Jan. 29, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds exhausted chaplains comforting families, COVID patients in their final moments

Eugene Garcia, just two weeks into his job as the AP’s newest full-time video journalist, and photographer Jae Hong joined forces to tell the deeply touching and heartbreaking story of often unseen and unsung heroes of the pandemic — the clergy.

The pair approached the story with sensitivity and care, maintaining distance to give the families, patients and chaplains space, but close enough to bring the story to life even as their subjects drew their last breaths. The package, complemented by John Rogers’ moving text, shed light on exhausted and emotionally drained chaplains working in situations they had never experienced before. As one put it, “We weren’t trained for this.”

For an arresting package that explores the compassionate yet crushing work of front-line chaplains, Garcia, Hong and Rogers earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 26, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sensitive reporting from Greece tells harrowing story of migrant father charged in son’s shipwreck death

Among the human tragedies stemming from irregular migration, an Afghan boy’s drowning leapt out at Athens-based bureau chief Elena Becatoros when Greek authorities took the unprecedented step of charging his father with child endangerment, for embarking on the perilous journey from Turkey to Greece with his son. 

Led by Becatoros, the AP’s all-formats team in Athens tracked down the father, then spent weeks using formidable people skills and patience to gently persuade the grieving man to recount how his 5-year-old son slipped from his arms and drowned when the boat carrying migrants smashed against rocks and broke in two. The journalists also overcame the father’s initial refusal to appear in photos or on video, while another survivor added depth and detail too painful for the father to describe.

For their dogged pursuit and sensitive telling of this heart-wrenching story that puts human faces to the grim statistics on migration, the team of Becatoros, senior producer Theodora Tongas, video journalist Srdjan Nedeljkovic, freelancer Michalis Svarnias, chief photographer Thanassis Stavrakis and newsperson Derek Gatopoulos wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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March 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive: Why compensation denied for tortured US veteran

broke the news that a former Iran detainee, Amir Hekmati, a U.S. citizen, Marine and Iraq war veteran whose 2016 release had been widely lauded during the Obama administration, had been denied compensation as a result of suspicions he had gone to Iran to sell secrets, not to visit his grandmother.The exclusive solved the mystery of why the Justice Department had refused to pay Hekmati $20 million in compensation for years of imprisonment that included brutal torture. National security writer Tucker read through hundreds of pages of documents filed in the obscure Court of Federal Claims to piece together the narrative, accompanied by photos and a video from Washington video journalist Nathan Ellgren, which had roughly 2,000 views on YouTube.https://bit.ly/3lJ91wQhttps://bit.ly/3rfjaT6

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March 19, 2021

Best of the States

Skeleton found in mountains leads to a family’s story of Japanese internment tragedy

Los Angeles-based reporter Brian Melley reported the initial news of a human skeleton discovered near California’s second-highest peak in 2019, and he broke the news connecting the find to the World War II internment of 110,000 people of Japanese descent. But Melley didn't stop there. He persisted in tracking down family members of Giichi Matsumura, whose body had lain in the mountains for almost 75 years.

Melley found and earned the trust of Matsumura’s granddaughter Lori. In this beautifully elegiac exclusive he reveals how the family’s life in the U.S. was abruptly upended by the Japanese internment, the tragedy compounded by the death of Giichi and the inability to give him a proper burial. It was Lori Matsumura who managed to bring him home for reburial 75 years later, reuniting three generations in a Santa Monica cemetery.

For his determination to follow Giichi Matsumura’s narrative to conclusion, breaking news while telling one family’s poignant story, Melley wins AP’s Best of the States award.

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March 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Backstage access makes AP a big winner on Grammy night

took advantage of agency exclusive all-formats backstage access at the Grammy Awards, resulting in a wealth of interviews for video, and photo access unmatched by wire service rivals. Isaza, Landrum and Pizzello underwent numerous COVID-19 screenings in the six days leading up to the show in order to gain access. That access came about because of the AP’s decade-plus relationship with the Recording Academy — and a firm stand by AP: Some artists demanded approvals of performance photos, which the AP declined, and some talent said they would only do interviews if certain questions were off limits. Again, no.The AP landed at least 20 video interviews with stars such as Dua Lipa, Da Baby, Miranda Lambert and H.E.R, touching on fashion, racial injustice, their pandemic experiences, the return to performing and more. The biggest wins were photos of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, both rarely photographed by AP, on their big night. AP was one of four photo outlets onsite and the only photo news wire. Competitive news services were forced to use years-old pictures of the pair, as well as several other stars, with their stories.Isaza produced a behind-the-scenes video feature, and Fekadu’s mainbar — powered by photos from Pizzello and Strauss, and quickly updated thanks to his preparedness — racked up nearly 110,000 pageviews by Monday afternoon. Google listed AP’s story first in searches for Grammys or Beyoncé during the evening. https://apnews.com/hub/grammy-awards

