens of service members.

Through dozens of FOIA requests and interviews, they found that reports of sexual assaults and rapes among military kids were getting lost in a dead zone of justice, with neither victim nor offender receiving help. Cases often died on the desks of prosecutors, even when an attacker confessed. And criminal investigators shelved other cases, despite requirements they be pursued, the reporters found.

Using government records and data released by the Pentagon’s military branches and school system, Dunklin and Pritchard catalogued nearly 600 cases of sex assaults among children on military bases, often after protracted FOIA negotiations. Though an acknowledged undercount, it was the first such quantification – something neither the Pentagon nor its global school system had previously done.

For shedding light on a problem too long ignored, and localizing it for AP members in their states, Dunklin and Pritchard share this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 19, 2019

Best of the States

FOIA checklist enables reporter to break news in case of missing boy’s impostor

Knowing what information can be obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs) from various public agencies is critical to breaking news. And keeping a checklist of those information gold mines is key to accessing that knowledge, Columbus, Ohio-based reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins has found.

Welsh-Huggins used those skills to great effect in the case of the man accused of pulling a cruel hoax by pretending to be a long-missing Illinois boy. The story captured the nation’s attention and set reporters in motion trying to flesh out the background of a 23-year-old ex-con who Ohio authorities say faked being Timmothy Pitzen. Pitzen was 6 years old when he disappeared in 2011.

Welsh-Huggins’ checklist for enterprise off the news includes FOIAs to all agencies a suspect has had contact with. He filed a FOIA with the Ohio corrections department to obtain access to the disciplinary records of suspect Brian Rini, knowing from experience that the agency would release them.

A few days later the agency handed him 15 disciplinary reports showing that Rini was someone who liked to fabricate stories – including things as mundane as being short of toilet paper and as serious as being raped by a guard.

The AP was alone with the story, which got strong play in Ohio and across the country.

For using his knowledge of FOIA to break news on this highly competitive story, Welsh-Huggins wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Jan. 10, 2020

Best of the States

Multiple investigations deepen AP’s coverage of ‘The Reckoning’ in the Catholic Church

The AP designated coverage of the Roman Catholic Church and its handling of sexual misconduct as a major focus in 2019, exploring myriad facets of the church’s greatest credibility crisis since the Reformation. That focus carried through the past two weeks, with three strong stories delving into various aspects of the church’s handling of abuse accusations:

– Reporter Claudia Lauer and data journalist Meghan Hoyer showed definitively that the church has failed to be fully forthcoming about the number of clergy members credibly accused of child sexual abuse. 

– Investigative reporter Michael Rezendes broke the news about a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by one of Mother Teresa’s key confidants.

– Global religion editor Gary Fields, photographer Maye-E Wong and reporter Juliet Linderman delved into how, almost without exception, the church does not track the number of minorities who have been victimized by predator priests.

For illuminating work that further deepens AP’s “Reckoning” reporting on the Catholic church, Lauer, Hoyer, Rezendes, Huh, Fields, Wong and Linderman share this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 08, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exclusive reveals ex-Green Beret’s failed Venezuelan coup plot

In a gripping exclusive that reads like the plot of a Hollywood film, Latin America correspondent Josh Goodman revealed the failed plot to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro by a ragtag group of 300 volunteers led by a former U.S. Green Beret. The ill-conceived plan called for the group to invade Venezuela from Colombia and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in Maduro’s arrest.

The plot was uncovered and dismantled with barely a whisper, but a cryptic tip to the well-sourced Goodman planted the seed of the story. Over the next several months he reviewed documents and interviewed more than 30 Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters with knowledge of the plot, piecing together the narrative with a strong assist from investigative researcher Randy Herschaft.

Goodman’s story broke and reaction was strong: International media struggled to catch up and authorities in the U.S. and Colombia launched investigations. Senate Democrats have sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding answers.

For his impressive scoop on the failed coup that has been dubbed “The Bay of Piglets,” Goodman and Herschaft win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Nov. 01, 2019

Best of the States

Experience, persistence pay off with breaking news: US to collect asylum seekers’ DNA

Immigration and Homeland Security reporter Colleen Long’s ears perked up in early October when she heard agency officials mention “CODIS” as they briefed reporters on the likelihood they would expand their practice of collecting DNA from migrants. 

CODIS, she knew from experience, was an FBI database usually associated with violent crimes, so Long was surprised to hear of its use in connection with migrants whose only crime was crossing the border illegally. Long followed up with detailed questions at the briefing but didn’t get answers, so she kept pressing officials.

