Sept. 04, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigation: Thousands of environmental waivers granted amid pandemic

When the Trump administration waived enforcement of environmental protections because of the pandemic, a former EPA administrator called it a “license to pollute,” while public health officials told AP that it would be difficult to determine the impact.

At that, five AP reporters around the country embarked on a two-month, brute force effort to wrest loose state data on the suspended regulations.

They found more than 3,000 instances of environmental waivers to oil and gas companies, government facilities and other operations, with nationwide implications for public health. 

For deep reporting and painstaking analysis to document the potential consequences of relaxed environmental regulation, the team of Knickmeyer, Bussewitz, Flesher, Brown and Casey wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 13, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats package: Environmental workers facing violence

teamed up to vividly illustrate why environmental work is emerging as one of the world’s most dangerous professions, as seen through the lens of one such worker in Haiti. In 2020 alone, a record 227 environmental workers were killed globally, according to one human rights organization.Daniel reported from New York while Haiti video journalist Luxama and his colleague, photographer Joseph, followed marine biologist Jean Wiener during a rare trip to his native Haiti. Wiener has been forced to do most of his conservation work from afar because of rampant violence in his homeland.With tight collaboration between AP departments and bureaus, the compelling package of text and visuals transports readers to the ominously named Massacre River as Wiener confronts climate change in a poor nation hit hard by global warming — and violence.Read more

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April 24, 2020

Best of the States

The cost of Trump environmental rollbacks: Health woes hit minority communities hardest

With African American and Hispanic communities in the Houston region already suffering higher rates of asthma and other diseases than the nation at large, AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer decided to focus on the area for a story on ordinary Americans living through the Trump administration’s public health and environmental rollbacks. 

The administration was cutting back on rules limiting and monitoring harmful industrial pollutants, slashing enforcement and weakening an industrial-disaster rule.

Knickmeyer, a Washington-based environmental issues reporter, spent months searching out Houston residents, telling their stories along with deep reporting on the regulatory actions and their consequences.

Former EPA Director Gina McCarthy was among many retweeting the story, calling it a “must read” article.

For a rich, insightful look at the consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks on vulnerable communities, Knickmeyer wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 28, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Florence's environmental toll: coal ash and hog waste

for leading strong AP coverage of the devastation of Hurricane Florence. Biesecker drew on experience to warn readers that the storm would likely cause widespread water pollution from ruptured hog lagoons and swamped coal ash dumps, and scored a series of storm-related scoops. Helber captured iconic images including a widely used aerial shot that earned a rare two-page spread in Time magazine.https://bit.ly/2xMWdwMhttps://bit.ly/2NEn7lrhttps://bit.ly/2zw7WlNhttps://bit.ly/2Og1G9U

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Jan. 22, 2021

Best of the States

AP investigation: Capitol rioters included highly trained ex-military, law enforcement

AP reporters Michael Biesecker Jake Bleiberg and James LaPorta joined with colleagues across the country to reveal the influence of current and former members of the military or law enforcement on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The AP team surveyed public records, social media posts and videos, and the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, finding at least 22 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement have been identified as part of Capitol riot, with more under investigation. The story gave specific examples of how such training played out in rioters’ tactics and equipment during the attack.

The all-formats package received prominent play from AP customers and was the top offering on the AP News app on a busy news day. 

For timely and insightful reporting that sheds light on the backgrounds and capabilities of Capitol Hill rioters, Biesecker, Bleiberg and LaPorta win AP’s Best of the States award.

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May 03, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Dedicated reporting in case against Hawaii’s law enforcement power couple

for years of beat work and shoe leather reporting on the city’s former police chief and his wife, a powerful city prosecutor. The couple now faces trial on corruption charges as prosecutors say they paid for their lavish lifestyle by lying, stealing and cheating their family and clients. Kelleher’s intimate knowledge of the case enabled her to set up the trial in a way no other media could match. https://bit.ly/2Wkq76E

Sept. 20, 2019

Best of the States

Going to extremes to tell the story of sexual violence and shortcomings of enforcement

In western Alaska, rape survivors and their supporters say Nome’s police department has often failed to investigate sexual assaults, especially when the victims are Alaska Native women.

Delivering sensitive-but-powerful coverage from a challenging environment, enterprise photographer Maye-E Wong and freelance correspondent Victoria Mckenzie tell the story of average Americans struggling with sexual violence and law enforcement in small communities. Their work made clear that Nome’s struggles don’t represent an isolated case; it is a microcosm of how police and towns and cities across the U.S. have failed survivors of sexual assaults.

