May 15, 2020

Best of the States

Bearing witness as COVID-19 ravages rural Georgia counties

Telling the stories of people who have suffered devastating losses is difficult at the best of times, but with this story, focused on one predominantly black rural county in southwestern Georgia where the pandemic is hitting hardest among some of America’s most exposed, the all-formats team of Claire Galofaro, Brynn Anderson and Angie Wang also had to cope with the challenges of reporting in a pandemic. 

The journalists knew they would have to take cautious risks to tell this important story, while also dealing with the emotional and ethical issues of potentially putting the people they spoke to in danger. They spent much of their time sorting out how to best protect their sources, while also getting a story worthy of the risk those sources were taking to tell it.

That story, intimately told and richly illustrated, connected with readers, some of whom said it made the pandemic finally feel real. Many said it inspired them to act, and others wrote to compliment the journalism. 

For a significant, poignant package that reveals in personal terms the already deep inequities exploited by the pandemic, Galofaro, Anderson and Wang are recognized with this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 19, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP photographers capture defining images of Tiger and Trump

This week we celebrate two very different, yet equally important photo wins.

David Phillip and the AP photo team assigned to the Masters tournament created some of the iconic images of Tiger Woods’ historic win – the result of strategic planning, teamwork and execution.

And Pablo Martinez Monsivais wins for his startling capture of the media reflected in the eye of President Donald Trump, taking what could easily have been treated as just another ho-hum daily Trump photo op and “seeing” something so different.

For delivering outstanding images from two contrasting but highly competitive assignments – and demonstrating how vital the AP is in the photojournalism world – Phillip and Monsivais share AP’s Best of the Week 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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July 31, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exclusive leads to release of migrant kids held in US hotels for deportation

Earmarked for deportation, the immigrant children, some mere toddlers, were parked in nondescript hotels – out of sight and, the Trump administration thought, out of mind.  But not out of reach of an Associated Press exclusive.

With an investigation based on source work, court records and witness accounts, immigration reporter Nomaan Merchant exposed how the Trump administration held children in hotels despite federal anti-trafficking laws and court rulings that mandate child-appropriate facilities.

Merchant’s exclusive sparked outrage and accusations of child abuse. Five days later, the Trump administration said it would not expel 17 people, including children, detained at one Texas hotel, and the hotels pledged to stop allowing the practice.

For his investigative story that punctured layers of secrecy and changed the fortunes of all-but-invisible immigrant children, Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award. 

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June 26, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

White House homecoming photo speaks volumes on Trump’s Tulsa rally

Washington-based photojournalist Pat Semansky was assigned weekend White House duty – a routine gig that meant waiting for President Donald Trump’s overnight return from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where his much-hyped rally didn’t meet expectations.

The president’s arrival rarely makes a memorable photo, but Semansky dutifully waited until well after 1 a.m., while many of AP’s competitors didn’t bother to cover. When Trump finally stepped off Marine One, Semansky proved the time well spent: His flash caught an atypically rumpled Trump crossing the South Lawn.

The photo quickly became the signature image of the night, capping days of smart AP coverage on the event itself. 

For making the most of a routine assignment to create what is likely to become an iconic photo of the Trump presidency, Pat Semansky wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 27, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Inaugural images: Talent and tech combine in sweeping, instant photo coverage

Remember these images from the Inauguration: The new first couple dancing across a giant presidential seal at a ball? Faces in the crowd cheering or crying in the rain? The instant when Donald Trump took in the scene through an opening door before stepping onto the podium to become the 45th U.S. president?

Credit for those signature images, which appeared across the globe almost as they happened, goes to the skill and artistry of a hand-picked team of AP photographers and photo editors – and also to the cutting-edge, behind-the-scenes efforts of AP technicians working hand-in-hand with them to cover the intensely competitive event.

Their extraordinary work, a stream of 2,000 photos sent from daybreak until well after midnight, earns the Beat of the Week.

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March 04, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP’s team in Ukraine delivers unparalleled coverage of Russian invasion

From images of a young girl killed by shelling to an eyewitness account of a makeshift maternity ward inside a bomb shelter, AP’s team of more than two dozen journalists across Ukraine documented for the world in vivid detail how the Russian invasion is playing out on the ground.

The all-formats coverage began as Russian troops massed at Ukraine’s borders and has not let up since the assault began more than a week ago.

