May 17, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Schedules reveal West Virginia governor largely absent from work

Anthony Izaguirre began hearing the chatter about West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice as soon as he started work as the AP’s statehouse correspondent in Charleston, West Virginia, in late February. Sources told him Justice – a billionaire who owns mines, farms and a swanky resort – wasn’t fully engaged and hadn’t even been in the capital, Charleston, much since taking office in 2017.

Izaguirre's initial request for the governor’s schedules was declined, but he pressed with the help of AP’s legal department, finally getting the records. Armed with those calendars and his own resourceful reporting, he cobbled together a record of the governor’s activities, confirming what many suspected: Justice appeared to have better things to do than govern.

West Virginia media pounced on the exclusive story, which also played well outside the state.

For his resolute work to obtain public records and his thorough reporting to fill out a story no one else in the state could land, Izaguirre wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 01, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Secret diplomacy behind Venezuela’s self-declared interim president

The world watched enthralled on Jan. 23 as little-known Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself president of the struggling South American nation and called on socialist President Nicolas Maduro to resign. More surprising still, the United States, Canada and a host of Latin American countries recognized Guaido almost immediately as the country’s rightful leader.

The timing was clearly no coincidence, but what exactly had happened?

Andean News Director Josh Goodman, Canada Bureau Chief Rob Gillies and Washington newsman Luis Alonso shared first-rate source work to scoop everyone, revealing a coordinated behind-the-scenes push to back Guaido that read like a spy novel. For weeks, a coalition of Latin American governments had launched secret diplomatic efforts, including encrypted messages and a furtive trip by Guaido to Washington, Bogota and Brasilia to build a strategy around the baby-faced Assembly president.

So far, the AP is the only media outlet to have told this story, and it has been widely used inside and outside Venezuela. Even embattled President Maduro praised the AP scoop to supporters at a rally over the weekend.

For their resourceful and consequential news break on one of the top stories in the world, Goodman, Gillies and Alonso win AP’s Best of the Week.

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April 26, 2019

Best of the States

A powerful retrospective and breaking news, 20 years after Columbine mass shooting

Twenty years have passed since the Columbine high school massacre, which was, to many people, the beginning of school shootings as we know them. In those years, life has changed: Mass shootings happen again and again, schoolchildren participate in lockdowns instead of fire drills, and many reflect on the moment in time when two young men took 13 lives with them on their suicidal quest.

AP was uniquely positioned to cover the two decades since the massacre, with journalists who were there, those who cover the Colorado community every day, and experts in polling, education and guns. Stories by Denver reporter Kathleen Foody and videojournalist Peter Banda led a deep all-formats package by dozens of journalists across the AP telling not just of the carnage but of those who survived it, their struggle, and the future.

But all the planning couldn't prepare anyone for this spot development: Early in the week, Sol Pais, a young Florida woman, prompted panic over a possible attack at Columbine, later taking her own life near the Colorado school. Miami reporter Kelli Kennedy tracked down a good friend of Pais who not only filled in personal details about her in an exclusive interview, but supplied photos of Pais and cast doubt on the official narrative about her friend.

The overarching theme of the spot and enterprise coverage focused on the short and long-term mental health issues from school shootings. The result was a unique, meaningful package that received impressive play nationally – online and in print. The video was among the top-used AP videos of the week.

For their work spearheading the package, and breaking news, Foody, Banda and Kennedy win this week’s Best of the States.

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Nov. 30, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Chinese researcher claims first gene-edited babies

When a source told AP’s chief medical reporter Marilynn Marchione that a Chinese researcher had edited the DNA of several human embryos and implanted two into a woman, their conversation launched an aggressive but delicate reporting effort by AP journalists in the U.S. and China. That reporting led to the AP’s exclusive coverage of one of the most important and controversial claims in medical and science history. It was nothing less than an attempt to alter the trajectory of human heredity.

Science writer Christina Larson, videographer Emily Wang, researcher Fu Ting and photographer Mark Schiefelbein set out to interview the researcher and his colleagues in Shenzhen and Beijing, while Marchione and videographer Kathy Young worked the story from the U.S.

He's claim raised a laundry list of concerns. After talking with current and former colleagues and outside scientists, it became clear that his claim, while unverifiable, was plausible. AP knew it would be worthwhile reporting the claim, because the claim itself would be major scientific news. And it was – AP's exclusive on He's claim of the world’s first gene-edited babies made headlines worldwide.

The response from readers, customers and other scientists was immediate and intense. The inventors of the gene-editing technology He used condemned the claim. U.S. and Chinese universities that He was affiliated with launched investigations, and more than 100 Chinese scientists called for a ban on work of this kind in China.

AP’s reporting was credited or linked to by at least 44 media outlets and generated numerous downloads. At more than half a million page views it was by far the most read story on APNews for the week.

For responsibly breaking a story in all formats of a major scientific claim while exploring the ethical quandaries that He’s research has raised, Marchione, Larson, Wang, Young, Ting and Schiefelbein earn AP's Best of the Week.

