Oct. 06, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Chief Texas oil regulator vacationed at the height of hurricane

Hurricane Harvey killed more than 80 people and triggered historic flooding in Houston and across large swaths of Texas. But it also sparked oil spills and gasoline shortages. Those presented major tests for the state’s Railroad Commission, which, despite its peculiar name, actually regulates the energy industry – with historically lax enforcement.

So when the commission’s executive director, Kim Corley, abruptly resigned, the timing and circumstances made Austin newsman Paul Weber curious. He began making calls and soon secured a tip: Corley had been on vacation and unreachable at the height of the Category 4 hurricane that walloped the industry she was paid $180,000 annually to safeguard.

For his exclusive on a hyper-competitive story, Weber wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP documents the push to increase diversity in vaccine studies

explored the obstacles to recruiting diverse groups for medical studies of new drugs, treatments and vaccines. During the pandemic, the two leading U.S. vaccine candidates are lagging behind in diverse enrollment, although participation has inched up in recent weeks.

Thousands more volunteers who identify as people of color are needed for upcoming studies. Staffers from the AP Health and Science team and the South region took an inside look at how health officials are trying to recruit participants, focusing on Maryland and Florida. Narancio spent a day at a local farmers market outside the nation’s capital where “promotoras,” or health promoters, are working to sign up Latinos for the vaccine being tested by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna. Neergard used her contacts to get access to the University of Miami, where there’s a similar push to recruit underserved populations for the same trial. The story appeared on more than 200 online news sites.https://bit.ly/331ms3whttps://bit.ly/2G8EHuM

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Nov. 02, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Staffers respond to synagogue shooting with coordinated multiformat coverage

News of a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue broke on a Saturday morning with first word of the attack reaching AP at around 10:30 a.m., just as many staffers were still covering the spate of pipe bomb attacks against prominent critics of President Trump.

Within minutes Pittsburgh photographers Gene Puskar and Keith Srakokic rushed to the scene, providing some of the first images and text feeds.

Meanwhile, with spotty early reports on the extent of casualties – and competitors reporting various numbers – Washington law enforcement reporter Eric Tucker and Harrisburg reporter Marc Levy worked sources. Between them, they enabled the AP to break word that at least 10 had died – the final toll would be 11 – in what would become the worst attack on Jews on American soil.

It was just one highlight of a seamless and extraordinary effort by colleagues around the country, resulting in impressive customer engagement with AP text, photos and video. Though the shooting happened on a Saturday, it accounted for three of the top dozen video downloads of the week, highlighted by a chilling interview by New York videographer Robert Bumsted and Philadelphia newswoman Maryclaire Dale with a survivor who hid in a closet.

Photos received wide use as well, including a poignant series of images by Philadelphia photographer Matt Rourke who raced to cover the first vigil for victims that night, while AP’s strong relationship with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ensured the hometown paper shared its strongest images from the scene.

For headlining an extraordinary multiformat collaboration that kept the AP in a commanding position on a second straight major breaking story, Puskar, Srakokic, Rourke, Tucker, Levy, Dale and Bumsted share Best of the Week honors.

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April 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exposes offensive Pennsylvania police Facebook page

teamed up to reveal a private Facebook page where western Pennsylvania police officers shared distasteful and malicious posts. Lauer had heard rumors of the page and spent a year gently working sources in Pittsburgh until one finally confirmed the Pittsburgh Area Police Breakroom page existed. The source, over a few months, helped Lauer, a member of AP’s law enforcement team, acquire information found on the page, including transphobic, racist and bullying posts.

Lauer, along with news associate Beaty, took a hard look at the officers with the most egregious posts. She then went to Pittsburgh with New York video journalist Shaffrey and Pittsburgh photographer Srakocic to confront some of the officers, including a police chief listed as an administrator of the Facebook group. The result was an all-formats investigative story that appeared on numerous newspaper landing pages and generated high engagement on social media. Facebook reached out to AP not long after the story went live to say the offensive page was removed for violating company policy and to give an official comment. https://bit.ly/3wjaGhohttps://bit.ly/3ug6Dkr

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May 08, 2020

Best of the States

Sourcing, records yield scoop: Texas AG helped donor fight Colorado lockout

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he’d sent a letter leaning on Gunnison County, Colorado, to end an order expelling non-residents during the pandemic, AP’s Paul Weber immediately wondered: Why was the top law enforcement official in Texas picking a fight with a remote county two states away in the middle of the crisis? And did Paxton have donors there? 

