March 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Dallas convention center to hold unaccompanied teens

put AP ahead with the first report that the federal government would use the Dallas convention center to temporarily house up to 3,000 migrant teens amid a scramble for space as more unaccompanied children arrive at the U.S. border.Houston-based immigration reporter Merchant had been looking into whether the federal government would open additional detention facilities for unaccompanied children straining the immigration system at the border when he fielded the tip: It’s going to be in Dallas and it’s going to be big. While on the phone, Merchant passed the information to Dallas colleague Bleiberg, who got a source to provide a memo sent to Dallas City Council members. The story was so far ahead of the curve that White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated she was unfamiliar with the plan when an AP reporter asked her about it in a briefing. The story was used by U.S. networks as well as local TV and radio stations across Texas.https://bit.ly/3roccvn

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May 14, 2021

Best of the States

Nimble AP reporting reveals Alabama trooper charged in child rape hid alleged misconduct at FBI

In a classic case of keeping an open mind during reporting, AP’s Jim Mustian and Kim Chandler started out reporting one story, but found themselves reporting exclusively that an Alabama state trooper, arrested on charges he raped an 11-year-old girl, had used a forged letter and lied on his application to get hired after being removed from the FBI — also on serious allegations of sexual misconduct.

To federal law enforcement reporter Mustian, this initially appeared as yet another case of the FBI allowing an accused agent to quietly move on with his career. But just as he was about to publish, the FBI said the bureau letter Christopher Bauer submitted to Alabama authorities when he was hired was “not legitimate.” Meanwhile, Chandler, Montgomery statehouse reporter, tracked down Bauer’s application for the trooper job, in which he said he was still employed by the FBI and had never been forced to resign because of disciplinary action.

This had become the story of a former agent, and perhaps others, falsifying his record. The piece was among the week’s top stories on AP News, with nearly 200,000 pageviews.

For deep reporting that followed the story wherever it took them, Mustian and Chandler earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 02, 2018

Best of the States

Texas effort to streamline hurricane recovery backfires

As the six-month mark approached of Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas, Austin Administrative Correspondent Will Weissert and Fort Worth Correspondent Emily Schmall teamed up to report exclusively that the state’s decision to lead housing recovery – meant to be faster and better than anything the federal government could muster – was actually resulting in backlogs that made the chaotic response after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina look good by comparison.

Acting on a tip, the duo dug into federal records and added field reporting to produce a multi-format report showing that delay by the governor, and the state land office’s steep learning curve, meant temporary shelter and quick-fix home repair programs were rolling out at a startlingly slow pace.

For excellent sourcing and taking a deeper look at Texas’ hurricane recovery process, Weissert and Schmall share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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April 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigates ongoing outbreaks in US nursing homes

revealed that outbreaks of COVID-19 keep happening in nursing homes across the country despite federal lockdown orders imposed last month. The AP team found that the answer appears to lie in the insidious threat of asymptomatic staffers and other individuals who slip past screening measures, spreading the virus to entire nursing home populations. In addition, the coronavirus crisis has deepened a chronic industry staffing shortage, made protective gear scarce and led to actions by several states that force nursing homes to take recovering COVID-19 patients from overcrowded hospitals. The all-formats package included a dataset on nursing home inspection reports for members seeking to localize the story. https://bit.ly/2xWpTLQ

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June 07, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: Government’s flood buyout costs rising as storms intensify

for an AP analysis of federal data showing that the government’s costs to buy out homes in flood-prone areas have been rising over the past decade. With the data made available for localizations by major AP customers, the richly reported and photographed story centered on a small Missouri town that just happened to be in danger of flooding yet again at the time of publication. Play showed that AP’s customers were hungry for content that went beyond the spot coverage of the epic flooding inundating the country’s midsection.https://bit.ly/2wzF35R

April 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: States passing tough abortion laws often have weak social programs

collaborated with a team of AP state reporters on an analysis of federal data, finding that states passing the toughest abortion restrictions are generally the most challenging places for people to have and raise children. With the U.S. Supreme Court widely expected to roll back abortion rights later this year, the data and reporting revealed a weak network of social services in many of these states for women who become pregnant and may be unable to obtain an abortion.AP’s analysis, led by data journalists Fassett and Lo, looked at seven social safety net measurements collected by the federal government; visualized in an engaging interactive by the data team’s Gorman. The reporting team, led by Utah statehouse reporter Whitehurst, interviewed parents, researchers and nonprofit groups that provide support to pregnant people, new parents, infants and young children. And while the data overwhelming showed that Republican-controlled states with strict abortion laws performed the worst on these social services, the reporting also came with the important caveat that a few Democratically controlled states with more permissive abortion laws also measured poorly in some categories.Read more

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Oct. 25, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: U.S. Census Bureau asks states for citizenship information

for following up after President Donald Trump’s executive order asking federal agencies to seek citizenship information when the U.S. Supreme Court said the question couldn't be included in the 2020 Census. Schneider learned something the Census Bureau wasn’t eager to reveal – that they were in the process of asking motor vehicle divisions in all 50 states to provide information from driver’s license data, including citizenship status. https://bit.ly/32KWOO3

