July 23, 2021

Best of the States

Smart prep, sharp execution put AP out front on obit of prominent civil rights leader Gloria Richardson

Among the toughest obits to write on the fly are those for people who were hugely influential but rarely heard from in their later years. AP’s Brian Witte, however, was fully prepared when he got an exclusive tip on a Friday evening that prominent civil rights figure Gloria Richardson had died at 99.

Witte, AP’s Annapolis, Maryland, correspondent, used carefully crafted, detailed prep and source work to break news of the death of the first Black woman to lead a sustained desegregation movement outside the South. Thanks in part to a striking 1963 AP photo of Richardson pushing away the bayonet of a National Guardsman, she came to symbolize fearlessness among civil rights activists.

Witte’s prep included an interview with Richardson’s biographer, building enough trust for the author to email him with first word of her death. He persuaded the biographer to share family contacts, scoring quotes that forced many outlets to cite AP. Witte’s story, linked with archival photos, hit the wire early Friday evening, beating all competition and receiving strong play.

For insightful, resourceful reporting that puts Richardson's significant legacy back in the public eye, Witte earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 01, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

F1 races in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia; AP raises human rights

continues to hold Formula One accountable for racing in countries where human rights are routinely trampled. While covering the exceptionally intense and challenging kickoff to the F1 racing season in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Pugmire, AP’s Paris-based auto racing writer, held exclusive interviews with a released torture survivor and the 12-year-old son of a man on death row, and pressured Formula One heavyweights to advocate for human rights in both countries.Pugmire’s persistence led seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to tell him, “You sure don’t make it easy for me.” To which Pugmire replied, “That’s because you’re the only one who doesn’t duck questions.” In the private conversation that followed, the two shared experiences of meeting released prisoners, and Hamilton complimented Pugmire on his commitment to the issue. Read more

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Aug. 27, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Bad reactions: AP finds US civility plunging over COVID restrictions

harnessed AP’s national reach to report on the fast-declining civility over mask requirements and pandemic precautions.An Alabama man drove to Missouri to serve citizen arrest papers on a hospital administrator over his insistence that people get vaccinated. Protesters beamed strobe lights into the condo building of Hawaii’s lieutenant governor and blanketed his neighborhood with anti-semitic posters to protest new restrictions amid a record surge in hospitalizations. A California parent punched a teacher in the face over mask requirements and county commissioners in Kansas were compared to the Taliban and Nazis at a mask meeting that went off the rails.With these examples rising to the surface, the reporting team assembled a smart, authoritative piece on how public discourse in America has plunged to new depths. The story led member sites, made newspaper front pages in 10 different states and was among the most-read stories on AP News over the weekend. AP Deputy Managing Editor Noreen Gillespie called it a shining example of illustrating “how a theme is rippling across the country.” https://aplink.news/bbp

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June 04, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Unique AP visual investigation reveals Myanmar's junta using bodies to terrorize civilians

The video was startling: As a motorcycle carrying three men speeds down a city street in Myanmar, a soldier traveling in the back of a pickup truck opens fire. A man falls to the ground, mortally wounded, while the other two run away. 

Investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason found that the video was one of many seeming to show the military firing at civilians indiscriminately in the wake of February’s coup. They also noticed that security forces appear to go out of their way to mutilate and drag bodies in the street, seemingly to terrorize the populace. The pair teamed up with the Human Rights Center Investigations Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, applying cutting-edge image analysis to thousands of social media posts and images online to reveal how the junta in Myanmar was using the bodies as tools of terror, according to human rights activists. 

With important contributions by Southeast Asia news director Kiko Rosario, and video by Manuel Valdes, the piece received more than 53,000 views on AP platforms.

For finding a way to analyze visual data from one of the world’s most secretive countries and presenting it in a rich and compelling multiformat narrative, McDowell, Mason, Rosario and Valdes earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP traces source of Pope’s comment on same-sex civil unions

teamed up to trace the elusive origin of Pope Francis’ bombshell comment on same-sex civil unions in a three-day run of stories that broke news.After Winfield reported that Pope Francis had endorsed civil unions in a new documentary, she discovered that the origin of the quote in the film was not clear. When Winfield asked the director whether he had understood at the time that the civil union comment was news, his longwinded and indirect answer was the first hint that something was off – triggering a 36-hour reporting effort.Thomas, who was covering the premiere of “Francesco” in Rome, got a top papal communications aide on camera insisting that the quote didn’t come from an interview for the film, but a 2019 interview Francis granted Mexican broadcaster Televisa. After three days of contradictory claims, the reporters nailed down that the comments were made during a May 2019 Televisa interview that was never broadcast in its entirety. Verza pressed and elicited a sourced confirmation that the Vatican had cut the quote out of the raw interview footage it provided to Televisa.AP’s story with the information from Mexico moved three hours before major newspapers reported the story. The Vatican, meanwhile, has refused all comment.https://bit.ly/3kBGZlyhttps://bit.ly/31R6VCq

