Sept. 21, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP and partners document Puerto Rico hurricane deaths

Colleagues,

Welcome to Best of the Week.

This officially marks a rebirth of sorts for our weekly global staff contest, which celebrates some of the best work from around the AP world.

This week’s winner celebrates a great team effort by colleagues in Latin America and beyond, as well as a really productive partnership with two other news organizations. It’s creative and insightful work that breaks news and includes great visual journalism and innovative presentation. It rose to the top of an impressive field of entries.

Today, and each Friday going forward, the weekly winner is revealed at the Global News Meeting at 9:15 a.m. ET, which all AP staff are invited to attend.

Please join me in congratulating this week’s honorees.

BC

Since the early days after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, the debate over the death toll has raged. The Trump administration seized on initial reports that fewer than 100 people had died, but those numbers belied the scope of the devastation. The storm left the island without electricity for months, hospitals and other key infrastructure shuttered, roads unpassable and pharmacies closed.

In June, Caribbean News Director Mike Weissenstein in Havana forged a partnership with Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism and U.S.-based news site Quartz to undertake the most comprehensive list to date of Puerto Ricans who died in the wake of the storm.

For the project, Weissenstein, San Juan newswoman Danica Coto, Washington-based data journalist Larry Fenn, New York-based reporter Claudia Torrens, Miami-based reporter Gisela Salomon, Washington-based reporters Luis Alonso and Ben Fox, as well as senior Havana-based producer Chris Gillette, Havana photographer Ramon Espinosa, Santo Domingo reporter Ezequiel Lopez Blanco, Mexico-based digital producer Dario Lopez, New York-based motion graphics producer Peter Hamlin and enterprise editor Raghuram Vadarevu, based in Phoenix, share the Best of the Week award-

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July 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Overdose deaths for Black American soar during pandemic

teamed up to make AP first to report on how the pandemic exacerbated the spread of opioid addiction among Black Americans. Their story focused on St. Louis, bringing to light a new consequence of the coronavirus and racial injustice, major themes of the past year, showing that the pandemic accelerated a trend that was already in the works: The spread of opioid addiction from mostly rural, white communities to more urban, Black neighborhoods. The reporting placed this trend squarely in a history of drug addiction in America that has long discriminated against Black people, and described how even today, the best drug abuse treatment is more accessible to white people than to Black people. As one doctor put it, the soaring death rate from drug addiction has become a pressing civil rights issue. The story was sensitively told in text, photos and video, with poignant details, including one mother fearing her son’s overdose death for so long that she paid for his funeral in monthly installments. The care taken in telling this story was rewarded with AP’s second-highest reader engagement metrics of the day.https://aplink.news/ak7https://aplink.video/ce5https://aplink.photos/kgr

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Nov. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP documents the surge in non-COVID deaths due to nursing home neglect

An exclusive analysis conducted for AP showed that in the shadow of the pandemic, a quiet surge in non-COVID “excess deaths” in U.S. nursing homes could top 40,000 above and beyond what is normal. 

To find out why, the AP team of reporters Matt Sedensky and Bernard Condon, with video journalist Allen Breed and colleagues, interviewed nursing home authorities and family members, documenting severe cases of neglect and prolonged isolation for residents not infected with the virus, much of it due to chronic understaffing. The text story and video piece received prominent play and were among the most widely viewed on the AP News app on the day of publication. 

For exposing a grim consequence of the pandemic affecting an already vulnerable population, the team of Sedensky, Condon and Breed earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 17, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: US nursing home deaths surge past 3,600

did what the federal government has not: keeping count of U.S. nursing home deaths as they have exploded in the coronavirus pandemic, rising from 450 to nearly 4,000 in less than two weeks. Herschaft independently built a tally from the state health departments, and for states that don’t provide such numbers he scoured media reports on outbreaks across the nation. At the same time, Condon’s reporting added valuable context on the massive gaps that exist in government transparency on this issue. That resulted in a sweeping story that saw massive play on a very busy coronavirus weekend. https://bit.ly/2z5aMjN

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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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July 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Only on AP: Families take legal action over nursing home deaths

gained the trust of French families mourning their loved ones to deliver a heart-rending, intimate and powerful character-driven Only on AP exclusive. With weeks of reporting, including reams of documents and dozens of interviews, the pair told in gripping detail of the growing legal battle being fought by grieving relatives to find how and why their elderly family members died behind the sealed doors of nursing homes in lockdown.https://bit.ly/3gfK2xmhttps://bit.ly/3dPI2tW

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Feb. 05, 2021

Best of the States

AP months ahead of New York state in identifying undercount of nursing home deaths

When AP reported exclusively last August that New York state was undercounting its COVID nursing home death toll by thousands, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped the story as part of a politically motivated “blame game.”

But the state’s own investigation, announced last week, reached a nearly identical conclusion, affirming AP’s reporting.

AP’s 2020 investigation had seized on the fact that New York counts just residents who died at nursing homes, not those who were transported to hospitals and died there. AP’s analysis of federal data indicated that the state’s official toll was undercounted by 65%, or well over 4,000 deaths. 

