Jan. 05, 2018

Best of the States

ONLY ON AP: FEMA sells trailers for pennies on the dollar despite high demand from disaster victims

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas in August, Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas, and Michael Sisak in Philadelphia teamed up to report exclusively that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had sold off scores of trailers with little to no damage in the days leading up to the storm. Their reporting had an immediate impact: FEMA said it had halted the auctions and would evaluate whether any of the units could be used for Harvey victims.

Fast forward to November, when Sisak noticed the auctions had resumed. Working with Central Desk editor Jeff McMurray, Sisak and Schmall took a pointed look at government waste, showing how FEMA was selling gently used trailers for pennies on the dollar rather than making them available for disaster victims.

For resourceful reporting that broke new ground, Schmall and Sisak share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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May 21, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Gaza team evacuates, responds with outstanding coverage as airstrike destroys AP’s building

Last Saturday afternoon, the AP’s staff in the Gaza Strip received an urgent call: They had less than an hour to evacuate the office before the Israeli military planned to destroy the entire building. Staff and freelancers scrambled to pack up whatever equipment and belongings they could carry, but even as they rushed to safety they continued reporting the news, including smartphone video of the evacuation and a live shot set up on a neighboring building. 

Moments later, an Israeli airstrike flattened the 12-story building that had served as a second home in one of the world’s most challenging war zones for the past 15 years. The AP team captured the dramatic scene for all formats, then, despite the stunning turn of events, quickly regrouped to continue their coverage of the ongoing conflict. 

The destruction of the building capped a difficult week in which Gaza came under intense Israeli aerial bombing, and thousands of rockets were launched into Israel.  AP’s staff on both sides of the conflict rose to the occasion, presenting fast, accurate stories, powerful photography, gripping video. 

For extreme dedication in the most difficult of circumstances, and their commitment to covering the conflict even at great personal risk, the Gaza team of Fares Akram, Najib Jobain, Rashed Rashid, Khalil Hamra, Hatem Moussa, Adel Hana, Mohammed Jahjouh and Wafaa Shurafa is the unanimous pick for Best of the Week honors.

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Aug. 25, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deep reporting, startling images reveal shaky faith and depths of despair in Trump Country

It’s a difficult thing, interviewing people about their desolation. But an Associated Press team went to Grays Harbor County, Washington, and came away with a deeply reported portrait of a place that had voted Democrat in every presidential election since 1932, but placed a bet on Donald Trump in November as its rescuer from addiction and economic malaise.

Sensitively and penetratingly, the team of Claire Galofaro, David Goldman and Martha Irvine used text, photos and video to tell the tale of an old logging county that “answered Donald Trump's call to the country's forgotten corners.” A half-year into the Republican’s term, they found varying degrees of faith in his ability to make a difference in their lives.

The latest installment in the AP’s Trump Country series is the Beat of the Week.

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Nov. 18, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

From vote count to race calls to mood of the electorate, AP commits ‘single largest act of journalism’

AP delivered stellar work on the 2022 midterm elections with fast, accurate vote count and race calling, engaging explanatory journalism, unparalleled insight into the minds of voters thanks to AP VoteCast survey methodology, and ambitious, robust all-formats coverage. That teamwork chronicled an unexpectedly successful election for Democrats and the defeat of many candidates who supported baseless claims of 2020 election fraud.

The key to that performance was collaboration among formats, teams, departments and more across the entire AP, not just on Election Day but in the weeks and months leading up to Nov. 8 and beyond. That effort included a team of 60 race callers, AP’s expanded national politics team and its new democracy team, 30 live video cameras across the U.S., over 80 photographers and much more, all complementing the footprint of AP’s 50-state on-the-ground staff.

For reinforcing the cooperative’s longstanding reputation as the foundation of U.S. election coverage, AP’s vast, tireless U.S. elections team earns Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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March 05, 2021

Best of the States

AP journalists deliver outstanding all-formats coverage to mark 500,000 COVID deaths in US

The U.S. surpassed a solemn milestone on Feb. 22 with 500,000 COVID-19 deaths — a moment in the pandemic that required thoughtful planning and storytelling, and precise execution across the AP for the coverage to stand out.

Editors began planning weeks in advance. They wanted impactful photo and video packages, lightning-fast spot coverage of the milestone being reached, and a text story to anchor the report that was different from AP’s previous recognition of 100,000, 250,000 and 400,000 deaths. 

The result was a package that resonated in all formats.