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March 19, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

With extraordinary access to a psychiatric unit, AP reveals pandemic’s toll on children’s mental health

To explore the pandemic’s devastating toll on children’s mental health, AP’s Paris team gained extraordinary access to the psychiatric unit at France’s busiest pediatric hospital. 

Paris correspondent John Leicester worked for months to build trust with hospital authorities and workers. Once inside, Leicester, photographer Christophe Ena and video journalist Nicolas Garriga discreetly documented activity in the unit while protecting the privacy of the young patients. Told notably through the story of an 11-year-old who starved himself so severely that he required emergency care, the package showed how the mental health of children is affected under the weight of lockdowns, curfews, family upheavals and school closures. 

The resulting all-formats package — including evidence of the problem in other parts of the world — was widely used by AP customers.

For a sustained effort to gain access, and sensitive, revealing coverage on this issue touching children and families globally, the trio of Leicester, Ena and Garriga earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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March 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Juke joint package captures Grammy-nominated bluesman

teamed up to tell the moving story of a Mississippi blues artist who is keeping a musical tradition alive. Reporter Willingham couldn’t find a phone number for Grammy-nominated Jimmy “Duck” Holmes — musician, owner of the oldest-surviving juke joint in the country and the keeper of the unique Bentonia, Mississippi, blues musical tradition — so she set off to find him and interview him in the Blue Front Café. She then returned twice for more interviews, details of Holmes’ daily life, and impressive visuals by photographer Solis and video journalist Plaisance Jenkins. The all-formats package brought attention to Holmes’ rich musical contributions and conveyed a strong sense of place — Holmes’ café isn’t just a music spot but a part of the fabric of the close-knit community. The story had some 23,000 pageviews on AP News with remarkably high reader engagement.https://bit.ly/2OOQF1ihttps://bit.ly/3rGnewG

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Feb. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Tragedies frame high school for Parkland seniors

has stayed in regular contact with students and parents from the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting, a connection that helped her produce a poignant account of this year’s graduating class which endured the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting as freshmen and who are now living through the pandemic as seniors. Theirs is a story of a high school career disrupted and bookended by two separate traumas. In one of the most moving tales, Miami reporter Kennedy highlighted the life of one senior who lost her best friend in the shooting and moved to another state and school only to face difficulty connecting with new friends because of the pandemic. https://bit.ly/37q89Hx

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Feb. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work reveals push for diversity in climate fight

worked sources on Stafford’s newly expanded beat to land an exclusive on the launch of a climate justice campaign.The effort by the group Donors of Color Network would shift millions in funding toward environmental and justice groups led by Black Americans, other people of color and Indigenous people and came on the heels of President Joe Biden pledging to make environmental justice central to the fight against climate change. Stafford, AP investigative race writer, brought the story to life by taking readers on a tour of neighborhoods in Detroit’s 48217 ZIP code, where residents live against the backdrop of heavy industrial sites that have long been a major concern in the nation’s largest Black-majority city. Baltimore-based photographer Julio Cortez’s photos of Donors of Color co-founder Ashindi Maxton, the story’s lead character, rounded out the package. https://bit.ly/3d4zfaP

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Feb. 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

With sourcing, preparedness, AP breaks news on death of pioneering actress Cicely Tyson

AP national writer Hillel Italie took a call Thursday evening from a longtime source with an unexpected tip: Groundbreaking actress Cicely Tyson, known for her roles playing strong, fiercely dignified Black women, was dead. 

Italie set off to get the news on the wire quickly, while also alerting colleagues. That included entertainment writer Mark Kennedy who had met Tyson years earlier. Kennedy had decided that when the time came, the AP obituary would have to capture the breadth and achievement of her life and career. And he had prepared just that.

