Aug. 27, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Intrepid AP journalists work the streets of Kabul documenting Taliban troops, daily life

When the Taliban overran Kabul on Aug. 15, no one in the city knew if the Taliban would resume the brutal practices that carried them to power in 1996 — or would they show some restraint?

Kabul video journalist Ahmad Seir and photographer Rahmat Gul remember the previous Taliban rule, but like their AP colleagues, they were determined to record history. The pair took to the streets. Despite being beaten with rifle butts at a Taliban checkpoint near the airport, they persisted, eventually gaining the trust of Taliban fighters at a checkpoint near AP’s office. Seir and Gul went on Taliban patrols, delivering unique video and photos of the militiamen now in command of Afghanistan.

Those rare images, along with spot features that included daily life in the capital and an interview with a female activist now in hiding, played at the very top of AP’s offerings for the week and reflected the tireless efforts of everyone in AP’s Kabul office who pushed aside their own fears and personal concerns to continue reporting in all formats.

For their historic and important work, thorough professionalism and unbound bravery, Seir and Gul share AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Nov. 12, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Under the volcano: Stunning photos of ‘slow motion annihilation’ on the island of La Palma

The volcano on La Palma has been active for months — and so have any number of news agencies, documenting with day-to-day images, most often from a distance after authorities declared much of the Spanish island off-limits.

That was the challenge for Madrid-based chief photographer Emilio Morenatti, who wanted a fresh angle. Leaning on contacts, Morenatti gained access inside the exclusion zone. There, while providing daily images for the AP wire, he poured his creative energy into a series of still life photos that cross over into the art world, showing what he describes as “annihilation in slow motion.”

His images show neighborhoods, yards, houses and all the possessions therein buried in volcanic ash. One colleague called the work “shocking and beautiful at the same time.”

The package that was well-received by international clients and Morenatti was interviewed by Spanish television. Even competitor photographers took to social media to praise his work.

For combining determination, access, timing and talent to produce remarkable images that take viewers to the heart of an unfolding catastrophe, Morenatti is this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Nov. 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Distinctive AP photo project depicts Israelis, Palestinians sharing summer on distant shores

For years, AP’s Khalil Hamra and Oded Balilty have captured the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through their award-winning photography. This summer they turned their lenses away from the violence and onto a place of refuge for both sides: the stretch of beaches along the Mediterranean Sea.

With Balilty making images from Tel Aviv and Hamra from Gaza, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers produced an evocative essay showing Palestinians and Israelis basking on the beach, separated by 70 kilometers (40 miles) and free from fear of the next eruption of fighting. The photographers have met just once, years ago, but communicated online about what they were seeing, made pictures, shared them and then set out to find similar ones from their respective sides.

The immersive presentation includes an engaging video revealing more about the photographers and how they applied their craft.

For a strikingly unique, creative collaboration that brought, in Balilty’s words, “something positive” from a part of the world beset by conflict, Hamra and Balilty earn this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner award.

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Oct. 29, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation reveals police using force disproportionately against Black, brown children

When San Francisco-based data reporter Camille Fassett obtained a national dataset on police use of force, she and Washington-based law enforcement team leader Colleen Long pored over the numbers, looking for a new angle on the well-trod issue. Then investigative fellow Helen Wieffering hit on something — the data included numerous instances of force used against teens and kids.

Looking closer, what they found was stunning: 3,000 cases over 11 years where police used force against children, some as young as 6.

To put faces and voices to the numbers, the reporters spent months interviewing children, teens and parents. The team also secured police body camera footage that backed up the stories. The resulting package was a remarkable all-formats look at how Black and brown children are disproportionately affected by police force.For a deeply reported story that explores a little-recognized aspect of police use of force, the team of Fassett, Long and Wieffering is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Oct. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Global teamwork delivers exclusive coverage of Nobel Prizes