AP staffers across the world have been vital in explaining the economic, political and social repercussions of the war, but the journalists in Ukraine have been the anchor — setting AP’s coverage apart, delivering memorable images and authoritative text as the story develops by the hour.For tenacity and bravery in chronicling the Russian invasion, the team in Ukraine earns the respect and gratitude of their colleagues worldwide and is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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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 16, 2021

Best of the States

AP team embeds in West Virginia city seeing a resurgence of addiction amid the pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic killed more than a half-million Americans, it also quietly inflamed what had already been one of the country’s greatest public health crises: addiction. 

To tell that story, a multiformat AP team — writer Claire Galofaro, photographer David Goldman and video journalist Mike Householder — spent time in Huntington, West Virginia, exploring the resurgence of addiction in a community that had made progress against drug abuse. The AP team embedded with the city’s Quick Response team for a week, providing a unique window into the suffering those with addiction have endured as the pandemic brought despair and cut off access to support systems and health care resources.

The evocative package resonated with readers, and the story’s main subject said she was “ecstatic” over how well the story captured the world she sees every day.

For sensitive and compelling coverage that furthers the AP’s efforts to explore the rippling consequences of COVID-19, the team of Galofaro, Goldman and Householder wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 10, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Data reporting shows partisan strategy in US primary voting

relied on voting data available to the AP to demonstrate how some Democrats were voting in Republican primaries in an effort to block candidates backed by former President Donald Trump.National political reporter Peoples and data journalist Kessler had found that an unusually high number of people who voted in Georgia’s 2020 Democratic primary cast ballots in this year’s GOP primary. The pair learned that some Democrats were so worried an election denier backed by Trump could become secretary of state and ultimately run Georgia’s elections, they decided to cross party lines in the primary to support incumbent Brad Raffensperger, who famously resisted Trump’s pressure to overturn the 2020 election results.The result is a perfect blend of traditional political reporting and data analysis that tells a broader story about unusual decisions voters are making in an effort to protect democracy in the U.S.Read more

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April 29, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Joint investigation exposes sex abuse in mega dance company

spent months digging into the secretive world of teen dance competitions, combing through court records and interviewing dozens of dancers to reveal a culture of sexual abuse and silence.In collaboration with The Toronto Star, the investigative reporters focused on one of the world’s largest dance companies, Break the Floor, documenting sexual misconduct and assault claims against some of the most famous and influential dancers in the United States, including the company’s founder and CEO, who sold the company as he came under the joint team’s scrutiny.Read more

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Sept. 12, 2016

Best of the States

Police losing battle to get drivers to put down their phones

Who hasn’t glanced out the car window and seen another driver, head down, texting furiously? That was the genesis of a story by Boston-based reporter Denise Lavoie, who took an authoritative nationwide look at the texting-while-driving scourge and law enforcement’s losing battle to stop it.

Lavoie did spot checks with a handful of states around the country, as well as interviews with federal transportation officials and others. Her reporting – AP’s first major attempt to grasp the scope of the problem – found that police are fighting a losing battle despite adopting some pretty creative methods to catch serial texters in the act.

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Dec. 06, 2019

Best of the States

Dual labors of love: Documenting a Chicago neighborhood that would not die

Chicago-based national writer Martha Irvine has always been interested in stories about the city’s neighborhoods that buck stereotypes. So when she learned of a grassroots project to “reclaim” abandoned housing on the city’s South Side, Irvine began what she calls “a labor of love.” 

She spent months getting to know the people of the Chicago Lawn neighborhood and their stories. Residents – ex-cons, immigrants, members of the urban working class – were not prepared to let their neighborhood succumb to the malaise that had engulfed other areas of the city, so they came together to make Chicago Lawn a desirable place to live. 

Irvine did it all – not just writing this remarkable story, but shooting the photos and video. The package received heavy play and elicited rewarding feedback. One woman called the work “incredibly uplifting,” adding, “Loved the video, too. Inspiration station.”

For a compelling all-formats package that shed light on a Chicago neighborhood’s success story and resonated with readers, Martha Irvine earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 18, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats team tells the shared story of rural Missouri churches, immigrants, adversity and faith

It’s a story of two churches in rural Missouri, only 30 miles apart — and worlds apart. 

One congregation is mostly white, while the other offers services in five languages with members from around the world. The pandemic has united them, with pastors meeting to support each other, share ideas and figure out how to continue ministering to this region hit disproportionately by the coronavirus.

The team of national writer David Crary, youth and religion reporter Luis Andres Henao and video journalist Jessie Wardarski earned the trust of residents to produce an intimate all-formats story, revealing diverse Midwestern communities that aren't famous but are integral to the nation’s identity.

