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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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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July 14, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Follow-up reporting after Texas mass shooting reveals long-standing complaints about police response

When a Texas sheriff’s story about a mass shooting didn’t add up, Dallas-based reporter Jake Bleiberg dug in.  

During the four-day search for a man accused of fatally shooting five of his neighbors in April, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told a crush of reporters that his deputies got to the scene in 11 minutes, but the suspect had vanished. Bleiberg was among the Texas reporters covering the shooting who heard from area residents that deputies rarely responded to calls faster than 30 minutes. As he worked the phone to get a fuller picture, Bleiberg connected with a source who provided him with the report of a police consultant who county officials hired to examine the sheriff’s office. Bleiberg quickly authenticated the document and headed down to the rural corner of East Texas to continue reporting along with video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi and freelance photographer Michael Wyke.  

They conducted more than 20 interviews with current and former deputies, county officials and residents. Bleiberg successfully pressed for the release of public records related to the shooting and obtained revealing court documents and evidence gathered in a whistleblower lawsuit against the sheriff. The reporting revealed that the latest inaccuracies were part of years’ worth of accusations against the sheriff, including neglecting basic police work, evidence of the improper seizure of tens of thousands of dollars of property, ignoring previous concerns over the alleged shooter, and his deputies failing to follow up on reports of 4,000 crimes — including sexual and child abuse.  

For a tireless effort to reveal years of corruption accusations and dysfunction previously unknown outside of the local area, Jake Bleiberg earns Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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Oct. 07, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Churches defend clergy loophole on child sex abuse reporting

joined forces to reveal how religious lobbying across the U.S. has protected a loophole that exempts clergy from reporting child abuse if the abuse is revealed in a spiritual setting. The subject had surfaced in Rezendes’ August investigation into the mishandling and coverup of child sex abuse cases by the Mormon church.The investigative reporters found similar dynamics playing out in all 33 states that have the loophole: The Catholic and Mormon churches, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses successfully defeated more than 130 bills seeking to create or amend child sex abuse reporting laws.AP’s reporting brought attention to the loophole and prompted at least one state lawmaker to say he would introduce a bill to close the exemption.Read more

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March 31, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years of source work in Texas leads to power narrative enterprise story

Jake Bleiberg spent years reporting on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, including an investigation in September into the dropped cases. That story caught the attention of Irma Reyes, a South Texas mother, who reached out to Bleiberg to say that something similar was probably about to happen in the cases of two men charged with sex trafficking her daughter. Bleiberg checked sources and records and then headed to court, where he and Eric Gay witnessed Reyes’s worst fears come to pass.    

The resulting story became the most engaged story of the week on APNews. It also received extensive play across Texas and national media outlets, and won praise from elected officials critical of Paxton, as well as from prosecutors, and even a lawyer for one of the men accused in the case.    

For their compelling all-formats narrative story that put a human face on the dysfunction in Texas that led prosecutors to drop human trafficking and child sexual abuse cases, writer Jake Bleiberg, photographer Eric Gay and video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi are the first winners of this week’s Best of the Week award. 

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Jan. 27, 2023

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Dedication to the #MeToo beat leads to exclusive on dissolution of Time’s Up

was approached with the exclusive that the anti-harassment organization, Time’s Up, was folding. The New York-based entertainment writer’s story was uniquely authoritative thanks to her years of diligent reporting on the #MeToo movement that landed her the scoop.

The remaining resources of the organization, which became beset by scandals, are going to a legal defense fund administered by the separate National Women’s Law Center.Read more.

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Jan. 20, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Faceless portraits: Noroozi innovates to show struggle of Afghan women athletes

The best portraits capture a person’s essence, almost always by focusing on the human face. But AP photographer Ebrahim Noroozi, on assignment in Kabul temporarily from Iran, needed to do something different to show the effects of Afghanistan’s rule banning women playing sports.

Using the emblematic burqa to conceal the identities of the women athletes now forbidden from doing what they love best, Noroozi came up with the haunting series of faceless portraits to illustrate the erasure of Afghan women from public life under the Taliban.

Several female athletes who once played a variety of sports unrestricted posed for Noroozi with their athletic equipment – and their identities hidden by burqas, the all-encompassing robe and hood that completely covers the face, leaving only a swath of mesh to see through.

Noroozi’s images were published in an array of multimedia presentations by AP’s subscribers worldwide, including the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. The latter used them to illustrate a story about the near-simultaneous decision by Australia to cancel a men’s one-day international cricket series over the restrictions on women.

For innovation and sensitivity in showing a difficult subject, Noroozi earns Best of the Week – First Winner.

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Dec. 23, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP's Winfield holds Pope Francis’ Jesuit order to account by challenging superior to tell truth

held Pope Francis’ Jesuit order to account by challenging the superior general to come clean with the truth about a famous Jesuit artist accused of sexual and spiritual abuse of women under his care. The superior’s admission to Winfield – during a Christmas reception-turned-press conference – made headlines, and Winfield and AP were credited widely with having forced the Jesuits to answer uncomfortable questions and essentially admit they had lied. Read more.

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Dec. 02, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Greater China staff delivers swift, compelling coverage of unprecedented lockdown protests

Even by the standards of Chinese state surveillance, the capital of the Xinjiang region stands out for the scope of repression. So, when protests broke out in Urumqi against coronavirus restrictions, AP journalists knew something unusual was happening.

It started with an apartment fire blamed by many on China’s harsh coronavirus measures. Dake Kang, who has covered the region closely for the past five years, scored an early interview with a relative of victims of the fire, beating out competitors. By reaching out to people on the ground online, Taipei-based writer Huizhong Wu confirmed protests that had followed, adding critical eyewitness accounts.

Within 24 hours of the fire, Chinese social media was swamped with anti-government messages – people angry at restrictions that have locked them into their homes for weeks or months at a time, and critically blaming the leadership. In a country where media is restricted, residents are surveilled, and individuals are punished for speaking out against authority, this was extraordinary.

As unrest spread, AP staff in Beijing, Bangkok and Hong Kong used all their tools and cooperated across borders to produce swift, careful coverage of the unprecedented demonstrations, earning Best of the Week 1st winner.

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Nov. 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds angle into #MeToo scandal of French TV star

used determination and ingenuity to make AP the first international news organization reporting on alleged sexual misconduct by France’s most famous TV anchor.The anchor, Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, has previously sued the women accusing him of rape, sexual abuse or harassment occurring from 1981 to 2018. He has also sued media reporting on the alleged misconduct, but when one of d’Arvor’s accusers wrote a book investigating multiple allegations, AP seized on the opportunity to interview the author and others, bringing the “affaire PPDA” to light and potentially marking a turning point in the French #MeToo era.Read more

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