Feb. 03, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP presses for details of judge's ruling on immigration ban

At a time when the very integrity of news is under attack in some corners, it is more important than ever that The Associated Press be a key champion of accuracy. This includes not only fighting back against false claims and false reporting, but sometimes simply waiting as we push for more specificity. New York City News Editor David Caruso did exactly that over the weekend, avoiding the missteps of other news organizations by pressing for details of a federal judge's emergency order temporarily staying part of President Donald Trump's travel ban for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations.

Caruso demanded, and got, a copy of U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly's order so the AP could be precise about reporting on its relatively narrow effects, even as other news outlets relied on tweets from advocates who made it seem more sweeping. Caruso’s careful, painstaking work is the Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 02, 2017

Best of the States

AP breaks news of Border Patrol chief’s departure

San Diego correspondent Elliot Spagat was on his way to the office when a two-word message landed in his inbox from a longtime source: “Morgan resigned.”

Spagat knew what it meant -- Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan was out of his job after just seven months. Spagat had seen this coming because the powerful union representing border agents had endorsed Trump and did not like Morgan.

But more was needed to go to the wire with the breaking news. He went back to the tipster to get details and permission to use the source in a story. He also immediately enlisted homeland security reporter Alicia Caldwell in Washington.

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Jan. 27, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Inaugural images: Talent and tech combine in sweeping, instant photo coverage

Remember these images from the Inauguration: The new first couple dancing across a giant presidential seal at a ball? Faces in the crowd cheering or crying in the rain? The instant when Donald Trump took in the scene through an opening door before stepping onto the podium to become the 45th U.S. president?

Credit for those signature images, which appeared across the globe almost as they happened, goes to the skill and artistry of a hand-picked team of AP photographers and photo editors – and also to the cutting-edge, behind-the-scenes efforts of AP technicians working hand-in-hand with them to cover the intensely competitive event.

Their extraordinary work, a stream of 2,000 photos sent from daybreak until well after midnight, earns the Beat of the Week.

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Jan. 26, 2017

Best of the States

Postcards from Trump's America

Following in the wake of the Divided America series, the AP wanted to glimpse the country – the multiple Americas, joyous, dreading and uncertain – that Donald Trump would lead as the 45th president. But how to do it in a way that went beyond traditional text and instead gave customers and readers a visually engaging look at the U.S. in the time of Trump?

The answer: "Postcards from Trump's America."

A specially-selected team of reporters, photographers and videojournalists joined up to report from four distinct corners of the nation, and their work provided a unique window into what Americans are thinking and feeling at this historic pivot point.

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Jan. 20, 2017

Best of the States

Lie detectors trip up border agency applicants

San Diego correspondent Elliot Spagat was chatting with a longtime government source and she mentioned her son applied to Customs and Border Protection but was rejected after failing a polygraph test. She and her son were mystified by the result. Soon after, a member of Spagat’s running group – a military veteran with a stellar resume – told the same story of a failed Border Patrol test.

Intrigued, Spagat brought up the issue during a regular check-in call with an official involved in recruiting for the Border Patrol. The official told him the polygraph failure rate was very high. Spagat knew he was on to something and kept pressing, next talking to Border Patrol Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, who gave him a failure rate – 65 percent.

But Kerlikowske didn’t see the number as a negative – it meant the agency was applying tough standards to find its officers. Still, a two-thirds failure rate struck Spagat as abnormal but how could he prove it? Comparable data was hard to find.

So Spagat set about creating it.

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Jan. 12, 2017

Best of the States

No family immune: A top US prosecutor talks exclusively to the AP about a heroin death: his son’s

In the course of source-building in early 2016, northeastern Pennsylvania correspondent Michael Rubinkam had lunch with a local lawyer. The lawyer mentioned that a member of the U.S. attorney's office had lost a son to heroin but had never spoken publicly about it.

Intrigued, Rubinkam asked the lawyer to approach the then-assistant prosecutor, Bruce Brandler, about an interview. Rubinkam had been looking for fresh ways to write about the scourge of heroin, and saw the prosecutor’s story as a powerful new example of how no family is immune.

But Brandler, he learned, was adamantly against going public with his family’s – and his son’s – story. It was too painful.

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Dec. 08, 2016

Best of the States

Digging in for winter at Dakota Access pipeline protest

The Associated Press has aggressively covered the Dakota Access pipeline since even before construction began on the four-state pipeline to carry oil from North Dakota. The AP tracked the approval process and then was there every step of the way as the project spawned demonstrations from Native Americans and others who set up protest camps by the pipeline’s final piece near the Missouri River, saying construction would damage cultural artifacts and that a pipeline leak could pollute tribal water supplies. In the past few months, the AP has had coverage almost every day.

