May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Chicago morgue copes with surge in deaths

used rare, exclusive access to one of the nation's busiest morgues, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, to document the facility as it coped with the surge of COVID-19 deaths while still handling its usual number of homicides. The AP team expected to find employees overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of bodies that more than tripled their workload. Instead they found a well-organized, efficient operation and employees who, while putting in seven-day weeks in some cases, spoke of their determination to provide dignity to the dead.https://bit.ly/2Tqx5I1https://bit.ly/3e5PzW1

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April 23, 2021

Best of the States

Teamwork, enterprise deliver deep coverage on fatal police shooting of Chicago teen

When Chicago police released the body camera video of an officer fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy in an alley, AP staffers in Chicago and across the AP sprang into action with aggressive reporting, sharp enterprise follow-ups and thoughtful standards discussions about how to responsibly portray the gruesome incident for photo and video clients.

The end result was three days of distinctive spot and enterprise coverage on a story that resonated with audiences around the world, especially with renewed focus on police violence in the midst of the Derek Chauvin murder trial.

For comprehensive coverage providing depth, detail and context on the shooting, the all-formats team of Michael Tarm, Don Babwin, Sara Burnett, Kat Stafford, Dave Bauder, Shafkat Anowar, Robert Bumsted and Derek Karikari shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 22, 2018

Best of the States

Chicago gangs embrace social media – often with deadly results

Chicago legal affairs writer Michael Tarm had been anticipating the release of a 400-page report on gangs, compiled about once every six years by the Chicago Crime Commission. He touched base with the commission every few months for years, asking for advanced access to the documents.

It paid off.

Tarm obtained exclusive access to new law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, then he spent weeks going through police and court records to find a gang-related killing to serve as a narrative of the findings. He uncovered the case of Lamanta Reese, a story illustrating how social media is transforming the city’s street-gang culture with deadly consequences. Gang member Reese, 19, had posted a smiley-face emoji on Facebook in response to an off-color joke about the mother of a rival gang member. Days later, that rival crossed the street between their gang factions, sneaked up on Reese and fatally shot him 11 times.

The story got strong play, with more than 10,000 page views on AP’s site the first day – almost 17,000 overall. The main story was published by 220 sites, including The New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the hometown Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. The Sun-Times and Daily Herald also ran it in their papers.

For obtaining exclusive access to law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, poring over police and court records, and drawing on in-depth sourcing to produce a multiformat, compelling narrative, Tarm wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 30, 2018

Best of the States

Exclusive: AP obtains cellphone photo, interview at Chicago hospital shooting

As video journalist Carrie Antlfinger awaited a news conference outside a Chicago hospital where a gunman had killed three people a day earlier, a deliveryman waiting for the emergency room to reopen showed her a photo he had taken.

The cellphone photo captured a pivotal moment in the story – the shooter standing next to his first victim, his former fiancee, whom he had shot in front of the hospital.

Antlfinger, who had been dispatched from Milwaukee to cover the breaking story, immediately recognized the value of the image and the man’s firsthand account. While the deliveryman was at first reluctant, Antlfinger was able to persuade him not only to provide the AP with the photo but to go on camera for an interview describing what he saw: the gunman standing over the body with a handgun in his hand, police pulling up to the scene and the gunman shooting at police.

Antlfinger’s scoops – central to the AP’s second-day coverage of the story – were part of an aggressive cross-format effort by AP staff to cover all aspects of the story from day one.

For recognizing a critical way to advance the AP’s reporting and then negotiating exclusive access to the photo and interview, Antlfinger wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Oct. 05, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Irvine produces text, photos, video, changing the Chicago narrative

for writing and shooting both photos and video about a neighborhood art studio – a reconciliation effort to unite a community divided by race and income in “always violent” Chicago. Judges were particularly impressed by Irvine’s creative visual storytelling and unusual photo angles to build a compelling and heartwarming picture of the initiative, with people on both sides of the divide taking steps to connect. https://bit.ly/2ye77flhttps://bit.ly/2NmLiQb

Oct. 07, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Why is Chicago a murder capital? Clues from a bloody month

for combining government records requests, hard-to-get interviews and descriptive narrative writing to illustrate one month in the city’s ongoing cycle of fatal gun violence. Babwin obtained the list of 91 homicide victims in August, the city's deadliest month in two decades, and then detailed some of their personal stories against trends revealed in arrest and court records, coroner's reports and police department logs. http://dpo.st/2dyuEhE

Oct. 07, 2016

Best of the States

Why is Chicago a murder capital? Clues from a bloody month

As Chicago’s homicide rate has surged throughout the year, the police department’s tally of the previous month’s body count has taken on an air of the routine. Even as the city’s murder rate has passed new milestones, the figures have provided little more than a headline. And little insight into the causes and victims of the city’s violence.

Chicago reporter Don Babwin set out to shed light on that violence in the wake of the announcement that August was the deadliest month in the city in two decades.

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March 08, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Death of ‘hood CNN’ video pioneer exposes gangland reporting risks

There’s always a better story behind a statistic.

