Dec. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing puts readers inside stolen military weapons plot

used the last major installment of the “AWOL Weapons” investigative series to take readers inside an attempted sale of stolen Army ordnance.LaPorta’s textbook source development yielded access to private text messages and Facebook groups, as well as exclusive interviews with both the government informant and one of the men he helped bust, providing intimate details of the intended weapons sale to narcotraffickers that ended instead with a SWAT team raid at an El Paso, Texas, truck stop.The story, written by Dearen, was produced by the digital storytelling team of Raghu Vadarevu, Natalie Castañeda and Peter Hamlin with the distinctive visual presentation of previous installments. A well-conceived social media plan by audience engagement journalist Elise Ryan helped drive remarkably strong readership: The piece led AP’s platforms for pageviews (more than 100,000) and reader engagement for the day.https://aplink.news/mvhhttps://apnews.com/hub/awol-we...

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Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AWOL weapons: ’Explosive’ investigation of missing military ordnance

expanded AP’s “AWOL Weapons” investigation, revealing how explosives are lost or stolen from the U.S. armed services, sometimes with deadly consequences.When AP reported in June that the U.S. military couldn’t account for all its firearms, the team knew there was more to uncover. Their latest installment reports that hundreds (if not thousands) of armor-piercing grenades and hundreds of pounds of plastic explosives also vanished.AP’s investigation was built on data the team extracted from the military, and which data editor Myers marshaled for analysis. Investigative reporter LaPorta filed the original Freedom of Information Act request with the Marines, obtaining data that was crucial to framing the scope of the problem, while video journalist Hall and investigative reporter Pritchard used exclusive investigative case files to detail how troops stole plastic explosives. At a major Marine base a sergeant hoarded C4 because he feared Donald Trump would lose; after another insider theft, explosives ended up with high school kids.Hall found a man who survived the explosion of an artillery shell at the Mississippi recycling yard where he worked. His co-worker died. That emotional interview alone drew more than 56,000 Twitter views. Combined with exclusive interrogation footage of Marines, video journalists Serginho Roosblad and Jeannie Ohm wove together a compelling video package using interviews by colleagues Stacey Plaisance and Robert Bumsted. Senior researcher Jennifer Farrar also contributed.The online presentation by Raghu Vadarevu, Natalie Castañeda and Peter Hamlin took the distinctive visual language they previously developed for the series and gave it even more impact. Thanks also to the expert wordsmithing of editor Jerry Schwartz and a well-conceived social media plan by audience engagement specialist Elise Ryan, the package scored over 130,000 views on AP News, more than double other top stories. The story also generated media buzz, including a prominent interview with Hall by CNBC’s Shepard Smith.https://aplink.news/xjghttps://aplink.news/d7yhttps://aplink.video/xnn

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June 25, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years in the making, AP’s ‘AWOL Weapons’ investigation prompts immediate Pentagon reaction

Ten years ago, Kristin M. Hall noticed several cases in which U.S. troops stole military guns and sold them to the public. Hall, a military beat reporter at the time, then fired off the first of many Freedom of Information Act requests. The Army, however, refused to release any records and the story could easily have ended there, with Hall moving on to become a Nashville-based entertainment video journalist focused on country music. Yet, she kept at it.

Last week, Hall’s decade-long journey — and the work of a host of others on the global investigations, data and immersive storytelling teams — paid off in “AWOL Weapons,” a multilayered, visually rich project revealing that at least 1,900 military weapons — from handguns to rocket launchers — had been either lost or stolen during the 2010s, with some used in street violence in America.

Two days after publication, the Pentagon’s top general and the Army each said they would seek systematic fixes for the missing weapon problem, and through a spokesman, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called AP’s investigation “another example of the free press shining a light on the important subjects we need to get right.”

With deep reporting and a riveting digital presentation, the multistory package saw outstanding customer use and reader engagement.

