Sept. 06, 2019

Best of the States

In Mississippi Delta, Catholic abuse cases settled on cheap

As allegations of sexual abuse by clergy have proliferated across the Catholic Church, millions of dollars in settlement money has been paid to victims. Some have received as much as $500,000 apiece.

Not La Jarvis D. Love.

At an IHOP in the Mississippi Delta, a white official from the Franciscan religious order offered to pay him just $15,000 to keep years of alleged abuse secret.

“He said if I wanted more, I would have to get a lawyer and have my lawyer call his lawyer,” Love told The Associated Press. “Well, we don’t have lawyers. We felt like we had to take what we could.”

The story, the latest in AP’s investigation into abuse in the Catholic Church, revealed deals struck with two black men for abuse they said happened in grade school that represent far lower amounts than what other clergy abuse survivors have received. It also revealed the men had been asked to sign nondisclosure agreements, which had long been banned by U.S. Catholic leaders.

Despite the challenges, the team – investigative reporter Mike Rezendes, photographer Maye-E-Wong, video journalist Sarah Blake Morgan, digital storytelling producer Samantha Shotzbarger and researcher Randy Herschaft – produced extraordinary work. Herschaft discovered several critical threads that showed an alleged abuser was working with children even after the church had known about one of the men’s allegations.

For their sensitive work on a complex, emotional and previously untold story, the team of Rezendes, Morgan, Wong, Shotzbarger and Herschaft win this week’s Best of the States.

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Sept. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds census counts of Latino, Black communities below estimates

kept the AP in the forefront of 2020 census coverage, exploring the crucial undercount question for the first in-depth national story on the subject since demographic data was released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Aug. 12.By comparing the new numbers to earlier estimates, Schneider revealed a pattern in which the numbers consistently came in below what had been projected for both Hispanic and Black populations, suggesting that some areas were overlooked. The official numbers have implications for the distribution of federal funds and congressional representation.Phoenix-based Galvan uncovered Somerton, Arizona, a Latino community building new schools and taking other steps to accommodate its growing population — although the official census numbers showed 90 fewer people than a decade earlier. In a vivid example of show-don’t-tell reporting, Galvan teamed up with Los Angeles photographer Jae Hong and videographer Eugene Garcia to convey the texture of the community, capturing voices of outrage and disbelief among local officials that their population numbers were so low.Schneider, meanwhile, worked with graphic artist Francois Duckett to put together national maps showing that the biggest shortfalls among Latino people came in the Southwest, while the count of Black individuals fared worst in the South. The highly visual presentation complemented the data, helping AP once again set the pace for national coverage of the 2020 headcount.https://aplink.news/mb2https://aplink.video/w10https://aplink.photos/k3o

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Dec. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Access yields engaging story of US couple rescuing Afghans

used remarkable access to chronicle an Afghan family settling into heartland America thanks to the efforts of a dedicated couple.San Diego-based reporter Watson had previously reported on Afghans fleeing to the U.S. She used farmer Caroline Clarin as a resource; Clarin worked as an agricultural adviser in Afghanistan and now works to rescue her Afghan contacts threatened by the Taliban. Meanwhile, enterprise photographer Goldman was looking for a newly immigrated family to follow. He connected with Watson and enterprise video journalist Breed, the trio traveling to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where, thanks to the trust Watson had built with Clarin, they had exceptional access to Clarin, her wife and the Patans, an Afghan family the couple “adopted” after paying to fly them to the U.S.The team captured intimate details of both families’ daily lives in all formats: the family gatherings, the Patan kids’ school days and life on the farm. Clarin and her wife talked about their worries — the expenses they were accruing to rescue Afghans, but more so, their fears for those still left behind. The text story also looked at the bureaucratic hurdles of getting families out of Afghanistan, and Breed gathered sound for an audio story, written by digital storyteller Shotzbarger, voiced by Watson. Shotzbarger also brought all the elements together in a compelling presentation.The package, running on the eve of Thanksgiving, resonated with readers. It records one woman’s dedication to the daunting task of bringing Afghans to the U.S., and the loving relationship built between a farm couple and a traditional Afghan family in rural Minnesota.https://aplink.news/o5thttps://aplink.photos/ukrhttps://aplink.video/fj6https://aplink.news/58c

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March 17, 2017

Best of the States

From grave to lab, professor throws science, passion at cold cases

AP correspondent Tamara Lush first met renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle while reporting on Florida’s Dozier School for Boys – a now-shuttered site where former students accused officials of abuse and dozens of students died. Kimmerle was investigating graves, and local media paid plenty of attention to the positive, bubbly woman with a high-pitched voice – unexpected from someone who jumps in graves and scrubs bones with a toothbrush.

