May 15, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Blockbuster AP scoop reveals shelving of CDC guidelines on safe reopening

For weeks, critics had complained that the Trump administration was putting political concerns ahead of scientific recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

A blockbuster AP scoop amplified those complaints: Reporters Jason Dearen and Mike Stobbe worked sources to reveal that President Donald Trump’s administration shelved the CDC’s guidelines containing step-by-step advice to authorities on how and when to reopen businesses and other public places during the pandemic.

The story dominated news media and was by far the best-performing story on AP News for the week. And in a follow-up exclusive, Dearen reported on documents showing the decision to withhold came from the highest levels of the White House, and that the Trump administration ordered key parts of the CDC guidelines fast-tracked for approval after the AP’s story appeared.

For a major scoop that resonated among customers and readers and finally brought to light the scientists’ suppressed guidelines for how the country should reopen, Dearen and Stobbe win AP’s Best of The Week award.

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May 04, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

CDC director accepts pay cut after AP examines his salary

A small reference to a big number in a Wall Street Journal story about the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caught medical writer Mike Stobbe’s attention. It reported that Dr. Robert Redfield’s salary was $375,000.

That seemed like a large sum, much more than previous CDC directors had been paid, thought Stobbe, who has covered the nation’s top public health agency for more than 12 years.

His hunch proved correct. His subsequent reporting showed that Redfield’s compensation was nearly double that of the previous Trump administration nominee, who resigned after six months, and more than the government’s other top health officials.

The scoop – which led Redfield to later ask for a pay cut – nets Stobbe this week’s Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 17, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Interview with CDC’s Walensky puts AP ahead on virus news

collaborated on a significant edition of “The AP Interview” newsmaker series. AP’s conversation with Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, put the AP ahead on two developments during a busy week of virus coverage.First, Walensky discussed research into the omicron variant, revealing that a CDC report would detail that early cases appeared to be mild. Second, she gave the AP exclusive comments on her decision to allow booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for several million 16- and 17-year-olds.Those comments — on an embargo basis a day ahead of the official announcement — let the AP publish video almost immediately after the announcement. Health and science reporter Stobbe’s strong relationship with the CDC also allowed AP to report the decision 10 minutes before the agency’s press release went out, putting the AP ahead of the competition. The all-formats package included Anderson’s distinctive portraits of Walensky, and multiple video edits for newsrooms and consumers.The interview was cited by major news outlets, and footage by video journalists Lum and Martin was used by ABC’s flagship morning show, “Good Morning America.”https://aplink.news/do6https://aplink.video/782https://aplink.news/3rh

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Oct. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tip, source work reveal Pence immigration order to CDC

worked sources and turned a tip into an exclusive story detailing how Vice President Mike Pence ordered the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use the pandemic as justification to halt immigration into the U.S., over the objections of the agency's scientists who twice refused to take the action.

Burke notified Dearen, who started working CDC sources. After a couple of fruitless weeks, he succeeded in identifying a person close to the events who agreed to talk, and a former Pence aide who confirmed the story on the record.

Meanwhile Burke moved the story beyond politics to bring home the order’s human toll. She gathered data that showed nearly 150,000 people, including 8,800 migrant children, already had been expelled under the order, and she interviewed the father of a 16-year-old Honduran boy who had been held in government custody under the order.

Even on a weekend dominated by news of Trump’s hospitalization, the piece was the top story on AP News and was widely used and cited by local and national news outlets. https://bit.ly/2SvTB14

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Oct. 05, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Casual remark from CDC leads to scoop on flu deaths

for being first to report that influenza claimed 80,000 American lives in 2017-18, making it the deadliest flu season in decades. Attending an evening event to build sources, Stobbe heard the CDC’s leader, Dr. Robert Redfield, refer nonchalantly to a death toll of 80,000 last flu season. Realizing the figure had not been made public, Stobbe did follow-up reporting and landed the scoop just a day before the CDC made the figure public. https://bit.ly/2xIBgUK