For remarkable persistence that revealed a problem the military wanted to keep quiet, generating immediate prospects for reform, Hall receives special distinction alongside colleagues Justin Pritchard, James LaPorta, Justin Myers and Jeannie Ohm as winners of AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 08, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AWOL Weapons: AP finds tracking tech could aid enemy

collaborated across formats to report on the latest story in AP’s ongoing investigation of missing military weapons, revealing a weapon-tracking technology that the U.S. Department of Defense itself describes as a “significant” security risk.After showing that the military has lost track of at least 1,900 guns, investigative reporter LaPorta and team trained their sights on how technology might help in weapons accountability. They found that one solution — putting radio frequency identification tracking tags inside guns — has introduced a security vulnerability into Army and Air Force units because it could help even relatively low-tech enemies target U.S. troops on the battlefield. The Pentagon originally appeared unaware that some units were using RFID, then said it allows service branches to explore innovative solutions. To demonstrate the highly technical story in understandable ways, LaPorta and editor Pritchard arranged field testing that showed the tags could be tracked from much greater distances than RFID contractors acknowledge. Photographer Berger and video journalist Chea illustrated the testing. Producers Roosblad and Hamlin turned that material into a sharp explainer video with the help of editors Ohm and Vadarevu. Storytelling producer Castañeda curated the AWOL Weapons hub and worked with Sison for the photo edit, while Nashville’s Hall contributed important reporting.https://aplink.news/cqmhttps://aplink.video/6l4https://apnews.com/hub/awol-we...

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April 14, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

​A father bids farewell to twin toddlers after Syria attack

What do reporters do when more than 300 war-ravaged miles separate them from an immense story – in this case, the gassing of civilians in Syria, allegedly by their own government? They work the phones, and the apps.

Which is how Beirut reporter Sarah El Deeb came to interview Abdel Hameed Alyousef, who lost his two children, his wife and other relatives in the attack on the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun. And how she persisted in finding ways to bring the family’s story to the world in all formats.

And it is how she won the Beat of the Week.

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Oct. 13, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive visuals, reporting distinguish Vegas shooting coverage

It was just one of the many mysteries surrounding the Las Vegas concert shooting: How did the gunman, perched up on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort, fire off as many as 90 rounds onto thousands of concert-goers in just 10 seconds, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds?

Reporters Sadie Gurman and Mike Balsamo found the answer. Through sourcework, they learned that Stephen Paddock was able to carry out his assault in moments because he had used two “bump stocks,” devices that allow a semi-automatic rifle to repeatedly fire like a machine gun.

The scoop was part of an impressive week of coverage by staff in the Las Vegas bureau and across the AP that also included photographer John Locher’s dramatic images of police screaming for people to take cover as the gunman sprayed the crowd with bullets.

For their work in bringing critical details and images of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Gurman, Balsamo and Locher win this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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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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March 22, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Quick, resourceful response dominates coverage of Christchurch mosque attacks

AP staffers are often called the “Marines of journalism.” First in, last out.

Our small New Zealand team of Mark Baker and Nick Perry showed what that looks like as they responded to horrific mass shootings at two mosques. Their swift response securing early, definitive images and witness accounts laid the foundation for the AP’s dominant, agenda-setting coverage of the tragedy in the hours and days that followed.

Baker, the Southeast Asia photo editor known widely as “Crusty,” lives in Christchurch, where the attack happened. He heard radio reports of a possible shooting at a mosque and quickly alerted Perry, the Wellington correspondent, to get words on the wire. Baker headed immediately to the scene, where his early images of survivors became the definitive shots of the tragedy.

Back in Wellington, Perry aggressively filed on breaking developments before going to Christchurch, where he scored another major win for AP by interviewing an Afghan refugee who would be hailed as a hero for confronting the gunman, likely preventing more deaths.

Asia quickly deployed reinforcements, with cross-format teams ensuring AP kept up its advantage on the ground while colleagues from afar kept the story fresh as Asia slept.

For their quick response that showcased AP’s fundamental advantage when news breaks across the world, Baker and Perry share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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April 20, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive AP photo of missiles streaking over Damascus dominates global play

When President Donald Trump tweeted a warning last week about a possible missile strike on Syria, the AP was well ahead in its planning for what would eventually follow.

An AP cross-format team had applied for visas for Damascus a month ago. Last-minute negotiations and a bit of luck led to them being issued two days before air strikes by the U.S., France and Britain..

And when the missiles started raining down, Hassan Ammar, a Beirut-based photographer, captured the signature image of the Damascus night sky. His photo, which dominated world play, earns the Beat of the Week.