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In Mississippi, ‘Looking for America’ examines Black voting rights

looked at at the circumstances faced by Mississippi’s Black voters for the third installment of AP’s “Looking For America” road trip series.The highly evocative package was framed in the context of the “Mississippi Burning” murders of three civil rights activists in 1964 – and it found that too little has changed. The AP team saw the issue through the eyes of a now-elderly activist who was close to two of the murder victims more than 50 years ago. They reported that while poll taxes and tests on the state constitution may be gone, Black voters still face obstacles such as state-mandated ID laws and the disenfranchisement tens of thousands of former prisoners.The text, photos and video, with digital presentation by multimedia journalist Samantha Shotzbarger, perfectly captured the frustration that so many decades later, Black voters are still challenged by the state.The work was highlighted in a long entry in Politico’s Playbook, and attracted attention in the U.S. and internationally.https://bit.ly/31THAI1https://bit.ly/3jzaKCphttps://bit.ly/3oCX50E

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Nov. 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP presses F1 racing on human rights; helps free political prisoner

has kept human rights on the media agenda while covering the international Formula One auto racing series. His reporting has had impact and is now credited with helping free a political prisoner in Bahrain, site of one of the races.Paris-based Pugmire, long aware of governmental efforts at “sportswashing” in authoritarian countries hosting the series, had been one of the first journalists to press world champion Lewis Hamilton last season about jailed dissidents after discovering that Hamilton had received letters with harrowing descriptions of torture and sexual abuse by authorities in Bahrain. When an 11-year-old boy whose father is on Bahrain's death row sent Hamilton a drawing of the driver’s Mercedes race car, Pugmire had asked the driver publicly what he would do it about the case. Hamilton pledged to raise the cases with Bahraini authorities, saying the boy’s letter “really hits home.” Such questioning by reporters is rare and risky at sports events in such tightly controlled countries, but Pugmire kept at it for months.Then, this past September, an 18-year-old man was released from prison in Bahrain after being allegedly being tortured since 2019, an apparent reprisal against his family. His mother had spent more than two years in prison for criticizing the Bahrain F1 race on social media.The family’s supporters credit Pugmire’s reporting for helping lead to the release.Pugmire raised the rights issue again at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix last week, asking Hamilton about a doctor on a 138-day hunger strike. The driver, who wore a rainbow helmet in support of LGBTQ rights in Qatar, said F1 is “duty bound” to call attention to human rights.AP’s reporting emboldened other media, including the BBC and Britain’s The Times, to follow Pugmire’s lead, questioning drivers and F1’s governing body about such issues. Pugmire won praise from a Bahraini human rights advocacy group as well as AP’s news leadership.https://aplink.news/etyhttps://aplink.news/gnghttps://aplink.news/xzehttps://aplink.news/ba9

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April 07, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: North Carolina’s costs for ‘bathroom bill’ calculated in billions

It began as an anniversary story, but one that would break news. With North Carolina’s hotly-contested “bathroom bill,” HB2, in place for nearly a year, AP’s Raleigh bureau was asked by the South Desk to assess the economic impact of the law limiting protections for the LGBT community.

Reporters Jonathan Drew and Emery Dalesio created a spreadsheet tallying the results of their digging, including searches of public records, among them previously unseen state calculations of lost business; they interviewed corporate leaders and state and local officials. And they were able to put a hard minimum figure on huge losses to the state economy even as legislators were negotiating a revision of HB2. “The deal was struck,” The New York Times noted, “days after The Associated Press reported that the backlash against the law would cost North Carolina at least $3.7 billion in business over 12 years.”

The timely exclusive by Drew and Dalesio is the Beat of the Week.

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June 11, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Daring AP team crosses front lines to report on Ethiopia’s Tigray rebels and war’s civilian victims

Since the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia broke out seven months ago, news coverage has necessarily focused on those who fled the region. And AP journalists have delivered that coverage since November. But few journalists could reach areas under the control of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the party of Tigray’s now-fugitive leaders. Access was refused by the Ethiopian military. Until now.

AP’s Kampala, Uganda, correspondent Rodney Muhumuza and the Nairobi, Kenya-based team of Khaled Kazziha, Ben Curtis and Desmond Tiro made it through to the town of Hawzen with determination, teamwork and skill. 

Once there, and knowing the risks, the all-formats team limited themselves to less than an hour in the town, during which they reported exclusively on the TPLF fighters then occupying it. Hours after the journalists left, government troops shelled the town and recaptured it. The team later interviewed displaced victims of the conflict, including child amputees. The resulting multiformat story used the Hawzen as an example of the challenges facing Ethiopian authorities in the region. 

