May 06, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation reveals traumatic backlog of Mississippi autopsies

investigated Mississippi’s massive autopsy backlog for more than a year, gathering new data and personal stories revealing the terrible cost of the backlog which has traumatized families and jeopardized investigations.The state’s public officials had talked previously about understaffing in the medical examiner’s office, but Willingham’s reporting went much further, revealing a system long operating outside of accepted national standards for death investigations. She found that coroners were waiting years — and in some cases more than a decade — for autopsy reports. District attorneys and coroners who trusted Willingham told her about specific cases and connected her to families who told deeply personal accounts of waiting a year or more for results on loved ones.Read more

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Sept. 04, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP shocks world with first word of death of ‘Black Panther’ star Chadwick Boseman

AP entertainment video manager Ryan Pearson had interviewed Chadwick Boseman eight times since 2013. He knew the actor and his work well, and he’d worked closely with the actor’s publicist and her company. 

That’s why the publicist’s first media call after Boseman’s death was to Pearson and the AP – she wanted the story reported by a responsible news organization. Another outlet, she worried, was getting close. 

Pearson immediately alerted colleagues and set out to write an obituary that shocked the world. The AP staff in turn responded with comprehensive all-formats coverage, the story quickly becoming the biggest of the month on AP News and mobile.

For source and beat development that led to a tip on perhaps the biggest entertainment story of the year, and delivered a stream of important work for AP’s customers and audience, Pearson wins AP’s Best of the Week.

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: Mexico diverted development funds under US pressure

used public records requests and persistent reporting to scoop the competition on Mexico’s diversion, under U.S. pressure, of more than $4 million from a fund meant to address the root causes of migration. The money was instead used to bus asylum seekers away from the U.S. border and renovate immigration detention centers. Former officials and experts reacted to the story with harsh criticism of the administration of President Andrés Manual López Obrador. https://bit.ly/33Dn5iK

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March 12, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Solid sourcing leads to AP’s most-used story of 2021: 6 Dr. Seuss books retired for racist images

Mark Pratt, a breaking news staffer in Boston, has written several stories exploring the complicated past of Theodor Seuss Geisel — Dr. Seuss. The company that preserves and protects the author’s legacy knew it could trust him.

So Dr. Seuss Enterprises gave Pratt early word on a story that would become a global bestseller for AP, generating off-the-charts customer use for three days and eventually becoming the single most-used AP story of 2021 to date: The company was ceasing publication and sales of six Seuss books because of their offensive imagery.

Pratt’s story instantly rocketed to the very top of a hectic news cycle, touching off a firestorm of commentary and conservative claims of “cancel culture.” The piece exceeded 2.5 million pageviews — catapulting it past the Capitol insurrection coverage in terms of customer use and clicks.

For nurturing trust with a newsmaker that yielded an AP exclusive still resonating with customers and news consumers, Pratt wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Conspiracy, lies and social media: AP finds state, local GOP officials promoting online disinformation

After the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, investigative reporters Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza and Juliet Linderman wanted to know if local, county and state Republican officials across the country were continuing to amplify online messages similar to those that had inspired the riot, and what they hoped to accomplish by doing so.

The trio turned to data journalist Larry Fenn, AP statehouse reporters and a comprehensive archive of the Parler social media platform. A third-party algorithm matched public officials to their Parler accounts, allowing an unprecedented look at GOP officials’ unfiltered posts on the right-wing aligned site. The analysis of Parler and other alternative platforms identified a faction of lower-level Republican officials that have pushed lies, misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories echoing those that fueled the violent U.S. Capitol siege.

For harnessing the power of social media analysis, data science and AP’s state-level expertise to reveal how lies and misinformation from the 2020 election have reached deep into the GOP’s state apparatus, Burke, Mendoza, Linderman and Fenn win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Dec. 06, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

July 25 forecast: Sunny, with a cloud of impeachment

for a deeply researched reconstruction of July 25, and the events surrounding President Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president. In a captivating narative, Benac revealed that even before daybreak on that otherwise unremarkable summer Thursday, anxiety was coursing through the White House about a coming phone call that didn’t appear on the president’s public schedule, the call that triggered only the fourth impeachment inquiry in the nation’s history. https://bit.ly/384RqIF

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Sept. 19, 2016

Best of the States

Libraries cope with patrons visiting them to use heroin

The stories of heroin addicts overdosing in unusual places have become numbingly familiar: a McDonald’s play area, inside a children’s hospital, even while driving down the highway.

But it was another odd location -- the restroom of a library -- that drove Columbus reporter Kantele Franko to identify an additional, tragic twist to these stories. Franko learned over several weeks of reporting that the same qualities that make libraries ideal for studying and reading — unfettered public access, quiet corners and nooks, minimal interaction with other people — also make them appealing places to shoot heroin.

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March 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: One man’s fight against an oil pipeline on his land

reported on a land grab for a proposed oil pipeline, conveying the news in the most compelling way possible, from the perspective of the people involved. The story is told largely through the eyes of Clyde Robinson, a 80-year-old Memphis, Tennessee, landowner fighting against larger forces to keep his land in what advocates say is textbook environmental racism.Robinson, who is Black, compared the effort to seize his land through eminent domain to slavery, when members of his own family were not compensated for their work. He vowed that no amount of money would convince him to change his mind.Environmental lawyers who have taken up Robinson’s cause say there’s no public interest that would justify seizure of the land for a business project, while a spokeswoman for the pipeline project walked back a statement by a land agent that the company had chosen “a point of least resistance” for the pipeline's proposed path. That statement was interpreted by the project’s opponents as having discriminatory undertones. https://bit.ly/3bDr1VZ

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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

