June 11, 2021

Best of the States

Effects of California drought documented in compelling all-formats content and presentation

With California sinking deeper into drought as wildfire season approaches, AP set out to show the drought’s impact on vulnerable areas — beyond the orange glow of burning homes. Top freelance photographers Noah Berger and Josh Edelson teamed up with reporter Adam Beam, focusing on the six reservoirs with the lowest water levels. 

Both photographers are trained and equipped with drones; they delivered stunning visuals, including boat docks beached on dry land, charred hillside homes overlooking a lake reduced to puddle-like status and boat launches that don’t even reach the water’s edge. Meanwhile, Beam conducted interviews and visited the massive Lake Oroville reservoir, where the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century raged in 2018. 

The package was enhanced by digital storyteller Samantha Shotzbarger, who created a arresting presentation giving readers an immersive view of the evaporating reservoirs.   

For a revealing and forbidding look at the effects of California’s drought, the team of Berger, Edelson, Beam and Shotzbarger earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 27, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Vivid package examines wild horse conflict amid Western drought

collaborated on an evocative, in-depth examination of the U.S. government’s roundups of wild horses on the arid plains of the American West. The roundups have expanded during this year’s megadrought. Federal land managers say they are increasing the number of horses removed from the range to protect the parched land and the animals themselves, but wild-horse advocates accuse the government of using the conditions as an excuse to move out the iconic animals to preserve cattle grazing.Photographer Bowmer and Salt Lake City colleague Whitehurst attended a July roundup on the plains west of Salt Lake City and watched from a mountaintop perch as about 300 horses were corralled to be adopted or kept in captivity. Bowmer’s striking images include helicopters swooping low to corral the horses as the mustangs gallop away, and horses gathered around watering holes against a mountain landscape. Whitehurst and Denver reporter Anderson weaved color into the story, describing the horses’ high-pitched whinnies rising into the dry air, while explaining how the summer roundups have escalated tensions between government officials and the horse advocates. The package was used by countless members in the West and elsewhere in the country.https://aplink.news/7ulhttps://apnews.com/hub/drought...

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Sept. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: In drought-stricken West, farmers ponder water-sharing plan

teamed up on an all-formats package that used two Oregon carrot seed farmers, living just miles apart, to illustrate the deep inequities of water distribution amid crippling drought. The contrast between the two farm fields — one a virtual desert, while a short distance away sprinklers douse crops and cattle graze on green grass — illustrates the arcane water allocation rules determining who will wither and who will thrive amid the ongoing drought in the American West.Using this striking example, the journalists explored how farmers, out of necessity, are considering proposals to set up water banks that use the supply and demand principles of the free market to funnel scarce water where it’s needed most while encouraging conservation. But the concept also brings risk and resistance.Flaccus reported on the ground in and around Madras, Oregon, and shot video, while Peterson reported from Denver and produced the video, which featured Howard’s striking photos and drone footage of the drought’s impact. Top Stories Desk photo editor Alyssa Goodman in New York drew all the elements together in an engaging presentation that saw remarkable play in the West and beyond.https://aplink.news/a4uhttps://aplink.video/k19

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Sept. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: In drought-stricken West, farmers of weed are stealing water

revealed that illegal marijuana growers are taking water in uncontrolled amounts, draining wells used by landowners and farmers — and that overstretched law enforcement can do little about it.Selsky, based in Salem, Oregon, has reported on the impact of drought in the West and for years has tracked the burgeoning market for legal pot. But when he checked with sources about water theft by illegal marijuana grows, he quickly found that the situation was dire. Hundreds of huge illegal grows have been erected, too many for law enforcement officials to raid.The problem is showing up in parts of Oregon and California. Selsky visited a neighborhood in central Oregon where a homeowner was having a new well drilled after his existing well ran dry just a block away from a recently busted illegal grow. And he tracked down a resident in southern Oregon who for decades has depended on a creek for growing food. That creek has gone completely dry since large illegal marijuana grows began popping up in the area last spring. The local sheriff described “catastrophic” consequences for natural water resources, citing “blatant theft.” https://aplink.news/v3c

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July 16, 2021

Best of the States

AP takes immersive look as drought puts ‘flatlining’ Great Salt Lake at historic risk

As the western U.S. finds itself in the grips of one of the worst droughts in recent history, the AP West region staff has delved into every aspect of the drought’s impact across the region. In one of the hardest-hit areas, the Salt Lake City-based team of Rick Bowmer, Lindsay Whitehurst and Brady McCombs documented that Utah’s Great Salt Lake may be headed to the lowest water levels in 170 years.