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Sept. 23, 2016

Best of the States

Deep-sea volcano a hotspot for mysterious life

When the World Conservation Congress came to Honolulu, Correspondent Caleb Jones did what any good AP reporter would. He sized up potential news and obtained releases early, including ones about the Great Elephant Census in Africa and a gorilla subspecies being classified as critically endangered.

But, while planning for an interview with Conservation International CEO Peter Seligman, Jones learned something that would take AP’s coverage to another level – and take him to the bottom of the sea – while other reporters sat through speeches and presentations. Scientists with the conservation group and the University of Hawaii were about to embark on the first-ever submarine exploration of two ancient undersea volcanoes 3,000 feet beneath the Pacific and 100 miles off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.

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Aug. 18, 2016

Best of the States

Shining a light on the origins of Arpaio’s campaign contributions

For years, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made a name for himself as the tough-talking lawman from metro Phoenix who was unafraid of criticizing federal immigration enforcement, earning accolades not only from fellow conservatives but millions of dollars in donations from around the country.

Arizona law enforcement reporter Jacques Billeaud knew that much of Arpaio's campaign donations came from outside Arizona. That’s what his campaign had said. But exactly how much and from where was a mystery because the donations were catalogued in an unsearchable PDF format.

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

The motorcycle diary: Photos of NYC in the pandemic era

found themselves in a city that had gone to ground. Faced with the challenge of photographing the absence of life in a city normally teeming with it, they took more than a dozen motorcycle trips through a New York virtually emptied by the virus, making raw, “drive-by” images. They recorded ghostly pedestrians, lone workers, eerie post-apocalyptic streetscapes and shrouds of fog. And while the virus is unseen, the threat of it appears in the eyes of the people still on the street.https://bit.ly/2Vz99nlhttps://bit.ly/3bxhKMIhttps://bit.ly/2S2pnmuhttps://bit.ly/3bBvfen

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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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July 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Powerful photos anchor all-formats coverage of Florida condo collapse

delivered standout photo coverage of the Surfside, Florida, condo collapse, anchoring an impressive AP response in all formats.Lee was at home a few blocks away when the tragic, catastrophic story broke early Thursday morning. He quickly made his way to the scene to make some of the first images the world would see of the pancaked Champlain Towers South. His fast work on the ground also earned him a text byline, with customers and readers across the country waking up to a comprehensive AP story with his images. More AP journalists were soon on the scene digging into spot developments as well as the history of the building, churning out urgent series after urgent series and sensitively reporting the human toll, finding names and details of the missing to round out a well-received vignettes package. Early video also scored heavily with AP customers. Throughout the coverage, the photo team, led by Lavandier and South regional photo editor Mike Stewart, fought restricted access and had to innovate visually. Herbert first chartered a plane, then a helicopter, making handheld aerial photos with an 800mm lens from as much as two miles offshore as flight restrictions tightened. Then the team hit on the idea of using a boat. That allowed closer access but still required long lenses from a moving craft, with the photographers effectively timing their shots to coincide with the peaks and troughs of the waves to minimize movement. Competitors scrambled to emulate AP's strategy with their own vessels. AP wins on visuals included powerful photos by Sladky and Lavandier of people comforting each other, and three different AP photos rotating as the lead photo on Saturday’s New York Times home page — images showing the destruction, the rescue operation and the emotional toll. The Miami Herald praised AP’s visuals and has used much of the work, even as its own photographers produced strong content. The Herald and other members have shared some of their best images in AP’s photo report. In addition to AP’s photography, members have praised the all-formats coverage, including the “microstories” AP published practically in real time, showcasing good nuggets of information throughout the news cycles. Coverage of the collapse topped AP’s measures of readership and reader engagement for the month. https://apnews.com/hub/buildin...

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Oct. 08, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Accounting and Accountability: AP follows the money, finds most ‘rescue’ funds unspent

Earlier this year, states and cities across the country pleaded for a pandemic “rescue” plan to avoid a fiscal cliff, and they got it: $350 billion from Washington for local and state governments. Five months later, AP State Government Team reporter David Lieb dug into the data, state by state, city by city. He found that states overall had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5% — not such an emergency after all.

It was a dramatic finding from an ongoing series of accountability stories led by AP’s state government and data teams tracking hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic aid.

As Lieb gathered and analyzed the reports, data journalist Camille Fassett prepared the information for wider distribution to customers who used it for their own localized reporting.

Play for the story was outstanding. It landed on the front pages of dozens of AP’s biggest customers, online and print, and drew readership on AP News. For distinctive accountability journalism that delivered on both the national and local level, Lieb and Fassett earn AP’s Best of Week — First Winner.

