May 14, 2021

Best of the States

Nimble AP reporting reveals Alabama trooper charged in child rape hid alleged misconduct at FBI

In a classic case of keeping an open mind during reporting, AP’s Jim Mustian and Kim Chandler started out reporting one story, but found themselves reporting exclusively that an Alabama state trooper, arrested on charges he raped an 11-year-old girl, had used a forged letter and lied on his application to get hired after being removed from the FBI — also on serious allegations of sexual misconduct.

To federal law enforcement reporter Mustian, this initially appeared as yet another case of the FBI allowing an accused agent to quietly move on with his career. But just as he was about to publish, the FBI said the bureau letter Christopher Bauer submitted to Alabama authorities when he was hired was “not legitimate.” Meanwhile, Chandler, Montgomery statehouse reporter, tracked down Bauer’s application for the trooper job, in which he said he was still employed by the FBI and had never been forced to resign because of disciplinary action.

This had become the story of a former agent, and perhaps others, falsifying his record. The piece was among the week’s top stories on AP News, with nearly 200,000 pageviews.

For deep reporting that followed the story wherever it took them, Mustian and Chandler earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Nationwide reporting effort exposes dwindling vaccine demand

led a nationwide reporting effort revealing that COVID-19 vaccine demand is plummeting.Each week, states are told how many vaccine doses are available to them, and they in turn decide how many they want to order from the federal supply. Reporters started hearing anecdotal evidence of states ordering paltry amounts of vaccine in recent weeks, at a time when the Biden administration wants to get 70% of adult Americans vaccinated by July 4.So AP reporters across the country asked governors how many vaccines they were ordering last week. Some states, like Iowa, Kansas and Wisconsin, decided to order a fraction of their allocation, as low as 8% of what’s available to them. Other locations, like New York City, Colorado and Maryland, were asking for their full allocation. Hollingsworth, based in Kansas City, Missouri, and Richmond, in Madison, Wisconsin, fleshed out the numbers with examples of widespread vaccine hesitancy around the country, and what states were doing to entice more shots.The result was a smart mainbar on Saturday that connected the dots in a way that only the AP can, with its 50-statehouse presence. The piece also set the stage for a broader, more advanced data collection effort that the AP will build on in the coming weeks. https://aplink.news/i67

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May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, teamwork deliver scoop on federal charges in Floyd killing

delivered a 20-minute beat on the news that four former officers involved in the death of George Floyd were indicted on federal civil rights charges — an unusual move for the Justice Department because three of the officers haven’t faced state trial yet.Balsamo had learned that the federal charges were imminent, and Forliti worked her sources to get the full story: off-the-record details about the still-sealed indictment that allowed her to write robust, fully-formed prep. She was even tipped off that the charges would drop early Friday morning.But when that didn't happen, a source quietly tipped Forliti to phone into a federal hearing happening live. The officers were appearing in federal court, with the charges still sealed. The AP pair — possibly the only reporters listening during the hearing — put out a fast cover story that the former cops were facing federal charges. Balsamo then went to his sources, asking them to send the indictment, because, while it hadn’t been made public yet, he had heard the judge order it made public. AP soon had the indictment. He and Forliti filed alerts, writethrus loaded with context and a full story within 15 minutes. Forliti also filed a video brief on the charges. Meanwhile, no one matched their story for a full 20 minutes, and major national publications were 40 minutes or more behind the AP. Even the hometown Star Tribune used AP’s story on its website.https://bit.ly/3tJ9YYqhttps://bit.ly/3w2BvFF

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April 30, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In all formats: Nurse battles back from COVID, lung transplant

produced a powerful and intimate narrative of one nurse’s precarious fight to survive COVID-19 — including the double lung transplant that saved her life.National writer Geller had wanted to find a health care worker recovering after being incapacitated by COVID. He started out calling hospitals around the country with lung transplant and COVID long-hauler programs, finally gettting a referral from Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which had performed the first and, by far, the most COVID lung transplants. They put him in touch with nurse Kari Wegg, who at one point before her transplant had been in a coma with little chance of recovery. Wegg got winded during their first phone conversation, a couple of weeks after she returned home, but she and her husband were open to telling their story. The AP trio would spend large parts of four days in the family’s Indiana home. The result was a riveting read with compelling visuals by Arbogast and Crawford, whose video was edited by multiformat journalist Allen Breed. The package won terrific online play, including the Chicago Tribune and Indiana news sites, with remarkably high reader engagement.https://bit.ly/3vtLoMDhttps://bit.ly/3gQXye6

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March 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Dallas convention center to hold unaccompanied teens

put AP ahead with the first report that the federal government would use the Dallas convention center to temporarily house up to 3,000 migrant teens amid a scramble for space as more unaccompanied children arrive at the U.S. border.Houston-based immigration reporter Merchant had been looking into whether the federal government would open additional detention facilities for unaccompanied children straining the immigration system at the border when he fielded the tip: It’s going to be in Dallas and it’s going to be big. While on the phone, Merchant passed the information to Dallas colleague Bleiberg, who got a source to provide a memo sent to Dallas City Council members. The story was so far ahead of the curve that White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated she was unfamiliar with the plan when an AP reporter asked her about it in a briefing. The story was used by U.S. networks as well as local TV and radio stations across Texas.https://bit.ly/3roccvn