May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, teamwork deliver scoop on federal charges in Floyd killing

delivered a 20-minute beat on the news that four former officers involved in the death of George Floyd were indicted on federal civil rights charges — an unusual move for the Justice Department because three of the officers haven’t faced state trial yet.Balsamo had learned that the federal charges were imminent, and Forliti worked her sources to get the full story: off-the-record details about the still-sealed indictment that allowed her to write robust, fully-formed prep. She was even tipped off that the charges would drop early Friday morning.But when that didn't happen, a source quietly tipped Forliti to phone into a federal hearing happening live. The officers were appearing in federal court, with the charges still sealed. The AP pair — possibly the only reporters listening during the hearing — put out a fast cover story that the former cops were facing federal charges. Balsamo then went to his sources, asking them to send the indictment, because, while it hadn’t been made public yet, he had heard the judge order it made public. AP soon had the indictment. He and Forliti filed alerts, writethrus loaded with context and a full story within 15 minutes. Forliti also filed a video brief on the charges. Meanwhile, no one matched their story for a full 20 minutes, and major national publications were 40 minutes or more behind the AP. Even the hometown Star Tribune used AP’s story on its website.https://bit.ly/3tJ9YYqhttps://bit.ly/3w2BvFF

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May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Outspoken Glenn Close opens up to AP about ‘loser’ label

scored a revealing interview with actress Glenn Close, who was candid about journalists and others who have focused more on her Oscar losses than on celebrating her eight career nominations. Fekadu, AP entertainment journalist, conducted the interview on Zoom for both text and video. Close addressed the Academy Awards issue, saying: "First of all, I don't think I’m a loser ... who in (the best supporting actress category) is a loser?” And in reference to her critics she emphatically ended with: “I say, (expletive) them!”The quotes were widely picked up by publications from Vanity Fair to the New York Daily News, while other outlets ran AP’s full story. Clients using the interview video included USA Today, MSN, Entertainment Tonight, Fox and ABC.https://tinyurl.com/3ye74rbwhttps://tinyurl.com/yrc3yxye

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June 19, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: Dalai Lama to drop debut album

gave AP a six-hour beat on all competitors with a report that the Dalai Lama would release his first-ever album; the story was picked up by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Billboard and other publications. The album, featuring teachings and mantras by the Dalai Lama set to music, is to be released July 6 on the religious leader’s 85th birthday. Fekadu’s story included the first interview with the musician who proposed the project to the Dalai Lama. https://bit.ly/3egDMVw

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Nov. 21, 2016

Best of the States

Innocent suspects face terrible choice: plead guilty or risk life in prison

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit. But as Richmond-based reporter Alanna Durkin Richer and Miami legal affairs reporter Curt Anderson found, it happens more often than you might think.

Digging through publicly available data on exonerations, they found alarming statistics: More than 300 of the roughly 1,900 people who have been exonerated in the U.S. since 1989 pleaded guilty. So Richer and Anderson set out to explain why anyone would plead guilty to a crime he or she didn’t commit ...

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April 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP confirms details of riot timeline; Pence: ‘Clear the Capitol’

used deep source work to confirm a fascinating timeline of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Washington bureau has been breaking news constantly on the Jan. 6 attack, but when homeland security reporter Ben Fox was handed a declassified goldmine, everything changed. The multipage Pentagon timeline laid out stark details about the insurrection that no one knew — even after a series of public hearings. Among the findings: Vice President Mike Pence was the one behind the scenes working to clear the Capitol, President Donald Trump was nowhere to be found and the Pentagon had so underestimated the threat that personnel were literally running from room to room trying to figure out how to manage the increasing chaos, while top lawmakers were begging for help.The AP team set out to confirm the details before publication, digging into their networks of sources and working together to parse the story out. They received quiet assurances that the timeline was accurate. The result was an exclusive narrative that set the AP far ahead of other news outlets. MSNBC did an entire on-air segment based on AP’s reporting, the story trended on Twitter, and it was AP’s most-used story of the week, still attracting readership. https://bit.ly/3ecOSfw

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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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Sept. 06, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Coming soon to natural park trails: motorized bicycles

For source reporting and collaboration that enabled AP to break the story about the Trump administration's plan to open national park trails to motorized bikes. Sharp got a tip that the Interior Department was expected to lift a decades-long ban on any vehicles with motors on National Park hiking and biking trails. He began reporting to get reaction even before the rule change was announced. Meanwhile, Knickmeyer got a tip that evening from a non-profit foundation that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had without any public notice signed an order lifting the ban immediately and classifying e-bikes as non-motor vehicles.

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP gets first word of plan to allow drilling, mining near national monument

for breaking the news that the government would allow mining, drilling, grazing and recreation on lands around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah that had been off limits. President Donald Trump downsized the protected area two years ago.

Impressed by AP’s fairness in coverage of the ongoing debate about managing public lands in the West, the Bureau of Land Management reached out to McCombs to share embargoed materials and the first interview by the region’s acting director ahead of the plan’s release. The APNewsBreak revealed that not only would the formerly protected lands be made available to a wide variety of uses but that those activities could have an adverse effect on the monument that is home to dramatic formations and vistas and is prime territory for paleontologists. https://bit.ly/2UafUcE

April 22, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive AP data reveals popularity of US homeschooling

obtained data across the country to establish the continued popularity of homeschooling for American families — even as schools reopened and vaccines became widely available.Because the federal government does not have a current database of homeschooling numbers, Thompson built her own by reaching out to education departments in all 50 states for their data. She also interviewed families for their perspectives on homeschooling, and used her experience on the education beat to put the trend in the context of homeschooling regulation debates, concerns over neglected students and a broader decline of public school enrollment.Read more

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