Oct. 27, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Raqqa drone video reveals shocking devastation

The scene is dreamlike – or, more precisely, nightmarish. The untethered camera swoops and swerves through a depopulated wasteland of rubble and bombed-out buildings and wrecked vehicles.

This is Raqqa, devastated capital of the Islamic State group’s self-proclaimed caliphate. And this extraordinary footage – the Beat of the Week – was brought to viewers around the world by freelance drone videographer Gabriel Chaim. He shares the prize with Mideast photo editor Maya Alleruzzo.

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May 11, 2018

Best of the States

Illinois coroner to poor: Pay $1000 or county keeps remains

The tip that led to an exclusive by Chicago reporter Sara Burnett seemed outlandish: When poor people couldn't afford to bury their loved ones, a western Illinois coroner was cremating the bodies and keeping the ashes until the family paid $1,000. He’s continued the policy even though the state has resumed a program to pay for the funerals.

Burnett reported on a woman whose ex-husband and father of their three children died. They were both on disability and she couldn’t come up with the money, leaving the family to hold a memorial service with just a photograph and an empty container. Wendy Smith said she felt the policy was unfair. "I just think they pick on the people that are poor."

The coroner told Burnett that the policy started after the state, which for years has faced billion-dollar deficits, announced it was too broke to pay for indigent funerals and burials – shifting the cost to funeral homes and county coroners. Further, the coroner claimed only one woman was unhappy. But Burnett tracked down other families, and had a back-and-forth with the state about how much money was appropriated for the burial program

Within days, the state comptroller, citing The Associated Press story, weighed in that the coroner's practice was "disgusting behavior" and called for a ramped-up campaign to alert local officials that state-funded burial is again available.

For illuminating a questionable practice and how the state’s budget crisis continues to cause pain for the poor and vulnerable, Burnett earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 26, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team leads media fight for photo access at OJ Simpson parole hearing

What happens when the state of Nevada announces it intends to use its own photographer to cover the parole hearing of O.J. Simpson, and exclude all others?

The Associated Press steps up, rallies the media and forces the state to backtrack. For their efforts to ensure news photo access to a high-profile story, the team of Stephanie Mullen, Ken Ritter and Tom Tait is awarded Beat of the Week.

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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. 22, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Assassination of the Russian Ambassador

On his way home, AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici stopped at the opening of a photo exhibit at Ankara’s Contemporary Arts Center. The Russian ambassador to Turkey was to speak, and Ozbilici figured the AP could use images of the envoy for its archives.

Shockingly, Ozbilici instead found himself a witness to an assassination. With cool head and steady hands, he documented the killing of Ambassador Andrei Karlov, capturing some of the most astonishing images of this or any other year. His photo of the raging gunman _ one hand holding the gun, the other pointed to the ceiling, his lifeless victim on the floor _ would appear on countless front pages and broadcasts and websites. Within hours, it was seen by some 18 million people on Facebook alone.

Even in a year of remarkable work by AP staffers, Ozbilici’s photos and actions were extraordinary _ and richly deserving of the final Beat of the Week award of 2016.

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Sept. 15, 2017

Best of the States

Smaller US cities struggle with high teen gun violence rates

Shootings in Chicago have captured national headlines, and for good reason: The city has among the highest rates of teenage gun violence in the nation. But where else in the U.S. are teenagers most likely to be killed or injured by gunfire? Baltimore, Detroit, Los Angeles?

In an exclusive analysis, journalists from the AP, working jointly with the USA Today Network, arrived at an unexpected answer: Except for Chicago, the places with the highest rates of teen gun violence in America are smaller and mid-sized cities – towns like Wilmington, Delaware, population 72,000.

AP data journalists Meghan Hoyer and Larry Fenn led the analysis of 3½ years’ worth of shooting cases provided by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. Baltimore reporter Juliet Linderman, with significant assists from Albany reporter Michael Hill and Savannah correspondent Russ Bynum, picked it up from there. Video journalist Allen Breed produced a powerful video that illustrates the danger and despair, along with the difficulties that WIlmington is having in addressing the problems. The package also was enhanced with graphics from interactives producer Maureen Linke.

For their work revealing a surprising side of teenage gun violence in America, state reporters Linderman, Bynum and Hill, video journalist Breed, data journalists Hoyer and Fenn, and graphic artist Linke share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 16, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Hawaiian seafood caught by foreign crews confined on boats

AP’s Martha Mendoza, an investigative reporter based in Bangkok, and Margie Mason, medical writer in Jakarta, found that hundreds of undocumented men, many from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific nations, work in this U.S. fishing fleet. They have no visas and aren't protected by basic labor laws because of a loophole passed by Congress.

A story detailing the men’s plight, by Mendoza and Mason, resulted from a tip following their award-winning Seafood from Slaves investigation last year. It earns the Beat of the Week.

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