The AP story moved at least 15 minutes before other outlets, earning more than 265,000 page views and front page headlines.

Celebrity obituaries are intensely competitive; Italie and Kennedy kept AP well in front, through source work, commitment and solid preparation. For that, they win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Sept. 18, 2020

Best of the States

Putting a human face to the numbers: A waiter made homeless by the pandemic

Since the pandemic took hold in America, myriad stories have covered the broad economic impact of millions laid off or underemployed. But few have captured how the chilling trickle-down effect is changing lives.

Enter Kelli Kennedy. The Florida reporter produced a compelling, poignant story on one man's struggle with the devastating effects of the coronavirus shutdowns. Orlando resident Jeff Lello lost his waiter job, ended up homeless and briefly lived in a tent in the woods. 

The story was among AP’s most-read of the week, drawing feedback from readers, colleagues and even politicians.

For a stark narrative of unemployment wrought by the pandemic, Kennedy’s story wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 22, 2021

Best of the States

AP investigation: Capitol rioters included highly trained ex-military, law enforcement

AP reporters Michael Biesecker Jake Bleiberg and James LaPorta joined with colleagues across the country to reveal the influence of current and former members of the military or law enforcement on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The AP team surveyed public records, social media posts and videos, and the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, finding at least 22 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement have been identified as part of Capitol riot, with more under investigation. The story gave specific examples of how such training played out in rioters’ tactics and equipment during the attack.

The all-formats package received prominent play from AP customers and was the top offering on the AP News app on a busy news day. 

For timely and insightful reporting that sheds light on the backgrounds and capabilities of Capitol Hill rioters, Biesecker, Bleiberg and LaPorta win AP’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 11, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP traces child labor from Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields to major brands, Girl Scout cookies

For the third installment of their groundbreaking investigation into labor abuse in Asia’s palm oil industry, reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason linked child labor to the supply chains of the makers of popular cereals, candies and ice creams, including KitKats, Oreos and Cap’n Crunch. They also traced the oil to that most American treat: Girl Scout cookies. 

Joined by photographers Binsar Bakkara and Mark Humphrey, and video journalist Allen Breed, their reporting found that some tens of thousands of children toil in the palm fields, some kept from school and forced to work for free or for little pay. Some are trafficked.

The framing of the story — through the eyes of a young girl in the fields in Indonesia and a Tennessee Girl Scout campaigning to have palm oil removed from the cookies — resonated with readers; reaction on social media led the Girl Scouts to address the issue with their suppliers.

For shedding unprecedented light on the children toiling in Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields, and connecting the abusive practice to major consumer brands, McDowell, Mason, Bakkara, Breed and Humphrey share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 28.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

The Pandemic Atlas: AP’s comprehensive global look at how the virus upended 2020

In the year since COVID-19 surfaced, journalists for The Associated Press have produced an impressive array of stories documenting its grim march around the world. Conveying the extent of disruption and death wrought by the virus in 2020 warranted a marshaling of AP’s global resources for a one-of-a-kind project: the Pandemic Atlas.      

The collaborative effort included a compendium of how 13 countries responded to the crisis, six character-driven videos and compelling photos. Deeply reported text stories were translated into Spanish, while the videos received Arabic and Spanish edits. All made possible by the dogged and authoritative work of AP’s field journalists, editors and producers around the world.

For an outstanding display of planning, teamwork, ingenuity, storytelling and presentation on the story that shaped 2020, the Pandemic Atlas — and the scores of AP journalists around the world who contributed — are recognized with AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Dec. 18, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats team tells the shared story of rural Missouri churches, immigrants, adversity and faith

It’s a story of two churches in rural Missouri, only 30 miles apart — and worlds apart. 

One congregation is mostly white, while the other offers services in five languages with members from around the world. The pandemic has united them, with pastors meeting to support each other, share ideas and figure out how to continue ministering to this region hit disproportionately by the coronavirus.

The team of national writer David Crary, youth and religion reporter Luis Andres Henao and video journalist Jessie Wardarski earned the trust of residents to produce an intimate all-formats story, revealing diverse Midwestern communities that aren't famous but are integral to the nation’s identity.