May 21, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, teamwork yields major scoop on CDC’s mask rollback

scooped the competition by a full hour, reporting the news that so many celebrated: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was revising its guidance to allow fully vaccinated people to ditch their masks in most indoor and outdoor settings.The seed for the story came from an unlikely source: Washington-based Balsamo covers the Justice Department for AP but he’s always keeping an ear out for big news, no matter the subject. Balsamo was checking in with a very good source about another matter when the person mentioned as an aside, “Hey, the CDC is going to say something today.”That was enough to pique Balsamo’s interest, and he quietly messaged reporter Zeke Miller, who has dominated the coronavirus beat at the White House. They teamed up, working sources and exchanging information until they had all the details. Then they quickly turned around an alert and filed the breaking news, building out the story with help from science writer Lauran Neergaard.Their scoop broke during White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s daily briefing, but she refused to confirm it, saying only that the CDC would speak at a briefing later. The story swept play as other news outlets scrambled to match it; the piece was AP’s top story, attracting nearly 639,000 page views. https://aplink.news/ce3

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March 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exclusives stand out in COVID-19 coverage

New York-based health and science reporter Mike Stobbe and Rome video journalist Trisha Thomas delivered two very different exclusives that stood out amid the week’s impressive range of AP coronavirus coverage.

Stobbe was the first to report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wanted to tell a wide swath of Americans that they shouldn’t get on commercial flights because of the virus. But the agency was overruled by the White House. Instead, federal officials settled on softer, less direct language. Realizing the significance, Stobbe pressed multiple sources until he had confirmation of the White House action.

Meanwhile, continents away, Rome visual journalist Trisha Thomas was visiting Padua when she learned the Italian city was about to be locked down. After making frantic arrangements to leave by train, she turned her personal odyssey into a cross-format package, producing a first-person essay and video story that gave a human face to Italy’s virus emergency.https://bit.ly/2TUgQCohttps://bit.ly/2W6dxL8

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Jan. 04, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Local data, deep reporting on declining US lifespans

The nation’s health isn’t improving. In some key measures, it’s getting worse. How is that even possible in an era of genetic medicine and other advances? And how could the AP connect that story to our customers’ own neighborhoods?

AP medical writer Mike Stobbe and data journalist Nicky Forster started with those questions and delivered a winning package on why American life expectancy is getting shorter.

The package ran shortly after the release of the CDC’s annual mortality report which found that U.S. life expectancy had declined again. To find out what was behind the numbers, Stobbe returned to West Virginia, a place he declared the unhealthiest place in America 10 years ago. He connected with people trying to get healthier, witnessed the headwinds of the opioid crisis and explained how difficult it is to improve health en masse.

Forster, meanwhile, assembled an array of data that explained what was happening around the U.S. He matched longevity estimates for more than 65,000 neighborhoods with demographics, and found striking connections to income, race and education. He then built an interactive that allowed readers to see life expectancy in their own neighborhood and wrote a sidebar on the AP’s findings.

For getting beyond the numbers for a richer understanding of why American lifespans are shrinking, and giving AP customers the data to localize their stories, Stobbe and Forster win the week’s Best of the States award.

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June 18, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

As COVID spikes in Africa, AP reveals low vaccine rates

combined to illustrate the severe shortages of vaccines and low levels of vaccinations in poor African countries and elsewhere, just as a worrying new rise in infection levels has emerged and as the issue became a key topic for G-7 leaders gathering for a summit.Imray, AP’s Cape Town, South Africa, sports writer, reported that vaccine shipments to Africa have ground to a “near halt” and that the continent faces a vaccine shortfall of 700 million doses. The reporting used a broad range of sources, including an interview with the head of Africa’s CDC, and strong feeds from colleagues around the world. The story was complemented by a selection of images from AP’s photographic team across Africa.Video freelancer Onen, meanwhile, obtained rare access to a COVID-19 ICU at the Mulago Hospital in Kampala. As a condition of entry, Onen shared his footage as pool with local broadcasters who were desperate for coverage amid a sharp virus spike. Given only a few minutes on the wards, Onen did a skillful job in bringing out the tension and urgency of the situation, images that no other global media organization was able to obtain.https://aplink.news/xw1https://aplink.video/ei8