For meeting the grim milestone with compelling, comprehensive coverage, the team of Adam Geller, Jocelyn Gecker, Alyssa Goodman, Pete Brown, Eugene Garcia, Manuel Valdes and Krysta Fauria wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 27, 2018

Best of the States

AP lands elusive first interview with two black men arrested at Starbucks

The arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia for sitting without ordering anything turned into a major crisis for the coffee chain and sparked a national conversation on unconscious bias and overt racism.

But the two men at the center of the controversy sought to maintain their privacy as they tried to make sense of the ordeal. They even moved to a hotel to hide out as the scandal unfolded with numerous interview requests to tell their story.

Knowing the sit-down with the men was essential, Pennsylvania Editor Larry Rosenthal pressed for an interview, noting that one conversation with AP would relieve the pressure they were feeling from so many outlets. Errin Haines Whack, the AP’s national race and ethnicity writer, followed up with a written pitch. She noted she was based in Philly and wanted to hear both their version of events and what they hoped to see moving forward. In the end, that sealed the deal.

For landing the critical interview and delivering it in multiple formats, Whack is this week’s winner of Best of the States.

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July 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork delivers standout AP coverage of July 4 mass shooting

mobilized on July Fourth to deliver fast, multiformat coverage of the mass shooting at a parade in Highland Park, Illinois, that ultimately resulted in seven deaths and dozens wounded. Local and regional staffers responded quickly with all-formats coverage in the Chicago suburb while colleagues across the U.S. and into Mexico stepped in to assist with reporting, writing and editing.Monday’s efforts laid the groundwork for coverage in the days that followed, including more breaking news updates, victim profiles, a narrative on how the events unfolded, explainers, an investigative piece on how the suspect was able to get weapons despite Illinois’ red flag law and more.The mainbar story trended near the top on AP platforms for much of the week and made the front page of newspapers across the country.Read more

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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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Feb. 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

The AP Interview: Fiona Hill warns ‘buckle up’ on Russia-Ukraine

collaborated on a rare 45-minute interview with Fiona Hill, a Russia scholar and analyst who served in the past three U.S. administrations. Hill offered AP a sober assessment of the Ukraine crisis.During the interview, spot developments in the standoff were relayed to the AP team for instant analysis from Hill. She provided so much insight that AP turned the interview into a two-part video edit, the first piece focused on the breaking news and the second story focused on Hill’s assessment of how Putin and Biden are managing the evolving crisis.All the interview elements, video and text, scored heavy usage and engagement, including a promotional clip for social media that had a cautionary observation from Hill, “The basic message is buckle up because this is going to be very difficult.” Read more

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Jan. 01, 2021

Best of the States

AP finds hurricane-battered Louisiana residents struggling, enduring months later

Ever since Hurricane Laura hit southwest Louisiana in August, correspondent Rebecca Santana and photographer Gerald Herbert wanted to follow up with the region’s residents. But in a busy hurricane season, it wasn’t until December that plans finally came together. 

Santana researched for weeks, finding subjects and learning about recovery efforts. The pair then spent two days in the Lake Charles area where they saw the devastation firsthand and met storm victims, including a couple whose postponed wedding was finally happening. Herbert, who also shot the video for the stories, went back to Lake Charles eight times, even sleeping in a gutted house on Christmas Eve.

The result was two print stories, three video packages and a photo essay, all of which received prominent play. For uncovering the compelling stories of hurricane victims months after the storms faded from the headlines, Santana and Herbert earn AP’s Best of the States award for the week of Dec. 21.

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Oct. 23, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP documents international child labor as families put children to work during pandemic

When Mexico announced in August that its 30 million students would start the school year using a combination of internet and television-based distance learning, many poor families chose to send their children to work to help survive the pandemic’s economic toll. 

With tens of millions of out-of-school children worldwide, AP decided to look at this sad phenomenon on a broad level, from Latin America, where children hammered away inside amber mines or labored in brick kilns, to Kenya where girls had been forced into prostitution while others broke rocks in a quarry. 

For their important and compelling work, the team of Maria Verza, Eduardo Verdugo, Alexis Triboulard, Carlos Valdez, Juan Karita, Carlos Guerrero, William Costa, Jorge Saenz, Tom Odula, Brian Inganga, Sheikh Saaliq and Dario Lopez wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 05, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Innovative AP team sheds light on methane ‘super emitters’ — invisible and virtually unregulated

It’s difficult to write a compelling story about a highly technical subject, harder still to produce a rich visual package on a literally invisible threat — but this all-formats AP team rose to the challenge, delivering an engaging package on “super emitters” of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

The journalists took the coordinates of 533 known sites along the Texas-New Mexico border and painstakingly cross-referenced them with public documents to piece together the corporations most likely responsible. And because methane is invisible, AP used a specialized infrared camera to make mesmerizing still and video images of the gas spewing into the sky.