Lush found Kimmerle and her work fascinating – in a state full of colorful characters, she calls the professor one of Florida’s most interesting and brilliant women.

So Lush stayed in touch, and when her sources at the University of South Florida – where Kimmerle teaches and has a lab – offered an exclusive opportunity to follow Kimmerle as she investigated cold cases through a new grant, she jumped at the chance. Lush's all-formats Only on AP package wins this week's Best of States award.

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Dec. 20, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Accidental shootings show nationwide gap in police training

A mother shot fatally shot in front of her 3-year-old son. A suspect killed while an officer tried to handcuff him. A Homeland Security agent was shot at a Texas high school by a U.S. marshal fumbling with equipment. These are among the more than 1,400 unintentional discharges found by Seattle reporter Martha Bellisle in an investigation that highlights the shortcomings of police weapons training.

No agency tracks how often local, state and federal officers accidentally fire their weapons. Over the course of more than a year, Bellisle exhaustively documented 1,422 unintentional discharges by 258 law enforcement agencies since 2012.

With contributions from colleagues in photo and video – including the story of an Iowa woman who was killed when an officer’s gun discharged, leaving her husband and children still scarred by the tragedy – the all-formats package received prominent play.

For an exclusive that sheds light on a virtually undocumented area of firearms safety, Bellisle earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP secures video exclusive as French police shoot beheading suspect

teamed up to obtain exclusive video of police confronting a beheading suspect outside Paris.

Macpherson, senior field producer, Paris, was coordinating video coverage Saturday after the horrific news that a teacher had been beheaded the previous day. She was working with AP freelance video journalist Patrick Hermansen, who had been sending live video all morning outside the school where teacher Samuel Paty had held a class discussion about the Charlie Hebdo-published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

Juggling live and edited coverage, Macpherson saw that phone video had surfaced in local French media, shot from a home, on which police can be heard screaming at the beheading suspect to throw down his weapon and get down. A short time later, you can hear, but not see, police shooting the man and killing him.

Macpherson knew instinctively that our best chance to get this video was through old-fashioned shoe leather reporting. She had Hermansen stop everything he was doing to try to pinpoint the the house from which the amateur video was shot. Going house-to-house, Hermansen eventually found the the right one and put the owner of the video on the phone with Macpherson, where they negotiated an agency exclusive for AP.

Dozens of customers used the exclusive video, including some key clients such as EuroNews, Sky News, Al Jazeera and Russia Today. https://bit.ly/3jiJAzghttps://bit.ly/2ITiz9r

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Feb. 15, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Multiple APNewsBreaks in Virginia capital scandals

The Virginia governor’s medical school yearbook page was stunning. A photo in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook showed two people looking at the camera – one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in white Klan robes.

Hours after a conservative news outlet first reported the racist photo late on a Friday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam apologized and acknowledged that he appeared in the photo. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and several Democratic presidential candidates called for his resignation.

By the next day, however, he had a change of heart and Virginia statehouse correspondent Alan Suderman broke the news ahead of everyone else. Through a hard-won source he had cultivated during his five years at the statehouse, Suderman revealed that Northam did not believe he was in the photo and would not resign, hours before the governor made that decision public.

Then the scandal took a turn as sexual assault allegations were made against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat who is only the second African-American to win statewide office in the state. Suderman secured a denial from Fairfax after the second woman’s accusation.

But Suderman wasn’t done. Again working his sources, he revealed that Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, the potential successor to Northam and Fairfax, had admitted that he wore blackface during a party when he was a 19-year-old student at the University of Virginia.

The stories drew tremendous play with readers and customers, with more than 1,000 website matches on several days and 103,000 social media interactions in one day.

For his deft source-building and strong reporting on this highly competitive series of stories, Alan Suderman wins the AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Nov. 10, 2017

Best of the States

Rapid response after truck driver kills eight on New York bike path

AP photographers often scramble to the scene of a news story before it’s clear what is happening.

That was the case on a beautiful Halloween afternoon last week when a call came in to the New York City bureau that there was a swarm of police activity near the AP’s lower Manhattan headquarters. News Editor David Caruso ran to the windows and saw an unbroken string of police cars speeding south on the West Side Highway, going down the wrong side of the street. That was enough for him to scramble reporters, photographers and videographers out the door.

