Jan. 11, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP traces child labor from Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields to major brands, Girl Scout cookies

For the third installment of their groundbreaking investigation into labor abuse in Asia’s palm oil industry, reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason linked child labor to the supply chains of the makers of popular cereals, candies and ice creams, including KitKats, Oreos and Cap’n Crunch. They also traced the oil to that most American treat: Girl Scout cookies. 

Joined by photographers Binsar Bakkara and Mark Humphrey, and video journalist Allen Breed, their reporting found that some tens of thousands of children toil in the palm fields, some kept from school and forced to work for free or for little pay. Some are trafficked.

The framing of the story — through the eyes of a young girl in the fields in Indonesia and a Tennessee Girl Scout campaigning to have palm oil removed from the cookies — resonated with readers; reaction on social media led the Girl Scouts to address the issue with their suppliers.

For shedding unprecedented light on the children toiling in Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields, and connecting the abusive practice to major consumer brands, McDowell, Mason, Bakkara, Breed and Humphrey share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 28.

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June 29, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Kobach sought pardon for VP of a corporate donor

Topeka correspondent John Hanna had been hearing hints for weeks that there might be something in Kris Kobach’s record that could cause trouble for the Kansas secretary of state and candidate for governor.

At first, it was just that: hints. The suggestions were so vague that Hanna set off to review the nationally known Republican’s statements, but Hanna, whose reporting sense is informed by 30 years of statehouse reporting, found nothing.

So he kept digging. Eventually a source suggested there might be something to do with a pardon, and Hanna filed a records request.

The governor’s office released a copy of its file on a pardon request for Ryan Bader, the vice president of TriStar Arms, a firearms importer. Bader had faced an aggravated robbery charge over a 2009 incident but agreed to a plea bargain and received a light sentence. Now he wanted a pardon so that he could buy a gun again and get the licenses needed to take over the family business.

Bader’s attorney for the pardon request? Kobach. The records showed Kobach did not provide a key police affidavit that was later released by the office of GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer – whom Kobach is challenging. But there was more. Campaign finance records showed that TriStar had donated at least $7,000 to Kobach’s campaigns for secretary of state and governor. The company also helped sponsor a fundraiser with Donald Trump Jr.

Hanna’s APNewsBreak was well used, including a post on the homepage of a member that is usually hesitant to showcase work done outside its newsroom. It also became a topic of a gubernatorial debate, with Kobach defending the pardon request.

For smart digging and use of public records that helped drive the news agenda and political conversation, Hanna wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 26, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoops celeb media on Billie Eilish hearing

was the only reporter who attended a hearing involving singer Billie Eilish, who sought a restraining order against a man who trespassed at her home. With Eilish and her family attending remotely, Dalton convinced a bailiff to let him in and was the only one in the courtroom aside from court staff. Other news outlets were forced to rely on details in his exclusive story for their own reporting. https://bit.ly/3fWVNZw

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June 05, 2020

Best of the States

AP takes an in-depth look at the life of Ahmaud Arbery, killed while running

When smartphone video emerged more than two months after Ahmaud Arbery was killed by a white father and son while running through a Georgia neighborhood, the case burst into the national consciousness. AP race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison headed to Brunswick, Georgia, seeking to tell the full story of the 25-year-old’s life. 

Morrison and video journalist Sarah Blake Morgan interviewed Arbery’s mother on the road where her son was killed. That conversation became a centerpiece of the text and visual package, with further reporting by Russ Bynum and Kate Brumback completing the picture. 