For compelling coverage of communities united in adversity and navigating with faith, the team of Crary, Henao and Wardarski wins this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Nov. 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Courageous AP duo delivers Nagorno-Karabakh coverage

continued their exceptional coverage of the toll that conflict has taken on residents and combatants in Nagorno-Karabakh, as Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over the separatist region. Highlights of their work have included vivid storytelling from inside a hospital overwhelmed by both the war and the pandemic, desperate residents fleeing the fighting and an intimate ritual of young Armenian recruits being baptized before deployment to the battlefield.Reporting from the heart of the region, video journalist Chernov and photographer Lovetsky have worked resourcefully without the assistance of fixers or translators, braving many nights during which the regional capital Stepanakert came under a barrage of Azerbaijani shelling and missile strikes. Their coverage provided the AP, its clients and readers with unique insight into life in Nagorno-Karabakh during the six weeks of the biggest escalation of a decades-old conflict between the two ex-Soviet nations.Since last week’s coverage, Armenia and Azerbaijan have announced an agreement to halt fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh under a pact signed with Russia that calls for deployment of nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers and territorial concessions that triggered protests in Armenia.https://bit.ly/2IlNQlshttps://bit.ly/2GSRdiZ

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Nov. 06, 2020

Best of the States

AP explores impact of Trump immigration policies; rare interviews with Stephen Miller, migrants

President Donald Trump has altered the immigration system arguably more than any U.S. president, meaning this year’s election could have major implications for future immigration policy and for those trying to enter or stay in the U.S. In the run-up to the election, AP’s immigration team unraveled four key policies that have upended lives: reduced refugee numbers, restrictions on international students, a virtual shutdown of asylum and the curbing of legal immigration. 

The journalists used unmatched source work, data reporting and AP’s global footprint, scoring key on-the-record interviews, from would-be refugees stuck overseas to Stephen Miller, Trump’s lead immigration adviser.

For timely, in-depth coverage of immigration issues that likely hang in the balance as the election is decided, the team of Spagat, Tareen, Snow, Watson, Bull and Akour wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 23, 2020

Best of the States

Amid heightened racial tensions, ‘Looking for America’ series examines ‘sundown towns’

Many white Americans have likely never heard of “sundown towns,” where Black people were once forbidden after dark. So Tim Sullivan, Noreen Nasir and Maye-E Wong visited one such town, Vienna, Illinois, on the second stop in AP’s “Looking for America” series, to see how it is faring in a year marked by racial protests.

While there is no longer a rule against Black people in Vienna after sunset, the habit persists for many out of fear and tradition. With deep reporting and compelling visuals, the AP team captured a lingering racial divide that is obvious to some people but virtually invisible to others. 

For a probing but nuanced package that speaks to a thread of systemic racism, the all-formats team of Sullivan, Nasir and Wong earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 23, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Nevada sought to use Chinese COVID tests from UAE

joined forces for this rare hybrid story of state and international politics, revealing how the rush for medical supplies amid the pandemic raised new concerns about international trade and safety. Price used Nevada public records to report that one way the state tried to secure testing kits was by leveraging a former MGM CEO’s connections with the United Arab Emirates, which partnered with MGM to build a $9.2 billion multi-resort development in Las Vegas. The UAE donated 250,000 Chinese-made test kits that weren’t eventually used because federal officials raised concerns about patient privacy, test accuracy and the involvement of a Chinese company that is the world’s largest genetic sequencing firm. Gambrell framed the reporting around U.S. officials’ concern that foreign powers could exploit the pandemic to access medical histories and genetic traits of test takers. https://bit.ly/37mUYIl

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Oct. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP takes readers on one man’s near-death journey with COVID

revealed in evocative text and photos the challenges of a severe COVID case and a long rehabilitation. Their compelling work was made possible by building trust and access with one Indiana man and his family. Murphy heard about Larry Brown, an Indianapolis man who finally came home after nearly 80 days in the hospital – some 50 of those days on a ventilator – and realized even local outlets had not done justice to the story.With expertise as a health writer, Murphy learned about the case and safely navigated spending time with Brown to see what his life is like now. Photojournalist Darron Cummings spent several days with the family, vividly capturing how Brown interacts with the kids, and how his hand therapy and neurology appointments work.Brown sometimes became apprehensive over the story; the AP pair earned his trust by explaining their plan and the importance of sharing his story of recovery and the long-term effects of COVID. https://bit.ly/3d6v1gOhttps://bit.ly/2FgorrM

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