Sept. 22, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP’s team reporting alerts the world to Libya’s disastrous floods

Years of reporting on Libya from afar and a local freelancer’s willingness to travel treacherous roads allowed AP’s team to alert the world about a disaster of massive proportions, after heavy floods burst two dams above the city of Derna, washing away and killing thousands.

It took nearly 24 hours for news to emerge from Libya of the deadly floods. But with the country divided between rival governments with spotty records for accuracy, it was tricky to grasp the extent of the devastation.

When one of the governments reported more than 2,000 dead and counting, Libya video producer Adel Omran was the first to alert the team, after which Cairo reporter Samy Magdy called contacts in the health care and aid community, who confirmed that toll and said it was likely to rise.

Misrata-based freelance photographer Yousef Murad drove hours to the scene, sending an initial dispatch showing mass burials for the rising number of bodies. On the ground, Murad faced difficult conditions and lack of basic amenities as the stench of death overtook the city. His subsequent stories documented the immense recovery effort and the stories of survivors.

For their harrowing work revealing a complex story of disaster and recovery, Magdy, Murad and Omran are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Oct. 23, 2023

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Man with handgun seeking governor arrested in Wisconsin Capitol, returns with assault rifle

AP, cultivating sources on a highly competitive beat, broke two major Statehouse stories: an armed man came to the Wisconsin Capitol twice looking for the governor, and on Friday after 5 p.m. a state Supreme Court justice being targeted for impeachment if she heard a redistricting case decided not to recuse and cast the deciding vote for the court to hear it.

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Oct. 20, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reporters jump to cover Hamas rampage and sudden new Israel-Hamas war 

The first word came at 6:25 a.m., Oct. 7 local time: Red alerts were issued via WhatsApp for several locations in Israel. Sirens could be heard in Tel Aviv. AP journalists saw rockets being shot from Rafah in Gaza towards Israel. Then word filtered in from the Israeli army that there were numerous security breaches in central and southern Israel. More rockets fell, with Israeli ambulances dispatched to areas where residents had reported strikes. Taken together, it told of an ominous new day in the region. 

The first of what would be many AP news alerts moved 20 minutes later: Israel says Palestinian militants have infiltrated into Israeli territory from Gaza. 

What unfolded over the days was massive in its scope: The militant armed group Hamas executed a well-planned surprise attack on what would normally be a joyful holiday, Simchat Torah.

The Israeli army, caught off guard, struggled for days to regain control of the invaded towns. Israel released counterstrikes into Gaza, killing hundreds. Over the next 10 days the toll would rise to thousands dead in Gaza and in Israel.

Throughout the conflict, the teams in Israel and Gaza worked with courage, determination and excellence under extremely challenging circumstances to report on the painful events affecting them and their families. They earn Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 01, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP lives from Gaza, Israel, West Bank, Egypt, Lebanon border provide footage for media around the world

Since the beginning of the war, maintaining live coverage from Gaza, Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and the Israel-Lebanon border has been challenging. But our journalists in the region have risen to the challenge, using creative solutions to provide customers with round-the-clock coverage.

Once the ground operation started and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians evacuated northern Gaza, including our own crew, having a live of the north of the Gaza Strip where much of the fighting was taking place was key from a journalistic and competitive point of view.

With no options inside of northern Gaza, the team secured a position in southern Israel, from which it was possible to see the airstrikes, the destruction of buildings and the devastating effects of the war in Gaza. The live has remained up 24/7 for more than a month.

In recent days, when the ceasefire and exchange of hostages for prisoners began, the crews in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel were deployed to cover all possible points to be able to see the live release of hostages/prisoners and reunions with families.

The video team in Cairo also convinced a local television network to allow the AP to broadcast their images from Rafah Crossing on direct and show the world the moment the hostages left the Gaza Strip and entered Egypt. Those efforts in Gaza, Egypt, the West Bank and Israel allowed AP to provide more than seven live shots almost simultaneously using Live U and Bambuser.

While attention has been heavily focused on the Israel-Hamas war, tension also ratcheted up in northern Israel as near-daily shelling between Israeli military and Hezbollah killed several civilians. The crew in Lebanon moved to the south of the country from where they provided live coverage of the strikes on both sides of the border.

For dedication and creativity in providing invaluable eyes on the Israel-Hamas war, the teams in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, Egypt and Lebanon win this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner

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Dec. 08, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Investigation uncovers private school selling diplomas, no classes required

In a package featuring multiple scoops and exclusives, an AP team investigating Louisiana’s rise in unapproved private schools stumbled on a school selling diplomas to anyone whose parents said they had completed their education — even years later. That revelation rocked the state and reverberated across the nation.

Education data reporter Sharon Lurye partnered with Charles Lussier of The (Louisiana) Advocate to secure stunning interviews with an operator of the school defending the practice as an extension of parents’ rights and also met multiple graduates who had gained their diplomas. On the other side of the investigation Lurye and Lussier demonstrated the depth of the risks in sending a child to such a school, landing a rare interview with a mom who says a teacher offered her teen daughter money for sexually explicit photos and wanted to warn others against enrolling their kids in an unapproved school.

Lurye and Lussier were the first to quantify the rise in popularity among Louisiana’s unapproved schools — over 21,000 students, nearly double the number before the pandemic. Many of the families using unapproved schools are homeschooling. But 30 of the schools have more than 50 students.

The project ran on the front page in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Arcadiana. Lurye did radio interviews on WWL in New Orleans and for the “Louisiana Considered” program on the public radio stations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Prominent pickups included Fox News, Newser and ABC News. The project was named one of the best stories of the week by “The Grade,” a well-read education blog.

For a strong investigation, securing multiple exclusives while providing a public service to the people of Louisiana, Lurye wins this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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March 01, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

A leaked trove of documents opens a rare window into Chinese hacking practices

China has long used hacking as a political and law-enforcement tool to put eyes on dissidents, governments and other people it wants to watch. Because of Associated Press reporting efforts, the picture of how that is done — and what it might mean — is a bit clearer now. On Feb. 19, multiple sources alerted China investigative correspondent Dake Kang to a newly discovered leak of documents from a Chinese police contractor that revealed the company was hacking the networks of over a dozen foreign governments for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. The documents revealed how these hackers-for-hire operations worked, which systems they targeted, what tools they used and how they assisted police in the surveillance and harassment of dissidents and oppressed ethnicities even outside China’s borders. The documents had been published online by an unknown source, and no other major media outlet had picked up on it yet. But how to verify? Kang, who at the time happened to be in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, was en route to the airport to return to Beijing when he was browsing the contractor’s website. One of their addresses was right there, just a 40-minute drive from the airport. Kang canceled his flight, hopped into a cab and headed to the company’s offices. U.S.-based technology reporter Frank Bajak simultaneously jumped on the story, contacting cybersecurity analysts, many of whom said they thought it was authentic. The following morning, Kang returned to the company where two employees confirmed the leak. With effective communication and swift editing, the story made it to the wire during U.S. daytime.  

The cross-continental teamwork and speed paid off. The AP was first among major competitors to put the story out, with others following hours later — some of them using AP’s exclusive photos.  

For a quick and concerted scramble that leveraged differing forms of AP expertise, touched multiple continents and delivered precision on deadline, Kang and Bajak are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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