Oct. 18, 2019

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Records show Montana official’s misuse of state vehicle

When the Helena Police Department cited the statute of limitations in declining to bring charges against Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton for misuse of a state-owned vehicle, Helena reporter Amy Hanson dug deeper.

After multiple public-records requests Hanson found that Secretary of State Corey Stapleton traveled tens of thousands of miles more than what had been previously reported, including many times when he had no official events on his calendar. And she found that the misuse continued until he turned in the vehicle in March, well within the statute of limitations.

For determined reporting that resulted in a textbook example of accountability journalism, Amy Hanson wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 06, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation reveals traumatic backlog of Mississippi autopsies

investigated Mississippi’s massive autopsy backlog for more than a year, gathering new data and personal stories revealing the terrible cost of the backlog which has traumatized families and jeopardized investigations.The state’s public officials had talked previously about understaffing in the medical examiner’s office, but Willingham’s reporting went much further, revealing a system long operating outside of accepted national standards for death investigations. She found that coroners were waiting years — and in some cases more than a decade — for autopsy reports. District attorneys and coroners who trusted Willingham told her about specific cases and connected her to families who told deeply personal accounts of waiting a year or more for results on loved ones.Read more

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Sept. 06, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

4 Hours in Huntington: how the heroin epidemic choked a city

The scene, presented in the most vivid close-up, shows a paramedic frantically pushing an IV full of an opioid blocker into the vein of a woman turning blue and barely breathing. Then the radio squawks: Two more overdoses just reported. Where will Claire Galofaro’s riveting narrative go from here?

“The woman’s eyes blinked open” she writes next. Then: “Red lights on the phone at the 911 dispatch center flashed faster and faster until all 16 lines were screaming. They called from the dining room of a rickety house, the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, the bathroom of a gas station. `People are dying everywhere,’ one caller said.”

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Dec. 10, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation, analysis reveals that despite diversity gains, racism still plagues US military academies

The AP’s groundbreaking investigation of racism and discrimination at the five elite U.S. military academies — based on experiences related by many graduates of color and exclusive analysis of decades of data — exposed racial gaps in the makeup of the academies’ student bodies and graduation rates, despite assurances of diversity and inclusion by the armed services.

Reporters Aaron Morrison and Helen Wieffering, and video journalist Noreen Nasir, gained the trust of current and former academy attendees who described discriminatory treatment, including experiences of being singled out for nonexistent infractions or treated like stereotypes.

Data intern Jasen Lo handled the analysis of demographics and graduation rates, finding that at the Naval Academy, for instance, there were 73 Black midshipmen in the class of 2000 — and just 77 in 2020. Black midshipmen also had the lowest graduation rate of any racial group at the academy.

For an enlightening and enterprising story that showed how far the U.S. military still needs to go to rectify racial inequality at its prestigious service academies, the team of Morrison, Wieffering, Nasir and Lo earns Best of the Week — First Winner.

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats look at BP oil disaster, 10 years later

produced a comprehensive, multiformat Only on AP package marking 10 years since the fatal Deepwater Horizon explosion and massive oil spill. Three pieces ran over three days: investigative work that showed continued and increasing drilling risks, a personal look at how life has changed along the coast, and the lasting environmental impacts a decade after the disaster. https://apnews.com/DeepwaterHorizonSpill

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July 02, 2021

Best of the States

A photographer’s unique vision merges past and present for front-line nurses

With the U.S. slowly emerging from COVID-19, it might be easy to assume that the pandemic will soon be in the past, but for many, particularly health care workers, the trauma of what they experienced while caring for deathly sick patients will be with them for years to come.

To capture the idea that the past can be part of the present, Los Angeles photographer Jae Hong focused on intensive care nurses at a Southern California hospital who had taken care of extremely ill COVID patients and, despite all efforts, had lost many. That ward closed this spring, but the memories endure for these nurses.

Hong’s approach called for a photo technique not typically used in reporting the news: He made multiple exposure portraits of 10 of the nurses in the hospital, resulting in haunting images that show each nurse both in the photo, the present, and seemingly somewhere else in the past.

Accompanied by revealing interviews, the piece played widely in the U.S. and beyond, and attracted attention on social media.

For arresting, interpretive photography that evokes the lingering effects of the pandemic on these front-line medical workers, Hong earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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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. 10, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Resourceful post-hurricane reporting yields exclusives on Louisiana oil spills

As Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana — launching strong AP coverage that would stretch from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast — Washington-based investigative reporter Michael Biesecker contacted federal and state officials who kept telling him they had no confirmed reports of oil or chemical spills along the coast.

But Biesecker’s inspection of aerial photos by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told a different story. He found a worrying miles-long oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico off the region’s main oil and gas port, and another sheen coming from a massive oil refinery along the Mississippi River.

His persistence led to a series of exclusives on the two oil spills, including the news that divers had identified a broken undersea pipeline as the apparent source of the offshore slick.

For smart reporting that put AP ahead of the competition — and even ahead of the government and energy companies themselves — on an important environmental story in the wake of Ida, Biesecker is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 04, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Local data, deep reporting on declining US lifespans

The nation’s health isn’t improving. In some key measures, it’s getting worse. How is that even possible in an era of genetic medicine and other advances? And how could the AP connect that story to our customers’ own neighborhoods?

AP medical writer Mike Stobbe and data journalist Nicky Forster started with those questions and delivered a winning package on why American life expectancy is getting shorter.

The package ran shortly after the release of the CDC’s annual mortality report which found that U.S. life expectancy had declined again. To find out what was behind the numbers, Stobbe returned to West Virginia, a place he declared the unhealthiest place in America 10 years ago. He connected with people trying to get healthier, witnessed the headwinds of the opioid crisis and explained how difficult it is to improve health en masse.

Forster, meanwhile, assembled an array of data that explained what was happening around the U.S. He matched longevity estimates for more than 65,000 neighborhoods with demographics, and found striking connections to income, race and education. He then built an interactive that allowed readers to see life expectancy in their own neighborhood and wrote a sidebar on the AP’s findings.

For getting beyond the numbers for a richer understanding of why American lifespans are shrinking, and giving AP customers the data to localize their stories, Stobbe and Forster win the week’s Best of the States award.

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July 30, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP gets first look inside China’s largest detention center, breaks news on Uyghur incarceration

The sprawling Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Xinjiang, China, is the largest such facility in China (possibly the world), holding perhaps 10,000 or more and embodying the plight of the Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities. Western news organizations have only been able to report from the outside. But the Beijing-based team of enterprise journalist Dake Kang, photographer Mark Schiefelbein and news director Ken Moritsugu managed to get a tour, making the AP the first Western news organization to report inside the facility.

They delivered a vivid package on life inside the detention center, from numbered and tagged Uyghurs sitting ramrod straight to the instructions on force-feeding in the medical room. The journalists also revealed a disturbing new trend: China is moving from the temporary detention of Uyghurs to more permanent mass incarceration of people who have committed no real crime.

The story topped AP’s reader engagement for the week and drew comment from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who called China’s repression of the Uyghurs “horrific.”

For bringing the world rare insight into the detention centers where China holds Uyghurs, the team of Kang, Schiefelbein and Moritsugu earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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