April 09, 2021

Best of the States

Exclusive data analysis, reporting on child abuse reveal worrying pandemic trend, heartbreaking tale

A true multiformat team of AP journalists produced this Only on AP piece by tracking down data on child abuse from every state to reveal a worrying trend: Reports of abuse are down while signs of severity are up. The team complemented that dogged data work and hard news with the tragic story of one girl who fell through the cracks during the pandemic. 

Acting on information sourced by video journalist Manuel Valdes, Seattle reporter Sally Ho coordinated the 50-state data survey and an ambitious analysis with data journalist Camille Fassett. Ho also read through hundreds of child abuse reports to find the case of 9-year-old Ava Lerario, killed by her father in a small Pennsylvania town. Ho worked with Philadelphia photojournalists Matt Rourke and Matt Slocum, and New York video journalist David Martin, to tell the story of about how the system failed Ava. 

The team’s deeply reported package drew remarkably high reader engagement, and many news outlets localized the work using AP’s data distribution.

For exposing another disturbing inequality stemming from the pandemic, Ho and colleagues Valdes, Fassett, Rourke, Slocum and Martin share this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 12, 2021

Best of the Week

Solid sourcing leads to AP’s most-used story of 2021: 6 Dr. Seuss books retired for racist images

Mark Pratt, a breaking news staffer in Boston, has written several stories exploring the complicated past of Theodor Seuss Geisel — Dr. Seuss. The company that preserves and protects the author’s legacy knew it could trust him.

So Dr. Seuss Enterprises gave Pratt early word on a story that would become a global bestseller for AP, generating off-the-charts customer use for three days and eventually becoming the single most-used AP story of 2021 to date: The company was ceasing publication and sales of six Seuss books because of their offensive imagery.

Pratt’s story instantly rocketed to the very top of a hectic news cycle, touching off a firestorm of commentary and conservative claims of “cancel culture.” The piece exceeded 2.5 million pageviews — catapulting it past the Capitol insurrection coverage in terms of customer use and clicks.

For nurturing trust with a newsmaker that yielded an AP exclusive still resonating with customers and news consumers, Pratt wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Dec. 04, 2020

Best of the States

All-formats package reveals challenges of rural education during the pandemic

On the sparsely populated fringe of the Navajo Nation, AP Report for America journalist Cedar Attanasio saw a storytelling opportunity: the bus system used by the Cuba, New Mexico, school district to solve distance-learning challenges for some of the country’s most isolated, vulnerable students during the pandemic. 

Reporting for text, photos and video, Attanasio rode one of the school buses used to transport meals, assignments and counselors to remote students, a number of whom do not have electricity, let alone internet. When the bus driver was forced to quarantine, Attanasio took to his car, chasing buses on their routes and interviewing students and their families.

For delivering an insightful multiformat package that reveals the pandemic’s impact on education in a disadvantaged community — prompting one reader to donate $1000 to the school board — Attanasio earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the Week

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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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Collaboration reveals racial divide in US schools reopening plans

collaborated with Chalkbeat, a non-profit that reports on U.S. education, to reveal that schools serving primarily students of color were far more likely to start the year online than schools serving mostly white students – a divide that threatens to further exacerbate inequities in education.Fenn and Hoyer gathered and analyzed the data from hundreds of school districts, while Rubinkam and Vertuno interviewed school administrators, parents and educators to learn about the pressures that shaped districts’ choices. The all-formats story was co-reported and co-written with Chalkbeat. https://bit.ly/2Rwwxirhttps://bit.ly/2FHfNCwhttps://bit.ly/3iAuaa8https://bit.ly/3iF2KQo

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Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Online learning and sanctions lead to a laptop shortage

reported exclusively that the world’s three largest computer makers have told school districts nationwide that they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops – in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers – just as many districts move to online learning during the pandemic. AP bureaus across the country contributed by reaching out to some of the largest school districts in 15 states to assess the scope of the problem. https://bit.ly/3lkhPJb

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Aug. 21, 2020

Best of the States

Inside the reopening debate: Local school boards face ‘impossible’ decisions

With school districts nationwide wrestling with tough decisions on reopening amid the pandemic, South Carolina reporter Jeffrey Collins wanted to show that process at work.