The package, as distinctive as it is alarming, received heavy play and readership, and had impact: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was launching an enforcement action.

For smart, innovative journalism, and above all teamwork, Michael Biesecker, Helen Wieffering, David Goldman, Mike Pesoli and Dario Lopez earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Sept. 01, 2016

Best of the States

A distinctive retelling of a shocking tragedy

As nurse practitioners, Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill played a pivotal role in the lives of many people in rural Holmes County, Mississippi, which with 44 percent of its residents living in poverty ranks as the seventh-poorest county in America, according to the Census Bureau.

So when the two Roman Catholic nuns were found stabbed to death in the home they shared, the news devastated friends and families, as well as the many people who came to rely on the pair for critical, life-saving medical care.

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June 24, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats reporting gives voice to abortion opponents

took readers to Columbia, South Carolina, and the front lines of the fight against abortion as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs a decision that could reverse Roe v. Wade.National reporter Sedensky and photo/video journalist Goldman spent several days with members of A Moment of Hope, a group that assembles outside a Planned Parenthood clinic every abortion day, trying to change the minds of women who show up. The resulting all-formats package weaves together the voices of both opponents and defenders of abortion and the history of the movement as it relates the gripping case of one pregnant woman and the conflict playing out at the clinic as the woman decides whether to end her pregnancy.Read more

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Jan. 27, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Inaugural images: Talent and tech combine in sweeping, instant photo coverage

Remember these images from the Inauguration: The new first couple dancing across a giant presidential seal at a ball? Faces in the crowd cheering or crying in the rain? The instant when Donald Trump took in the scene through an opening door before stepping onto the podium to become the 45th U.S. president?

Credit for those signature images, which appeared across the globe almost as they happened, goes to the skill and artistry of a hand-picked team of AP photographers and photo editors – and also to the cutting-edge, behind-the-scenes efforts of AP technicians working hand-in-hand with them to cover the intensely competitive event.

Their extraordinary work, a stream of 2,000 photos sent from daybreak until well after midnight, earns the Beat of the Week.

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Nov. 06, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

As families respond to the crisis, AP reveals desperate state of Venezuelan COVID treatment

Venezuela was one of the least-prepared countries in the world to fight the coronavirus. But it has arguably succeeded on one front: suppressing news of the virus’s true impact on its people. The country has acknowledged only 814 COVID deaths. But this Caracas-based all-formats AP team scored a breakthrough, telling the actual story in a country where contradicting the government’s official narrative can lead to detention.

Documenting two women working to ensure the survival of their fathers, the AP journalists delivered a hard-won, startling and exclusive look at the bleak state of health care and the plight of relatives who risk their own lives to care for loved ones in the COVID-19 wing of a rundown public hospital.

For their determination and courage to report this story and expose Venezuela’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Smith, Cubillos and Arraez earn AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Sept. 30, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

The first fully televised interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad

More than three years ago, Lebanon-Syria News Director Zeina Karam in Beirut began her quest to get an interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Karam, along with AP’s longtime Damascus stringer Albert Aji, worked their sources, convincing reluctant Syrian officials about The Associated Press’ reach and significance. Last week, their work paid off: the first fully televised interview Assad has given to an international news agency, resulting in an exclusive, news-breaking all-formats package.

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Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the States

AP ties Supreme Court nominee to faith group said to subjugate women

When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Barrett and her supporters clearly did not want to discuss the nominee’s reported ties to a religious group called People of Praise.

Enter reporters Michelle Smith and Michael Biesecker. Using on-the-record interviews and an archive of deleted web pages, the pair documented Barrett's deep ties to the charismatic Christian group and painted a detailed picture of the organization’s beliefs and practices from its early days to the present. And the reporters went on to reveal how the organization had systematically deleted all mentions of Barrett and her family from its website.

For deep, resourceful reporting that sheds new light on the current Supreme Court nominee on the cusp of her confirmation hearings, Smith and Biesecker share this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 26, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP hours ahead as Trump moves to end nearly all asylum at southern border

Washington-based homeland security reporter Colleen Long earned a key scoop – one that set the news agenda for days and left the competition scrabbling to catch up – when a source alerted her to a change in rules for those seeking asylum at the southern border: The rule would effectively end asylum for people coming from Central American countries and change decades of U.S. policy.

Following the tip, she also knew that she had a window of opportunity to drive her advantage home before the law was announced early the next morning. Long’s story caught other news organizations completely off guard and left major outlets to cite the AP for hours as they struggled to catch up.

For her deep knowledge of immigration policy, diligent reporting and outstanding speed of delivery on a story of vital interest, Colleen Long earns AP’s Best of the Week.

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