Weber and colleague Jake Bleiberg started combing campaign finance and property records, quickly finding that some of Paxton’s biggest donors have homes in the wealthy mountain resort town of Crested Butte, Colorado. 

Persistent reporting and extensive public records work revealed that Paxton’s push against the Gunnison health order stood to benefit an exclusive group of Texans, including campaign donors who gave the attorney general a total of nearly $2 million. AP Texas members jumped on the story, using it in print and online.

For alertly connecting the dots between a puzzling press release and a conflict of interest in the attorney general's office, Weber and Bleiberg earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 24, 2017

Best of the States

​APNewsBreak: Patients in three states accuse prominent Philadelphia doctor of sexual abuse

After a prominent Philadelphia neurologist was charged with groping several patients at his clinic, Pennsylvania reporter Michael Rubinkam began digging into the neurologist's past to see if he had been accused of wrongdoing elsewhere.

Reviewing documents in three states, and checking with medical centers and law enforcement, he was able to determine that at least 17 women in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey have stepped forward to accuse Cruciani of sexual misconduct that goes back at least a dozen years. Two days after Rubinkam’s story ran, Cruciani pleaded guilty to groping seven patients.

For reporting exclusively that Cruciani has left behind a trail of sex abuse claims in at least three states, and obtaining powerful accounts of how he was able to prey on vulnerable patients, Rubinkam wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Doctors tell AP of rampant misinformation among unvaccinated

tapped into her network of sourcing among doctors around the country to deliver an all-formats story that offered new perspective on the rampant misinformation that they're experiencing in dealing with unvaccinated patients during the delta surge of COVID-19.Hollingsworth, based in Kansas City, Missouri, conducted interviews with six doctors, each giving new examples of the misinformation that has underpinned the recent surge. One doctor, for example, said he had resorted to showing vaccine-hesitant patients a Twinkie ingredient label to make the point that it’s hard for anyone to fully understand every item that goes into federally approved food and drugs. Hollingsworth did all the interviews on Zoom and teamed up with AP Central Region video journalist Carrie Antlfinger on packaged video pieces. She also shared sound clips with the audio and digital teams; those were embedded in the piece.The story generated strong play and huge reader engagement numbers. It was a shining example of how deep sourcing on a newsworthy topic can lead to a sharply focused, well-executed story.https://aplink.news/iubhttps://aplink.video/4n0

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June 22, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP first with news of 2,000 kids separated from families at US border

It was the answer to the question everyone was asking, about the biggest story in the world. Just how many children had been separated from their parents at the U.S. border as a result of the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance immigration policy?

Colleen Long, newly arrived on her Washington beat, got the hugely important scoop, beating all of her seasoned competitors with that very number: nearly 2,000.

Long had just moved to the nation’s capital after more than a decade covering law enforcement in New York, assigned to the Department of Homeland Security. She went right to work grilling sources – anybody she could find.

After speaking to some two dozen people, Long hit pay dirt. A source called and said, “I'm going to give you a big scoop.”

The information put AP more than an hour ahead with the news that, at that point, nearly 2,000 children had been forcibly removed from their families at the border over a six-week period. Long’s competitors – including reporters who have been covering the beat for years – had to wait for the numbers to be released on a conference call later in the day.

For determined, aggressive reporting that yielded a huge payoff, Long wins the Beat of the Week award.

