Jan. 31, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: NFL’s Saints allegedly do damage control for Catholic Church on abuse crisis

New York-based federal law enforcement reporter Jim Mustian never gives up on a story.

Sticking with a case he began covering at another news organization in another state more than two years ago, Mustian landed a jaw-dropping exclusive for the AP: That a trove of hundreds of confidential emails has surfaced allegedly showing executives of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints doing public relations damage control for the area’s Roman Catholic archdiocese amid its clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The story had an immediate, visceral impact with readers and earned praise from fellow journalists.

Mustian will continue to chip away at this story and, hopefully, reveal more about the Saints and their involvement with the church. But for now, Mustian’s sticktoitiveness and tough accountability reporting earns him this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 31, 2019

Best of the States

The one that got away: Survivor of serial killer adds emotion, depth to execution coverage

Execution coverage often focuses on the condemned inmate or the manner of death. So, faced with covering his eighth execution – a Florida serial killer – Tallahassee correspondent Brendan Farrington told the extraordinary personal story of a victim who escaped and helped police find the man after he raped her decades ago. That woman had chosen to witness the man’s execution.

Farrington doggedly tracked down the woman, now a sheriff’s deputy, who finally agreed to an interview on the eve of the execution. Her compelling story resonated with readers everywhere.

For his persistence and sensitivity in telling a personal and emotional victim’s story in what could have been a rote story on a serial killer’s execution, Farrington wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 01, 2021

Best of the States

AP finds hurricane-battered Louisiana residents struggling, enduring months later

Ever since Hurricane Laura hit southwest Louisiana in August, correspondent Rebecca Santana and photographer Gerald Herbert wanted to follow up with the region’s residents. But in a busy hurricane season, it wasn’t until December that plans finally came together. 

Santana researched for weeks, finding subjects and learning about recovery efforts. The pair then spent two days in the Lake Charles area where they saw the devastation firsthand and met storm victims, including a couple whose postponed wedding was finally happening. Herbert, who also shot the video for the stories, went back to Lake Charles eight times, even sleeping in a gutted house on Christmas Eve.

The result was two print stories, three video packages and a photo essay, all of which received prominent play. For uncovering the compelling stories of hurricane victims months after the storms faded from the headlines, Santana and Herbert earn AP’s Best of the States award for the week of Dec. 21.

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May 14, 2021

Best of the States

Nimble AP reporting reveals Alabama trooper charged in child rape hid alleged misconduct at FBI

In a classic case of keeping an open mind during reporting, AP’s Jim Mustian and Kim Chandler started out reporting one story, but found themselves reporting exclusively that an Alabama state trooper, arrested on charges he raped an 11-year-old girl, had used a forged letter and lied on his application to get hired after being removed from the FBI — also on serious allegations of sexual misconduct.

To federal law enforcement reporter Mustian, this initially appeared as yet another case of the FBI allowing an accused agent to quietly move on with his career. But just as he was about to publish, the FBI said the bureau letter Christopher Bauer submitted to Alabama authorities when he was hired was “not legitimate.” Meanwhile, Chandler, Montgomery statehouse reporter, tracked down Bauer’s application for the trooper job, in which he said he was still employed by the FBI and had never been forced to resign because of disciplinary action.

This had become the story of a former agent, and perhaps others, falsifying his record. The piece was among the week’s top stories on AP News, with nearly 200,000 pageviews.

For deep reporting that followed the story wherever it took them, Mustian and Chandler earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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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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Sept. 21, 2018

Best of the States

Abuse scandal hits Texas diocese as cardinal meets with pope

Houston-based reporter Nomaan Merchant broke important news about the role of an influential American cardinal in an abuse scandal in his home diocese, just as the cardinal was meeting with Pope Francis to discuss reforms to address clergy abuse.

Merchant exclusively tracked down two accusers who allege a priest in the Houston archdiocese had abused them – and that church leaders, including Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, subsequently did little to nothing to keep him out of the ministry and away from children.

The allegations were significant on their own given the current abuse crisis roiling the Catholic church. But they were made even more newsworthy in that they implicated DiNardo just as he met with the pope to discuss the church’s handling of sex abuse cases. The accusers said they personally complained to DiNardo about the priest and believed they were brushed off.

Merchant's reporting made an immediate splash in Houston-area media and religion news sources. It was also the talk of the Vatican gathering in Rome.

For his efforts, Merchant wins this week's Best of States.

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Sept. 23, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Informant raped during unmonitored drug sting; AP finds little regulation of common police tactic

Investigative reporter Jim Mustian told the exclusive story of a female informant raped twice in an undercover drug sting after her law enforcement handlers left her alone and unmonitored — a case that revealed the perils such informants can face while seeking to “work off” criminal charges in often secretive arrangements.

Mustian spent weeks interviewing sources and obtaining confidential documents after receiving a tip about the incident which took place in central Louisiana early last year. His reporting showed authorities’ apparent disregard for the safety of the informant, while experts told him that such drug stings are conducted countless times a day across the country, but they are notoriously unregulated.

Mustian’s story was among the most-read stories of the week on AP News and earned prominent play by AP members and customers.

For deep reporting that exposed a horrific case and took a hard look at a common police practice, Mustian earns AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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April 21, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Must-read stories: UN sex abuse, El Faro sinking share Beat of the Week honors

The stories could not be more different. One revealed that United Nations peacekeepers had been accused of thousands of instances of sexual abuse over 12 years. The other recounted the last hours of a doomed freighter and its crew, as they sailed into a hurricane.

