March 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Conspiracy, lies and social media: AP finds state, local GOP officials promoting online disinformation

After the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, investigative reporters Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza and Juliet Linderman wanted to know if local, county and state Republican officials across the country were continuing to amplify online messages similar to those that had inspired the riot, and what they hoped to accomplish by doing so.

The trio turned to data journalist Larry Fenn, AP statehouse reporters and a comprehensive archive of the Parler social media platform. A third-party algorithm matched public officials to their Parler accounts, allowing an unprecedented look at GOP officials’ unfiltered posts on the right-wing aligned site. The analysis of Parler and other alternative platforms identified a faction of lower-level Republican officials that have pushed lies, misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories echoing those that fueled the violent U.S. Capitol siege.

For harnessing the power of social media analysis, data science and AP’s state-level expertise to reveal how lies and misinformation from the 2020 election have reached deep into the GOP’s state apparatus, Burke, Mendoza, Linderman and Fenn win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 25, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Armed with sensitivity and hard facts, AP talks with ‘Big Lie’ believers

deftly explored political conspiracy theories and those who embrace them, traveling to Wisconsin where thousands of Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters recently gathered to hear speakers, including the former president himself on video, push the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.The subject is challenging to report without bringing more attention to the conspiracies or needlessly demeaning adherents who, though deeply misguided, genuinely believe the lies that are being advanced. Yet this work is critical to understanding the political dynamics that are unfolding every day in the U.S.Colvin’s story stands out from much of the reporting on this right-wing movement because she took the time to listen — really listen — to the people who attended and to understand what motivates them to accept outlandish theories.But Colvin didn’t hold back. Rather than relying on vague adjectives or stock fact-checking paragraphs, she built a narrative that repeatedly points to concrete evidence of what actually happened in the 2020 election. Using direct and pointed language, the White House reporter makes clear that these baseless claims are completely false and part of a broader pattern of events centered on deceit. “Taken together, the gatherings have gelled into a convention circuit of delusion centered on the false premise that the election was stolen,” she wrote.The result is revealing and distinctive journalism. Brian Stelter led his widely read media newsletter with Colvin’s story, saying it “perfectly sums up this moment in politics.” https://aplink.news/gau

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Nov. 15, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP launches ‘misinformation team’ to expose false info

members of AP’s first misinformation beat team focusing on explaining falsehoods, propaganda and conspiracy theories while exposing the creators of this material and their techniques for dissemination. The team launched with two strong international stories – one exposing a propaganda campaign around the Turkish invasion into northern Syria, the other providing a deep look at how tech companies are grappling with the threat of online misinformation ahead of December’s UK election.https://bit.ly/2QnszJAhttps://bit.ly/378Y3sY

Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals Walmart, Amazon donations to Q-linked lawmaker

reviewed campaign finance records and social media posts, finding that Walmart, Amazon and other corporate giants donated to the reelection campaign of a Tennessee lawmaker who had amplified and promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory. Milligan helped compile and review Federal Election Commission data for 81 current or former congressional candidates who have expressed support for or interest in QAnon. The AP analysis showed that dozens of QAnon-promoting candidates have run for federal or state offices during this election cycle. Collectively, they have raised nearly $5 million from thousands of donors. Individually, however, most of them have run poorly financed campaigns with little or no corporate or party backing. Kunzelman’s story showed up in more than 200 news outlets with strong engagement, including Hollywood director Judd Apatow, who tweeted a link to his 2.4 million followers. https://bit.ly/3j0AnfH

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Pence planned to attend event hosted by QAnon supporters

teamed up to break an exclusive: Vice President Mike Pence planned to attend a Montana fundraiser hosted by a couple that has expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. After other news organizations matched AP’s reporting, Pence revised his schedule and did not attend.Slodysko used his source network and background research, and Kunzleman contributed his deep knowledge of extremist groups and movements to not only break news of the fundraiser and its hosts, but also provide context about how the fringe QAnon theory is gaining a foothold in the Republican Party. https://bit.ly/3cbzwGE

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Sept. 22, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cuba mystery deepens: AP first with details of 'health attacks' against US diplomats

When news first broke in early August about mysterious incidents involving U.S. diplomats in Cuba, the AP was all over the story, beating the competition to several key early details. These included talk among officials about a possible “sonic attack” and suspicions that ranged from Cuban culpability to possible intervention by an outside culprit like Russia.

But so many questions were left unanswered. And with the FBI deep into one of the most perplexing investigations in modern diplomatic history, U.S. officials in the State Department, White House and elsewhere were saying as little as possible about what they were learning.

That’s when the Washington bureau put together a multi-beat team of reporters to try to put the pieces together. Their comprehensive work wins Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 24, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Powered by facts: AP investigation undercuts Trump voter fraud claims, prompts rare interview

Former President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 presidential election and his efforts to spread the false claim that widespread voter fraud cost him a second term raised a critical question: How much voter fraud occurred in the six crucial battleground states disputed by Trump?

Turns out, just 473 potential cases in those states. Many of the cases involved Republicans and virtually every case was an individual acting alone rather than coordinated fraud.