Reporting ahead of other news outlets, they delivered an all-formats package with stunning visuals showing readers how the dying lake is impacting people and wildlife and is a harbinger of worrisome drought-related consequences ahead. Decades of drought and water diversion in the booming region have hurt bird habitats, forced boats from shallow water and exposed dry lakebed that could send arsenic-laced dust into the air that millions breathe.

The result was a compelling package that had the highest engagement of all AP stories on July 6 and fourth-most for the week.

For distinctive work that expands AP’s ongoing coverage of climate and drought in the West, the team of Bowmer, Whitehurst and McCombs wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 11, 2016

Best of the States

Was California's $350 million experiment to replace lawns amid drought worth the cost?

In drought-stricken California, the state and dozens of water agencies embarked upon a unique social experiment: try to break the love affair with the lawn by paying residents to rip out their turf and replace it with less thirsty landscaping. San Francisco-based environment reporter Ellen Knickmeyer, who has been covering the state’s historic five-year drought, decided to dig into the water-saving strategy and determine whether it was worth the cost.

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Aug. 06, 2021

Best of the States

As wells dry up in parched US West, AP reports on residents now without running water

The extreme drought in the American West has already taken a dramatic toll. And now, near the Oregon-California border, as many as several hundred wells have dried up in the past few weeks, leaving dozens of homeowners in the parched region with no running water at all. Reporter Gillian Flaccus and freelance photographer Nathan Howard documented the residents’ plight and the challenges facing authorities responding to the situation.

Flaccus used sources she had built in months of reporting on the dire conditions in the Klamath River Basin, convincing people to let Howard depict their hardship over water in photos and video. Digital storyteller Samantha Shotzbarger then weaved all the elements into a compelling multimedia offering. The story drew widespread play in the U.S., especially in the West.

For continuing to shine light on the effects of the drought afflicting the U.S. West, Flaccus, Howard and Shotzbarger win this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 17, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Data and on-the-ground reporting reveal toll of Somali famine

joined forces to deliver an all-formats package on the unfolding crisis in Somalia, where severe drought is driving hunger-related deaths.Until this Only on AP story, media coverage of the drought in the Horn of Africa consisted largely of aid groups’ dire warnings or isolated stories of grieving families, but little concrete information on how many people have begun to die. Nairobi-based correspondent Anna instead dug into unpublished humanitarian reports and coordinated with dedicated Mogadishu freelancers — correspondent Faruk, photographer Warsameh and video journalist Nor — producing a story that merges exclusive data on the mounting deaths with compelling personal accounts that put a human face on the crisis.Read more

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July 09, 2021

Best of the States

AP reveals a water crisis at the boiling point for Native Americans, farmers in Western river basin

AP Portland, Oregon, reporter Gillian Flaccus has long followed a simmering issue in the Klamath River Basin, a swath of rural agricultural land in Northern California and southern Oregon that is ground zero for the fight over an increasingly precious resource in the American West: water. Amid extreme drought in the region, the U.S. government has stopped irrigation to hundreds of farmers for the first time in history, while Native American tribes along the 257-mile Klamath River are watching fish species hover closer to extinction. The farmers face ruin and tribes worry their culture will vanish.Flaccus has developed deep sources with area farmers as well as tribal members and recently spent nearly a week in the remote area with freelance photographer Nathan Howard documenting an issue that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Working with New York photo editor and digital storyteller Alyssa Goodman, they produced a sweeping, striking all-formats package that showed the pain on both sides as people begin to realize the water may not be coming back. The package was among AP’s most-viewed stories for Friday. For immersive journalism that explores the human consequences of drought in the U.S. West, Flaccus, Howard and Goodman receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 28, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Elite California suburb clamps down on water wasters

reported exclusively on a California water district — home to Kim Kardashian and other celebrities — that may have the state’s harshest water restrictions during the current drought.The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, just north of Los Angeles, is among districts that rely almost exclusively on state water supplies. Ronayne, Sacramento-based environment/climate reporter, learned of the district’s new penalties for water wasters while reporting that in the midst of drought, local districts may not get any of the state water supply they’d requested in 2022. She decided to find out more, reasoning that what’s being imposed in Las Virgenes may serve as a model for other water districts as the drought continues.When Las Virgenes officials explained they would slow water flow to a trickle for households that keep wasting, Ronayne knew she had a story. With further reporting, she confirmed that the district's conservation tactics went further than others.Ronayne’s exclusive on the district’s approach hooked AP customers and readers, partly because Las Virgenes serves celebrity-filled neighborhoods. District officials said many rich residents don't bother to cut back when fined; water isn't an expensive commodity for them and the penalties aren’t significant — until the water slows to a trickle. https://aplink.news/1dv

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