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Dec. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Dr. Birx in violation of government’s COVID guidelines

unraveled some messy decisions by Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, that appeared to contradict the government’s own COVID-19 safety guidelines.When it was first reported that Birx was angling for some kind of role on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team, one of her relatives reached out to Madhani and suggested he look into Birx, who spent Thanksgiving weekend at a Delaware beach house with extended family, and who also made many visits to a multigenerational family home in Maryland between her widespread travels to coronavirus hotspots for the government.Madhani and Slodysko contrasted Birx’s activity with her warnings to Americans to “be vigilant” and limit celebrations to “your immediate household,” and with CDC guidelines to avoid travel for the holidays. The two Washington reporters also discovered that while Birx was in Delaware, she conducted an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” in which she noted some Americans “went across the country or even into the next state” for the holiday weekend. Birx declined to be interviewed for the story but provided a statement acknowledging she went to her Delaware property, insisting she was there to winterize the property.The story received strong play and reader engagement, and continued to generate discussion on cable TV well beyond its weekend release.Birx has a since said she plans to retire, but is willing to first help President-elect Joe Biden’s team with its coronavirus response as needed.https://bit.ly/38sWmb7https://politi.co/2WFxDeh

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March 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: Toxic chemicals lie beneath Fort Ord

spent a year investigating the possible health effects of groundwater and soil contamination under Fort Ord, a decommissioned U.S. Army base on the central California coast. A tip led AP to a Facebook group of hundreds of soldiers who had lived at the base and developed rare forms of cancer they believe were caused by contamination.The complex, all-formats story included in-depth interviews with those likely suffering health consequences of exposure at the base, which is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the most polluted places in the nation. The team revealed a discredited 25-year-old study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found no “likely” risk at the site, and documents showing the Army knew toxic chemicals had been improperly dumped at Fort Ord for decades, but took pains not to let that information become public. Read more

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Sept. 15, 2017

Best of the States

Smaller US cities struggle with high teen gun violence rates

Shootings in Chicago have captured national headlines, and for good reason: The city has among the highest rates of teenage gun violence in the nation. But where else in the U.S. are teenagers most likely to be killed or injured by gunfire? Baltimore, Detroit, Los Angeles?

In an exclusive analysis, journalists from the AP, working jointly with the USA Today Network, arrived at an unexpected answer: Except for Chicago, the places with the highest rates of teen gun violence in America are smaller and mid-sized cities – towns like Wilmington, Delaware, population 72,000.

AP data journalists Meghan Hoyer and Larry Fenn led the analysis of 3½ years’ worth of shooting cases provided by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. Baltimore reporter Juliet Linderman, with significant assists from Albany reporter Michael Hill and Savannah correspondent Russ Bynum, picked it up from there. Video journalist Allen Breed produced a powerful video that illustrates the danger and despair, along with the difficulties that WIlmington is having in addressing the problems. The package also was enhanced with graphics from interactives producer Maureen Linke.

For their work revealing a surprising side of teenage gun violence in America, state reporters Linderman, Bynum and Hill, video journalist Breed, data journalists Hoyer and Fenn, and graphic artist Linke share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: China’s virus testing suffered from secret deals

used sourcing and documents to reveal that early in the coronavirus outbreak, widespread test shortages and other testing problems in China were caused largely by cronyism and a lack of transparency at the top disease control agency, including secret deals made with testing companies.Through interviews with more than 40 people and hundreds of documents he obtained, Kang traced the problems back to secret deals that China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention made with three then-unknown companies with which officials had personal ties. Those companies paid for exclusive rights to the test kit design and distribution.Shortages and flaws in the kits meant that thousands of people either didn't get tested or tested false negative; they were sent home to spread the virus while scientists and officials were unable to see how fast the virus was spreading.The level of detail in Kang’s story would be impressive anywhere, but is extraordinary coming from China which has tried to cover up its missteps. The story was also carefully balanced in its portrayal of China, pointing out that many other countries made similar mistakes.The story was widely praised, with experts and journalists calling it “vital, damning” and “another blockbuster AP report on the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in January.”https://bit.ly/37RAuGbhttps://bit.ly/372ZkUc

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