Jan. 06, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘I want to be with Carrie’: At Reynolds and Fisher deaths, AP gets exclusives

When Carrie Fisher died, generations lamented the loss of their Princess Leia. But when actress Debbie Reynolds died a day later, the near-simultaneous passings of mother and daughter were seen worldwide as an epic tragedy.

It was AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen who first reached Fisher’s brother, Todd, to confirm that his sister had been hospitalized. Days later, it was AP Television Writer Lynn Elber who first reached Todd Fisher to confirm the unthinkable -- that his mother had died, as well. Their sterling work is the Beat of the Week.

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Sept. 28, 2018

Best of the States

How 65 women came to Kavanaugh's defense in a matter of hours

Within hours of their high school friend being accused publicly of sexual assault against a young woman 36 years ago, 65 women stepped forward to sign a letter supporting Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was now at risk.

Many in newsrooms asked themselves, how was it possible that 65 people could be marshalled so quickly to attest to someone’s moral character, including people who may not have seen Kavanaugh in decades. Reporters in four states, Jennifer Peltz in New York, Michael Kunzelman in Baltimore, Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston and Dan Sewell in Ohio, set out to reach every single one.

They learned that the campaign had started with phone calls among several high-school friends of Kavanaugh, and organizers used social media to expand their search.

The story, demonstrating AP's ability to marshal staffers across state lines on a tight timeline, was the top non-spot story of the week.

For their efforts, Shafner, Peltz, Kunzelman, Richer and Sewell share this week's Best of the States award.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reveals that Barrett was trustee for schools with anti-gay policies

Supreme Court nominees are scrutinized for signs of how they may vote on important issues, but Amy Coney Barrett’s jurisprudence told little about her views on gay rights.

Reporters Michelle R. Smith and Michael Biesecker knew that Barrett’s ties to People of Praise, a religious group with anti-gay views, could be an important part of her confirmation process. Through dogged reporting and source work they were able to show that Barrett was a trustee at People of Praise-run schools that had anti-gay teachings. 

Their story had an immediate impact in the run-up to her Oct. 26 Senate confirmation. For thorough and groundbreaking reporting on the tightly held views of a justice likely to sit in judgment of high-profile gay rights cases, Smith and Biesecker win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the States

Records reveal Virginia attorney-lawmaker privilege that delays court proceedings

Sometimes accountability stories are hiding in plain sight, but getting to them requires first recognizing the potential and then doing a whole lot of digging. Virginia reporter Sarah Rankin did both of those things. 

After seeing a one-sentence mention in a legal trade publication, Rankin began the hunt for a deeper story about a continuance privilege granted to lawyer-legislators, and how one Virginia lawmaker used the privilege to consistently delay court hearings. 

Rankin plowed through records of cases that involved Virginia lawmaker Jeff Campbell, the defense attorney for a one-time NASCAR race driver accused of domestic violence. She found that Campbell had employed the continuance privilege at least 30 times over three years, more than double any other lawyer-legislator.

For seizing on the brief mention, then following up with determined reporting that revealed a potential for abuse by lawyer-lawmakers in Virginia and elsewhere, Rankin wins the week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 31, 2018

Best of the States

Tibbetts murder suspect lived, worked on land linked to GOP fundraiser

Within hours of the news that the man charged with killing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts was a Mexican citizen believed to be in the United States illegally, Republican leaders from President Donald Trump to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds injected the case into the political debate, blaming lax immigration policies for allowing the man into the community.

Amid such comments, Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley got a tip from two longtime Republican Party sources: The suspect lived on land partly owned by Nicole Schlinger, one of the party’s most prolific national fundraisers, the sources said.

Foley was determined to discover whether that was true. He obtained property records showing Schlinger and her husband owned the farm trailer where Rivera had lived, and her husband was president of the farm. Foley then got confirmation from Schlinger, who had avoided his questions for days.

Further, Schlinger’s fundraising client list included anti-illegal-immigration hard-liners, including Reynolds, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and even the Stop Sanctuary Cities PAC.

The story was used extensively by Iowa newspapers and was a big online hit, with hundreds of postings and 40,000 Facebook interactions.