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March 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive: Why compensation denied for tortured US veteran

broke the news that a former Iran detainee, Amir Hekmati, a U.S. citizen, Marine and Iraq war veteran whose 2016 release had been widely lauded during the Obama administration, had been denied compensation as a result of suspicions he had gone to Iran to sell secrets, not to visit his grandmother.The exclusive solved the mystery of why the Justice Department had refused to pay Hekmati $20 million in compensation for years of imprisonment that included brutal torture. National security writer Tucker read through hundreds of pages of documents filed in the obscure Court of Federal Claims to piece together the narrative, accompanied by photos and a video from Washington video journalist Nathan Ellgren, which had roughly 2,000 views on YouTube.https://bit.ly/3lJ91wQhttps://bit.ly/3rfjaT6

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March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP uses satellite photos for scoop on Israeli nuclear site

used the AP’s emerging partnership with satellite imaging company Planet Labs Inc. and his experience covering nuclear programs to obtain high-resolution photographs of Israel’s secretive Dimona nuclear site. The images show the site, which is at the center of the nation’s undeclared atomic weapons program, undergoing its biggest construction project in decades.Dubai-based news director Gambrell also accessed a declassified 1971 U.S. satellite image of Dimona showing how the facility largely hadn’t changed in the last 50 years. The story drew immediate attention in Israel and the wider Middle East, with all outlets directly crediting the AP in print, online and in broadcasts for the newsbreak. https://bit.ly/3bgnFs3

Israel Combo

March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documents expose misconduct by elite federal prosecutors

started digging after federal prosecutors in New York took the unusual step last spring of abruptly dismissing all charges against a banker convicted of evading U.S. sanctions by funneling $115 million to his family’s business in Iran. Goodman’s curiosity was rewarded with an exclusive.Goodman worked with AP assistant general counsel Brian Barrett to convince a court to release internal communications within the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York detailing how the elite unit tried to conceal their mishandling of evidence in the botched prosecution. A plethora of private correspondence between prosecutors showed a coordinated effort to mislead the court. In one exchange of text messages, supervising prosecutors admitted “we lied” to the defense during the trial. “This is going to be a bloodbath,” one wrote, anticipating the judge’s reaction to the disclosure. https://bit.ly/30bwLzEhttps://bit.ly/30aQmAf

Feb. 26, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Executioners sanitized official reports of federal inmates’ last moments

AP legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm witnessed 10 of the unprecedented 13 federal executions in the final months of the Trump administration, diligently taking notes on what he saw in the chamber, from the inmates’ last words to their last breaths. 

But weeks after the last execution in mid-January, something nagged at him: The executioner’s official account did not jibe with what he had observed during the execution. Tarm went back, looking through hundreds of filings and court transcripts. His reporting resulted in a stunning exclusive on how the executioners all used euphemisms like “snored” and “fell asleep” while Tarm and other witnesses saw inmates’ stomachs dramatically shuddering and jerking in the minutes after lethal injections.

The sanitized accounts, Tarm realized, raised serious questions about whether officials misled courts to ensure the executions would be completed before Joe Biden, a death penalty foe, took office. His story — the latest exclusive in AP’s coverage of the federal executions — received prominent play and reader engagement.

For backing up his own observations with rigorous reporting to hold the federal government accountable for its official accounts of the executions, Tarm earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation reveals nonexistent mask shortage

acted on a tip from a former federal official to reveal that hospitals were continuing to ration medical masks for their workers even when they had months of supply in store. The team’s investigation found a logistical breakdown at the heart of the perceived mask shortage, rooted in federal failures to coordinate supply chains and provide hospitals with clear rules about how to manage their medical equipment.The initial tip came from a source inside the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who shared pages of emails asking why U.S. manufacturers weren’t able to sell their products. In a series of interviews, the reporters surveyed hospital procurement officers representing more than 300 hospitals around the country and learned that all had two to 12 months supply of N95 masks in storage, but almost all were limiting workers to one mask per day, or even one per week. Meanwhile, at least one manufacturer had so many masks warehoused that it recently got government approval to export them.The story was used widely, and Dearen was interviewed live on CBS News. https://bit.ly/3pOAhub

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Feb. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: COVID job cuts widen economic inequality

crunched federal economic data for his exclusive report that Americans as a whole are now earning the same amount in wages and salaries that they did before the viral pandemic struck — even with nearly 9 million fewer people working.The main reason? The job cuts of the past 11 months have fallen overwhelmingly on lower-income workers across the economy’s service sector — from restaurants and hotels to retail stores and entertainment venues. By contrast, tens of millions of higher-income Americans, most of whom have been able to work from home, have managed to keep or acquire jobs and to continue to receive pay increases.Rugaber independently verified the story’s premise by comparing multiple federal data sets, then interviewed a number of economists to gain deeper insights into the trend. “Pretty remarkable” is how one economist described the findings. The exclusive work provided stark evidence of the nation’s widening economic inequality. https://bit.ly/3atLOed