When several districts rebuffed his efforts at behind-the-scene access, Collins took another approach. He started reporting by watching a school board’s meetings online, taking voluminous notes. Demonstrating a thorough understanding of what the district was facing, he was finally granted in-person access to the district’s meetings and discussions for a revealing all-formats package. 

For finding a way to delve into a local school board’s deliberations, and providing insight into conversations happening nationally, Collins wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop on Justice Department investigation of Yale discrimination

landed a scoop on a Justice Department investigation into higher education. Balsamo got word through sources that the two-year investigation was completed and had found something attention-grabbing: Yale University was illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants, in violation of federal civil rights law. Working with education reporter Collin Binkley, the pair scrambled to move a story that crushed other major news outlets by nearly an hour. Thanks to Binkley’s reporting, the AP was also first to get Yale’s statement on the probe, which it said was “hasty” and unfair. https://bit.ly/34cw1gT

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June 26, 2020

Best of the Week

White House homecoming photo speaks volumes on Trump’s Tulsa rally

Washington-based photojournalist Pat Semansky was assigned weekend White House duty – a routine gig that meant waiting for President Donald Trump’s overnight return from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where his much-hyped rally didn’t meet expectations.

The president’s arrival rarely makes a memorable photo, but Semansky dutifully waited until well after 1 a.m., while many of AP’s competitors didn’t bother to cover. When Trump finally stepped off Marine One, Semansky proved the time well spent: His flash caught an atypically rumpled Trump crossing the South Lawn.

The photo quickly became the signature image of the night, capping days of smart AP coverage on the event itself. 

For making the most of a routine assignment to create what is likely to become an iconic photo of the Trump presidency, Pat Semansky wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Dec. 02, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Secret documents reveal China’s detention camps for Muslims

for breaking news, along with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, on one of the most important human rights issues of our time: Secret documents showed, in the Chinese government’s own words, that detention camps for more than a million Muslims are not for “voluntary job training” but rather for forced ideological and behavioral re-education.https://bit.ly/2pShDJ3https://bit.ly/2r4siRo

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April 26, 2019

Best of the States

A powerful retrospective and breaking news, 20 years after Columbine mass shooting

Twenty years have passed since the Columbine high school massacre, which was, to many people, the beginning of school shootings as we know them. In those years, life has changed: Mass shootings happen again and again, schoolchildren participate in lockdowns instead of fire drills, and many reflect on the moment in time when two young men took 13 lives with them on their suicidal quest.

AP was uniquely positioned to cover the two decades since the massacre, with journalists who were there, those who cover the Colorado community every day, and experts in polling, education and guns. Stories by Denver reporter Kathleen Foody and videojournalist Peter Banda led a deep all-formats package by dozens of journalists across the AP telling not just of the carnage but of those who survived it, their struggle, and the future.

But all the planning couldn't prepare anyone for this spot development: Early in the week, Sol Pais, a young Florida woman, prompted panic over a possible attack at Columbine, later taking her own life near the Colorado school. Miami reporter Kelli Kennedy tracked down a good friend of Pais who not only filled in personal details about her in an exclusive interview, but supplied photos of Pais and cast doubt on the official narrative about her friend.

The overarching theme of the spot and enterprise coverage focused on the short and long-term mental health issues from school shootings. The result was a unique, meaningful package that received impressive play nationally – online and in print. The video was among the top-used AP videos of the week.

For their work spearheading the package, and breaking news, Foody, Banda and Kennedy win this week’s Best of the States.

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Jan. 04, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Local data, deep reporting on declining US lifespans

The nation’s health isn’t improving. In some key measures, it’s getting worse. How is that even possible in an era of genetic medicine and other advances? And how could the AP connect that story to our customers’ own neighborhoods?

AP medical writer Mike Stobbe and data journalist Nicky Forster started with those questions and delivered a winning package on why American life expectancy is getting shorter.