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Nov. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, expertise deliver latest scoop on Venezuela corruption case

used strong sourcing, along with prep work and his deep knowledge of the federal court system, to snag a court filing before a judge ordered it redacted, giving Goodman his second major scoop in as many weeks in the case of a top U.S. corruption target from Venezuela.Latin America correspondent Goodman has spent years painstakingly covering the shady dealings between Alex Saab and Venezuela’s socialist government. But when the Colombian-born businessman was finally extradited to Miami last month, media interest surged, with 300 journalists attending his first court appearance.Goodman, the must-read reporter on corruption in Venezuela, beat all the competition with a major discovery: Saab, who has repeatedly sworn loyalty to President Nicolás Maduro, had been betraying the Venezuelan government for years in secret meetings with U.S. law enforcement. Goodman had previously heard about the meetings from off-the-record sources, but here they were described in a court record that gave him cover to publish. Only Goodman, an ace on the labyrinthine federal courts record system, knew what to look for and could find it before a federal judge removed the document from the docket. Other news organizations were left scrambling to match the AP story.This latest scoop followed Goodman’s recent reporting that Maduro’s government had quietly offered to swap six imprisoned American oil executives for Saab in a secret Mexico City meeting with a Trump administration envoy and controversial Blackwater founder Erik Prince. https://aplink.news/rix

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Jan. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP delivers stirring stories, fact check on I-95 shutdown

teamed up on quick, resourceful coverage of the massive gridlock on Virginia’s snowbound Interstate 95, reporting in all formats on the plight of stranded drivers while fact-checking state officials in real time.With the highway virtually inaccessible, journalists Gallion, Kunzelman, Walker and Finley used social media to land interviews with stranded motorists who waited hours for food, saw little in the way of law enforcement and struggled to conserve fuel amid frigid overnight temperatures.Richmond reporter Rankin, meanwhile, interviewed Virginia’s governor, pressing him on why he hadn’t activated the National Guard ahead of the storm. Photographer Helber delivered aerial images showing hundreds still stranded more than 24 hours in, important documentation as the state refused to estimate how many were trapped.The result was a mainbar, deftly assembled by Richmond’s Lavoie from a variety of feeds, racking up heavy play and readership numbers. A sidebar by Finley on one family’s plight kept also scored high reader engagement. Many Virginia news outlets used AP’s content as their top online offering. In a follow-up, Rankin and Springfield, Virginia, correspondent Matt Barakat reported on early missteps in the state and county response. With help from AP reporters in Ohio, New Jersey, Oregon and Georgia, the piece also recapped similar incidents elsewhere to evaluate Virginia’s handling. Other news organizations couldn’t easily or quickly match the story, demonstrating AP’s unique reach.https://aplink.news/8kihttps://aplink.news/egxhttps://aplink.news/3r6https://aplink.news/1cchttps://aplink.video/kq2https://aplink.video/yiq

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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work breaks news of attorney general nominee

had been asking around for weeks about President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for attorney general. They pressed their sources inside the transition once it became clear that the decision came down to just a few names.Finally, Tucker scored — a transition source gave AP the entire slate of nominees for the department, and not just the stunning choice of Merrick Garland, the former candidate for the Supreme Court who had been spurned by Republicans during the Obama administration. Also included were names for the second in command and leaders of top offices at the Department of Justice.Tucker had prepped for this and gathered his material while Balsamo checked in with another source and came back with confirmation. They swiftly filed a news alert and story, beating major news outlets by a solid half-hour. This all came two hours before the Capitol siege. The pair’s story was still picked up 580 times with some 200,000 pageviews — especially strong considering the U.S. Capitol was ransacked by rioters the same day. https://bit.ly/2XCjOOe

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Feb. 09, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Man charged with selling armor-piercing bullets to Las Vegas shooter

In the days after the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people, authorities said gunman Stephen Paddock acted alone. But search warrants showed that police and the FBI were looking at two "persons of interest."

One was Paddock's girlfriend, whom police had cleared, and the other was a man named Douglas Haig of Arizona.

Haig talked to various media, including the AP, and held a news conference characterizing his sale of tracer ammunition to Paddock as a lawful transaction.