For scooping local and national competitors on a high-interest topic even as he reported on spot developments, Ryan Foley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 07, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Greece plans floating barricade against migrants

for scooping even the Greek media with news that the Greek government plans to introduce a floating barrier to stop migrants from reaching the country’s islands from nearby Turkey.Gatopoulos noticed a mention of the floating barrier idea on a fringe website, then trawled through Greece’s labyrinthine online portal until he found the original document with technical details of the floating fence. He eventually managed to get official confirmation from the defense ministry even though the project still hadn't been officially announced. https://bit.ly/31ruGzs

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Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the States

AP ties Supreme Court nominee to faith group said to subjugate women

When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Barrett and her supporters clearly did not want to discuss the nominee’s reported ties to a religious group called People of Praise.

Enter reporters Michelle Smith and Michael Biesecker. Using on-the-record interviews and an archive of deleted web pages, the pair documented Barrett's deep ties to the charismatic Christian group and painted a detailed picture of the organization’s beliefs and practices from its early days to the present. And the reporters went on to reveal how the organization had systematically deleted all mentions of Barrett and her family from its website.

For deep, resourceful reporting that sheds new light on the current Supreme Court nominee on the cusp of her confirmation hearings, Smith and Biesecker share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Comprehensive coverage of abortion case before Supreme Court

delivered standout all-formats coverage as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Mississippi’s abortion law, a highly charged case with national implications for abortion rights. AP showcased its range and depth with previews of the case, spot coverage and analysis, and context on decades of abortion law. Looking well beyond the case itself, AP reported on the potential impact of the court’s pending decision.AP’s accomplished Supreme Court journalists, Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko, provided textbook setup pieces ahead of the case, then, once arguments were underway, used the seamless procedure they have perfected to report oral arguments from inside and outside of the court. News associate Parker Purifoy added color from outside the courthouse.At the same time, Washington colleagues Jill Colvin and Hannah Fingerhut, along with New York-based Steve Peoples and David Crary, reported on the legal landscape that will follow any opinion, as well as public opinion and the potential political ramifications of the case. Washington’s Lisa Mascaro delved into the confirmation hearings of the various justices, raising questions over the reliability of those hearings for their future rulings on the high court.On the ground in Mississippi, South Region staffers Emily Wagster Pettus and Leah Willingham, with an assist from Sudhin Thanawala, produced a vivid story of what the day of the arguments looked like at the source.Washington’s Ashraf Khalil rounded out the reporting on what the future may look like with an analysis of the coming battle over abortion laws, while Sherman and Austin’s Paul J. Weber explored what a post-Roe world might look like through the eyes of Texans, where the nation’s most restrictive abortion law is in effect.Visuals elevated the coverage, including still photos from Washington photographers Andrew Harnik and Luis Magana, and video from Nathan Ellgren and Rick Gentilo, as well as scores of others who made AP’s coverage a collaborative effort.https://aplink.news/eo3https://aplink.news/072https://aplink.news/hhghttps://aplink.news/dtkhttps://aplink.news/8kthttps://aplink.news/9d4https://aplink.news/fe3https://aplink.video/m0ehttps://aplink.video/z5z

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

APNewsBreak: More than 300 accusers in Ohio State doctor scandal

for dogged source work and thorough reporting to confirm the growing number of sexual misconduct accusers against the late Ohio State team doctor, Richard Strauss, Franko has covered the scandal from the beginning and has deep sources, but nailing down the number of accusers has been difficult. Because the lawyers have been tight-lipped about the mediation process, Franko stayed in touch with some of the plaintiffs even if they would talk only off the record. The subject of the growing number of accusers came up during one such conversation, and Franko started checking with some of the lawyers to confirm it. She learned enough to prep a draft story, and when she finally got multiple confirmations and comment, she had the story ready to roll out: More than 300 accusers have come forward. The APNewsBreak was used by the hometown Columbus Dispatch and received wide play online with solid engagement on social media. https://bit.ly/2MFdD8F

Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Feds probing in-custody death of Black man in Louisiana

reported exclusively on the launch of a federal investigation into the death last year of Ronald Greene, a Black man in Louisiana, following what state troopers say was a struggle at the end of a traffic chase. It is a long-simmering case in which police have refused to release any body camera video or records. Mustian’s deep reporting also included confirmation of a separate FBI civil rights investigation and the publication of graphic death photos. The probe has raised questions that the Louisiana State Police has so far refused to answer.https://bit.ly/33Zvf58https://bit.ly/33Z1yBd