For going to extremes – literally and figuratively – to shed light on a remote corner of the larger issue of sexual violence and enforcement, Wong and Mckenzie share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work reveals push for diversity in climate fight

worked sources on Stafford’s newly expanded beat to land an exclusive on the launch of a climate justice campaign.The effort by the group Donors of Color Network would shift millions in funding toward environmental and justice groups led by Black Americans, other people of color and Indigenous people and came on the heels of President Joe Biden pledging to make environmental justice central to the fight against climate change. Stafford, AP investigative race writer, brought the story to life by taking readers on a tour of neighborhoods in Detroit’s 48217 ZIP code, where residents live against the backdrop of heavy industrial sites that have long been a major concern in the nation’s largest Black-majority city. Baltimore-based photographer Julio Cortez’s photos of Donors of Color co-founder Ashindi Maxton, the story’s lead character, rounded out the package. https://bit.ly/3d4zfaP

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Sept. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Brazil’s plan to protect rainforest has opposite effect

revealed the disturbing truth about environmental enforcement in Brazil’s Amazon. While reporting on the first days of the 2020 burning season they found that agents of Brazil’s environmental crime enforcement agency had gone almost totally inactive, and that since President Jair Bolsonaro put the army in charge of protecting the rainforest, Brazil’s once-effective investigation and prosecution of rainforest destruction has come to a virtual halt.Investigating on the ground and by phone with sources around Brazil, the team found that Brazil’s army is focusing on small road-and-bridge-building projects that allow exports to flow faster to ports and ease access to protected areas. Meanwhile, the enforcement agency has stopped using satellite maps to locate deforestation sites and fine their owners — a once-widely used technique — and is no longer penalizing illegal logging, mining and farming. On the heels of massive fires last year, this year’s burning season is on track to be as bad as 2019.The all-formats story received heavy play globally in broadcast, print and hundreds of online news outlets.https://bit.ly/3hWs3gKhttps://bit.ly/31U1fbnhttps://bit.ly/2YWpHXp

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Dec. 01, 2016

Best of the States

US moves to block mining near Yellowstone

The Obama administration is racing in its final days to keep industry out of natural and environmentally sensitive areas throughout the U.S. West, where the incoming Trump administration has raised fears of loosened regulations on federal lands.

Billings, Montana Correspondent Matt Brown _ who has an acute sense of the value in reporting on land out West _ has broken news repeatedly to keep the AP ahead.

Brown is deeply sourced with federal interior officials and consistently checks in with them. He was working on a story week about officials canceling oil and gas leases on land near Glacier National Park that's considered sacred to tribes – also an APNewsBreak – when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell mentioned she was coming back to Montana in a week.

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March 17, 2017

Best of the States

From grave to lab, professor throws science, passion at cold cases

AP correspondent Tamara Lush first met renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle while reporting on Florida’s Dozier School for Boys – a now-shuttered site where former students accused officials of abuse and dozens of students died. Kimmerle was investigating graves, and local media paid plenty of attention to the positive, bubbly woman with a high-pitched voice – unexpected from someone who jumps in graves and scrubs bones with a toothbrush.

Lush found Kimmerle and her work fascinating – in a state full of colorful characters, she calls the professor one of Florida’s most interesting and brilliant women.

So Lush stayed in touch, and when her sources at the University of South Florida – where Kimmerle teaches and has a lab – offered an exclusive opportunity to follow Kimmerle as she investigated cold cases through a new grant, she jumped at the chance. Lush's all-formats Only on AP package wins this week's Best of States award.

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Jan. 19, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP NewsBreak: AP scoops everyone on ICE's 7-Eleven hiring sweep, biggest raid under Trump

Associated Press reporter Elliot Spagat has spent years covering the U.S.-Mexico border, building sources within the federal agencies that enforce the nation’s immigration laws and earning the respect of senior officials.

That source work paid off when Spagat scored an exclusive ride-along as federal agents executed what officials called the largest immigration action against an employer under Donald Trump’s presidency: An early-morning sweep of nearly 100 7-Eleven stories that targeted the stores’ owners, rather than the workers.

One U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said the operation was “a harbinger of what’s to come” for employers.

For his efforts to put AP ahead of the competition (some news organizations cited AP while their own reporters rushed to confirm the story), Spagat wins this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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April 27, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Fast and furious: AP is hours ahead with sought-after Comey memos

The moment James Comey let slip that he had written “contemporaneous notes” detailing his dealings with President Donald Trump, those memos became the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The memos quickly became fodder for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections as it related to possible collusion with the Trump campaign – and in particular, whether the president sought to obstruct justice. Prosecutors perused them, members of Congress demanded them and the public speculated about them.