For a nuanced and unflinching profile of Arbery’s life that spotlights the racism experienced by many young black men and captures the pain of a grieving family, Morrison, Morgan, Bynum and Brumback share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Dr. Birx in violation of government’s COVID guidelines

unraveled some messy decisions by Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, that appeared to contradict the government’s own COVID-19 safety guidelines.When it was first reported that Birx was angling for some kind of role on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team, one of her relatives reached out to Madhani and suggested he look into Birx, who spent Thanksgiving weekend at a Delaware beach house with extended family, and who also made many visits to a multigenerational family home in Maryland between her widespread travels to coronavirus hotspots for the government.Madhani and Slodysko contrasted Birx’s activity with her warnings to Americans to “be vigilant” and limit celebrations to “your immediate household,” and with CDC guidelines to avoid travel for the holidays. The two Washington reporters also discovered that while Birx was in Delaware, she conducted an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” in which she noted some Americans “went across the country or even into the next state” for the holiday weekend. Birx declined to be interviewed for the story but provided a statement acknowledging she went to her Delaware property, insisting she was there to winterize the property.The story received strong play and reader engagement, and continued to generate discussion on cable TV well beyond its weekend release.Birx has a since said she plans to retire, but is willing to first help President-elect Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response as needed.https://bit.ly/38sWmb7https://politi.co/2WFxDeh

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Aug. 28, 2020

Best of the States

From the front line to the homefront, behind the scenes with COVID nurses

Photographer Jae Hong wanted to tell the story of the nurses on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus. Not just the long, stressful hours caring for patients, but the fear they carry home of spreading the virus to their own families.

Hong found a Los Angeles-area hospital that would grant access to the COVID unit, then he and reporter Stefanie Dazio spent hours getting to know the nurses and asking to meet them at their homes for interviews and photos. 

The result was an intimate, beautifully rendered look at the nurses, their dedication and their sacrifices. The story included a nurse who is a new mom, comforting a patient’s family as the man took his last breaths.

For a poignant and revealing look at nurses’ commitment to both their patients and their families during the pandemic, Hong and Dazio share 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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Aug. 06, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork across continents as Guinean wrestler fulfills Olympic dream

collaborated across departments and continents to produce the compelling and exclusive all-formats story of one young African woman’s dream to compete in the Olympics.The AP team had spent weeks following Guinean wrestler Fatoumata Yarie Camara, the only athlete from Guinea to qualify for the Olympics. Camara received only $500 from the government for training but she managed to find a way to train in Rome, where an AP team got behind-the-scenes access while she worked out, got vaccinated, ate pizza and toured the city.When Camara returned to Guinea, AP spent time with her and her family in one of the capital’s poorest neighborhoods and learned about the sacrifices she and her family had made so she could be an Olympian. But days before the opening ceremony, Guinea withdrew from the Olympics and then — after pressure from the IOC and media coverage from the AP and others — changed its mind. AP was with her through every development, including her arrival, finally, in Tokyo — and this week as she competed on the Olympic stage. The coordinated effort resulted in a story that scored heavily with readers and viewers.https://aplink.news/se3https://aplink.video/3ae

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July 05, 2019

Best of the States

AP: Smoke from US wildfires boosting health risk for millions

After last year's deadly wildfires in California brought weeks of sooty skies to cities along the West Coast, the AP decided to take a closer look into the broader impacts of the massive smoke plumes.

Billings, Montana, correspondent and environment team member Matthew Brown teamed with Denver video journalist P. Solomon Banda to produce an all-formats report on the growing public health threat from wildfire smoke. Their work grew from a body of research that points to where smoke impacts will be worst – a broad swath of the West that includes more than 300 counties with tens of millions of people.

For diligent reporting that provided a deeper look into how wildfires affect communities throughout the region, Brown and Banda earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

India team exposes the truth behind India’s low virus death rate

delivered an ambitious all-formats package led by a compelling character profile to unravel the mystery behind India’s relatively low COVID-18 fatalities number, which experts say is an undercount. India has 5.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, but only 87,000 deaths. After numerous conversations with experts, health care officials and workers across the country, Ghosal and Saaliq offered a critical counternarrative, showing that India is not counting many deaths.