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Dec. 13, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP way ahead on coverage of Pensacola base shooting

for a series of scoops in the investigation of the Pensacola naval station shooting, keeping AP ahead of national and local media in the days that followed. From Farrington’s report that investigators believed the shooter hosted a dinner party where participants viewed videos of mass shootings, to Balsamo’s confirmation of the shooter’s nationality and name, the three led coverage of one of the week’s top stories. On Monday, at least 10 Florida newspapers had the AP coverage on their front pages, including the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and Orlando Sentinel. https://bit.ly/35leT6o

March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Giving voice to Native Americans on historic Cabinet pick

produced a vignettes package that provided an unparalleled, inside look at a historic moment in Indian Country: the potential first Native American Cabinet secretary. In the days leading up to the Senate confirmation hearing for Deb Haaland, President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Interior Department, Fonseca, AP’s correspondent based in Flagstaff, Arizona, captured what this nomination meant to Native Americans on a personal level. Interviewing people of different ages, genders and tribes across the U.S., she compiled their stories into a series of vignettes and took extra steps to arrange for each source to share a photo that represented their tale. The result was a richly layered, insightful package that brought a range of unique voices to the forefront and offered a window into an important moment in Native American history.https://bit.ly/3sPv7QJhttps://bit.ly/3e9Lvr9

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April 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP confirms details of riot timeline; Pence: ‘Clear the Capitol’

used deep source work to confirm a fascinating timeline of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Washington bureau has been breaking news constantly on the Jan. 6 attack, but when homeland security reporter Ben Fox was handed a declassified goldmine, everything changed. The multipage Pentagon timeline laid out stark details about the insurrection that no one knew — even after a series of public hearings. Among the findings: Vice President Mike Pence was the one behind the scenes working to clear the Capitol, President Donald Trump was nowhere to be found and the Pentagon had so underestimated the threat that personnel were literally running from room to room trying to figure out how to manage the increasing chaos, while top lawmakers were begging for help.The AP team set out to confirm the details before publication, digging into their networks of sources and working together to parse the story out. They received quiet assurances that the timeline was accurate. The result was an exclusive narrative that set the AP far ahead of other news outlets. MSNBC did an entire on-air segment based on AP’s reporting, the story trended on Twitter, and it was AP’s most-used story of the week, still attracting readership. https://bit.ly/3ecOSfw

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March 08, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP leads fight for access and answers in Hanoi

for leading the way in two formats in Hanoi, asking tough questions of President Donald Trump and then fighting for media access when the White House retaliated. Lemire’s question to Trump about the Michael Cohen hearings prompted the White House to bar reporters – but not photographers – from a dinner for the two leaders. Vucci, recognizing the significance, quickly made a case to his fellow photographers, then approached Press Secretary Sarah Sanders: photographers would not cover the dinner unless reporters were allowed in as well. Sanders conceded to one pool reporter and one TV producer in the room, ensuring that the press – and therefore the public – had access to a historic meeting. https://bit.ly/2H4aSuC

Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work breaks news of attorney general nominee

had been asking around for weeks about President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for attorney general. They pressed their sources inside the transition once it became clear that the decision came down to just a few names.Finally, Tucker scored — a transition source gave AP the entire slate of nominees for the department, and not just the stunning choice of Merrick Garland, the former candidate for the Supreme Court who had been spurned by Republicans during the Obama administration. Also included were names for the second in command and leaders of top offices at the Department of Justice.Tucker had prepped for this and gathered his material while Balsamo checked in with another source and came back with confirmation. They swiftly filed a news alert and story, beating major news outlets by a solid half-hour. This all came two hours before the Capitol siege. The pair’s story was still picked up 580 times with some 200,000 pageviews — especially strong considering the U.S. Capitol was ransacked by rioters the same day. https://bit.ly/2XCjOOe

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP catches Georgia presidential certification announcement error

alertly caught a discrepancy in an official news release announcing that the Georgia secretary of state had certified the state’s election results, naming Joe Biden as the winner. As other news organizations rushed to publish, Brumback sought confirmation and learned that the release had been sent in error — Georgia hadn’t certified its results yet. AP quickly reported the mix-up and others had to update their stories; one major publication needed 90 minutes to correct its reporting.Catching the mistaken announcement was just the latest example of Brumback’s outstanding coverage of Georgia’s closely contested election. She relied on her deep understanding of Georgia’s voting system and a strong source network built over years. https://bit.ly/39keohM

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