used exceptional planning, nimble teamwork and multiformat expertise to elevate AP’s annual Nobel Prize coverage with a string of exclusives, first interviews, live video and sharp reporting overall.Starting on Monday, Oct. 4, with the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine awarded to two scientists based in the United States, AP quickly tracked down laureate David Julius. New York-based video journalist Ted Shaffrey convinced the winner to join a special zoom booking that was left open for the duration of the awards to expedite interviews with the laureates.That early success was repeated by AP staffers across continents and formats as the awards were announced throughout the week, including the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to journalist Maria Ressa in the Philippines and journalist Dmitry Muratov in Russia. Southeast Asia news director Kiko Rosario used his deep contacts in the Philippines to get the first external on-camera interview with Ressa, the first Filipino winner of the peace prize, while in Russia, AP offered an exclusive live video interview with Muratov. Shortly afterwards, video journalist Kostya Manenkov and senior photo editor Alexander Zemlianichenko had exclusive access as Muratov celebrated his win with champagne in front of his colleagues.AP’s comprehensive coverage was fast and accurate and the workflow smooth as Berlin-based correspondent Frank Jordans anchored the text reporting, working with specialist writers in each case. Stockholm-based video journalist David Keyton coordinated the spot coverage of the announcements and the subsequent global reactions.https://apnews.com/hub/nobel-p...https://aplink.news/ikuhttps://aplink.video/a04https://aplink.video/fgqhttps://aplink.news/wwzhttps://aplink.video/hn0

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Oct. 08, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Accounting and Accountability: AP follows the money, finds most ‘rescue’ funds unspent

Earlier this year, states and cities across the country pleaded for a pandemic “rescue” plan to avoid a fiscal cliff, and they got it: $350 billion from Washington for local and state governments. Five months later, AP State Government Team reporter David Lieb dug into the data, state by state, city by city. He found that states overall had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5% — not such an emergency after all.

It was a dramatic finding from an ongoing series of accountability stories led by AP’s state government and data teams tracking hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic aid.

As Lieb gathered and analyzed the reports, data journalist Camille Fassett prepared the information for wider distribution to customers who used it for their own localized reporting.

Play for the story was outstanding. It landed on the front pages of dozens of AP’s biggest customers, online and print, and drew readership on AP News. For distinctive accountability journalism that delivered on both the national and local level, Lieb and Fassett earn AP’s Best of Week — First Winner.

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Oct. 08, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AWOL Weapons: AP finds tracking tech could aid enemy

collaborated across formats to report on the latest story in AP’s ongoing investigation of missing military weapons, revealing a weapon-tracking technology that the U.S. Department of Defense itself describes as a “significant” security risk.After showing that the military has lost track of at least 1,900 guns, investigative reporter LaPorta and team trained their sights on how technology might help in weapons accountability. They found that one solution — putting radio frequency identification tracking tags inside guns — has introduced a security vulnerability into Army and Air Force units because it could help even relatively low-tech enemies target U.S. troops on the battlefield. The Pentagon originally appeared unaware that some units were using RFID, then said it allows service branches to explore innovative solutions. To demonstrate the highly technical story in understandable ways, LaPorta and editor Pritchard arranged field testing that showed the tags could be tracked from much greater distances than RFID contractors acknowledge. Photographer Berger and video journalist Chea illustrated the testing. Producers Roosblad and Hamlin turned that material into a sharp explainer video with the help of editors Ohm and Vadarevu. Storytelling producer Castañeda curated the AWOL Weapons hub and worked with Sison for the photo edit, while Nashville’s Hall contributed important reporting.https://aplink.news/cqmhttps://aplink.video/6l4https://apnews.com/hub/awol-we...

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Sept. 24, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP has rare access as Haitian migrants, in bid to reach US, face perilous jungle crossing of Darien Gap

Hundreds of migrants try each day to cross the Darien Gap — a thick jungle between Colombia and Panama traversed by many ultimately seeking the U.S. border — yet journalists rarely observe more than the first few steps of the journey.

But after days of negotiations with locals who participate in a human-trafficking network, the Bogota-based all-formats team of correspondent Astrid Suárez, photographer Fernando Vergara and video journalist Marko Álvarez were given exclusive access to the first hour of a treacherous six-day journey. That single hour was enough to tell the stories of migrants willing to risk their lives in a jungle teeming with threats, from raging rivers to gangs targeting migrants for theft and sexual assault.

For a stark all-formats portrait of desperation and determination in the depths of the jungle, Suárez, Vergara and Álvarez earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 10, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Resourceful post-hurricane reporting yields exclusives on Louisiana oil spills

As Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana — launching strong AP coverage that would stretch from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast — Washington-based investigative reporter Michael Biesecker contacted federal and state officials who kept telling him they had no confirmed reports of oil or chemical spills along the coast.

