July 24, 2020

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Inside the first major outbreak at an ICE detention center

The reason the warden at a large San Diego detention center gave for not wearing masks amid the pandemic was astonishing – and likely helped fuel a large outbreak.

“Well, you can’t wear the mask because we don’t want to scare the employees and we don’t want to scare the inmates and detainees,” a guard recalled being told.

That’s just the lead of the story by AP’s Elliot Spagat, who landed the first detailed interviews with employees and detainees about the situation at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. Spagat also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and government data to provide the most complete account yet of the first major outbreak at a U.S. immigration facility.

For giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the factors that surely contributed to the virus outbreak, and for holding the warden and other officials accountable, Spagat wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 12, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Big farms find easy ways around caps on tariff aid

An AP Best of States mention in February about the hundreds of companies avoiding President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs raised questions about Trump’s $12 billion aid package to farmers hurt by the tariffs. What happened next shows how states can produce sharp, data-driven journalism – simply by calling on the data team for help.

AP filed Freedom of Information Act requests for U.S. Department of Agriculture data that was analyzed by Balint Szalai, a Hungarian investigative reporter embedded with AP’s data team, and Washington data team intern Riin Aljas.

Among their findings: Many big farming operations were legally collecting far more than the supposed caps on aid.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis reporter Steve Karnowski spoke to longtime USDA critics and interviewed farmers who defended taking the big checks, saying they didn’t even cover their losses under Trump’s trade war.

The Only-on-AP story ran on dozens of sites, and because the data and analysis were released to AP members in advance, many chose to localize their stories.

For sophisticated data analysis and on-the-ground reporting that shed light on a key consequences of trade policy, Karnowski, Szalai and Aljas share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 27, 2019

Best of the States

‘Sundays After’: Portraits of resilience in the wake of clergy abuse

Photographer Maye-E Wong wanted to find a new way to tell the stories of those who suffered from clergy abuse, emphasizing that they were survivors, not victims. 

Her plan: She would photograph them with a Polaroid camera, then soak the prints and release the thin fragile membranes that held the images. The images were imperfect – wrinkled and distressed – but they endure, a metaphor for the survivors they portrayed.

Wong and reporter Juliet Linderman traveled the country to interview and photograph survivors, spending days with them and listening to their stories. The result was a stunning presentation that set AP viewership records and earned praise from both the subjects and the public.

For an arresting package of inspired photography and sensitive, insightful reporting, Wong and Linderman receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 20, 2019

Best of the States

Going to extremes to tell the story of sexual violence and shortcomings of enforcement

In western Alaska, rape survivors and their supporters say Nome’s police department has often failed to investigate sexual assaults, especially when the victims are Alaska Native women.

Delivering sensitive-but-powerful coverage from a challenging environment, enterprise photographer Maye-E Wong and freelance correspondent Victoria Mckenzie tell the story of average Americans struggling with sexual violence and law enforcement in small communities. Their work made clear that Nome’s struggles don’t represent an isolated case; it is a microcosm of how police and towns and cities across the U.S. have failed survivors of sexual assaults.

For going to extremes – literally and figuratively – to shed light on a remote corner of the larger issue of sexual violence and enforcement, Wong and Mckenzie share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 04, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Two AP exclusives: China’s forced labor and US detention of migrant youths

Welcome to the first Best of the Week of 2019. Among a series of very strong end-of-the-year nominations, the judges have selected two winners from opposite sides of the world.

A sweeping AP investigation by California-based investigative reporters Garance “Poppy” Burke and Martha Mendoza found that the U.S. is once again institutionalizing thousands of migrant children in crowded shelters, despite warnings that the experience could lead to lifelong trauma. Their national story, complemented with a comprehensive data package by Washington-based data editor Meghan Hoyer and NY-based data journalist Larry Fenn, was the first to provide shelter-by-shelter detention statistics, numbers the government had been withholding all year.

Our other winner comes from an equally impactful AP investigation by Beijing-based video journalist Dake Kang, newsperson Yanan Wang and Mendoza, again, which showed that clothing made inside a Chinese internment camp housing Muslim Uighurs is being shipped to a U.S. company that supplies sportswear to American schools and universities.

To do this, they cross-referenced satellite imagery, Chinese state media reports and the address of a Chinese supplier on bills of lading destined for Badger Sportswear in North Carolina. Kang then travelled to Kazakhstan to get multiple on-camera accounts of forced labor in the Chinese camps.

For enterprising, important work, the team of Burke, Mendoza, Hoyer and Fenn, and the team of Kang, Wang and Mendoza share AP’s Best of the Week.