May 08, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis finds most states falling short on virus testing

analyzed data showing that most states are not meeting the minimum level of coronavirus testing suggested by the U.S. government. In the absence of comprehensive federal data, AP calculated the monthly testing rate for each state, along with a separate review by AP state reporters, to find that only 40% of states currently meet the Trump administration’s testing threshold. Those that don’t include several that have been moving quickly to reopen their economies. And some states with infection hot spots are not testing at a higher rate recommended by Harvard University. https://bit.ly/3fpF7ud

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Feb. 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation reveals nonexistent mask shortage

acted on a tip from a former federal official to reveal that hospitals were continuing to ration medical masks for their workers even when they had months of supply in store. The team’s investigation found a logistical breakdown at the heart of the perceived mask shortage, rooted in federal failures to coordinate supply chains and provide hospitals with clear rules about how to manage their medical equipment.The initial tip came from a source inside the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who shared pages of emails asking why U.S. manufacturers weren’t able to sell their products. In a series of interviews, the reporters surveyed hospital procurement officers representing more than 300 hospitals around the country and learned that all had two to 12 months supply of N95 masks in storage, but almost all were limiting workers to one mask per day, or even one per week. Meanwhile, at least one manufacturer had so many masks warehoused that it recently got government approval to export them.The story was used widely, and Dearen was interviewed live on CBS News. https://bit.ly/3pOAhub

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Nov. 01, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP leads coverage of the 2020 US Census

for breaking news leading up to the 2020 U.S. headcount. Starting with a smart follow-up by Schneider showing that federal government’s attempts to get states to surrender driver’s license information have been a bust so far, and concluding with a weekend spotlight story by Seitz and Lerman showing how new concerns about misinformation and fraud could cause major problems for the Census Bureau.https://bit.ly/36mZDqShttps://bit.ly/2N0gbgI

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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Oct. 20, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

An accidental shooting kills a child every other day

The tragic stories pop up frequently in local media: a curious toddler gets hold of a gun and accidentally shoots himself or someone else. But how often does that happen? Under what circumstances? And what children are most at risk?

In a new investigative partnership, a team of reporters from the AP and USA TODAY Network spent six months seeking answers to those questions and others about accidental shootings involving minors. What they discovered is horrifying: A child dies every other day of an accidental shooting in the United States. What's more, the federal government significantly undercounts the problem.

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Feb. 01, 2019

Best of the States

Trump rollbacks benefit fossil fuel industry but carry steep cost

Over the past two years, the Trump administration has relentlessly moved to relax or repeal major environmental and safety rules for the fossil fuels industry to further its energy goals. Each change was reported by news outlets, including the AP. But Billings, Montana, correspondent and environment team member Matthew Brown decided to look more deeply into the highly touted savings to industry as well as the societal costs.

Brown painstakingly examined 11 major rules targeted by Trump’s administration, wading through many thousands of pages of government documents. Brown identified $11.6 billion in potential savings for companies that produce, use and transport fossil fuels, with billions more expected from a freeze of vehicle fuel efficiency standards that will hike fuel consumption.

But Brown also discovered that those savings will come at a steep cost, including more premature deaths and illnesses from air pollution, increased greenhouse gas emissions and additional derailments of trains carrying explosive fuels.

His Only on AP story ran on front pages of at least 16 newspapers and on numerous web sites. The Washington Post displayed both the main-bar the accompanying glance.

For in-depth reporting and comprehensive accounting of the administration’s actions on important environmental and safety issues, Brown wins this week’s Best of the States.

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March 09, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Phone tip leads to shady company linked to border wall contract

The short Associated Press story out of San Diego about the first border wall contract awarded under the Trump administration made only a brief mention of the Omaha, Nebraska, company that had won the contract. But that prompted a woman to call the AP. She made several claims to Chicago-based Central Desk editor Jeff McMurray without offering proof, but he figured it was interesting enough to pass along. Omaha breaking news staffer Margery Beck was asked to check into the company.

As Beck examined state business records and court documents, she discovered that the company, SWF Constructors, operated at the same address as another business that had been sued a dozen times, including at least three times by the federal government, for failing to pay subcontractors on government projects. That company, Coastal Environmental Group, was also the subject of an Interior Department audit questioning $2 million in billing for a Superstorm Sandy cleanup contract.

For aggressive records-based reporting that resulted in a timely story no one else had, Beck receives this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 14, 2017

Best of the States

Brown reveals thousands of safety defects on oil train lines in 44 states

As domestic production of oil has increased in recent years, Billings, Montana, Correspondent Matthew Brown closely followed derailments of trains carrying volatile crude. A train from North Dakota jumped the track, exploded and killed 47 people in Canada in 2013. In Brown’s own state, a derailment near the town of Culbertson spilled 27,000 gallons of oil in 2015. Last year, Brown reported that more than 800 potential safety violations were discovered on Union Pacific freight lines after a fiery June 2016 oil train derailment in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

But Brown wanted to know how widespread the problem really was. By pushing repeatedly for public records and working with a longtime source, Brown was able to exclusively report the results of a two-year federal inspection program for the nation’s oil trains – and he revealed that some safety defects uncovered where similar to ones blamed in derailments that triggered huge fires or oil spills in Oregon, Virginia, Montana and elsewhere. For his AP NewsBreak, Brown wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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