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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March 08, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP leads fight for access and answers in Hanoi

for leading the way in two formats in Hanoi, asking tough questions of President Donald Trump and then fighting for media access when the White House retaliated. Lemire’s question to Trump about the Michael Cohen hearings prompted the White House to bar reporters – but not photographers – from a dinner for the two leaders. Vucci, recognizing the significance, quickly made a case to his fellow photographers, then approached Press Secretary Sarah Sanders: photographers would not cover the dinner unless reporters were allowed in as well. Sanders conceded to one pool reporter and one TV producer in the room, ensuring that the press – and therefore the public – had access to a historic meeting. https://bit.ly/2H4aSuC

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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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Rare all-formats access to Brazil ICU

secured exclusive access to take a camera into an ICU in a working class city north of Rio. With Brazil suffering the most COVID-19 cases and deaths in Latin America, media outlets have clamored for access to hospitals, without success. Fisch worked associates and contacts, finally convincing a city health secretary to grant access to the Sao Jose municipal hospital. She made the most of an hour inside the unit on Saturday, working among medical staff to produce all-formats content that was well-received by clients. Her video was the most-used on AP Video Hub for the weekend.https://bit.ly/2AQ81Uqhttps://bit.ly/3e8tRRc

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Oct. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP wins exclusive access to notorious federal jail in NY

secured rare access inside the federal jail in Manhattan where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, reporting first-hand about the structural mess and squalid conditions. The AP pair had previously reported that the infamous Metropolitan Correctional Center, built in the 1970s, is slated for at least temporary closure. Still, they wanted more.Previous requests had been denied, but Balsamo and Sisak relied on years of deep source work and weeks of negotiations with the Justice Department and the BOP, finally winning access inside the MCC in Manhattan and the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where a majority of the inmates will be moved.Balsamo, AP’s lead Justice Department reporter who was the first journalist to cover the resumption of federal executions, came away from MCC with details like: “One cell is off-limits because the door is now unstable — likely because of the constant pounding over the years from the prisoners inside on the cinder block walls.” New York-based law enforcement reporter Sisak also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and judicial orders that detailed the conditions inmates had faced and researched the history of the building.The result was a vividly written and reported exclusive unmatched by any other news agency. The story was picked up by New York media and news outlets across the country. https://aplink.news/xck

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March 22, 2019

Best of the States

Sunshine Week investigation: Public regularly denied access to police videos

Police videos of officers shooting unarmed black men have sparked angry protests in Chicago, Sacramento and other U.S. cities. But AP’s Ryan Foley wondered: Is it the norm for departments to release footage from body-worn and dashboard cameras?

Foley, based in Iowa City, Iowa, a member of AP’s state government team, investigated and found that many departments routinely deny public access to their videos of officer-involved shootings and other uses of force.

Foley filed open records requests related to roughly 20 recent use-of-force incidents in a dozen states. His letters were met with denial after denial as police departments routinely cited a broad exemption to state open records laws: They claimed that releasing the video would undermine an ongoing investigation. But critics say the exemption is often misapplied to keep embarrassing or compromising video footage from public view.

To tell the story visually, Central Region video journalist Noreen Nasir dug through AP’s archives to highlight the moments and emotions that followed the deaths of unarmed black men, including the fatal police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. She also interviewed a woman in North Dakota whose brother died after being shot in the back of the head during a struggle with police, adding a crucial perspective to the video.

At the same time, Panagiotis Mouzakis, multimedia animation producer in London, used the many denial letters Foley had collected to create a video graphic that was incorporated into Nasir’s video, and Beat Team visuals editor Alina Hartounian developed a social plan that helped the package find a huge audience.

For shining a light on how police departments continue to withhold visual evidence and for devising creative ways to illustrate the story, Foley, Nassir and Mouzakis share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 22, 2017

Best of the States

Request denied? Sunshine Hub sheds light on state efforts to block public access

Beyond its dramatic effects, the audio from 911 calls can provide the kind of context that is essential to the public's understanding of what happened during a newsworthy crime or emergency. Those recordings are, with few exceptions, a matter of public record. That almost changed this year in Iowa, where the state House passed – unanimously – a bill that would end the public's ability to access many 911 calls. The bill eventually died after an outcry from the media, watchdog groups and civil rights organizations, but it was not unusual. A months-long project by AP reporters and data journalists found more than 150 bills introduced in state legislatures this year that were intended to eliminate or limit public access to a wide range of government records and meetings.