But Phoenix newsman Jacques Billeaud wasn’t convinced. He called a source he has cultivated in law enforcement who was willing to help but didn’t know the answer to Billeaud’s questions. Then, a few days later, the official called to say that Haig indeed had been charged with a crime. Billeaud quickly checked an electronic court records system and found that armor-piercing ammunition with Haig's fingerprints had been found in Paddock's hotel room. Haig was charged with illegally manufacturing and selling the ammunition.

Billeaud's relationship with his source put the AP ahead, and customers used the AP as first word on a competitive story. For sticking with the story and using long-term source work to break news, Billeaud will receive this week’s Best of the States prize.

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July 06, 2018

Best of the States

AP multiformat teams give voice to separated, reunited families. And break news too.

AP journalists have worked tirelessly across formats and locations to chronicle the stories of immigrant parents and children struggling to reunite after being separated at the border as a result of White House zero-tolerance enforcement policies.

Their work paid big dividends last week with exclusive images, videos and stories about separated families and White House policies by reporters Martha Irvine, Morgan Lee, Michael Tarm and Elliot Spagat, photographers Charlie Arbogast and Matt York and video journalist John Mone.

For compelling multiformat coverage of families affected by immigration policy, and for expanding AP's reach on this closely watched story, Irvine, Lee, Spagat, Tarm, Arbogast, York and Mone share this week's Best of the States award.

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June 24, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: FDA skipped most baby formula plant inspections in 2020

turned seemingly mundane testimony of a legislative hearing into a timely scoop, breaking the news that the Food and Drug Administration had skipped nearly all its inspections of baby formula plants during the first year of COVID, likely contributing to the severe shortage of formula in the U.S. and raising questions about what the federal government could have done to prevent it.Using information he gleaned from Capitol Hill testimony by the three top baby formula manufacturers, Washington-based health writer Perrone identified the companies’ plants in the FDA’s online database and discovered the agency hadn’t inspected Abbott’s plant — responsible for a recall of formula that exacerbated the nationwide shortage — for two years between 2019 and 2021. In fact, the FDA later acknowledged only three of the nation’s 23 formula plants were inspected in the first year of the pandemic.Read more

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June 08, 2018

Best of the States

Only on AP: No justice for patients of sex-abusing Philadelphia physician

Police in New York City and New Jersey had already charged Dr. Ricardo Cruciani with rape and other serious sex offenses that could put him away for decades.

But in Philadelphia, where the allegations first surfaced? Some officials wouldn’t even return phone calls, according to the women who say they were victimized by the prominent neurologist.

Alarm bells went off for northeastern Pennsylvania correspondent Michael Rubinkam when police in Philadelphia did not pursue a felony case, even though some of the accusers in New York and New Jersey cases said they had been assaulted in Philadelphia, too. He interviewed six women who described what they viewed as a shocking lack of care and concern on the part of city police and prosecutors. The women said they felt like they’d been victimized twice – first by the doctor, then by law enforcement.

Rubinkam’s artfully written Only on AP story was widely used, and was displayed prominently on the homepage of Philadelphia's two major newspapers.

For enterprising work on a story of intense regional interest, Rubinkam wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 20, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork, sourcing put AP ahead on Buffalo mass shooting

teamed up to deliver fast, factual breaking coverage of Saturday’s racist mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket, then turned to stories of the victims and a community in mourning.In the chaotic first hours after the shooting, AP avoided the erroneous reporting of other outlets, including false reports that the gunman was dead. Sharp source work had AP accurately reporting the death toll ahead of the official news conference, and that authorities suspected the shooter was driven by racism.The all-formats coverage was AP’s top-performing story of the day, by far, widely used and credited by AP customers and drawing more than 1 million pageviews on AP News.Read more