The package ran shortly after the release of the CDC’s annual mortality report which found that U.S. life expectancy had declined again. To find out what was behind the numbers, Stobbe returned to West Virginia, a place he declared the unhealthiest place in America 10 years ago. He connected with people trying to get healthier, witnessed the headwinds of the opioid crisis and explained how difficult it is to improve health en masse.

Forster, meanwhile, assembled an array of data that explained what was happening around the U.S. He matched longevity estimates for more than 65,000 neighborhoods with demographics, and found striking connections to income, race and education. He then built an interactive that allowed readers to see life expectancy in their own neighborhood and wrote a sidebar on the AP’s findings.

For getting beyond the numbers for a richer understanding of why American lifespans are shrinking, and giving AP customers the data to localize their stories, Stobbe and Forster win the week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 30, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Gov’t questions unfair student loan practices

for obtaining an Education Department document showing that student loan servicer Navient put borrowers in costly repayment plans without telling them about potentially less expensive options. The exclusive was picked up in several newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and made the front page of the New York Daily News. Navient’s stock fell more than 10 percent after Ken’s story was published, forcing the CEO to issue a letter to shareholders. One analyst firm, ValuAct, downgraded the stock following the story. https://bit.ly/2KmOnQv

Oct. 05, 2018

Best of the States

Oklahoma Republicans targeted by GOP colleague, dark money

Oklahomans widely assumed that 12 Republican state lawmakers who lost their bids for re-election came up short at the polls because of their opposition to raising pay for the state’s public school teachers.

While opposition to education funding may have been one factor in incumbent losses in the GOP primaries, Oklahoma City-based reporter Sean Murphy began hearing scuttlebutt about an organized effort from within the Republican Party to kick out incumbents from their own party.

Using campaign finance reports and solid sourcing at the Capitol, Murphy was alone in showing that the rumors were true.

Public records showed a top state House GOP leader had given money to opponents of two of his own colleagues, and the opponents unseated the incumbents. Murphy also leveraged a relationship developed over years of reporting to get the lawmaker to talk. He acknowledged a plan to punish fellow Republicans for taking hardline stances that forced a compromise with Democrats on a plan to raise taxes to pay for teacher raises.

For combining shoe-leather reporting with smart document work, Murphy wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 24, 2018

Best of the States

“I just don't want to be forgotten”: Student starts a new school year at Stoneman Douglas

Charlie Shebes had too much anxiety to sleep the night before the first day of his junior year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the Parkland, Florida, school where 17 people were shot to death in February.

But Charlie was willing to share his morning routine with AP thanks to the relationship video journalist Josh Replogle had cultivated with students, starting nearly six months earlier. Replogle and his Miami colleague, photographer Wilfredo Lee, were there as Shebes rubbed his eyes, hugged his mother goodbye and brooded in the car before he skateboarded to class.

The short but poignant photo essay, along with text and an accompanying video piece, had an emotional impact, and the package received prominent play in Florida outlets, as well as nationally and even on some websites overseas.

For developing a compelling package from the unique perspective of a student returning to the scene of one the country's worst school shootings, Josh Replogle and Wilfredo Lee win this week's Best of the States award.

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Aug. 16, 2018

Best of the States

In Tuskegee, home to black achievement, a Confederate monument endures

The name “Tuskegee, Alabama” evokes images of black empowerment in a once-segregated nation.

Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver became legends of education at what is now Tuskegee University, and the nation’s first black fighter pilots were known as the Tuskegee Airmen after training in the town during World War II. Michelle Obama gave an impassioned speech there in 2015 while first lady.

So why is there a Confederate monument in the middle of the nearly all-black city?

Birmingham, Ala., correspondent Jay Reeves, using information gleaned from old newspaper accounts, local government records and interviews, reported that the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised money for the monument in the early 1900s. And the white-controlled county gave the heritage group land at the center of town for a whites-only park. It’s there that the statue still stands 109 years later.

Several efforts to relocate the monument have failed through the years, mainly because the Confederate heritage group still owns the land and refuses to move the statue.

In addition to text, Reeves shot photos and located archival images, as well as shooting and editing video for the multiformat package.

For digging in to examine why Confederate monuments are coming down nationwide but not in the historic, majority-black town of Tuskegee, Ala., Reeves wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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