Dec. 21, 2017

Best of the States

Reporters spotlight burgeoning crisis: More kids entering foster care due to the opioid epidemic

They are the littlest victims of the opioid crisis: Tens of thousands of children forced into foster care because of a parent’s drug use. On Nov. 30, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released data from 2016 showing new foster care cases involving parents using drugs have hit the highest point in more than three decades of record-keeping.

Less than two weeks after that data was released, the AP transmitted a package of stories focused on two of the states with the biggest one-year increases: Indiana and Georgia.

The project came about thanks to an analysis begun months earlier by Washington-based data journalist Meghan Hoyer. Hoyer worked with an analyst to access exclusive county-level data on foster care entries over the past 15 years, giving the AP a unique, comprehensive and localized look at the issues surrounding children entering the system.

That data allowed New York-based national writers Matt Sedensky to focus his reporting in Indiana, where parental drug use was increasingly cited as the reason for foster care removals. Sedensky convinced the chief juvenile court judge to grant him access to courtrooms and files normally shielded from public view. He also worked to get a caseworker to let him follow her as she visited families caring for children removed from their birth parents’ custody, and spent time with adoptive families, medical professionals and others affected.

A second story, by national writer David Crary, also based in New York, zoomed in on one mother who had lost her three daughters to foster care and her battle to overcome addiction and win them back. In interviews and email exchanges over several months, mother of three Kim Silvers told wrenching details of her experience – including an interview at her joyous graduation ceremony after completing the program.

For providing moving insight into the plight of the youngest victims of the opioid crisis and the struggle of some families to break free, Hoyer, Sedensky and Crary share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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July 19, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP gives world exclusive look at Epstein’s private island

for making AP the only international media organization to visit Jeffrey Epstein’s private Caribbean island and capture the mood of fear and suspicion among locals. The idyll was where he hosted celebrities, built a gold-domed temple and allegedly raped at least one of his child victims. Some locals called it “pedophile island.” The story was a hit online, including 371,000 pageviews on APNews, making it the most-read story on the site this week.https://bit.ly/2Y2AwIphttps://bit.ly/2Gmv6xY

March 09, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​Ex-sect members tell AP that prosecutors obstructed abuse cases

It’s one of the most important lessons of investigative journalism: One good story can lead to another. Don’t give up after the first round. Keep digging.

That’s what Mitch Weiss of the national investigative team did after his explosive first story on the Word of Faith Fellowship. His follow-up story earns the Beat of the Week.

It took Weiss many months to persuade 43 former members of the Fellowship to open up – on the record and identified – with stories of adults and children being slapped, punched, choked and slammed to the floor in the name of the Lord. But getting so many of the reluctant ex-congregants to talk was only the start of his journalistic journey.

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Oct. 19, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

The Battle for Alexa: How deported parents could lose their kids to US adoptions

When family separations began under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, widespread rumors circulated that some separated children could end up being adopted by families in the United States – without their deported parents even being notified. California-based investigative reporters Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza set out to learn if this was true and eventually uncovered the case of 5-year-old Alexa Flores, exposing holes in the U.S. legal system that could allow deported mothers and fathers to lose their children.

Alexa’s story illustrates the fate that could await some of the hundreds of children who remain in federal custody after being separated from their parents at the border.

Burke and Mendoza sifted through hundreds of court records and dozens of interviews with immigrants, attorneys, and advocates in the U.S. and Central America. Teaming up with multiformat colleagues David Barraza and Rebecca Blackwell in El Salvador, Mike Householder and Paul Sancya in Michigan, and Mexico City-based Dario Lopez, they revealed how migrant children can become cloaked in the maze of state and federal courts, which are rarely in contact with each other.

For producing a complex, powerful story that spanned two countries in heartbreakingly human terms, Burke, Mendoza, Lopez, Blackwell, Sancya, Householder and Barraza win this week’s Best of the Week.

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March 26, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sensitive reporting from Greece tells harrowing story of migrant father charged in son’s shipwreck death

Among the human tragedies stemming from irregular migration, an Afghan boy’s drowning leapt out at Athens-based bureau chief Elena Becatoros when Greek authorities took the unprecedented step of charging his father with child endangerment, for embarking on the perilous journey from Turkey to Greece with his son. 

Led by Becatoros, the AP’s all-formats team in Athens tracked down the father, then spent weeks using formidable people skills and patience to gently persuade the grieving man to recount how his 5-year-old son slipped from his arms and drowned when the boat carrying migrants smashed against rocks and broke in two. The journalists also overcame the father’s initial refusal to appear in photos or on video, while another survivor added depth and detail too painful for the father to describe.