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April 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP traces black Americans’ history of mistrust toward the medical field

As New York, Chicago, New Orleans and other cities with large black populations began to emerge as hot spots for COVID-19, reporters Aaron Morrison and Jay Reeves decided it would be relevant to examine how black Americans have historically mistrusted the medical field.

The pair connected the skepticism in the black community in part to the aftermath of the notorious “Tuskegee Study,” in which roughly 600 poor black Alabama men were left untreated for syphilis to track the disease’s progress. The secret program was exposed in 1972 and ended, but its effects linger, well beyond Alabama.

With photography by Bebeto Matthews, the story received heavy play as the nation wrestled with the high rate of coronavirus infections among the black community.

For setting the AP apart with a timely examination of black Americans’ mistrust of the medical field, Morrison, Reeves and Matthews win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Nov. 13, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Only on AP: In his last days, al-Baghdadi sought safety in shrinking domain

The death of the Islamic State group “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was one of the most competitive stories in the world in recent weeks. Journalists scrambled to uncover details of the U.S. operation and how the Islamic State leader ended up in a hideout in Syria.

Beirut-based Middle East reporter Sarah El Deeb put the AP out front with a story based on exclusive interviews recounting al-Baghdadi’s final days, as he was shuttled furtively around Syria by a dwindling circle of confidants. 

Enhancing the narrative were dramatic details from a teenage girl who had been enslaved by al-Baghdadi as he sought refuge. El Deeb elicited the previously untold details through sensitive and dogged reporting.

The story stood out from the many accounts that simply echoed the official account of al-Baghdadi’s death, demonstrating not only the AP’s dominance on a global story but also its trusted ability to provide facts-based reporting from the ground in the region.

For outstanding source work and reporting on a story of intense interest, Sarah El Deeb wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

 

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Dec. 14, 2018

Best of the States

Years of planning pay off in ‘picture perfect’ coverage of Bush funeral events

For more than a decade, Washington photo editor Jon Elswick has negotiated with the Department of Defense over coverage plans for the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, while Houston photojournalist David Phillip fostered a relationship with the Bush family and their spokesman to secure AP’s shooting positions for the eventual funeral events.

Those relationships were crucial to arranging and executing coverage, paving the way for more than two dozen staffers to parachute into Washington, Houston and College Station, Texas, where they produced outstanding photos in real time and for the history books.

Among the highlights: Photographer Morry Gash fired a remote-controlled camera that captured a stunning bird’s-eye view of the U.S. Capitol rotunda during visitation and services, and David Phillip negotiated to shoot inside the railroad car carrying the coffin as the funeral train passed through Texas. Phillip called it “the most incredible event I have ever covered.”

The photo coverage was part of an impressive dayslong cross-format effort by scores of AP staff across the country and globe that included hours of live video and spot and breaking text, video, audio and graphics coverage that explored Bush’s life and presidency from every angle.

For exceptional planning and execution on one of the largest news events of the year, this week’s Best of the States goes to the team of photo staff covering the Bush funeral.

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Dec. 17, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP responds to US tornadoes with sweeping, distinctive all-formats coverage

When a tornado warning sounded Friday night, AP’s Appalachian staffers scrambled to find whatever information they could in the dead of night. By early Saturday morning it had become clear Kentucky was going to be the epicenter of one of the most powerful tornadoes to hit the region in recent memory.Staffers responded quickly in all formats, including the first live video from the devastated town of Mayfield. Coverage included residents’ wrenching accounts of survival and loss, and powerful visuals, but there was also an important pause in AP’s coverage: Many news outlets breathlessly reported the governor’s grim prediction that as many as 70 people may have died in the collapse of a candle factory. AP was more cautious, preserving its reputation for accuracy when the actual toll came in much lower.AP’s mainbar text stories, photos and video — live and edited — all earned heavy play.

For smart, fast, determined coverage in the days immediately following the storm, the team of Bruce Schreiner, Claire Galofaro, Dylan Lovan, John Raby, Travis Loller, Mark Humphrey, Gerald Herbert, Kristin Hall and Robert Bumsted is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 31, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Coordinated effort delivers strong, quick all-formats coverage of migrant caravan

From the moment a caravan of Central American migrants set out from Honduras and crossed through Guatemala toward a series of standoffs with Mexican authorities, the AP was there, documenting every step. 

Knowing that Mexican authorities were determined not to let the migrants pass, editors deployed cross-format teams to cover the caravan from both the Guatemalan and the Mexican sides of the border. That effort put the AP far ahead of the competition when the migrants started to cross the Suchiate River into Mexico.

In a coordinated effort, AP staffers and stringers shared information and skills to deliver dramatic coverage, including live video, as people waded across the river and scuffled with Mexico’s National Guard. The all-formats coverage was among AP’s top stories for Jan. 22.