Chicago’s homicide rate is one of the worst in the United States. By digging into one drive-by shooting, Chicago-based legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm and Houston-based video journalist John Mone found out how one victim’s life had inspired a generation of gang territory storytellers.

Telling it took a lot of sourcework.

Tarm had already been working on a story about social media and gangs, and he’d watched a few of Zack Stoner’s reports on Chicago street gangs and rappers on his ZackTV1 YouTube channel. When reports surfaced that Stoner was gunned down, Tarm began to look deeper, stumbling across a wider story – about a new brand of gutsy gangland reporters in Chicago and elsewhere who have avid followers on YouTube.

Getting access to the storytellers was tough, but eventually the name of Texas-based reporter Shawn Cotton emerged. Cotton was eager to discuss Stoner, his impact on the genre and the effect his killing had on him and others. Mone rode along with Cotton to the Meadow Brook subdivision in Fort Worth, dubbed “Murder Brook” by some of the kids on the street where Cotton filmed.

The multi-platform work played prominently with impressive reader engagement.

For relentless sourcework to show how a generation of storytellers is impacting its communities, Tarm and Mone win this week’s Best of the States.

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Dec. 13, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP holds off on unverified posts about R. Kelly

for holding AP to high standards by not reporting on Instagram posts, apparently by long-loyal R. Kelly girlfriend Joycelyn Savage, attacking the singer. With news sites including The New York Times and the Chicago Sun-Times reporting on the salacious posts, there was huge pressure to publish, but Savage’s lawyer could offer only 85-90% assurance the posts were actually Savage’s. AP held off – and Savage eventually denied the account was hers.

July 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Immersive look at Facebook groups targeting Black Lives Matter

studied Facebook groups that opposed coronavirus shutdowns, finding that they shifted their target to the Black Lives Matter movement. Acting on a tip that such groups have a history of fundraising off hot-button issues, Seitz developed a database to track the groups, immersing herself in the online community to monitor misinformation and hate speech as the groups turned their attention against the Black Lives activism in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.The day after Amanda’s story was published, Facebook began suppressing search results for some of the groups mentioned in her story in an effort to limit their reach.https://bit.ly/30179p1

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Aug. 02, 2019

Best of the States

A century after hundreds of black killings, AP explores the enduring impact of ‘Red Summer’

While conducting research for another potential project, Jesse J. Holland, race and ethnicity reporter based in Washington, read about the upcoming anniversary of the “Red Summer” of 1919 and noticed a startling fact: Few people seemed to know that more than 200 African Americans died at the hands of white rioters across the country 100 years ago. The stream of violence that stretched from February to October that year, most of it in the U.S. South and Northeast, eluded history books and was largely forgotten.

Holland presented the information to the larger team, and the project took flight. The all-formats series ultimately included work by staffers Cedar Attanasio, El Paso, Texas; Russell Contreras, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Noreen Nasir, Chicago; and Rodrique Ngowi, Boston. AP was largely alone in its coverage and the team’s efforts were rewarded with prominent use by national outlets and strong engagement.

For taking a little-known event and turning it into a dynamic project with powerful historic and present-day context that no other news outlet could match, Attanasio, Contreras, Holland, Nasir and Ngowi win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 06, 2019

Best of the States

Dual labors of love: Documenting a Chicago neighborhood that would not die

Chicago-based national writer Martha Irvine has always been interested in stories about the city’s neighborhoods that buck stereotypes. So when she learned of a grassroots project to “reclaim” abandoned housing on the city’s South Side, Irvine began what she calls “a labor of love.” 

She spent months getting to know the people of the Chicago Lawn neighborhood and their stories. Residents – ex-cons, immigrants, members of the urban working class – were not prepared to let their neighborhood succumb to the malaise that had engulfed other areas of the city, so they came together to make Chicago Lawn a desirable place to live. 

Irvine did it all – not just writing this remarkable story, but shooting the photos and video. The package received heavy play and elicited rewarding feedback. One woman called the work “incredibly uplifting,” adding, “Loved the video, too. Inspiration station.”

For a compelling all-formats package that shed light on a Chicago neighborhood’s success story and resonated with readers, Martha Irvine earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 30, 2016

Best of the States

Lead crisis in housing project was actually no surprise

The down-at-the-heels industrial city of East Chicago, Indiana, made headlines around the world in August after the mayor ordered 1,000 people to get out of a 40-year-old public-housing complex because of lead contamination.

Many residents and observers expressed surprise: How could such a problem go overlooked for so many decades?

The Chicago bureau’s Sara Burnett and Jason Keyser teamed up for several weeks of intensive document and street reporting. What they found was as disturbing as the original news: The hazard shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone – because the housing complex had been built on the former site of a lead-products factory.

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Nov. 25, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

$1,000 Vivitrol injections given inmate addicts to prevent relapses, but do the shots work?

for first spotting news in a single line in a state Medicaid waiver form, and then chasing down and chronicling in text and video how prisons in the U.S. are experimenting with $1,000-per-shot Vivitrol injections to keeps inmate from falling back into addictions, even without iron-clad medical evidence that they work. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/prisons-fight-opioids-...