For their dogged pursuit and sensitive telling of this heart-wrenching story that puts human faces to the grim statistics on migration, the team of Becatoros, senior producer Theodora Tongas, video journalist Srdjan Nedeljkovic, freelancer Michalis Svarnias, chief photographer Thanassis Stavrakis and newsperson Derek Gatopoulos wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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June 25, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team finds evidence of illegal migrant pushbacks by Greece

landed an all-formats interview with a Palestinian woman that hinted at a controversial tactic the Greek government has denied using: migrant pushbacks, the illegal summary deportations of migrants without giving them a chance to apply for asylum.With help from Svarnias, a reporter on the island of Samos, Athens video journalist Lefteris Pitarakis and photographer Petros Giannakouris, Becatoros unraveled the story of the Palestinian woman who said she and her three children arrived from Turkey several days earlier on a boat with other migrants, but she and the children became separated from the group and managed to apply for asylum. The other 28 members of the group ended up being found in a life raft sent back to sea.The reporting by Becatoros and Svarnias resulted in a thorough account of one of the most tangible examples yet of a systematic effort to deport migrants from Greece directly upon arrival. Greece vehemently denies the claims, but rights groups and migrants insist that Greece has been carrying out the practice.https://aplink.news/ic5https://aplink.video/ti0

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Oct. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

‘Wrenching’ exclusive: Grim consequences of Tigray siege

drew from a dozen exclusive interviews, plus photos and video from sources in Mekele, the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, to paint the most personal and detailed portrait yet of life under a deadly government blockade.The increasing death and deprivation in the Tigray region have been largely hidden from the world. But Anna and Curtis in Nairobi, and two stringers based in Ethiopia — unnamed for their security — obtained interviews with Mekele residents, internal aid documents and rare images showing children suffering from malnutrition and lack of medications.Using fragile periods of limited internet connectivity to the region otherwise cut off from communications, they spoke with suffering parents, university lecturers, a Catholic priest and others for details that made the story widely used and shared: A woman who killed herself because she was no longer able to feed her children, desperate people going directly from an aid distribution site to the roadside to sell humanitarian items, the flour and oil for Communion bread soon to run out. “Gut-wrenching ... It was as if you had managed to make it to Tigray,” one reader commented.Last month, the AP was first to report on deaths from starvation under the blockade, but this story showed the wider ravages of the lack of medication, fuel and cash. The director general of the World Health Organization tweeted the story to his 1.5 million followers, just one of several high-profile shares. https://aplink.news/d3l

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July 19, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

One face of immigration policy: 9-year-old in Texas still separated from Guatemalan family

Houston-based immigration reporter Nomaan Merchant uncovered a heartbreaking tale in his coverage of the lingering toll of President Donald Trump’s family separation policy: a 9-year-old boy, Byron Xol, who is still separated from his parents. The boy eventually landed in the home of a Texas family who took custody of the child, while his parents were deported to Guatemala.

Merchant had been looking for an opportunity to write a detailed narrative that would illustrate the stress that separations have on families. When he learned on short notice of Byron’s upcoming birthday, he decided it was the perfect time to tell the tale.

Merchant and his Houston colleagues – video journalist John Mone and photographer David Phillip – went to the boy’s current foster home outside Austin. Meanwhile, photographer Santiago Billy, reporter Sonny Figueroa and video stringer Sergio Alfaro went to the Guatemalan village of the Xol family. Together they captured the emotion of the day and the sharp contrast between the two worlds, as the dad phoned Byron on his birthday.

The story they produced was gripping, used by more than 400 AP members in the U.S. It was just one of a series of strong pieces that have put names, faces and personal narratives to the immigration story, keeping AP’s coverage ahead.

For recognizing the moment and mobilizing quickly across formats and borders, Alfaro, Billy, Figueroa, Merchant, Mone and Phillip share AP’s Best of the Week.

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Nov. 25, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scores beats reporting on massive quake, New Zealand's imperfect response

for getting the jump on competition in coverage of the country's massive, 7.8 magnitude earthquake. After Perry and his wife made sure their children were safe, he quickly went to work and, with the help of Asia editor Mike Rubin and Sydney bureau chief Kristen Gelineau, soon had a substantial 650-word story and eight photos out; the initial story reported some difficulties authorities were having in the response, including a failure of the emergency call number. In following days, Perry kept AP ahead. http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/11/14/powe...

Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP confronts network on Native American criticism of ‘Big Sky’

turned a routine feature into a news-breaking story by successfully pressing ABC to address Native American groups’ criticism that its show “Big Sky’ failed to acknowledge the problem of missing and abused women on native land. Few outlets had reported on it, and none had gotten a response from ABC.Elber spoke to native groups and pressed ABC, but was repeatedly told the network would have no response. But just before filing her story, Elber received a statement from ABC acknowledging the concerns and vowing to work with native groups to rectify them. The network gave the AP a day’s beat on all other outlets, and that night’s “Big Sky” episode carried for the first time a message about missing women and exploited children. https://bit.ly/39TR0YU

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June 14, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP accompanies 98-year-old D-Day veteran to Normandy 75th

for accompanying D-Day survivor Ray Lambert, 98, to Normandy on the 75th anniversary of the battle, providing a rich, emotion-laden personal travel diary as the former Army medic made what is likely his last trip back to the site of the June 6 landings. Working in all formats, Breed captured Lambert’s activities, from packing his bags to his triumphant return to France. The four-part video series included intimate moments such as a visit with school children in a local village and a trip to the shores of Omaha Beach, where Lambert had saved numerous comrades. And on the day of the anniversary, President Trump singled out Lambert in his D-Day speech at the U.S. cemetery.https://bit.ly/2ZkkSF6https://bit.ly/2XONru8

June 15, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Harris breaks soccer news with US and UK scoops

for a series of scoops in the days before the start of the 2018 World Cup competition – including word that U.S. star Hope Solo was discouraging the choice of the United States as a host for the 2026 World Cup. Solo has been critical of U.S. soccer governance. Harris also snagged an exclusive interview with Liverpool’s American owner John Henry, and he told how MasterCard was forced, after a public backlash, to scrap a charity initiative to donate 10,000 meals to hungry children for every goal scored by Latin American idols Lionel Messi and Neymar.https://bit.ly/2JYdQ4Shttps://bit.ly/2t9akul

Oct. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: First reports of starvation deaths in Tigray

continued AP’s standout coverage of conflict in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, revealing evidence of the first starvation deaths since the Ethiopian government imposed a blockade in June.Getting any information at all out of Tigray right now is a coup — the government has blocked Internet access and humanitarian groups are terrified to talk to the press for fear of being thrown out of the region. Despite these conditions, Nairobi-based East Africa correspondent Anna managed to paint a picture of the desperate food shortage in Tigray.Anna obtained internal documents showing that an aid group reported starvation deaths in every single district it covered, the most extensive account yet of the blockade’s impact. She also obtained a list of items aid workers are no longer allowed to bring into Tigray — multivitamins, can openers, even personal medicines.

The story clearly exposed the government’s assertion of no hunger in Tigray as a lie, the latest example of AP holding the government accountable for what is turning into a humanitarian catastrophe.Any story on famine relies strongly on visuals. With no access to the region, Nairobi-based chief photographer Ben Curtis dedicated himself to securing the necessary permissions and added information to use exclusive handout photos from sources in Tigray, including a former hospital director. The photos are horrifying, showing children on the brink of starvation, including one child who died.AP’s story drew widespread attention and praise. Anna was interviewed by the BBC World Service and NPR, and the piece was tweeted, including by Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Other news organizations have followed AP’s lead on the story. https://aplink.news/3hq

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Sept. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Rescue groups tell AP: US missed hundreds still in Afghanistan

delivered the most detailed look yet into the true toll of the Americans still in Afghanistan after the U.S. pullout, fact-checking the Biden administration’s estimate that no more than 200 American citizens were left behind. Rather than take the administration’s estimate at face value, the pair reported on the independent experiences of veteran-led rescue groups and members of Congress who say the figure is too low and also overlooks hundreds of others they consider to be equally American: permanent legal residents with green cards.The leader of one volunteer group told AP that the official count of U.S. citizens is off by hundreds, and California Rep. Darrell Issa, said the calls his office is receiving lead him to estimate the true toll of U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan is about 500.As for green card holders — who have lived in the U.S. for years, paid taxes, owned property and often have children who are U.S. citizens — the true number who want to get out is in the hundreds and perhaps more than 1,000, according to rescue groups and lawmakers. San Diego reporter Watson and New York investigative reporter Condon highlighted the plight of one family of green card holders who lived in Sacramento for years and who have been texting daily with their children’s elementary school principal while trying to escape Afghanistan. “I’m loosing the hope,” texted the mother.AP’s story, with contributions from Kathy Gannon in Kabul and Matt Lee in Washington, was among the most-read on the AP News app on the Labor Day holiday weekend and was featured prominently on major news sites. https://aplink.news/3yy

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Feb. 23, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP photo and reporting beats from Florida school shooting

– Photographer Joel Auerbach’s poignant image of two women crying outside a Florida high school as parents awaited news about their children after a gunman’s deadly rampage on the campus.

– Reporters Michael Biesecker and Collin Binkley’s exclusive reporting that the suspect was a “good shot” on a National Rifle Association-backed rifle team at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The two exclusives helped distinguish the coverage of the shooting at the school that left 17 dead. For capturing the human toll in a single iconic image and shedding light on the suspect’s marksmanship training, Auerbach, Biesecker and Binkley win this week’s Beat of the Week.