But Biesecker’s inspection of aerial photos by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told a different story. He found a worrying miles-long oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico off the region’s main oil and gas port, and another sheen coming from a massive oil refinery along the Mississippi River.

His persistence led to a series of exclusives on the two oil spills, including the news that divers had identified a broken undersea pipeline as the apparent source of the offshore slick.

For smart reporting that put AP ahead of the competition — and even ahead of the government and energy companies themselves — on an important environmental story in the wake of Ida, Biesecker is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds census counts of Latino, Black communities below estimates

kept the AP in the forefront of 2020 census coverage, exploring the crucial undercount question for the first in-depth national story on the subject since demographic data was released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Aug. 12.By comparing the new numbers to earlier estimates, Schneider revealed a pattern in which the numbers consistently came in below what had been projected for both Hispanic and Black populations, suggesting that some areas were overlooked. The official numbers have implications for the distribution of federal funds and congressional representation.Phoenix-based Galvan uncovered Somerton, Arizona, a Latino community building new schools and taking other steps to accommodate its growing population — although the official census numbers showed 90 fewer people than a decade earlier. In a vivid example of show-don’t-tell reporting, Galvan teamed up with Los Angeles photographer Jae Hong and videographer Eugene Garcia to convey the texture of the community, capturing voices of outrage and disbelief among local officials that their population numbers were so low.Schneider, meanwhile, worked with graphic artist Francois Duckett to put together national maps showing that the biggest shortfalls among Latino people came in the Southwest, while the count of Black individuals fared worst in the South. The highly visual presentation complemented the data, helping AP once again set the pace for national coverage of the 2020 headcount.https://aplink.news/mb2https://aplink.video/w10https://aplink.photos/k3o

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July 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Powerful photos anchor all-formats coverage of Florida condo collapse

delivered standout photo coverage of the Surfside, Florida, condo collapse, anchoring an impressive AP response in all formats.Lee was at home a few blocks away when the tragic, catastrophic story broke early Thursday morning. He quickly made his way to the scene to make some of the first images the world would see of the pancaked Champlain Towers South. His fast work on the ground also earned him a text byline, with customers and readers across the country waking up to a comprehensive AP story with his images. More AP journalists were soon on the scene digging into spot developments as well as the history of the building, churning out urgent series after urgent series and sensitively reporting the human toll, finding names and details of the missing to round out a well-received vignettes package. Early video also scored heavily with AP customers. Throughout the coverage, the photo team, led by Lavandier and South regional photo editor Mike Stewart, fought restricted access and had to innovate visually. Herbert first chartered a plane, then a helicopter, making handheld aerial photos with an 800mm lens from as much as two miles offshore as flight restrictions tightened. Then the team hit on the idea of using a boat. That allowed closer access but still required long lenses from a moving craft, with the photographers effectively timing their shots to coincide with the peaks and troughs of the waves to minimize movement. Competitors scrambled to emulate AP's strategy with their own vessels. AP wins on visuals included powerful photos by Sladky and Lavandier of people comforting each other, and three different AP photos rotating as the lead photo on Saturday’s New York Times home page — images showing the destruction, the rescue operation and the emotional toll. The Miami Herald praised AP’s visuals and has used much of the work, even as its own photographers produced strong content. The Herald and other members have shared some of their best images in AP’s photo report. In addition to AP’s photography, members have praised the all-formats coverage, including the “microstories” AP published practically in real time, showcasing good nuggets of information throughout the news cycles. Coverage of the collapse topped AP’s measures of readership and reader engagement for the month. https://apnews.com/hub/buildin...

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Aug. 20, 2021

Best of the States

AP finds colleges concerned as some students turn to counterfeit vaccine cards

It started with a tip.

When a college student mentioned that fellow unvaccinated students were getting fake COVID-19 vaccine cards in order to attend in-person classes, AP global investigations intern Roselyn Romero remembered that she'd seen an account on Instagram offering fake cards for $25 each.

Romero began searching social media platforms and talked to college students, faculty, administrators and health officials. What she found was a cottage industry offering to accommodate people who refuse to get vaccinated but need documentation saying that they’ve had the shots.

Her deeply reported story had nearly 250,000 pageviews on AP News and was used by hundreds of news outlets, including online and print front pages. She was also interviewed by NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer responded by calling for a multiagency crackdown on the counterfeit cards.