The story began with the personal narrative of Narayan Mitra, whose family said he wasn’t counted as a coronavirus victim by doctors who said the virus was “incidental” since he had a pre-existing disease. The story also showed how Indian states were not complying with the Health Ministry guidelines to record all suspected virus deaths, including those who likely died of COVID-19 but weren’t tested for it.https://bit.ly/2Ev4tZZ

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Sept. 14, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Trafficked Myanmar ‘bride’ escapes Chinese captivity – but loses her son

The team – Todd Pitman, Esther Htusan and Jerry Harmer – had gone to Kachin state to report on the war between Kachin rebels and Myanmar’s army. Near the end of their trip, they decided to look into a story Htusan wanted to do on bride trafficking. The lead was vague and the team wasn’t sure where it would take them.

But then, at a refugee camp, they met Marip Lu. And they knew immediately this was a story that had to be told.

With major contribution by Beijing staffers Shanshan Wang, Yanan Wang, Han Guan Ng and Dake Kang, they tell the harrowing tale of a woman who was kidnapped, held in captivity, raped and then forced to make the choice between freedom and her child. This powerful story, reported and told with great sensitivity, earns Beat of the Week.

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April 14, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​A father bids farewell to twin toddlers after Syria attack

What do reporters do when more than 300 war-ravaged miles separate them from an immense story – in this case, the gassing of civilians in Syria, allegedly by their own government? They work the phones, and the apps.

Which is how Beirut reporter Sarah El Deeb came to interview Abdel Hameed Alyousef, who lost his two children, his wife and other relatives in the attack on the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun. And how she persisted in finding ways to bring the family’s story to the world in all formats.

And it is how she won the Beat of the Week.

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May 17, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Immigration team finds 13,000 immigrants on wait lists in Mexico to cross the border

for all-format reporting across the U.S.-Mexico border, revealing that 13,000 immigrants are stuck in Mexico on haphazard wait lists that have formed as the Trump administration placed limits on how many asylum cases it accepts each day. The team visited the eight main locations where lines were forming and tallied the number of people on the various lists, finding some migrants sleeping in tents for months on end, vulnerable to violence and shakedowns. And they broke news about a family that decided to forgo the long line and cross illegally, killing four people as they were swept away by the swift-moving Rio Grande. https://bit.ly/2Q4dF8Y

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April 08, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Release of 1950s census data developed into snapshot of US

saw the routine release of 72-year-old census data as an opportunity to deliver a textured portrait of 1950s America, reminding readers just how much the U.S. has changed.Schneider, AP’s primary census reporter, posted his story a day ahead of the data release, taking readers back to the first national count after World War II, the early years of the baby boom and a period when many American cities were hitting peak population levels. Schneider’s text was supplemented by a rich cross-section of images evoking a bygone era.Read more

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Oct. 26, 2018

Best of the States

Post-hurricane teamwork produces compelling story of newborn’s night in parking lot

Amid the chaos and broken lives after Hurricane Michael, photographer David Goldman was combing for images of how people were coping when he discovered a heartbreaking story in a Walmart parking lot: A newborn baby was spending one of his first nights in the back of a pickup with his parents.

Goldman knew he had a great visual story. And he knew there was a great story to write. Not being in a position to write the story himself, he turned to colleague Jay Reeves, also working in the hurricane zone.

Reeves wouldn’t be able to meet with the family, but Goldman knew the elements Reeves would need to write the text piece. He sent Reeves all his notes and an audio interview via email. From those pieces, Reeves crafted the narrative.

The moving words and compelling photo package resonated. Goldman’s Twitter lit up with responses, and readers hoping to find a way to help “baby Luke” reached out to the AP by email, phone and web. The story was carried by Time Magazine, USA Today, The New York Times and NPR, among others.

For their collaboration and unmatched story that reminded the world that the story of Hurricane Michael is far from over, Reeves and Goldman win this week’s Best of the States.