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June 03, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive coverage of Haitian migrants ashore in Cuba

delivered exclusive all-formats coverage as a single dilapidated vessel that set out for the United States carrying 842 Haitians landed instead on the coast of central Cuba. The migrants, who had been abandoned at sea, appeared to be the largest group yet in a swelling exodus of people fleeing widespread gang violence and instability in Haiti.Video journalist Gonzalez and photographer Espinosa captured images that showed the distress and fatigue in the faces of the migrants, some of them women with small children and even a newborn baby. Producer Duran was instrumental in working with the Cuban authorities and medical team to get unrestricted access to the migrants while feeding information and interviews to Rodriguez, who crafted the text story in Havana.Read more

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Feb. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals details of Eritrean atrocities in Tigray region

reported the first detailed account of crimes being committed by Eritrean military forces within Ethiopia’s isolated Tigray region. Journalists following the crisis in the defiant region have struggled to find credible eyewitness accounts of the Eritreans’ presence. But the relentless work by Anna, AP’s East African correspondent based in Kenya, finally paid off: A source put her in touch with a woman, normally a resident of Colorado, who, while on a trip to Ethiopia, witnessed Eritrean troops and their crimes firsthand in the remote village where her mother lives. Anna was able to draw out shocking details of the killing of children, mass graves and the looting of homes.The story, widely used by AP clients, was hailed as the first to document Eritrean activity in Tigray. Anna followed up with a second scoop in which the U.S. State Department called for all Eritrean forces to leave Tigray immediately, citing “credible reports” of atrocities.https://bit.ly/3rqiyuehttps://bit.ly/3cOrDsKhttps://bit.ly/3jeRRpK

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Nov. 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source-building delivers interview with wife of detained ex-Interpol president

set a new standard for The AP Interview, thanks to a 3-year source-building effort that persuaded Grace Meng, wife of the ex-Interpol boss jailed in China, to go on camera and go public with her story for the first time.When Meng revealed in 2018 that her husband, Meng Hongwei, was missing in China, Leicester was the only Chinese speaker among reporters in the room. Leicester saw a unique and untold story: that of a former insider among China’s secretive governing elite whose powerful husband had fallen afoul of the Communist Party, with its long and brutal history of political purges. “The monster” is how Meng now speaks of the government her husband worked for. “Because they eat their children.”Tiptoeing around the interview room in Lyon, France, Cipriani captured the range of emotions expressed by Meng, while Turnbull, collaborating with Cerrone, raised the bar for the interview series with his masterclass camerawork. Luke Sheridan in New York turned around the edited, branded video so quickly that the package was available in all formats almost immediately.The video was by far the most impactful segment of The AP Interview on AP’s YouTube channel to date, and the story was No.1 for the week in reader engagement.https://aplink.news/7zshttps://aplink.video/40rhttps://aplink.news/v6z

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May 27, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Intimate accounts of limbs lost, lives devastated in Ukraine

tell the arresting stories of Ukrainians who have lost limbs to Russian attacks.Madrid-based Chief Photographer Morenatti, who lost his left leg in 2009 while on assignment covering the conflict in Afghanistan, says people who have experienced amputation share a camaraderie, and that he now prefers to document victims left behind by “this damned war," far removed from the front lines.He and Athens Bureau Chief Becatoros worked through local contacts and searched hospitals for the right subjects to convey the varied experiences of those who had their lives suddenly and violently upended. With intimate images and evocative text they convey the brutal consequences of war — “Beyond any human logic,” Morenatti says — for men, women and children suffering permanent loss and facing long journeys of recovery and reconciliation.Read more

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March 25, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP’s all-formats team delivers unmatched coverage of refugees fleeing Ukraine

With hundreds of hours of live coverage, gripping portraits of people fleeing, and broad takes on the impact of the migration wave, AP’s multiformat team covering people displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provided unrivaled coverage of Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

AP journalists posted at Ukraine’s borders and within the country have put a human face to the mass movement of refugees, mostly women and children who have left their homes traumatized and exhausted, sometimes after being trapped for days or weeks in their basements to escape bombardment.

AP’s coverage started a week before the war began at the Medyka border crossing in Poland, which just days later would become a main entry point for tens of thousands of Ukrainians. In the month since, text, photo and video journalists have worked tirelessly to capture the surge, from the stress on countries accepting the brunt of the new arrivals to the generosity shown by volunteers opening their homes to the refugees.

For chronicling the exodus of an estimated 3.5 million Ukrainians with compassion, vigor and dedication to the story, AP’s border/refugee team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.

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