Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds diversity of politics and religion among West Virginia evangelicals

A tweet was the seed for this illuminating story. “Most people in my rural, Appalachian hometown are being radicalized at church by their pastor, which is the person they trust the most,” it read. AP’s Global Religion team ran with it.

Reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski visited the parishioners of three churches in Bluefield, West Virginia, including one pastor who had attended the Jan. 6 Washington rally that degenerated into a riot. The AP pair spent weeks convincing him to sit down for an interview. The result was an all-formats package of diverse congregations seeking common ground, even as they are divided on the role of evangelical Christianity in American politics. 

For applying gentle persuasion and balanced reporting to produce a nuanced look at religion and politics in one West Virginia town, Henao and Wardarski win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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April 05, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Money madness: AP analyzes, how much is that NCAA berth worth?

It’s no secret that the NCAA college basketball tournament is big business. But just how big, and how has the pie been divided?

The New York-based team of college sports reporter Ralph Russo and data journalist Larry Fenn took on that reporting and accounting challenge, making AP the first news organization to document who received more than $3 billion in March Madness payouts over two decades.

Complicating their task was the fact that the NCAA referred to payments with a complex “unit” formula, while 32 different athletic conferences had their own rules for distributing the funds back to schools. Russo peppered the NCAA with questions, ultimately getting detailed numbers back to 1997. Fenn parsed tournament results to quantify wins and bids that qualified for payment under the system.

The work led to several stories by Russo and his colleagues in Sports detailing the money side of the annual tournament, including diminishing shares for smaller conferences, an explainer on the system itself and the value of the final invitations to the field. Fenn also collaborated on a data distribution for members doing their own stories focused on individual schools, as well as a robust interactive.

The AP-exclusive stories drew extensive play in the heat of March Madness, showcasing the power of AP when we think ambitiously and outside the box, even around annual events already in the glare of the media spotlight. For their outstanding work, Russo and Fenn win AP’s Best of the Week.

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July 16, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Only on AP: Heartrending images capture children across the globe who lost parents to COVID

Rarely does AP’s Best of the Week award go to an editor. But this week — a particularly strong one for AP with multiple exclusives — the honor is truly deserved by Top Stories Hub photo editor Alyssa Goodman. Goodman was the driving force behind “Kids Left Behind,” an extraordinarily moving photo package that takes an intimate look at children who have lost parents to the pandemic.

Goodman coordinated with photographers around the globe to find the young subjects, get permission to photograph and interview them, then make their portraits in a cohesive style.

The result was one of the most compelling packages AP has done in recent years, the photos complemented by poignant text moving many readers to tears, with stories ranging from a 10-year old in India who lost both parents in a matter of weeks, to video of a California 13-year-old performing the song she composed for her father’s funeral, on the guitar he gave her days before he died.

For generating an inspired and challenging project, handling it with sensitivity and tenaciously seeing it through in collaboration with global colleagues, Alyssa Goodman wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 21, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sensitive reporting, compelling storytelling on spike in Zimbabwe teen pregnancy amid pandemic

Writing about teen pregnancy is difficult under any circumstances, requiring equal parts thoughtfulness and responsibility. That is how AP’s team in Zimbabwe, photographer Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi and writer Farai Mutsaka, joined by South Africa video journalist Sebabatso Mosamo, approached the story of how pandemic lockdowns led to a sharp rise in teen pregnancies and the consequent loss of girls’ educational opportunities, a problem affecting many southern African countries.

Gathering facts to support the story took months, as Mutsaka worked with officials to access the available data. Then the team faced the challenge of finding families willing to speak on the record. Most wouldn't talk publicly, but Mukwazhi and Mutsaka found a 13-year-old who wanted her story told. The pair repeatedly explained the possible consequences to her family and others they met with, ensuring the story’s subjects fully understood what it meant to have their names and photos published.

The months of care and persistence paid off with compelling text and images, including a sensitive video by Mosamo. For responsible coverage providing insight into a difficult, important and often painful subject, the team of Mutsaka, Mukwazhi and Mosamo is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Aug. 17, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

APNewsBreak: Beyond bluster, US, NKorea in regular contact

For weeks, the escalating back-and-forth between North Korea and the United States over possible nuclear conflict had made for headlines that were alarming at the least _ and to many, terrifying.

Amid all the bluster came an exclusive report from Matthew Pennington, foreign policy reporter in Washington, revealing that senior U.S. and North Korean diplomats have been maintaining a back-channel communication for the last several months, and that they'd moved on from an early focus on U.S. detainees to address the broader strains in the relationship.

At a time of heightened alert, the story pointed to a possible diplomatic path out of the crisis, and indicated that both U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be more flexible on the idea of negotiations than they are letting on. After days of bombastic threats from both sides, Pennington's reporting, which wins the Beat of the Week, provided a sobering reality check: the enemies aren't on an unavoidable path toward conflict.

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June 23, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deadly siege: Through the night, reporter details restaurant assault in Somalia

When police reported that al-Shabab extremists had attacked a popular Mogadishu restaurant named Posh Treats in the volatile Horn of Africa country Somalia, many media rushed to tell the world. But Associated Press stringer Abdi Guled was not convinced the report was accurate. His quick calls, including one to an officer at the scene, quickly determined that a place called Pizza House was under assault, not Posh Treats across the street. So while other news organizations had the wrong restaurant, the AP had it right.

This was just the start of Guled’s extraordinary all-night reporting effort. Amid gunfire that left dozens dead, he would put together a riveting story. It’s the Beat of the Week.

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June 04, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Unique AP visual investigation reveals Myanmar's junta using bodies to terrorize civilians

The video was startling: As a motorcycle carrying three men speeds down a city street in Myanmar, a soldier traveling in the back of a pickup truck opens fire. A man falls to the ground, mortally wounded, while the other two run away. 

Investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason found that the video was one of many seeming to show the military firing at civilians indiscriminately in the wake of February’s coup. They also noticed that security forces appear to go out of their way to mutilate and drag bodies in the street, seemingly to terrorize the populace. The pair teamed up with the Human Rights Center Investigations Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, applying cutting-edge image analysis to thousands of social media posts and images online to reveal how the junta in Myanmar was using the bodies as tools of terror, according to human rights activists. 

With important contributions by Southeast Asia news director Kiko Rosario, and video by Manuel Valdes, the piece received more than 53,000 views on AP platforms.

For finding a way to analyze visual data from one of the world’s most secretive countries and presenting it in a rich and compelling multiformat narrative, McDowell, Mason, Rosario and Valdes earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 17, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​First Casey Anthony interview reveals `compelling’ details

Amazing things can come out of political demonstrations – and sometimes, they have nothing to do with politics. Miami-based video journalist Josh Replogle was covering a protest by about 3,000 people outside Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach when a colleague pointed out a striking woman wearing a Cleveland Indians hat. That, he was told, was Casey Anthony – once acquitted in the murder of her 2-year-old daughter in a case that became an international obsession.

Replogle did a quick Google search to confirm that this was, indeed, the woman once dubbed “the most hated mom in America.” He then obtained the first in-depth interviews with her since she was accused, an accomplishment that earns him the Beat of the Week.

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