To help reporters find, track and provide input on those bills, Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen of the data team created a unique online tool that provided full access to AP customers.

Called the Sunshine Hub, it helps users keep track of legislative activity related to government transparency, suggest new bills, search for and categorize bills for research purposes, and discuss legislation with others. The Sunshine Hub directly complemented stories by Ryan Foley in Iowa, Andrew DeMillo in Arkansas and Laurie Kellman in Washington.

For their groundbreaking reporting and software development, Tumgoren, Rasmussen, Foley, DeMillo and Kellman win this week's Best of the States award.

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Oct. 29, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

As COVID surges in Russia, AP wins access to Moscow ICU

used months of strong contact-building in Moscow’s hospitals to get first access to an intensive care unit — several days ahead of the competition — at a time when Russia is facing almost daily records for both COVID infections and deaths.Video journalist Manenkov and chief photographer Zemlianichenko won permission to work inside the “Red Zone” at Moscow City Clinical Hospital 52, where the staff is facing the crush of the country’s COVID-19 crisis. The pair gave Moscow writer Isachenkov perfect material to explore the lagging pace of vaccination across the country, a source of despair among the front-line doctors and nurses. And their visuals gave AP global customers an array of powerful images telling the story of COVID in Russia.https://aplink.news/rm0https://aplink.video/f63

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive access to medics treating coronavirus – and war wounds

secured exclusive international agency access to a hospital battling coronavirus and casualties in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.Chernov and Lovetsky had been on the front line of the disputed region within Azerbaijan for more than a week when they began to see increasing numbers of people becoming sick with the coronavirus. Repeated requests to document the hospitals and clinics were rebuffed until Chernov tracked down the region’s health minister to personally request access. The minister granted permission.Wearing full protective gear carried with them from previous reporting in the Ukraine, the pair visited the main hospital in Stepanakert and found terrible scenes of suffering as coronavirus patients mixed with the war-wounded – while doctors and nurses continued to treat people despite suffering from the virus themselves. Their on-the-ground reporting was crafted into a powerful text story by Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and the story moved as cross-format agency exclusive the next day.https://bit.ly/3oCN57Ohttps://bit.ly/34BY9Kp

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Dec. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Access yields engaging story of US couple rescuing Afghans

used remarkable access to chronicle an Afghan family settling into heartland America thanks to the efforts of a dedicated couple.San Diego-based reporter Watson had previously reported on Afghans fleeing to the U.S. She used farmer Caroline Clarin as a resource; Clarin worked as an agricultural adviser in Afghanistan and now works to rescue her Afghan contacts threatened by the Taliban. Meanwhile, enterprise photographer Goldman was looking for a newly immigrated family to follow. He connected with Watson and enterprise video journalist Breed, the trio traveling to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where, thanks to the trust Watson had built with Clarin, they had exceptional access to Clarin, her wife and the Patans, an Afghan family the couple “adopted” after paying to fly them to the U.S.The team captured intimate details of both families’ daily lives in all formats: the family gatherings, the Patan kids’ school days and life on the farm. Clarin and her wife talked about their worries — the expenses they were accruing to rescue Afghans, but more so, their fears for those still left behind. The text story also looked at the bureaucratic hurdles of getting families out of Afghanistan, and Breed gathered sound for an audio story, written by digital storyteller Shotzbarger, voiced by Watson. Shotzbarger also brought all the elements together in a compelling presentation.The package, running on the eve of Thanksgiving, resonated with readers. It records one woman’s dedication to the daunting task of bringing Afghans to the U.S., and the loving relationship built between a farm couple and a traditional Afghan family in rural Minnesota.https://aplink.news/o5thttps://aplink.photos/ukrhttps://aplink.video/fj6https://aplink.news/58c

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