For having a major national impact with her first AP byline, Roselyn Romero wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 06, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deep reporting on a failed KKK murder plot reveals white supremacists working in Florida prison

Some stories just stick with a journalist. For AP investigative reporter Jason Dearen, a sparse 2015 announcement — three currrent or former Florida prison guards, identified by the FBI as Ku Klux Klansmen, had been arrested for plotting a former inmate’s murder — sparked a yearslong reporting effort.

Dearen’s big break came last summer when trial transcripts revealed an FBI informant was the star witness against the KKK members, his secret recordings providing a rare, detailed look at the inner workings of the klan cell and the domestic terrorism probe. Dearen and visual journalist David Goldman retraced the klansmen’s steps through Palatka, Florida, then producers Marshall Ritzel, Samantha Shotzbarger and Peter Hamlin stepped in to create a riveting online presentation.

The resulting all-formats package had immediate impact, with Florida papers featuring it on home pages and front pages, and prompting calls for investigations into white supremacy among prison workers. The story found 360,000 readers on AP News and kept them there for an average of more than five minutes — longer than any other AP story in memory.

For dogged reporting and an immersive all-formats narrative that exposes a salient, timely issue, Dearan, Goldman, Ritzel, Shotzbarger and Hamlin win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 06, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals threat of abandoned, leaking oil and gas wells in US

teamed up in all-formats to highlight the environmental crisis of an estimated 2 million abandoned oil and gas wells in the United States.Overcoming the reluctance of landowners fearful their property values would decline if they went public, energy and climate reporter Bussewitz found a fourth-generation Texas rancher who described her beloved land as a “swiss cheese of old oil wells that are just falling apart.” Bussewitz shared the byline with national writer and visual journalist Irvine, who shot video of the site where the rancher had moved 600 head of cattle that may have drunk contaminated water, then combined it with drone footage from the ranch, along with historical photos and footage of abandoned wells. Photographer Gay made striking images of that ranch and another where the rancher had to sue the state of Texas to plug orphaned wells.Data analyst Fenn and digital artist Duckett leveraged that data into interactives, including an exclusive nationwide map that depicted the known orphaned wells in each state, and producers Hamlin and Shotzbarger, with photo editor Goodman, built a powerful presentation on AP News.https://aplink.news/nr5https://aplink.video/rwuhttps://interactives.ap.org/em...https://interactives.ap.org/te...

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Aug. 06, 2021

Best of the States

As wells dry up in parched US West, AP reports on residents now without running water

The extreme drought in the American West has already taken a dramatic toll. And now, near the Oregon-California border, as many as several hundred wells have dried up in the past few weeks, leaving dozens of homeowners in the parched region with no running water at all. Reporter Gillian Flaccus and freelance photographer Nathan Howard documented the residents’ plight and the challenges facing authorities responding to the situation.

Flaccus used sources she had built in months of reporting on the dire conditions in the Klamath River Basin, convincing people to let Howard depict their hardship over water in photos and video. Digital storyteller Samantha Shotzbarger then weaved all the elements into a compelling multimedia offering. The story drew widespread play in the U.S., especially in the West.

For continuing to shine light on the effects of the drought afflicting the U.S. West, Flaccus, Howard and Shotzbarger win this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 30, 2021

Best of the States

Only on AP: 20 years later, chaplain’s litany of prayers for US troops killed in Afghanistan finally comes to an end

With the end of the war in Afghanistan looming, national writer Matt Sedensky sought a compelling way to humanize America’s longest war — and he found it. Nearly all the American troops killed in the war had their remains returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where the military runs a mortuary. There, Sedensky found chaplain David Sparks, who had been called to active duty after 9/11, assigned to the mortuary, and had been there ever since.

Sedensky pieced together Sparks’ experience: writing hundreds of prayers for the dead, standing beside their disfigured remains and ministering to their broken families. Joined by New York video journalist Jessie Wardarski and Washington photographer Carolyn Kaster, the team had access to parts of the base hidden far from public view. The resulting package, with Sedensky’s expressive prose and affecting visuals by Wardarski and Kaster, generated a strong response from veterans and non-military alike.