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Jan. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusives lead all-formats coverage of Virginia pro-gun rally

for exclusive reporting and photo/video dominance around a massive pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, including breaking the news that Gov. Ralph Northam temporarily banned all weapons on the Capital grounds and a story that four Democrats opposed legislation that would have sought to ban assault weapons in the state, effectively killing the measure. https://bit.ly/3aDMYlhhttps://bit.ly/37njd6lhttps://bit.ly/2sTFrhl

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July 02, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Got guns? Sourcing, data and subject expertise reveal record 300,000 rejected U.S. gun sales

At a time when gun sales in America are reaching record highs and political divisions run deep, Salt Lake City reporter Lindsay Whitehurst has become a recognized authority on shifting weapons laws at the state level. She has cultivated sources on both sides of the issue and earned a reputation as a fair and accurate interpreter of the national schism over guns.

That’s why, after working for months with sources at Everytown for Gun Safety, a major player in the gun control lobby, the nonprofit turned to her with a trove of exclusive records on attempted firearms purchases that were denied by the FBI last year.

Whitehurst dove into the FBI data that showed gun sale rejections at an all-time high. Nearly half of the denials were for convicted felons, at a time when fights for universal background checks continue to fail. And although lying on a firearms background check is a federal offense, Whitehurst also learned that such cases are rarely prosecuted, raising the questionof why — in a volatile America — authorities are not investigating those who try despite being banned.

For probing these questions, and her leadership on a beat that touches on some of the nation’s most fundamental and contentious rights, Whitehurst earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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May 31, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Mind-blowing exclusive: Security troops on US nuclear base took LSD

After five years exposing the struggles of the U.S. Air Force’s nuclear missile corps – security lapses, leadership and training failures, morale problems – Bob Burns uncovered an exclusive that was mind-blowing in every sense of the word: Airmen guarding a base in Wyoming had bought, distributed and used LSD.

Burns, a Washington-based national security writer, knew from his previous reporting on the missile corps that illegal drug use was a recurring problem and that the Air Force was reluctant to discuss it.

When the court martial proceedings began in 2016 he started filing FOIA requests for the transcripts and supporting legal documents. It took the Air Force well over a year to finish responding to Burns’ requests, but by January 2018 he had the bulk of the records he needed to piece together the story, including trial transcripts and related documents, with descriptions of drug experiences of airmen, ranging from panic to euphoria.

For his extraordinary revelation that some of the nation’s most deadly weapons were in the hands of hallucinating airmen, Burns takes this week's Beat of the Week award.

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May 10, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: California synagogue hadn’t used security funds received shortly before shooting

After a gunman opened fire in a Southern California synagogue on Passover, killing a woman and wounding a man, his 8-year-old niece and the rabbi leading the service, the inevitable question was asked: Could anything have been done to stop the violence?

Reporters Don Thompson and Adam Beam in Sacramento and Julie Watson in San Diego combined to report exclusively that the synagogue itself had recognized security deficiencies and even received a state grant to address them.

But it hadn’t spent the money, the AP team revealed.

For their exclusive follow-up to a crime that generated global attention, Thompson, Watson and Beam win this week’s Best of the States.

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March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP uses satellite photos for scoop on Israeli nuclear site

used the AP’s emerging partnership with satellite imaging company Planet Labs Inc. and his experience covering nuclear programs to obtain high-resolution photographs of Israel’s secretive Dimona nuclear site. The images show the site, which is at the center of the nation’s undeclared atomic weapons program, undergoing its biggest construction project in decades.Dubai-based news director Gambrell also accessed a declassified 1971 U.S. satellite image of Dimona showing how the facility largely hadn’t changed in the last 50 years. The story drew immediate attention in Israel and the wider Middle East, with all outlets directly crediting the AP in print, online and in broadcasts for the newsbreak. https://bit.ly/3bgnFs3

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March 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

NRA firearms auction pulled after AP query

noticed that the NRA planned to auction off firearms during a fundraiser at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, but she knew that the Nashville, Tennessee, museum didn't allow weapons inside. So she reached out to the museum, the NRA, country artists and more for comment. Soon after Hall raised the question of the apparent violation of museum policy, a spokesperson confirmed to her that the April event will not take place at the site. Other news outlets had to cite AP’s reporting. https://bit.ly/2vSOAbz

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