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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP explores racial double standard in Capitol attack

explored the apparent disparity between the response to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and last year’s racial justice protests.New York-based race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison had watched President Donald Trump’s supporters storm the Capitol and reasoned that the protesters who called out racial injustice over the summer wouldn’t have been allowed to get close enough to the Capitol to breach it. Morrison and the AP team set out to examine the circumstances.Sources gave Morrisons interviews or statements saying that Black people who protest systemic racism are often met by police or National Guard troops equipped with assault rifles and tear gas. However, they pointed out, the mostly white mob that attacked the Capitol was met by an underwhelming law enforcement presence.Urban affairs reporter Gillian Flaccus contributed to Morrison’s reporting from Portland, Oregon, where Black Lives Matter advocates quickly noted the discrepancy between Trump’s response to racial justice protests in the Pacific Northwest city and his encouragement of the violence in the halls of Congress.Washington-based broadcast producer Padmananda Rama interviewed newly sworn-in St. Louis Rep. Cori Bush, who said the race of the Capitol rioters played a big part in their ability to breach the building; her video was packaged with the text piece. And Top Stories Hub photo editor Alyssa Goodman pulled together several images contrasting how the last week’s insurrection was handled as opposed to the racial justice protests.The violent breaching of the halls of power on Capitol Hill represented “one of the plainest displays of a racial double standard in both modern and recent history,” Morrison wrote.https://bit.ly/3bCEcqvhttps://bit.ly/38HK0x2

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Nov. 11, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Melania Trump modeled in US prior to getting work visa

The exclusive story's foundation was laid months ago, when questions arose about Melania Trump's immigration history and AP contacted employees at the modeling firm where she worked in the 1990s. No office records from the time were found at first. But AP's questions were asked, and one ex-worker kept searching through storage.

Finally, the documents turned up, and when the worker pointed AP to them, they became the basis of a story showing that the future wife of Donald Trump, who has taken strict stands on immigration enforcement, was paid for modeling jobs worth tens of thousands of dollars before she had permission to work in the U.S.

The AP's investigation, by Alicia Caldwell, Chad Day and Jake Pearson, earns the Beat of the Week.

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March 06, 2020

Best of the States

AP looks at race in Baltimore through the lens of ‘squeegee kids’

Reporter Regina Garcia Cano took what could have been a dense, pro forma story on complaints about Baltimore’s “squeegee kids” and turned it into a layered piece about inequality in post-Freddie Gray Baltimore. The timing was perfect, as a way for AP to mark the end of 2020’s Black History Month. 

She reviewed figures related to reports on the practice and found one squeegee kid in particular who was willing to open up about the daily grind of dashing into intersections to wash windshields, and how it helped him support his family. 

For her keen eye, and a deft hand, on a complicated topic that would have most likely gone overlooked, Garcia Cano wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 21, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation reveals global market for illegal Brazilian gold

teamed up to expose those involved in Brazil's illegal gold trade, from the illicit mining on Indigenous lands to the global market.Mining on Indigenous lands in Brazil is not new. Numerous stories have been done on the practice, detailing the environmental and cultural impact of the illegal gold mining. But the AP investigation went a step further, naming those involved in the practice and tracing how the precious mineral travels from the mines of Brazil to global brands.For their widely read investigative stories, published in English, Spanish and Portuguese, Brazil News Director Biller, Latin America correspondent Goodman and freelance journalist Cowie obtained dozens of documents and conducted interviews with prosecutors, federal law enforcement agents, miners and industry insiders.Cowie and photographer Penner trekked hundreds of miles into the Amazon to report comprehensively on those engaged in the illegal mining and those involved in the illegal gold trade — a cross section of individuals and companies ranging from shady fly-by-night operators to legitimate businesses.Among their findings: Brazil is investigating an air taxi company contracted by the country’s health mionistry that transports Indigenous people and medical equipment. The company is also suspected of using its planes to bring in prospectors and supplies for illegal mining.And a thorough AP review of public records revealed that Marsam, a refinery that provided minerals for Brazil’s 2016 Olympic gold medals and now processes gold ultimately purchased by hundreds of well-known publicly traded U.S. companies — among them Microsoft, Tesla and Amazon — is linked to an intermediary accused by prosecutors of buying gold mined illegally on Indigenous lands and other areas deep in the Amazon rainforest.https://bit.ly/3HWThQDhttps://bit.ly/3qnwc3Nhttps://bit.ly/3FzcFSb

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