Her persistence was rewarded with an advance briefing on the new rule, and additional details about how the DNA policy would be implemented. Long’s story moved hours ahead of the official announcement, becoming one of the most-read stories of the day. 

For making the early connection to the policy implications of the DNA database, then pressing the issue with officials until she had the exclusive details, Long earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 04, 2018

Best of the States

FOIA reveal: Governor shields ally and agency in alleged harassment case

When Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds abruptly fired a longtime friend and political ally last month, she said it was due to “credible” sexual harassment allegations. But her staff said no other information would be available about the behavior of Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison.

Statehouse reporter Barbara Rodriguez and Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley knew there was more to the story, but after filing FOIA requests, the governor's office told them there were no such records, prompting a rare case where reporting the denial would be newsworthy: that there was no evidence, correspondence or investigation into the allegations before Jamison was terminated.

Hours after that story moved, the governor’s office acknowledged they had made a mistake. There was a written detailed complaint against Jamison, but the office insisted it was exempt from FOIA.

Rodriguez and Foley didn’t stop there. They appealed the denial, leading the governor’s office to reverse course again and release the document, which immediately caused a firestorm.

It showed that Jamison had allegedly been harassing female subordinates for years, and that senior officials in the agency were aware of his behavior but apparently didn’t report it – which led to calls for an independent investigation. The governor initially rejected those calls but as pressure built, she announced she had hired a prominent outside lawyer to conduct such an investigation.

For aggressive reporting that shed light on accusations of sexual misconduct by a public official – including the lack of transparency surrounding the charges – the pair shares this week's Best of the States award.

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March 30, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP analysis: At least 19,000 in Iraq detained for terrorism, thousands sentenced to death

Prisons in Iraq held thousands of Islamic State group militants, but few outside the government knew exactly how many. Baghdad-based reporter Qassim Abdul-Zahra set out to find out – and he wasn’t going to take a rough estimate for an answer.

With Baghdad correspondent Susannah George and Mideast enterprise editor Lee Keath, Abdul-Zahara analyzed documents he obtained from a Justice Ministry official, finding that the government was holding at least 19,000 people accused of ISIS connections or other terror-related offenses and that more than 3,000 of them had been sentenced to death.

For intrepid source work and analysis to establish the facts around the imprisonment of thousands of Islamic State group militants in Iraq, Abdul-Zahra, George and Keath win Beat of the Week.

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Aug. 31, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusives: National Enquirer’s secret safe, Cohen subpoenaed on Trump Foundation

“What’s in the safe?”

The headline on the cover of the New York Post editions on Aug. 23 spoke volumes about the impact, power and reach of AP reporting on the legal chaos surrounding President Donald Trump.

Washington investigative reporter Jeff Horwitz exclusively reported that the National Enquirer kept a safe containing documents on hush money payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its cozy relationship with Trump leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Horwitz's story quickly went to No. 1 on AP Mobile and led websites around the world.

It was one of two AP exclusives touching on Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen that seized the nation’s attention last week. In addition to Horwitz, Albany statehouse reporter David Klepper was first to report that New York state investigators subpoenaed Cohen as part of their probe into the Trump Foundation. Klepper reported that Cohen is a potentially significant source for state investigators looking into whether Trump or his charity broke state law or lied about their tax liability.

For their exclusives, Horwitz and Klepper win the Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 04, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive and explosive: WHO leader in Western Pacific accused of racism and abuse

London-based medical writer Maria Cheng, drawing on leaked emails, interviews, recordings and her deep understanding of the World Health Organization, revealed that dozens of staffers have accused Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the U.N. agency’s regional director for much of Asia, of racism and abuse, and that his actions allegedly hampered WHO’s efforts to curb the COVID pandemic in the region.

Cheng obtained internal complaints and talked to current and former staffers who said Kasai had engaged in racist, unethical and abusive behavior. Staffers said the departure of more than 55 WHO personnel from this critical region, most not replaced, significantly contributing to a surge in cases in many countries. Kasai was also accused of sharing COVID information improperly with his home country, Japan, for its political gain.

In an email to the AP, Kasai denied charges of racism and unethical behavior and said he had taken steps to communicate with all his staff.

Cheng’s story was explosive. At Saturday’s closing session of WHO’s board meeting, several countries pressured the organization to investigate the allegations reported by the AP. By Monday, the WHO director-general said an investigation had started.

For deeply reported, groundbreaking work that has had an impact, Cheng is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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