For sharp reporting that led the media pack, withstood criticism from the governor and months later was vindicated, this week’s Best of the States award goes to Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Meghan Hoyer (now data director at The Washington Post).

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Oct. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: First reports of starvation deaths in Tigray

continued AP’s standout coverage of conflict in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, revealing evidence of the first starvation deaths since the Ethiopian government imposed a blockade in June.Getting any information at all out of Tigray right now is a coup — the government has blocked Internet access and humanitarian groups are terrified to talk to the press for fear of being thrown out of the region. Despite these conditions, Nairobi-based East Africa correspondent Anna managed to paint a picture of the desperate food shortage in Tigray.Anna obtained internal documents showing that an aid group reported starvation deaths in every single district it covered, the most extensive account yet of the blockade’s impact. She also obtained a list of items aid workers are no longer allowed to bring into Tigray — multivitamins, can openers, even personal medicines.

The story clearly exposed the government’s assertion of no hunger in Tigray as a lie, the latest example of AP holding the government accountable for what is turning into a humanitarian catastrophe.Any story on famine relies strongly on visuals. With no access to the region, Nairobi-based chief photographer Ben Curtis dedicated himself to securing the necessary permissions and added information to use exclusive handout photos from sources in Tigray, including a former hospital director. The photos are horrifying, showing children on the brink of starvation, including one child who died.AP’s story drew widespread attention and praise. Anna was interviewed by the BBC World Service and NPR, and the piece was tweeted, including by Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Other news organizations have followed AP’s lead on the story. https://aplink.news/3hq

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Aug. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP analysis: NY State is likely undercounting nursing home deaths

analyzed available data to show that New York’s coronavirus death toll in nursing homes, already among the nation’s highest, is likely undercounted by thousands. New York is the only state among those with major outbreaks that only counts residents who died on nursing home property, not in hospitals, leading to speculation the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is manipulating its figures to make it appear it is doing better on nursing homes than other states. https://bit.ly/2DUz6Yz

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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

Aug. 07, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Virus-linked hunger tied to 10,000 more child deaths each month

made AP the first news organization to report that coronavirus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to the United Nations.The story was sparked by a riveting set of photos and video by Mednick, showing an emaciated baby in Burkina Faso who had lost half her (already low) birth weight because her mother couldn’t feed her enough. Hinnant decided to tell the story of the worldwide increase in hunger through children, arranging with the United Nations to share the grim statistics with AP.The numbers went along with a global effort to talk to children, families, doctors and aid workers across five countries in various regions. In reporting on Yemen, AP went back to the family with a hungry baby whom we had spoken to previously – only to find out that the baby had died.The widely used story struck a nerve with readers, some of whom reached out seeking to help the families.https://bit.ly/3kenos1https://bit.ly/2F2DJjv

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April 22, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team tells the poignant stories behind ‘empty spaces’ as US nears 1 million COVID deaths

A team of AP journalists collaborated on an ambitious and innovative project to capture the approaching toll of 1 million U.S. deaths from COVID: They looked for the empty spaces, then told the stories of the individuals who had filled them. And they let the voices of those left behind reveal the mosaic of loss that has forever marked the country.

In true AP fashion, the package came together with extensive coordination across departments and formats, resulting in compelling content and an immersive presentation that resonated with customers and engaged the audience. The stories emerged among the most popular on AP News throughout the weekend and will be republished when the official toll hits 1 million. But the greatest barometer of success may have come came in the words of grateful loved ones of those featured in the stories.

For bringing fresh eyes and new voice to the once-unimaginable loss that will shape the way we live for years to come, the team of Adam Geller, David Goldman, Shelby Lum, Carla K. Johnson, Heather Hollingsworth, Samantha Shotzbarger and Elise Ryan is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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March 05, 2021

Best of the States

AP journalists deliver outstanding all-formats coverage to mark 500,000 COVID deaths in US

The U.S. surpassed a solemn milestone on Feb. 22 with 500,000 COVID-19 deaths — a moment in the pandemic that required thoughtful planning and storytelling, and precise execution across the AP for the coverage to stand out.

Editors began planning weeks in advance. They wanted impactful photo and video packages, lightning-fast spot coverage of the milestone being reached, and a text story to anchor the report that was different from AP’s previous recognition of 100,000, 250,000 and 400,000 deaths. 

The result was a package that resonated in all formats.

For meeting the grim milestone with compelling, comprehensive coverage, the team of Adam Geller, Jocelyn Gecker, Alyssa Goodman, Pete Brown, Eugene Garcia, Manuel Valdes and Krysta Fauria wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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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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July 06, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

An AP blockbuster: Algeria forces 13,000 migrants into the desert, some to their deaths

“Here in the desert, Algeria has abandoned more than 13,000 people in the past 14 months, including pregnant women and children, stranding them without food or water and forcing them to walk, sometimes at gunpoint, under temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit).”

With that chilling declaration, the AP opened a new chapter in the ongoing, global saga of migrant suffering. Reporter Lori Hinnant and visual journalists Jerome Delay and Bram Janssen revealed the Algerian government’s complicity in a horror that had gone unreported – and had led to the deaths of an unknown number of migrants. Their exclusive story is the Beat of the Week.

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