For smart, careful and courageous reporting to become the first outside journalists since the conflict started to interview fighters loyal to the TPLF, Muhumuza, Curtis, Kazziha and Tiro earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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May 05, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

At middle-of-the-night removal of Confederate statue in New Orleans, AP offers exclusive

AP’s race and ethnicity beat writer Jesse J. Holland was on vacation in Mississippi when a source called with a tip: New Orleans’ mayor was ordering the removal of the first of four Confederate-related statues in the middle of the night to avoid a racially-charged scene in the city.

Holland’s quick work to negotiate an exclusive on the monument’s removal, including an interview with the mayor, and photographer Gerald Herbert’s dramatic pre-dawn photos and video, earn the Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 14, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation reveals torture in Yemen’s Houthi rebel prisons

AP investigative reporter Maggie Michael has done landmark reporting on Yemen’s civil war throughout the past year, revealing abuses by the Saudi-led coalition that controls much of the south of the country.

But there had been a major gap in the coverage for all media: putting the same scrutiny on the other side in the conflict, the Houthi rebels who control the north. The Houthis impose strict controls on reporters, and sources are afraid to talk, problems that have prevented journalists from reporting in-depth on abuses carried out by the Houthis during the 4-year-old civil war.

Michael found another way. She and Cairo photographer Nariman El-Mofty travelled to the coalition-controlled city of Marib, where they could meet freely with victims of the Houthis who had fled the rebels’ rule. There, former prisoners described horrifying tortures at the hands of the Houthis. Nariman’s riveting visuals encapsulated the suffering, including photos of a man recovering from horrific acid burns, draped in red bandages.

The reporting, supported partly by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, was a breakthrough, as it has been rare to see atrocities by Houthis so prominently featured. Rather than denying the story, a top Houthi figure called for an investigation into allegations of torture in the movement’s prisons.

For their investigation that exposed in raw, excruciating detail the scope of torture committed by the Houthis, Michael and El-Mofty share AP's Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 18, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Determined reporting, solid sourcing and regional expertise put AP ahead on Ukraine coverage

AP journalists Matt Lee and Vladimir Isachenkov, along with colleagues covering the ongoing Ukraine-Russia crisis, delivered on AP’s promise — fast, accurate, contextualized reporting on one of the world’s most complex stories.

Diplomatic writer Lee and fellow Washington staffers worked sources late into a Friday evening to score a lengthy beat over the competition, breaking the news that the U.S. was evacuating most of its embassy personnel from Ukraine. Other news organizations needed hours to catch up to the story. Moscow-based Isachenkov, drawing on his deep knowledge of the region, has not only been the lead writer for on-the-ground spot developments, but has contributed a wealth of stories explaining the nuances, strategies and background behind the breaking news.

The work of Lee and Isachenkov capped a streak of remarkable all-formats coverage by AP teams in Ukraine, including standout visuals.

For well-sourced, steadfast reporting that has consistently kept the AP ahead on the Ukraine crisis, Lee and Isachenkov, in collaboration with dedicated colleagues, earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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July 20, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

APNewsBreak reveals renewed investigation into Emmett Till killing

The killing of black teenager Emmett Till remains one of the most notorious crimes in American history, unresolved more than 60 years later. The 14-year-old boy was lynched after being accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955, a case that shocked the nation and helped inspire the civil rights movement. Alabama correspondent Jay Reeves has doggedly pursued any developments in the case over the years, and last week came away with a bombshell: the investigation was being reopened.

For that exclusive, Reeves wins the Beat of the Week.

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May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, teamwork deliver scoop on federal charges in Floyd killing

delivered a 20-minute beat on the news that four former officers involved in the death of George Floyd were indicted on federal civil rights charges — an unusual move for the Justice Department because three of the officers haven’t faced state trial yet.Balsamo had learned that the federal charges were imminent, and Forliti worked her sources to get the full story: off-the-record details about the still-sealed indictment that allowed her to write robust, fully-formed prep. She was even tipped off that the charges would drop early Friday morning.But when that didn't happen, a source quietly tipped Forliti to phone into a federal hearing happening live. The officers were appearing in federal court, with the charges still sealed. The AP pair — possibly the only reporters listening during the hearing — put out a fast cover story that the former cops were facing federal charges. Balsamo then went to his sources, asking them to send the indictment, because, while it hadn’t been made public yet, he had heard the judge order it made public. AP soon had the indictment. He and Forliti filed alerts, writethrus loaded with context and a full story within 15 minutes. Forliti also filed a video brief on the charges. Meanwhile, no one matched their story for a full 20 minutes, and major national publications were 40 minutes or more behind the AP. Even the hometown Star Tribune used AP’s story on its website.https://bit.ly/3tJ9YYqhttps://bit.ly/3w2BvFF

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