AP’s finding was the result of an exhaustive investigation by a team of reporters, data journalists and others, based on detailed fact checks of the vote entries for every county in each of the six states. The investigation also led to an exceptionally rare recorded phone interview with the former president in which he repeated his unfounded conspiracy theories but could find no fault with AP’s reporting.

The story made headlines and was widely cited. For meticulous reporting and analysis that revealed the actual attention-grabbing sliver of voter fraud cases, the team of Christina A. Cassidy, Scott Bauer, Bob Christie, David Eggert, Camille Fassett, Anthony Izaguirre, Shawn Marsh, Anna Nichols, Michelle Price, Ed White and Corey Williams is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Records confirm Trump devotees fueled US Capitol riot

led an effort to dig into the backgrounds of more than 120 people who were either arrested or emerged on social media after storming the U.S. Capitol, finding they were overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, including Republican Party officials and donors and far-right militants.AP’s fast-breaking team effort to review social media posts, voter registrations, court files and other public records was the most comprehensive look yet at those involved in the riot, giving lie to claims by right-wing pundits that the violence was perpetrated by left-wing antifa infiltrators. The detailed background work included calls, and in some cases even doorknocks, to nearly all whose names emerged from the Jan. 6 takeover.The AP found that many of the rioters were adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory as well as claims by Trump that the vote had been stolen. Several had openly threatened violence against Democrats and Republicans they considered insufficiently loyal to the president.The team’s story, accompanied by AP photos taken inside the Capitol, scored huge play and was featured prominently on major websites. It stayed among the top stories on AP News for two straight days. https://bit.ly/2Kd7Tn1

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Feb. 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Investigation: China, others spread theory that US created COVID

collaborated on a nine-month investigation of the AP’s investigative and fact-checking teams, in a joint effort with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Lab. They found that China, Russia, and Iran — drawing on one another’s online disinformation — amplified false theories that the COVID-19 virus was a U.S. bioweapon created in a military lab or was designed by Washington to infect their countries. The resulting in-depth investigation, bolstered by an immersive digital presentation and an explanatory video, provided a comprehensive look at the online battle between Washington, Moscow, Tehran and Beijing to control the narrative about the origins of the pandemic.The package of stories was widely used by news organizations around the world, including by the South China Morning News and Germany’s DW News.https://bit.ly/37L711shttps://bit.ly/2O2N1Awhttps://bit.ly/2MpNQ5S

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Feb. 12, 2021

Best of the States

AP analysis: In the US, a centuries-old race war continues to rage against people of color

As AP race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison covered the protests that grew out of the 2020 killings of George Floyd and others, he also saw President Donald Trump on TV, trying to undermine the racial reckoning at every turn.

Fast forward to Jan. 6, when a mob of mostly white rioters, upset that Trump wasn't reelected, violently breached the U.S. Capitol. Morrison connected the dots of what he described as a war of white aggression. “A war rages on in America,” Morrison wrote in this analysis piece, “It started with slavery and never ended ...” 

With powerful video by Noreen Nasir, portraits by Chris Carlson and presentation by Alyssa Goodman, the package received prominent play and sparked discussion both online and within the AP.

For a timely, compelling package that looks at the state of race relations with historical context and thoughtful analysis, the team of Morrison, Nasir, Carlson and Goodman earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 17, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

20th anniversary coverage of 9/11 touches all corners of AP

came together in September 2001 for an unprecedented news challenge that ushered in a new era. Twenty years later it reconvened to help make sense of the world that 9/11 left behind. It did so with style, substance and an unerring customer focus — and by harnessing the power of the global news organization.

The early brief called for chronicling the changes in the world without being merely a look back. With that in mind, AP staffers around the world started brainstorming last spring. Robust communication with customers, who wanted their material early, was baked into the process from the outset, as was a platform that showcased content eagerly sought by AP members and clients.Throughout the summer, staffers worked to capture a broad variety of themes: the rise of conspiracy theories, changes in air travel, the experiences of Muslim Americans since 9/11 and the legacy of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to name just a few. Newly revealing first-person accounts from AP staffers who were there that day showed what it was like to live through Sept. 11.Longtime Afghanistan correspondent Kathy Gannon took a break from dangerous spot coverage to write the opening installment of the anniversary package, and the “centerpieces” that moved in advance of Sept. 11 represented AP coverage at its very best: global, multiformat, customer-focused and brimming with the expertise of journalists who have covered their respective disciplines for years, if not decades. Each day brought innovative video, compelling photos, insightful writing and a new, richly designed digital presentation bringing it all together.The work was amplified by sharp curation and advance social media work. And on the anniversary itself, AP’s East Region and Washington bureau collaborated to chronicle a nation still in mourning but also moving on. https://apnews.com/hub/9-11-a-...

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Jan. 14, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘You had me at AP’: Sweeping coverage of Jan. 6 anniversary showcases AP’s depth and range

Rolled out over the week of Jan. 6, AP's one-year anniversary coverage of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol stood out in a highly competitive field, with exclusive content across text, photos and video, including an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Weeks of preparation and reporting paid off in broad, deep, insightful coverage. Among the offerings: lawmakers recounting their experiences inside the Capitol on the fateful day, a profile of protester Ashli Babbitt, AP staffers’ first-person accounts of covering the riot, the stubborn hold of conspiracy theories, teachers around the country debating how to teach the event, and much more.