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Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Back-to-back scoops on US oil execs jailed in Venezuela

used months of source development and dogged reporting to break two same-day scoops for AP on the sensitive case of six U.S. oil executives who have spent the last three years jailed in Venezuela on charges of corruption and embezzlement.

Denied access to the men’s trial, Smith met regularly with their attorneys, sent a letter to the “Citgo 6” and was put in touch with the family of Tomeu Vadell, one of the jailed men.

His persistence led to two news breaks: the release of an exclusive letter by Vadell — the first words by any of the men since their 2017 arrest — and later that day, the judge’s decision finding them guilty of corruption. https://bit.ly/3ogHwuE

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June 25, 2021

Best of the States

AP marks 600,000-death milestone with distinctive data-driven look at COVID racial inequality

The 600,000th COVID-19 death in the U.S. presented a big challenge: How to bring fresh perspective to yet another milestone, just months after we crossed the 400,000 and 500,000 marks. The trio of medical writer Carla K. Johnson, data journalist Angel Kastanis and reporter Olga Rodriguez met the challenge and then some, delivering a data-driven Only on AP package that showed how the virus has exploited racial inequality as it cut a swath through the country.

Kastanis analyzed demographic data of all 600,000 deaths to show the uneven toll during the various phases of the pandemic, breaking down the disproportionate effect on the Black and Latino communities. Rodriguez reported on a family that led the story, while Johnson served as the lead writer, rounding out the piece with medical analysis, perspective and reporting. Contributions by AP’s top stories team included an engaging interactive map of the U.S. showing the virus advancing geographically to 600,000 souls.

The package resonated with readers and customers on the AP News platform, where it was among the top stories, as well as on social media and on newspaper front pages around the country.

For a shining example of AP collaboration across teams, using sharp data analysis and on-the-ground reporting to reveal the pandemic’s impact on communities of color, the team of Johnson, Kastanis and Rodriguez receives this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 06, 2020

Best of the States

AP looks at race in Baltimore through the lens of ‘squeegee kids’

Reporter Regina Garcia Cano took what could have been a dense, pro forma story on complaints about Baltimore’s “squeegee kids” and turned it into a layered piece about inequality in post-Freddie Gray Baltimore. The timing was perfect, as a way for AP to mark the end of 2020’s Black History Month. 

She reviewed figures related to reports on the practice and found one squeegee kid in particular who was willing to open up about the daily grind of dashing into intersections to wash windshields, and how it helped him support his family. 

For her keen eye, and a deft hand, on a complicated topic that would have most likely gone overlooked, Garcia Cano wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 17, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Bodies of Mariupol steel-plant defenders returned

teamed up to scoop Ukrainian media and the international press corps by revealing the return of Ukrainian fighters’ remains following the weekslong last stand at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.Leicester first learned of the return of the defenders’ bodies while interviewing a soldier for another story. He and Arhirova then pursued multiple sources in a difficult environment, including family members, unit commanders and spokespersons, confirming on the record, ahead of the competition, that several hundred bodies had been swapped with the Russians, including dozens from a regiment that took a lead in defending the complex during the Russian siege of the port city.Read more

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March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documents expose misconduct by elite federal prosecutors

started digging after federal prosecutors in New York took the unusual step last spring of abruptly dismissing all charges against a banker convicted of evading U.S. sanctions by funneling $115 million to his family’s business in Iran. Goodman’s curiosity was rewarded with an exclusive.Goodman worked with AP assistant general counsel Brian Barrett to convince a court to release internal communications within the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York detailing how the elite unit tried to conceal their mishandling of evidence in the botched prosecution. A plethora of private correspondence between prosecutors showed a coordinated effort to mislead the court. In one exchange of text messages, supervising prosecutors admitted “we lied” to the defense during the trial. “This is going to be a bloodbath,” one wrote, anticipating the judge’s reaction to the disclosure. https://bit.ly/30bwLzEhttps://bit.ly/30aQmAf