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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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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Nov. 10, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Intimate reporting and stunning access show how the housing crisis has created missing students 

For the past year, education writer Bianca Vázquez Toness took on the difficult reporting task of finding students who have slipped through the cracks since the pandemic, and looked to Los Angeles, where advocates say the housing crisis is causing students to go missing from school.

She met a homeless mother renting space in strangers’ apartments, sleeping on a twin bed with her two children. The situation had devastated the teenage son Deneffy’s mental health and school performance.

After multiple visits to LA to meet Deneffy’s mother, and eventually Deneffy himself, he confided in Toness, allowing her to capture their narrative.

Photographer Jae C. Hong waited weeks for the family to feel safe having him inside, capturing powerful visuals when he was able to. Illustrations by Peter Hamlin anchored the story’s presentation. Eunice Esomonu put the Spanish version of the story in the immersive design, a first for AP.

Education journalists and readers alike have reached out to share how remarkable and powerful they found Toness’ reporting.

For building trust and cinematic reporting that showed the great lengths homeless kids must go to attend school, Best of the Week — First Winner is awarded to Bianca Vázquez Toness and Jae C. Hong.

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Nov. 17, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Data-driven reporting highlights outsized presence and influence of fossil fuels industry at climate negotiations

Members of the AP Climate team were struck by the large size and flashiness of stands dedicated to oil and gas at last year’s COP27. The AP team wanted to get beyond the anecdotes to truly measure the presence and influence of fossil fuels industries.

Climate data journalist Mary Katherine Wildeman developed a methodology to cross reference, identify and categorize more than 24,000 participants at the summit that focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate reporter Seth Borenstein, Climate news editor Dana Beltaji and their colleagues found nearly 400 people from fossil fuels industries attended the summit, not always in a transparent way.

The analysis led to other stories from AP’s Climate team, including water reporter Suman Naishadham and video journalist Victor Caivano’s package about Canada’s commitments to climate. In a separate story, Wildeman, Climate editor Doug Glass and Climate news director Peter Prengaman pored over documents to find that despite lots of talk, oil and gas companies are not moving toward a transition to green energy.

Climate video editor Teresa de Miguel and Climate photo editor Alyssa Goodman developed creative visual plans for all three stories to elevate the data and storytelling.

For work that resulted in three exclusive stories ahead of COP28, the team of Wildeman, Borenstein, Naishadham, Caivano, Beltaji, de Miguel and Glass win Best of the Week — First Winner.

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