At the scene, AP photographer Bebeto Matthews slipped behind police lines and started walking up the street near the west side bike path. He noticed something white on the path and soon realized it was a body covered in a sheet, surrounded by crumpled bicycles and other debris. He began furiously taking pictures, called in what he saw to the desk and then ducked behind some construction equipment to start transmitting his photos on the spot.

Meanwhile, AP photographer Mark Lennihan and stringer photographers Craig Ruttle and Andres Kudacki had also rushed to the scene, making dramatic photos of what would become the worst terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11.

For strong breaking news work that put AP ahead and kept us there, Matthews, Lennihan, Ruttle and Kudacki win this weeks’ Best of the States Award.

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Feb. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Wrestler goes public with abuse charges; AP gets the interview

Kantele Franko, reporter, Columbus, Ohio; Larry Lage, sports writer, Detroit; and Thomas Peipert, reporter, Denver, for nimble coordination across three regions to secure an all-formats interview with the first athlete – Olympic wrestler Andy Hrovat – to make public accusations of sexual abuse against now-deceased Dr. Robert Anderson of the University of Michigan.https://bit.ly/2HZ8m7Ghttps://bit.ly/2PwPH7j

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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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Aug. 20, 2021

Best of the States

AP finds colleges concerned as some students turn to counterfeit vaccine cards

It started with a tip.

When a college student mentioned that fellow unvaccinated students were getting fake COVID-19 vaccine cards in order to attend in-person classes, AP global investigations intern Roselyn Romero remembered that she'd seen an account on Instagram offering fake cards for $25 each.

Romero began searching social media platforms and talked to college students, faculty, administrators and health officials. What she found was a cottage industry offering to accommodate people who refuse to get vaccinated but need documentation saying that they’ve had the shots.

Her deeply reported story had nearly 250,000 pageviews on AP News and was used by hundreds of news outlets, including online and print front pages. She was also interviewed by NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer responded by calling for a multiagency crackdown on the counterfeit cards.

For having a major national impact with her first AP byline, Roselyn Romero wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 23, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Many US employees feel devalued even in a booming job market

for documenting how the kinds of jobs Americans long enjoyed – permanent positions with stability, bonuses, pensions, benefits and opportunities to move up – have become rarer, which is why many don’t feel much like beneficiaries of what’s now the longest economic expansion on record. Drawing on economic research, government data and interviews with workers, Smith sketched a picture of lagging wages, eroding benefits and demands that employees do more without more pay. Her reporting concluded that the loyalty and security many say they once felt from their employers have diminished, and with it a measure of their satisfaction. https://bit.ly/2P914oj

June 14, 2019

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Navy reassigns unconventional war college head after AP reveals probe

“... Due to the distractions caused by the unfounded AP article last week, I am stepping down as President of YOUR college effective immediately.”

Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harley, head of the elite U.S. Naval War College, pushed the button on that all-staff missive Monday after the Navy announced it was reassigning him in the wake of exclusive reporting by Jennifer McDermott and Michelle R. Smith – reporting that produced two APNewsBreaks in 72 hours.

Their first NewsBreak moved Friday, confirming the military was investigating allegations that Harley spent excessively, abused his hiring authority and otherwise behaved inappropriately, including keeping a margarita machine in his office. Three days later, the AP team was first again with word that the Navy was removing Harley from his post pending the outcome of its probe.

Both stories gained huge traction with customers and on social media. The scoops by McDermott’s and Smith were “just the tip of the iceberg,” one source said, and they’ve since led to new tips.

For dogged and diligent reporting that exposed questionable leadership at the heart of the Navy’s brain trust, McDermott and Smith win this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Nov. 23, 2018

Best of the States

Requiem for Paradise: Remembering the sweet life of a town wiped out by wildfire

It’s not often you have to write an obituary for a town. Yet that’s what Martha Mendoza and Jocelyn Gecker did, with Gillian Flaccus producing a compelling video component. Their tribute to Paradise, California – leveled by a devastating wildfire that killed so many residents – painted a picture of all that was lost. Paradise was a gold prospector’s town, then a lumber town, and until two weeks ago was the home of 27,000 people “who lived and loved here; they built homes and businesses, schools and houses of worship, parks and museums that proudly honored Paradise's place in American history.”

Mendoza worked from the field, in the ashes of the town, with Gecker in San Francisco tracking down leads, helping to write the finished piece and finding photographs to illustrate “the town’s history and spirit.” Their nuanced reporting, along with that of many colleagues, drew forth tales of town holidays, and residents ruminating whether those staples of small-town America would continue.

The accompanying video by Gillian Flaccus, recorded during a ride-along with a long-time resident, complemented the text piece by showing street after street of utter devastation over the man’s narration.