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May 20, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP documents North Dakota lawmaker’s taxpayer-funded travel

scooped North Dakota media by revealing just how extensively — and expensively — a state senator had traveled on the taxpayer’s dime.MacPherson obtained documents showing that Republican Sen. Ray Holmberg, who recently announced he would end his 46-year-career following a report that he had traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges, had run up more than 14 times the average travel expenses for the state’s lawmakers over the past decade, on trips that included China, Puerto Rico and New Orleans.Read more

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April 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Catholic nuns share their loss and pain of the pandemic

gave voice to the intense emotion within communities of Catholic nuns that have experienced devastating losses from outbreaks of the coronavirus. The Felician Sisters alone lost 21 of their own from four U.S. convents, a remarkable blow for a community of about 450 women. This intimate look within the cloister showed the lasting effects of what the pandemic wrought — in this case, the most reverent found themselves questioning faith and how one might continue living when so many nuns didn’t.After initial difficulty connecting with receptive sources, national writer Sedensky found Sister Mary Jeanine Morozowich in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, who had a level of introspection and eloquence that would help drive this story. That opened the doors to St. Anne Home in Greensburg. Sedensky and video journalist Wardarski, both compassionate listeners, encouraged the openness of the sisters, helping introduce the pair to others at the ministry. “By the time Jessie and I paid a visit there, we were able to share moments and conversations with all of them,” Sedensky said. Along the way, a couple of sisters told him that they felt better after their conversations.The package, including Wardarski’s poignant visuals, found a receptive audience. The AP pair received innumerable emails expressing how much the story moved readers. One was headlined: “My tears flowed as I read your article.” Another said: “Your article about the loss of these beautiful women will stay with me always. ... You wrote it so beautifully and with such respect.”https://bit.ly/3g8vYsGhttps://bit.ly/3gdjJeh

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Jan. 12, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Persistence pays: APNewsbreak on major changes in US marijuana policy

The source's message delivered by text was short and simple: "I have big news."

Sadie Gurman, a Justice Department reporter, had covered Colorado's first-in-the-nation pot experiment when she was a staffer in Denver, cultivating activists and law enforcement officials as sources. So when she transferred to Washington about a year ago, she had a burning question: When would Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fierce opponent of decriminalization of marijuana, reverse the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to states that have legalized the drug?

The answer came last week and Gurman had the scoop – long before the competition and hours ahead of the official announcement. Her story earns the Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 29, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP staffers surmount dual disasters in Mexico and Puerto Rico

First, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked Mexico, killing hundreds. Then, a day later, a category 4 hurricane pummeled Puerto Rico, leaving millions of people without power and with little water.

Two major calamities, one sterling response: Staffers of The Associated Press went to heroic lengths to tell the world the stories of two places battered by disaster. Their efforts were led to extraordinary achievements – in text, photos and video – and the Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 24, 2017

Best of the States

Utah law allows legislators to get wined and dined in secret

Michelle Price was aware of the Utah’s lax requirements for reporting on lobbying activities and had been looking for a good way to tell that story. A social media posting from a lawmaker gave her the opening she was seeking when he shared an invitation from health care industry lobbyists to legislative members of three health-related committees to dine at a stylish new restaurant.

Price confirmed that under Utah’s loose lobbying laws, neither the lobbyists nor the lawmakers were required to report their night out. Price's AP NewsBreak went on to explain that no public disclosure is required as long as lobbyists extend their largesse to all members of a committee, a task force or a caucus. For her resourceful reporting, Price wins this week’s $300 Best of the States award.

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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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April 02, 2017

Best of the States

Fight for access leads to Porter's breaking news in Bridgegate case

The Associated Press has been working for more than a year with a group of media organizations to lobby the federal court system in New Jersey to release pre-sentencing memos in criminal court cases to pull back the veil on what goes into judge’s sentencing decisions.

With two former allies of Gov. Chris Christie convicted in the Bridgegate case set to find out their fates last week, New Jersey law enforcement reporter David Porter was done waiting.

For his work collaborating with AP members in New Jersey to fight for public access to the memos and then being the first to report on them, Porter wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Guilty Parties

Dec. 01, 2017

Best of the States

AP staffers get exclusive interview with U.S. Rep. John Conyers

When BuzzFeed broke the news that the longest-serving current U.S. House member had settled a sexual harassment complaint, one notable thing missing was comment from U.S. Rep. John Conyers himself. The 88-year-old Conyers rarely gives interviews anymore, deferring to his staff to issue statements or simply not responding.

Congress was on Thanksgiving break, but News Editor Roger Schneider suggested that video journalist Mike Householder and reporter Corey Williams drop by Conyers’ Detroit home. They knew it was a long shot – Corey and Mike had been to Conyers’ house before, and knew it was gated.

To their surprise, Conyers answered their ring.

Conyers answered a few questions, giving Williams and Householder a major beat: He denied settling sexual harassment claims and other allegations of inappropriate touching of staffers.

For aggressive reporting that paid off with an exclusive on one of the week’s top stories, Williams and Householder share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Jan. 13, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP first with word US taxpayers to pay for US-Mexico wall

“Build the wall!" That chant became a frequent rallying cry at rallies for Donald Trump, who vowed to stem illegal immigration by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The candidate, now president-elect, would routinely engage in a back-and-forth with crowds. "Who's going to pay for it?" Trump would ask. "Mexico!" they'd shout back.

Not so, as it turns out. In an APNewsBreak, congressional correspondent Erica Werner and new White House reporter Jill Colvin were the first to report that Trump and congressional Republicans were exploring ways to use existing law – and U.S. taxpayer dollars – to build the border wall.

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