Photos and video were no less compelling, highlighted by the exclusive and widely used on-camera interview of Pelosi, who chose to sit down with AP rather than the networks on the eve of the anniversary.

For demonstrating the AP’s ability to deliver best-in-class content across platforms on this major anniversary, the team behind the Jan. 6 coverage is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In time for Super Bowl, AP explores uneasy Mexican avocado trade

Mexico City reporter Mark Stevenson took advantage of a temporary U.S. ban on Mexican avocado imports to explain, to an international audience of guacamole-crazed readers, the social strife, environmental impact and political forces at play in Mexico's avocado industry.Stevenson’s flurry of five stories started on Super Bowl Sunday with a piece about Mexico acknowledging that a U.S. plant safety inspector had been threatened in Mexico, prompting the U.S. ban. The piece ended up being the top-performing story on AP News, exceeding even the Super Bowl. And over the course of the week he went on to report extensively on factors surrounding the ban and Mexico’s avocado industry more broadly.Stevenson had plenty of context for his stories: At the end of the January he was part of an all-formats team that explored the intersection of avocados, deforestation and organized crime in Michoacan state. Read more

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March 30, 2018

Best of the States

Multi-format team dominates coverage of Austin serial bombing

Three previous bombings had put Austin on edge for weeks, triggering a manhunt involving 500-plus federal agents and prompting residents to flood 911 operators with calls about suspicious-looking packages. Reporters soon inundated Texas’ capital.

When emergency personnel reported another explosion late on a Sunday night, Austin correspondent Will Weissert quickly called sources and reported that the blast was a bomb. Newsman Paul J. Weber rushed to the scene and soon confirmed the same bomber had struck a fourth time.

In the days that followed, Weber and Houston video journalist John Mone drove continuous coverage across all formats as another bomb exploded inside a FedEx processing center, and Weber broke the news that authorities were predicting an imminent arrest. As authorities closed in, the suspected bomber blew himself up around 2 a.m. the following day. A coordinated effort by Weissert, Weber and Mone, joined by Austin newsman Jim Vertuno, San Antonio photographer Eric Gay, Fort Worth correspondent Emily Schmall and Iowa City's Ryan J. Foley continued to break news and dominate play.

Throughout the week, AP also produced nuanced, multi-platform reporting on how police track cell phones, shipping facilities screen packages and how the bombings shook Austin’s chill attitude.

For their tireless and aggressive efforts to break news by mining sources, searching records and knocking on countless doors, journalists Will Weissert, Jim Vertuno, Paul Weber, Eric Gay, John L. Mone, Emily Schmall and Ryan Foley share this week’s Best of the States.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP breaks news on the opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma, with focus on victims

AP reporters from three different teams broke distinctive, significant stories on the continuing drug overdose crisis in the U.S., which has been overshadowed this year by the coronavirus pandemic:

— A state-level report showing that overdose deaths are on pace to reach an all-time high this year, and that overdoses increased after the virus began spreading in the U.S.— An accountability story on President Donald Trump’s handling of the opioid crisis, and how the issue has been overlooked in the presidential race.— A major scoop on a settlement between the federal government and Purdue Pharma, complete with details of criminal charges and the $8 billion settlement. 

But the depth of coverage didn’t end with the major news beats. All three stories put victims at the center of the reporting. 

For revealing stories that broke news and provided a powerful reminder of an ongoing epidemic that has contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans, Mike Stobbe, Adrian Sainz, Farnoush Amiri, Geoff Mulvihill, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Balsamo win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 02, 2018

Best of the States

AP scores multiple scoops on sprawling mail bomb investigation

When an explosive device was found at the suburban New York property of liberal megadonor George Soros, it raised a few eyebrows with just two weeks to go until the midterm election. When a second device was found addressed to Hillary Clinton, the mail bombs targeting critics of President Trump became the dominant story in the country, political and otherwise, for the better part of a week.

The AP broke the news of the connection between the Soros and Clinton devices, making it clear something broader was afoot, the first in a series of scoops keying a sprawling, days-long effort across regions and formats.

Driving the coverage of the investigation into what became more than a dozen homemade bombs sent to prominent Democrats was the Washington law enforcement crew comprised of Colleen Long, Mike Balsamo, Michael Biesecker and Eric Tucker, and law enforcement writers Jim Mustian in New York and Curt Anderson in Miami.

Play across formats was overwhelming. NewsWhip tracked Friday’s mainbar alone, on the suspect's arrest, getting more than 125,000 page views on apnews.com and the app. Among the more widely used stories by customers: a fast but deep profile of the bombing suspect, co-bylined by Washington reporters Michael Biesecker and Stephen Braun and relying heavily on reporting from Miami intern Ellis Rua.

For their beats highlighting the AP’s broad, collaborative and competitive effort, Long, Tucker, Balsamo, Biesecker, Braun, Mustian, Anderson and Rua share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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