While Bismarck staffer James MacPherson had covered the story cross-format with the help of colleagues, a visually-focused enterprise project was in the works for December, bringing in staff from afar to provide video and photo elements of the largest camp to accompany a piece that was to explore the protest in the context of other issues being faced by Native Americans now and into the Trump administration. On Friday, Nov. 25, the news forced us to speed up our timeline for visuals as the Army Corps of Engineers gave a Dec. 5 deadline for protesters to get off the land.

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Jan. 13, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP first with word US taxpayers to pay for US-Mexico wall

“Build the wall!" That chant became a frequent rallying cry at rallies for Donald Trump, who vowed to stem illegal immigration by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The candidate, now president-elect, would routinely engage in a back-and-forth with crowds. "Who's going to pay for it?" Trump would ask. "Mexico!" they'd shout back.

Not so, as it turns out. In an APNewsBreak, congressional correspondent Erica Werner and new White House reporter Jill Colvin were the first to report that Trump and congressional Republicans were exploring ways to use existing law – and U.S. taxpayer dollars – to build the border wall.

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Jan. 06, 2017

Best of the States

Disability and desperation

When federal prosecutors alleged that Kentucky attorney Eric Conn had funneled $600 million in fraudulent disability claims to Appalachia, Claire Galofaro saw a chance to tell a much bigger story.

Over a period of months, Galofaro, the AP’s administrative correspondent in Louisville, sat in on federal hearings and heard the anguish of Conn’s former clients, some severely disabled, others who seemed like they might be able-bodied enough to be working. She met with many who were being asked to prove their disability years after it had first been approved by the government, forced to go searching for old medical records in order to make a case they thought they had already made.

She learned about three people who killed themselves rather than face the prospect of demonstrating, once again, that they were disabled and unable to work.

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Jan. 06, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘I want to be with Carrie’: At Reynolds and Fisher deaths, AP gets exclusives

When Carrie Fisher died, generations lamented the loss of their Princess Leia. But when actress Debbie Reynolds died a day later, the near-simultaneous passings of mother and daughter were seen worldwide as an epic tragedy.

It was AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen who first reached Fisher’s brother, Todd, to confirm that his sister had been hospitalized. Days later, it was AP Television Writer Lynn Elber who first reached Todd Fisher to confirm the unthinkable -- that his mother had died, as well. Their sterling work is the Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 22, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Assassination of the Russian Ambassador

On his way home, AP photographer Burhan Ozbilici stopped at the opening of a photo exhibit at Ankara’s Contemporary Arts Center. The Russian ambassador to Turkey was to speak, and Ozbilici figured the AP could use images of the envoy for its archives.

Shockingly, Ozbilici instead found himself a witness to an assassination. With cool head and steady hands, he documented the killing of Ambassador Andrei Karlov, capturing some of the most astonishing images of this or any other year. His photo of the raging gunman _ one hand holding the gun, the other pointed to the ceiling, his lifeless victim on the floor _ would appear on countless front pages and broadcasts and websites. Within hours, it was seen by some 18 million people on Facebook alone.

Even in a year of remarkable work by AP staffers, Ozbilici’s photos and actions were extraordinary _ and richly deserving of the final Beat of the Week award of 2016.

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Dec. 16, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Ransomed: The freeing of 226 Christians from Islamic State

What AP’s Lori Hinnant knew, from a conversation with Beirut bureau chief Zeina Karam early this year, amounted to a fascinating mystery: A series of Syrian villages had been emptied and many of their people taken hostage by the Islamic State group, but now most appeared to be free. It was clear that ransoms were paid, but no one would talk about how it happened.

The hostages were more than 200 Assyrian Christians who were rescued through a fundraising effort among the vanishing people’s global diaspora that brought in millions of dollars. These were the broad outlines of the story that Hinnant’s months of reporting confirmed, but even better were the exclusive details she unearthed _ including IS sending one villager with a ransom note to his bishop, the church dinners and concerts held around the world for donations, and the decision, fraught with ethical qualms and legal risks, to pay a ransom.

Hinnant’s resulting “thriller,” as one admirer called it, is the Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 15, 2016

Best of the States

AP provides superior coverage of Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36

As soon as the flames were doused on an Oakland, California, warehouse known as the Ghost Ship two things were clear: The death toll would be huge, and telling the story would be complicated. It took a cross-format team effort to tell the story, and the staff in California rose to the occasion, including incoming San Francisco news editor Juliet Williams, who got an early start on her new job, dashing to the bureau from Sacramento to run the story.

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