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Feb. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusives reveal recent stumbles on immigration policy

teamed up to produce a pair of exclusives that capture the confusion and signs of problems at both the U.S.-Mexico border and inside federal immigration agencies in the early days of the Biden administration. Merchant used source work and reporting to find and tell the story of a Cuban migrant who was held in a short-term detention facility with her newborn son twice as long as federal rules generally allow. He worked with advocates and the Border Patrol to uncover information about the woman’s case and interviewed her exclusively after her release. The story illustrated how a recent increase in families and children crossing the border has maxed out holding facilities.In a second exclusive Merchant paired with Weber after a tweet from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, breaking a story on the near-release by Immigration and Customs Enforcement of three men with convictions for sexually abusing children.https://bit.ly/3dr8NZ9https://bit.ly/3dji3i1

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Feb. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Catholic Church, sitting on billions, amassed PPP aid

investigated the Catholic Church’s receipt of billions in federal aid during the pandemic, breaking news and bringing accountability to both a massive government program and one of the world’s most powerful institutions. The investigative reporters conducted an exclusive and exhaustive analysis showing that while Catholic entities were sitting on at least $10 billion in cash, the nation’s nearly 200 dioceses and other Catholic institutions received at least $3 billion from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, making the Roman Catholic Church perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the program, according to AP’s review.The reporting required was formidable, including joining a federal lawsuit to get the full PPP data. Dunklin and Rezendes then led a blitz by colleagues to hand check tens of thousands of data points. That work tracked the apparently disproportionate aid to Catholic recipients compared to other faith groups and national charities.The package reverberated through a busy news day and was covered in outlets as diverse as Slate and the Catholic News Agency.https://bit.ly/371q7QGhttps://bit.ly/3aPLVzOhttps://bit.ly/3qfXeI4

Catholic Hm

Feb. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exposes likely superspreader at federal executions

have covered the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, as well as every federal execution of the last year. That reporting and insight led them to the stunning realization that the Trump administration’s unprecedented string of executions likely became a superspreader event at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.Tarm first learned about the case spread when he heard that he had been exposed — although the Bureau of Prisons did not notify him or others attending the executions. Through rigorous, painstaking reporting, the three Michaels discovered that fully 70% of death row inmates had COVID during the 13 executions in six months, but the Bureau of Prisons felt it wasn’t their responsibility to ensure that everyone was told about the spread or whether their employees were following protocols.The trio’s riveting story detailed how cases spread rapidly through the federal prison complex and likely helped spread infections around the country during a critical time in the pandemic as deaths were skyrocketing. The Friday evening scoop lit up social media and was a top news story well into the weekend. https://bit.ly/3qmh0Sh

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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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Feb. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Vaccination help wanted, logistics a plus

delivered a widely played national story about a pandemic phenomenon no other news outlet had reported: People with strong logistics skills, including fast food managers, concert promoters and even wedding planners, were being sought and pressed into service to help with COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs.Kole, AP’s New England editor, was intrigued after learning that the Boston Marathon race director had been hired to run mass vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park, and set out to find what other fields were being tapped to fight the pandemic. His story on the demand for operations and event experience was tweeted and retweeted several thousand times and played prominently across the U.S. https://bit.ly/3cFgb2I

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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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Jan. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work breaks news of attorney general nominee

had been asking around for weeks about President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for attorney general. They pressed their sources inside the transition once it became clear that the decision came down to just a few names.Finally, Tucker scored — a transition source gave AP the entire slate of nominees for the department, and not just the stunning choice of Merrick Garland, the former candidate for the Supreme Court who had been spurned by Republicans during the Obama administration. Also included were names for the second in command and leaders of top offices at the Department of Justice.Tucker had prepped for this and gathered his material while Balsamo checked in with another source and came back with confirmation. They swiftly filed a news alert and story, beating major news outlets by a solid half-hour. This all came two hours before the Capitol siege. The pair’s story was still picked up 580 times with some 200,000 pageviews — especially strong considering the U.S. Capitol was ransacked by rioters the same day. https://bit.ly/2XCjOOe

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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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Jan. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds homeless persons the 2020 census missed

followed a straightforward path to reveal flaws in the U.S. Census Bureau’s homeless count: They found the uncounted themselves.Price literally looked beneath the glitter of Las Vegas, in the tunnels beneath the city, to find people who hadn't been counted in a city where an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people are without homes. And Schneider, AP's expert on all things census, leaned on his unmatched national network of sources to show that the problems were widespread. He bolstered the story with reporting on a federal report about flaws in the count — yet another government operation disrupted by the coronavirus — and spoke to an expert who said the problems could make Black and Latinos more likely to be missed in the 2020 count. https://bit.ly/35hmnJF

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