Paradise is gone, and until it rebuilds in some fashion, Mendoza, Gecker and Flaccus have given the world the definitive piece on what it represented. For their deft depiction of the town behind the headlines, the trio wins AP's Best of the States.

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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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June 24, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reports legacy of slave who inspired beach’s name

tell a story that resonated across the nation on the eve of Juneteenth: the curious history of a Massachusetts beach named after an enslaved African American. Legend has it that Robin Mingo was promised his freedom if the tide ever receded enough for him to walk out onto a rocky ledge offshore of what is now known as Mingo Beach on the campus of Endicott College.Boston reporter Marcelo and photographer Senne interviewed students and faculty at the school who have been researching the local tale and proposing ways to memorialize the slave at his namesake beach. They hope the efforts spark broader discussions about the role of slavery in New England.Read more

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Nov. 22, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP dominates with live video, photo coverage of fiery Hong Kong university siege

When heavily-armored police stormed protesters occupying Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University, AP journalists were there to comprehensively document the violent confrontation that ensued.   

The effort to retake the school and arrest protesters trapped on the campus was beamed to customers around the globe in real-time, putting AP ahead of the competition with photos and live video of a dramatic escalation in the struggle between authorities and those protesting Beijing’s tightening policies toward Hong Kong.

The scoops were the result of months of protest coverage by AP visual journalists in Hong Kong, careful planning of how to report the siege, and wise use of AP resources around the world. 

The team on the ground – photographers Vincent Yu and Kin Cheung of Hong Kong; Han Guan Ng, Beijing; and Achmad Ibrahim, Jakarta; and video journalists Raf Wober, Hong Kong; Johnson Lai, Taipei; Dake Kang, Beijing; Andi Jatmiko, Jakarta; and freelancers Katie Tam and Alice Fung – delivered days of impressive coverage around the siege.

For smart planning and outstanding execution to document a chaotic story with breathtaking speed and depth, the visuals team covering the Hong Kong protests wins AP’s Best of the Week.

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Oct. 11, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: Priests accused of abuse have access to children, dozens commit crimes

As the ranks of dioceses promising to release lists of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse began to mushroom at the beginning of this year, Philadelphia reporter Claudia Lauer and Washington-based data editor Meghan Hoyer started to strategize: How could they leverage the information on a scale never before accomplished? 

After months of systematic, dogged work, the result was “Where Are They Now,” a blockbuster investigation that found almost 1,700 priests and other clergy members living with little to no oversight, many with positions giving them access to children. Dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault. 

The story received exceptional play online and in print, and AP Managing Editor Brian Carovillano called it, “One of the most monumental pieces of AP journalism in my memory.” 

For a stunning investigation that breaks new ground in the already impressive body of work that is “The Reckoning” series, Lauer and Hoyer win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 24, 2020

Best of the States

AP travels to the edge of America for start of the 2020 census in tiny Alaska town

On the edge of America, the U.S. Census started in a tiny Alaska town on the Bering Sea. Toksook Bay, population 661, is only reachable by plane, and isn’t an easy place to live, much less report. The temperatures hover around zero, and daylight is scarce this time of year.

After months of planning, Alaska news editor Mark Thiessen and San Diego photographer Greg Bull spent four days in the remote community, getting rare access to day-to-day life and an interview with the person who would be the first counted, 90-year-old Lizzie Chimiugak. 

And when the Census director finally arrived, delayed by bad weather that kept many other news organizations away, Thiessen and Bull were able to quickly file the spot news that Census 2020 had begun.

For overcoming myriad technical obstacles and very cold fingers to cover the news in a far-flung part of the country, while also providing a window into a world unlike any other place in the U.S., Thiessen and Bull win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 27, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Ex-congregants reveal years of ungodly abuse

This story begins in 2014, when five members of Word of Faith Fellowship, an evangelical congregation in western North Carolina, were indicted for beating a young man because they thought he was gay. Mitch Weiss, an investigative reporter based in Charlotte, reached out to the man, Matthew Fenner, who told a harrowing tale.

For Weiss, that conversation was the beginning of a nearly two-year quest to tell the story of Word of Faith and its controlling leader, Jane Whaley, a 77-year-old petite former math teacher with a thick Southern accent. Working alongside Atlanta-based video journalist Alex Sanz, Weiss eventually pieced together a startling and comprehensive look at a religious community that promised its members peace and prosperity. What they got was violence and abuse, administered in the name of God, former followers told him.

Part one of that series, published this week, wins Best of the States, and there is more to come.

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