But both of these AP stories – by Paisley Dodds and Jason Dearen, respectively – drew extraordinary notice, captivating readers in a busy news week. And in a departure from usual practice, the two contrasting stories, a hard-hitting investigation and a powerful narrative, are being recognized as co-winners of the Beat of the Week.

Nov. 09, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Iowa diocese covered up priest’s abuse of 50 boys

A source called Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley with a tip: He had a shocking letter that he couldn’t share in which the Catholic Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, acknowledged a priest admitted to abuse of 50 boys in Iowa over 20 years.

Foley eventually tracked down a copy of the letter, and it was stunning: The diocese admitted the Rev. Jerome Coyle reported his pedophilia in 1986 but was simply shuffled to New Mexico for treatment. The diocese also offered to pay Coyle to stay in New Mexico, warning that his desired return to Iowa would retraumatize his victims, now grown men.

Yet sources said he returned to Fort Dodge, Iowa, which is where Foley and photographer Charlie Neibergall found him. The priest wouldn’t talk, but the diocese confirmed Foley’s story and acknowledged two victims had come forward in recent weeks with allegations against Coyle that would now be turned over to police. The 32-year coverup was over.

Reaction to Foley’s story – the lead story in newspapers across the state – was quick, with Coyle removed from the home, the Iowa attorney general’s office launching an inquiry, and the diocese promising to identify all priests who have faced credible allegations.

The diocese said it was taking this action due to the continuing investigations of “the AP reporter.”

For breaking a story in vivid detail that had been kept hidden for decades, Foley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 08, 2018

Best of the States

Only on AP: No justice for patients of sex-abusing Philadelphia physician

Police in New York City and New Jersey had already charged Dr. Ricardo Cruciani with rape and other serious sex offenses that could put him away for decades.

But in Philadelphia, where the allegations first surfaced? Some officials wouldn’t even return phone calls, according to the women who say they were victimized by the prominent neurologist.

Alarm bells went off for northeastern Pennsylvania correspondent Michael Rubinkam when police in Philadelphia did not pursue a felony case, even though some of the accusers in New York and New Jersey cases said they had been assaulted in Philadelphia, too. He interviewed six women who described what they viewed as a shocking lack of care and concern on the part of city police and prosecutors. The women said they felt like they’d been victimized twice – first by the doctor, then by law enforcement.

Rubinkam’s artfully written Only on AP story was widely used, and was displayed prominently on the homepage of Philadelphia's two major newspapers.

For enterprising work on a story of intense regional interest, Rubinkam wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 03, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP delivers fast, comprehensive, all-formats coverage of Uvalde, Texas, school shooting

AP journalists were on the U.S-Mexico border for an immigration assignment May 24 when they got word of a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. They quickly gathered their gear and rushed to Robb Elementary School, where they found chaotic scenes of law enforcement surrounding the school. The staffers immediately went to work providing photos and live video.

That swift response to the unfolding tragedy made the AP the first national news organization on the scene and set the tone for the rest of the week. As more staff deployed, AP delivered dominant, all-formats coverage that explored with sensitivity not only the shooting that left 19 fourth graders and two teachers dead, but inconsistencies in the actions and statements of police — and much more.

Readers and customers responded with exceptional engagement.

For a powerful example of the AP at its finest on a major news story that has led to an outpouring of sympathy for the families, questions about police practices and the latest reckoning on guns and school safety, the AP Uvalde coverage team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.

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March 12, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Hundreds claim abuse by staffers at New Hampshire youth detention facility

Concord-based reporter Holly Ramer, who has owned the story of abuse allegations at New Hampshire’s state-run youth detention center for more than a year, used source work to break news once again: A lawsuit filed in early 2020 has grown to include 230 men and women who say they were abused as children by 150 staffers over the course of six decades.  

Ramer’s story was based on exclusive interviews with the plaintiffs’ attorney and three victims, who described sickening allegations including broken bones, gang rape and impregnation. Powerful images by Boston photographer Charlie Krupa and video journalist Rodrique Ngowi complemented the piece.  

AP’s coverage prompted three Democratic lawmakers to call on Gov. Chris Sununu to shut down the center, and at least 40 more victims have come forward since the story ran. 

For this latest example of impactful storytelling that has helped expose a grave scandal at the state’s youth detention center, Ramer, Krupa and Ngowi earn Best of the States honors. 

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Feb. 16, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP staffers on three continents scramble to fact-check the pope on Chile abuse

Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield sensed a potentially explosive development in Chile's long-running sex abuse and cover-up scandal when she noticed a cryptic tweet from a former member of the Pope Francis' abuse advisory board.

Board member Marie Collins had tweeted that Francis was well aware that victims of Chile's most infamous predator priest had placed Bishop Juan Barros at the scene of their abuse. Collins herself had been involved in relaying those concerns to him.

Intrigued and sensing an important twist in a story that AP has already dominated, Winfield and Santiago correspondent Eva Vergara kicked off an extraordinary effort that would culminate in a three-day, multinational, cross-format papal fact-check, prompting calls for the pope to come clean about a scandal that now threatens his legacy.

Over the course of one frantic weekend the enterprise involved a Paris airport stakeout by senior TV producer Jeff Schaeffer, a missed Super Bowl party hosted by Philadelphia-based TV producer Yvonne Lee and a surreal TV interview conducted by AP reporters on three continents.

For teamwork that spanned the globe, in service of a story of immense global interest, Winfield, Vergara, Schaeffer and Lee are recognized with Beat of the Week.

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