For following the story early and then collaborating closely to produce dominant images and stories of the latest chapter in the migrant saga from Central America, the team of Moisés Castillo, María Verza, Sonia Pérez D., Marco Ugarte, Peter Orsi, Diego Delgado, Marcelo Viaño and Santiago Billy share AP’s Best of the Week honors.  

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Nov. 01, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation: Ukraine’s Zelenskiy pressured by Trump months before call

Desmond Butler and Michael Biesecker, global investigations reporters in Washington, wanted to fill out the timeline of the diplomatic scandal at the heart of House impeachment inquiry. While Biesecker worked sources in Washington, Butler traveled to Ukraine to meet with associates of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and with other sources developed over years of investigating wrongdoing in the former Soviet Union.

What they learned moved the needle on a complex narrative — associates of the Ukrainian leader said that pressure from the Trump White House started much earlier than was known previously, dating from shortly after Zelenskiy’s election in April, and before he took office as president. 

The scoop was the latest in a series of breaking stories and exclusives by the pair that have defined coverage of the impeachment investigation and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s role in it.

For meticulous work that led to a major scoop and widened the horizons of the ongoing Ukraine-Trump story, Butler and Biesecker share AP’s Best of the Week award. 

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April 24, 2020

Best of the States

The cost of Trump environmental rollbacks: Health woes hit minority communities hardest

With African American and Hispanic communities in the Houston region already suffering higher rates of asthma and other diseases than the nation at large, AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer decided to focus on the area for a story on ordinary Americans living through the Trump administration’s public health and environmental rollbacks. 

The administration was cutting back on rules limiting and monitoring harmful industrial pollutants, slashing enforcement and weakening an industrial-disaster rule.

Knickmeyer, a Washington-based environmental issues reporter, spent months searching out Houston residents, telling their stories along with deep reporting on the regulatory actions and their consequences.

Former EPA Director Gina McCarthy was among many retweeting the story, calling it a “must read” article.

For a rich, insightful look at the consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks on vulnerable communities, Knickmeyer wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 13, 2018

Best of the States

Two stories focus on young victims impacted by US immigration policy

In two moving pieces of journalism in the last week, Associated Press journalists cast a powerful spotlight on the toll of White House immigration policies on young children.

One story started with a question posed by immigration beat team reporter Nomaan Merchant: Could we profile a single block or community where multiple immigrants had been picked up, and explore the impact of those arrests?

Merchant, joined by video journalist Manuel Valdes and photographer Greg Bull, zeroed in on a community in Kentucky that was the site of a two-day Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid last December.

Their reporting turned up examples of people who were arrested by happenstance, and with no criminal records – despite the administration’s mantra that the raids are for public safety. Perhaps the most poignant reporting and images focused on a 4-year-old boy whose father was arrested.

Meanwhile, Arizona immigration reporter Astrid Galvan was looking for ways to tell the stories of children separated from their parents at the border. She found a juvenile docket in Phoenix immigration court and camped out there for the day.

What she found was a major story that affected the national debate on immigration – a 1-year-old boy who had a court appearance with a lawyer. Galvan described in vivid detail how he nursed from his bottle, asked his care giver for “agua” and cried when the care giver retrieved his diaper bag. And she captured the money quote as a judge expressed his bafflement at having to advise a defendant of his rights when the defendant was a 1-year-old boy in diapers.

For exclusive, compelling stories that drove the narrative on a subject of prevailing interest, Galvan, Merchant, Valdes and Bull win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 16, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Reporters overcome fears to expose faith crackdown in China

The assignment always promised to be a challenge: talk with Christians in China about a state crackdown on their faith when many are afraid to speak out for fear of government retribution.

When reporter Yanan Wang, photographer Han Guan Ng and video journalist Emily Wang visited cities in China’s Christian heartland, they discovered the government’s campaign to “Sinicize” Christianity was far more aggressive than previously known. Hundreds of informal churches in private homes were shuttered. Gatherings were raided. Bibles were seized. Authorities ordered posters of Jesus replaced with portraits of President Xi Jinping.

For careful, persistent reporting to expose what experts and activists described as the most severe systematic repression of Christianity since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982, the three win this week’s Beat of the Week.

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April 22, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team tells the poignant stories behind ‘empty spaces’ as US nears 1 million COVID deaths

A team of AP journalists collaborated on an ambitious and innovative project to capture the approaching toll of 1 million U.S. deaths from COVID: They looked for the empty spaces, then told the stories of the individuals who had filled them. And they let the voices of those left behind reveal the mosaic of loss that has forever marked the country.