For compelling coverage of communities united in adversity and navigating with faith, the team of Crary, Henao and Wardarski wins this week’s Best of the States award. 

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June 02, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

As Olympics loom, violence flares in Rio's slums, even those termed ‘pacified’

Ahead of the Olympics, an AP team in Rio wanted a close look at the city's slums, which have long been plagued with violence, to learn whether high-profile community policing programs are working in areas deemed `pacified.' Braving gunfire in what is considered a no-go area for reporters, AP produced up-close, all-formats coverage showing deadly violence continues to flare.

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Sept. 18, 2020

Best of the States

Putting a human face to the numbers: A waiter made homeless by the pandemic

Since the pandemic took hold in America, myriad stories have covered the broad economic impact of millions laid off or underemployed. But few have captured how the chilling trickle-down effect is changing lives.

Enter Kelli Kennedy. The Florida reporter produced a compelling, poignant story on one man's struggle with the devastating effects of the coronavirus shutdowns. Orlando resident Jeff Lello lost his waiter job, ended up homeless and briefly lived in a tent in the woods. 

The story was among AP’s most-read of the week, drawing feedback from readers, colleagues and even politicians.

For a stark narrative of unemployment wrought by the pandemic, Kennedy’s story wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 02, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: Catholic review boards often fail sex abuse survivors

In addressing its clergy sex abuse crisis, the Catholic church has touted a key reform: independent review boards with lay people. 

But an exhaustive investigation by the AP team of Reese Dunklin, Matt Sedensky and Mitch Weiss methodically discredited that claim. 

The reporters unearthed dozens of cases nationwide in which review boards rejected complaints from survivors, only to have them later validated by secular authorities. They also found that bishops stacked the boards with their own aides and attorneys. In a few cases, board members were themselves clergy accused of sexual misconduct. 

The rock-solid reporting was brought alive by the storytelling, with revealing details down to the pink sweater one board member was knitting while listening to a survivor’s story of abuse. 

For their comprehensive investigation into the Catholic church’s deeply flawed system for addressing claims of abuse, Dunklin, Sedensky and Weiss earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 28, 2019

Best of the States

AP Analysis: EPA data says US air quality is slipping; EPA regulation could make it worse

Washington science writer Seth Borenstein knew the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was not going to notify anyone when it posted new data on the nation’s air quality for 2018, but he knew where it would be posted. He also knew that the Trump administration was poised to replace an Obama-era clean-air rule with a new regulation that was friendlier to coal-fired power plants, so he kept checking for the agency’s data.

When the data finally showed up, Borenstein teamed with New York-based Health and Science data journalist Nicky Forster to evaluate the data, put it in context and run it by scientists. Forster even pointed out errors that the EPA was forced to correct.

Their persistence made AP the first to report that the annual number of days of poor air quality in the U.S. had increased for the second year in a row, after decades of improvement. The story ran on the eve of the EPA’s announcement of its loosened regulation, undermining the rationale for the new standards with the government’s own numbers. Trump’s new rule, experts told the AP, could turn what is so far a modest backslide into a deadly trend.

For diligent reporting and sophisticated analysis to hold a federal agency accountable for its data and regulatory policy, Borenstein and Forster earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 24, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Inside the first major outbreak at an ICE detention center

The reason the warden at a large San Diego detention center gave for not wearing masks amid the pandemic was astonishing – and likely helped fuel a large outbreak.

“Well, you can’t wear the mask because we don’t want to scare the employees and we don’t want to scare the inmates and detainees,” a guard recalled being told.

That’s just the lead of the story by AP’s Elliot Spagat, who landed the first detailed interviews with employees and detainees about the situation at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. Spagat also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and government data to provide the most complete account yet of the first major outbreak at a U.S. immigration facility.

For giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the factors that surely contributed to the virus outbreak, and for holding the warden and other officials accountable, Spagat wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 10, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

‘Empty spaces, broken hearts’: Uvalde, Texas, in mourning

collaborated on an extraordinary portrait of a town grieving after the May 24 mass shooting that left gaping holes in its fabric.In a chaotic and fraught environment with countless journalists gathered around the memorials and overwhelming the family members of shooting victims, the AP trio decided to approach the story differently — they wanted to explore the connections within the Uvalde community. They split up, looking for the people in that next circle of relationships: barbers, bus drivers and others who crossed paths with the affected families.It all came together in a heart-wrenching package that appeared on numerous websites and front pages. The team received compliments from readers — and one of the individuals they profiled — for the sensitive and compassionate way they covered this traumatic story.Read more

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