Nov. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tracking ‘Nimblewill Nomad,’ oldest Appalachian Trail hiker

put AP out front in reporting that an 83-year-old has become the oldest hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail. While writing about the youngest hiker to finish the 2,193-mile (3,530-kilometer) odyssey, Portland, Maine, correspondent Sharp got a tip: M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart would be the oldest when he finished. Sharp found Eberhart’s blog and developed a rapport over several months with the man who goes by the trail name of Nimblewill Nomad.After exchanging lots of text messages, Sharp got Eberhart on the phone for an extensive interview in which he shared his life story. Portland photographer Bob Bukaty then hiked several miles to meet the octogenarian at the top of 2,536-foot Mount Hayes in Gorham, New Hampshire.The story, edited by New York’s Jeff McMillan, was ready to move when Eberhart finished his trek late on a Sunday afternoon. Accompanied by Bukaty’s engaging photos of the wild-bearded Eberhart, the piece quickly went viral, leaving the competition to catch up Monday morning. Eberhart, for his part, was stunned by the reach of the AP: By Monday morning, more than a half-million people had clicked on his blog. The story also drew response on Facebook and Twitter, and appeared on news sites throughout the region and around the country. https://aplink.news/i2l

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Aug. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Families in Appalachia describe challenges of online learning

made the most of her first major enterprise story in Kentucky, reporting deep in the mountains of Appalachia on the dilemma facing parents with spotty internet service as they weigh the challenge of a new school year. Together with freelance photographer Bryan Woolston, Blackburn sharpened the focus on an often overlooked segment of the population to demonstrate the unique challenges they face, doing so with sensitivity and respect. https://bit.ly/3g8OnBR

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Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP launches ‘Looking for America’ series with an immersive trip into Appalachia

Assignments don’t come much more challenging or ambitious: Take a road trip across the nation to see how Americans in different regions and are facing the confluence of COVID-19, economic meltdown, racial protests and a tumultuous presidential election. The first installment of the project had to both launch the series and hold its own as a story, and this AP all-formats team came through beautifully.

The story focuses on Ohio communities in the much-maligned Appalachian region, thoughtfully acknowledging both the truths and the enduring stereotypes so often associated with it. The resulting package resonated for days with readers.

For compelling journalism that speaks to core issues affecting Americans in a turbulent year, the team of enterprise reporter Tim Sullivan, enterprise photographer Maye-E Wong and video journalist Noreen Nasir earns AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Oct. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP looks at the Black Lives Matter conversation in rural Kentucky

added nuance and depth to AP’s coverage of national protests over the killing of Breonna Taylor by defying stereotypes about Blacks living in Appalachia, and offering reasons for hope that racial progress is possible in the region.In a story that captured the complexity of multiple fault lines of ethnicity and class – including preconceived notions about white Appalachians – the Report for America journalist examined the perspective of young Black people living in the mountains who have found hope in the national reckoning on race. https://bit.ly/2SDk5xM

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Sept. 06, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

4 Hours in Huntington: how the heroin epidemic choked a city

The scene, presented in the most vivid close-up, shows a paramedic frantically pushing an IV full of an opioid blocker into the vein of a woman turning blue and barely breathing. Then the radio squawks: Two more overdoses just reported. Where will Claire Galofaro’s riveting narrative go from here?

“The woman’s eyes blinked open” she writes next. Then: “Red lights on the phone at the 911 dispatch center flashed faster and faster until all 16 lines were screaming. They called from the dining room of a rickety house, the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, the bathroom of a gas station. `People are dying everywhere,’ one caller said.”

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July 26, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In rural Ohio, the personal stories behind opioid prescription data

for their deadline all-formats report that put a human face on the release of millions of prescription painkiller sales records. They told the stories of people directly affected by the epidemic in Jackson County, Ohio, a rural Appalachian community that received 107 prescription painkillers per person per year at the height of the crisis, according to the data. https://bit.ly/32uXxDjhttps://bit.ly/2YxFSMd

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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Dec. 17, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP responds to US tornadoes with sweeping, distinctive all-formats coverage

When a tornado warning sounded Friday night, AP’s Appalachian staffers scrambled to find whatever information they could in the dead of night. By early Saturday morning it had become clear Kentucky was going to be the epicenter of one of the most powerful tornadoes to hit the region in recent memory.Staffers responded quickly in all formats, including the first live video from the devastated town of Mayfield. Coverage included residents’ wrenching accounts of survival and loss, and powerful visuals, but there was also an important pause in AP’s coverage: Many news outlets breathlessly reported the governor’s grim prediction that as many as 70 people may have died in the collapse of a candle factory. AP was more cautious, preserving its reputation for accuracy when the actual toll came in much lower.AP’s mainbar text stories, photos and video — live and edited — all earned heavy play.

For smart, fast, determined coverage in the days immediately following the storm, the team of Bruce Schreiner, Claire Galofaro, Dylan Lovan, John Raby, Travis Loller, Mark Humphrey, Gerald Herbert, Kristin Hall and Robert Bumsted is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds diversity of politics and religion among West Virginia evangelicals

A tweet was the seed for this illuminating story. “Most people in my rural, Appalachian hometown are being radicalized at church by their pastor, which is the person they trust the most,” it read. AP’s Global Religion team ran with it.

Reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski visited the parishioners of three churches in Bluefield, West Virginia, including one pastor who had attended the Jan. 6 Washington rally that degenerated into a riot. The AP pair spent weeks convincing him to sit down for an interview. The result was an all-formats package of diverse congregations seeking common ground, even as they are divided on the role of evangelical Christianity in American politics. 

For applying gentle persuasion and balanced reporting to produce a nuanced look at religion and politics in one West Virginia town, Henao and Wardarski win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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