In true AP fashion, the package came together with extensive coordination across departments and formats, resulting in compelling content and an immersive presentation that resonated with customers and engaged the audience. The stories emerged among the most popular on AP News throughout the weekend and will be republished when the official toll hits 1 million. But the greatest barometer of success may have come came in the words of grateful loved ones of those featured in the stories.

For bringing fresh eyes and new voice to the once-unimaginable loss that will shape the way we live for years to come, the team of Adam Geller, David Goldman, Shelby Lum, Carla K. Johnson, Heather Hollingsworth, Samantha Shotzbarger and Elise Ryan is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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June 02, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

As Olympics loom, violence flares in Rio's slums, even those termed ‘pacified’

Ahead of the Olympics, an AP team in Rio wanted a close look at the city's slums, which have long been plagued with violence, to learn whether high-profile community policing programs are working in areas deemed `pacified.' Braving gunfire in what is considered a no-go area for reporters, AP produced up-close, all-formats coverage showing deadly violence continues to flare.

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July 20, 2018

Best of the States

AP investigation: Pence family’s failed gas station empire cost taxpayers millions to clean up

Indianapolis correspondent Brian Slodysko’s investigative story started from one sentence buried in a news release. It said that the public was paying for environmental cleanup at a contaminated petroleum storage site in Indianapolis that Vice President Mike Pence’s family abandoned after their gas station empire went bankrupt in 2004. The release didn’t mention Pence, just Kiel Brothers.

After attending a demolition celebration, where he photographed a crew tearing down a massive tank that had long-blighted a neighborhood, Slodysko worked over the coming months to detail how extensive contamination from the business was – and quantify the public cost.

The result: Indiana taxpayers paid more than $21 million to clean up after the company, in all likelihood a conservative figure because many of the documents were redacted, missing or incomplete.

But cost alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Slodysko’s review of public records showed that the Pence family business – which was run by Mike Pence’s older brother Greg, who is now running for Congress – repeatedly received favorable treatment from the state.

The story ran, or was teased, on the front page of at least eight Indiana papers, including the Indianapolis Star, which ran the story and photo across the top. It was also featured on the website of the Columbus Republic, Mike Pence’s hometown newspaper.

For an investigation that revealed the millions of tax dollars used to clean up more than 85 contaminated sites in three states, Slodysko earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 10, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Rare glimpses inside the pandemic: An ICU in Spain, a New York funeral home

“No.”

“Never.”

“Not possible.”  

“Can't be done.”

Photographer Felipe Dana and video journalist Renata Brito were told in no uncertain terms that Spanish hospitals and their intensive care units in particular would not allow access to journalists reporting on the coronavirus pandemic. And in New York, the all-formats team of John Minchillo, Robert Bumsted and Jake Seiner was given largely the same answer when they tried to get into a funeral home to document the surge of victims literally piling up.

Neither team took no for an answer. Both teams produced haunting images and text documenting the stark reality wrought by the pandemic.

The tenacity, skill and bravery on display from both teams was the difference between getting the story out to the world and revealing the human cost of the crisis – or not. It’s the latest example of AP journalists proving that “No. Never. Not Possible,” does not apply to them. And it is why Dana, Brito, Minchillo, Bumsted and Seiner share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 14, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP: 'Apprentice' cast and crew say Trump was lewd and sexist

Donald Trump's public comments about women have been a familiar theme in the tumultuous presidential campaign. But what had he said behind the scenes on "The Apprentice," the TV show that made him a household name?

That's the question AP’s Garance Burke set out to answer. Combining shoe-leather reporting with an adept use of social media, the San Francisco-based national investigative reporter tracked down more than 20 people willing to talk about the Republican nominee's language on the set. They recalled Trump making demeaning, crude and sexist comments toward and about female cast and crew members, and that he discussed which contestants he would like to have sex with.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Locusts swarm East Africa as a new wave forms in the Somali desert

After its shocking Jan. 25 report on the locust swarms devastating agriculture in Kenya, AP’s Nairobi team came through with another truly striking package on the worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years. This time, Nairobi staffers Ben Curtis and Josphat Kasire obtained exclusive coverage of the next wave of young locusts now bulking up in Somalia’s desert.

The story posed multiple challenges, not the least of which was the very real threat of al-Shabab extremists in the area. And the young insects were relentless. “If you put anything down on the ground for a minute, you’d find a bunch of bugs crawling over it,” Curtis recounted.

Despite the obstacles, the team produced stunning images and vivid reporting from the source of the widespread outbreak, proof that the region’s infestation was far from over.

For resourceful and determined work that resulted in an only-on-AP direct look at the ravages of a veritable Biblical plague of locusts, Kasire and Curtis win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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