For intimate, revealing work that eloquently writes one of the closing chapters of America’s 20-year war, the team of Sedensky, Kaster and Wardarski earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 23, 2021

Best of the States

Smart prep, sharp execution put AP out front on obit of prominent civil rights leader Gloria Richardson

Among the toughest obits to write on the fly are those for people who were hugely influential but rarely heard from in their later years. AP’s Brian Witte, however, was fully prepared when he got an exclusive tip on a Friday evening that prominent civil rights figure Gloria Richardson had died at 99.

Witte, AP’s Annapolis, Maryland, correspondent, used carefully crafted, detailed prep and source work to break news of the death of the first Black woman to lead a sustained desegregation movement outside the South. Thanks in part to a striking 1963 AP photo of Richardson pushing away the bayonet of a National Guardsman, she came to symbolize fearlessness among civil rights activists.

Witte’s prep included an interview with Richardson’s biographer, building enough trust for the author to email him with first word of her death. He persuaded the biographer to share family contacts, scoring quotes that forced many outlets to cite AP. Witte’s story, linked with archival photos, hit the wire early Friday evening, beating all competition and receiving strong play.

For insightful, resourceful reporting that puts Richardson's significant legacy back in the public eye, Witte earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 16, 2021

Best of the States

AP takes immersive look as drought puts ‘flatlining’ Great Salt Lake at historic risk

As the western U.S. finds itself in the grips of one of the worst droughts in recent history, the AP West region staff has delved into every aspect of the drought’s impact across the region. In one of the hardest-hit areas, the Salt Lake City-based team of Rick Bowmer, Lindsay Whitehurst and Brady McCombs documented that Utah’s Great Salt Lake may be headed to the lowest water levels in 170 years.

Reporting ahead of other news outlets, they delivered an all-formats package with stunning visuals showing readers how the dying lake is impacting people and wildlife and is a harbinger of worrisome drought-related consequences ahead. Decades of drought and water diversion in the booming region have hurt bird habitats, forced boats from shallow water and exposed dry lakebed that could send arsenic-laced dust into the air that millions breathe.

The result was a compelling package that had the highest engagement of all AP stories on July 6 and fourth-most for the week.

For distinctive work that expands AP’s ongoing coverage of climate and drought in the West, the team of Bowmer, Whitehurst and McCombs wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 09, 2021

Best of the States

AP reveals a water crisis at the boiling point for Native Americans, farmers in Western river basin

AP Portland, Oregon, reporter Gillian Flaccus has long followed a simmering issue in the Klamath River Basin, a swath of rural agricultural land in Northern California and southern Oregon that is ground zero for the fight over an increasingly precious resource in the American West: water. Amid extreme drought in the region, the U.S. government has stopped irrigation to hundreds of farmers for the first time in history, while Native American tribes along the 257-mile Klamath River are watching fish species hover closer to extinction. The farmers face ruin and tribes worry their culture will vanish.Flaccus has developed deep sources with area farmers as well as tribal members and recently spent nearly a week in the remote area with freelance photographer Nathan Howard documenting an issue that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Working with New York photo editor and digital storyteller Alyssa Goodman, they produced a sweeping, striking all-formats package that showed the pain on both sides as people begin to realize the water may not be coming back. The package was among AP’s most-viewed stories for Friday. For immersive journalism that explores the human consequences of drought in the U.S. West, Flaccus, Howard and Goodman receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 02, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Got guns? Sourcing, data and subject expertise reveal record 300,000 rejected U.S. gun sales

At a time when gun sales in America are reaching record highs and political divisions run deep, Salt Lake City reporter Lindsay Whitehurst has become a recognized authority on shifting weapons laws at the state level. She has cultivated sources on both sides of the issue and earned a reputation as a fair and accurate interpreter of the national schism over guns.

That’s why, after working for months with sources at Everytown for Gun Safety, a major player in the gun control lobby, the nonprofit turned to her with a trove of exclusive records on attempted firearms purchases that were denied by the FBI last year.

Whitehurst dove into the FBI data that showed gun sale rejections at an all-time high. Nearly half of the denials were for convicted felons, at a time when fights for universal background checks continue to fail. And although lying on a firearms background check is a federal offense, Whitehurst also learned that such cases are rarely prosecuted, raising the questionof why — in a volatile America — authorities are not investigating those who try despite being banned.

For probing these questions, and her leadership on a beat that touches on some of the nation’s most fundamental and contentious rights, Whitehurst earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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