In the end, The Associated Press got them.

Thanks to the resourceful reporting of the Washington bureau’s Mary Clare Jalonick, Chad Day, Tom LoBianco and Eric Tucker, the AP was the first news organization to publish the contents of those 15 pages of notes, hours ahead of the competition. And that major scoop is the Beat of the Week.

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May 28, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Investigative reporter obtains bodycam video of Ronald Greene’s deadly arrest

When Ronald Greene died in 2019, Louisiana State Police troopers initially blamed the Black man’s death on injuries from a crash at the end of a high-speed chase, then later said Greene became unresponsive in a struggle with troopers and died on his way to the hospital.

For the most part, that was all the public would know about the case, until AP’s Jim Mustian took up the story. Since he began reporting nine months ago, he’s broken a string of stories revealing there was more to the story. But Mustian always knew he needed to get his hands on one crucial piece of evidence: video.

This past week, Mustian did just that. In the most explosive break yet in the case, Mustian obtained body camera footage that showed Greene repeatedly apologizing and pleading for mercy as troopers jolted him with stun guns, put him in a choke hold, punched him and dragged him by his ankle shackles. The story led national newscasts and websites, and fronted newspapers across the country, with credit to AP’s reporting and the video, again and again.

This scoop was the work of one dogged investigative reporter who never stopped believing that the world should know what really happened to Ronald Greene. For that we honor Jim Mustian with AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Dec. 08, 2016

Best of the States

Digging in for winter at Dakota Access pipeline protest

The Associated Press has aggressively covered the Dakota Access pipeline since even before construction began on the four-state pipeline to carry oil from North Dakota. The AP tracked the approval process and then was there every step of the way as the project spawned demonstrations from Native Americans and others who set up protest camps by the pipeline’s final piece near the Missouri River, saying construction would damage cultural artifacts and that a pipeline leak could pollute tribal water supplies. In the past few months, the AP has had coverage almost every day.

While Bismarck staffer James MacPherson had covered the story cross-format with the help of colleagues, a visually-focused enterprise project was in the works for December, bringing in staff from afar to provide video and photo elements of the largest camp to accompany a piece that was to explore the protest in the context of other issues being faced by Native Americans now and into the Trump administration. On Friday, Nov. 25, the news forced us to speed up our timeline for visuals as the Army Corps of Engineers gave a Dec. 5 deadline for protesters to get off the land.

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Oct. 29, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation reveals police using force disproportionately against Black, brown children

When San Francisco-based data reporter Camille Fassett obtained a national dataset on police use of force, she and Washington-based law enforcement team leader Colleen Long pored over the numbers, looking for a new angle on the well-trod issue. Then investigative fellow Helen Wieffering hit on something — the data included numerous instances of force used against teens and kids.

Looking closer, what they found was stunning: 3,000 cases over 11 years where police used force against children, some as young as 6.

To put faces and voices to the numbers, the reporters spent months interviewing children, teens and parents. The team also secured police body camera footage that backed up the stories. The resulting package was a remarkable all-formats look at how Black and brown children are disproportionately affected by police force.For a deeply reported story that explores a little-recognized aspect of police use of force, the team of Fassett, Long and Wieffering is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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April 08, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Trooper gave recorded interview on Greene’s fatal arrest

obtained a never-before-released, internal affairs interview with the Louisiana state trooper considered the most violent in the deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene. This was the latest in a string of AP exclusives on Greene’s death — even federal prosecutors did not know the recording existed until AP published it.In the two-hour interview. Hollingsworth admits to holding Greene down and bashing him in the head with a flashlight. But Hollingsworth portrays himself as the victim, saying he feared for his life, even as video played over and over shows the white troopers stunning, punching and dragging Greene as he appeared to surrender.Read more

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Jan. 12, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Persistence pays: APNewsbreak on major changes in US marijuana policy

The source's message delivered by text was short and simple: "I have big news."

Sadie Gurman, a Justice Department reporter, had covered Colorado's first-in-the-nation pot experiment when she was a staffer in Denver, cultivating activists and law enforcement officials as sources. So when she transferred to Washington about a year ago, she had a burning question: When would Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fierce opponent of decriminalization of marijuana, reverse the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to states that have legalized the drug?

The answer came last week and Gurman had the scoop – long before the competition and hours ahead of the official announcement. Her story earns the Beat of the Week.

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