Aug. 31, 2018

Best of the States

Tibbetts murder suspect lived, worked on land linked to GOP fundraiser

Within hours of the news that the man charged with killing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts was a Mexican citizen believed to be in the United States illegally, Republican leaders from President Donald Trump to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds injected the case into the political debate, blaming lax immigration policies for allowing the man into the community.

Amid such comments, Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley got a tip from two longtime Republican Party sources: The suspect lived on land partly owned by Nicole Schlinger, one of the party’s most prolific national fundraisers, the sources said.

Foley was determined to discover whether that was true. He obtained property records showing Schlinger and her husband owned the farm trailer where Rivera had lived, and her husband was president of the farm. Foley then got confirmation from Schlinger, who had avoided his questions for days.

Further, Schlinger’s fundraising client list included anti-illegal-immigration hard-liners, including Reynolds, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and even the Stop Sanctuary Cities PAC.

The story was used extensively by Iowa newspapers and was a big online hit, with hundreds of postings and 40,000 Facebook interactions.

For scooping local and national competitors on a high-interest topic even as he reported on spot developments, Ryan Foley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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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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Oct. 07, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Why is Chicago a murder capital? Clues from a bloody month

for combining government records requests, hard-to-get interviews and descriptive narrative writing to illustrate one month in the city’s ongoing cycle of fatal gun violence. Babwin obtained the list of 91 homicide victims in August, the city's deadliest month in two decades, and then detailed some of their personal stories against trends revealed in arrest and court records, coroner's reports and police department logs. http://dpo.st/2dyuEhE

Oct. 07, 2016

Best of the States

Why is Chicago a murder capital? Clues from a bloody month

As Chicago’s homicide rate has surged throughout the year, the police department’s tally of the previous month’s body count has taken on an air of the routine. Even as the city’s murder rate has passed new milestones, the figures have provided little more than a headline. And little insight into the causes and victims of the city’s violence.

Chicago reporter Don Babwin set out to shed light on that violence in the wake of the announcement that August was the deadliest month in the city in two decades.

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Dec. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Rapid all-formats AP response after SUV plows into holiday parade

quickly swung into action when an SUV plowed into a holiday parade just as many in Wakesha, Wisconsin, were sitting down to Sunday dinner. AP delivered vivid all-formats coverage, broke news and followed up with detail-rich enterprise that included a reconstruction of the vehicle's deadly path.AP’s swiftly updated mainbar balanced the evolving information on casualties with heart-wrenching detail gleaned from livestreamed video, the smartphones of spectators and telephone interviews with marchers and witnesses. Madison-based supervisory correspondent Scott Bauer anchored the first night’s coverage, with video journalist Mike Householder speeding to the scene from nearby Kenosha, where he had been on assignment for the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.Early the next morning, lead Justice Department reporter Michael Balsamo tapped his sources to break the news that that police were looking into whether the driver had been fleeing from a crime. Investigative reporters Michael Biesecker and Bernard Condon contributed key research and reporting to flesh out the suspect, and Condon and Bauer teamed up for a fresh take when it emerged that the suspect had been free on astonishingly low bond of $1,000 — for an alleged crime that involved intentionally running over a person. Reporters Tammy Webber, Todd Richmond and Condon broke down the case for intentional homicide charges.But the most powerful offerings of the week revolved around the victims. Chicago-based Sara Burnett, with reporting from Katie Foody, Tim Sullivan, Webber and Bauer, took readers along the parade route with a reconstruction of the tragedy that a senior news manager described as “amazing writing.” And Sullivan, with reporting from Foody and Webber, brought to life the “Dancing Grannies” — the troupe of cheerful women who lost three of their number plus a volunteer.https://bit.ly/3cZeTyuhttps://bit.ly/3rksadfhttps://bit.ly/31fD757https://bit.ly/3cYN89ihttps://bit.ly/3pf1gkihttps://bit.ly/3D5q6Ixhttps://aplink.video/jaa

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March 08, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Death of ‘hood CNN’ video pioneer exposes gangland reporting risks

There’s always a better story behind a statistic.

Chicago’s homicide rate is one of the worst in the United States. By digging into one drive-by shooting, Chicago-based legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm and Houston-based video journalist John Mone found out how one victim’s life had inspired a generation of gang territory storytellers.

Telling it took a lot of sourcework.

Tarm had already been working on a story about social media and gangs, and he’d watched a few of Zack Stoner’s reports on Chicago street gangs and rappers on his ZackTV1 YouTube channel. When reports surfaced that Stoner was gunned down, Tarm began to look deeper, stumbling across a wider story – about a new brand of gutsy gangland reporters in Chicago and elsewhere who have avid followers on YouTube.

Getting access to the storytellers was tough, but eventually the name of Texas-based reporter Shawn Cotton emerged. Cotton was eager to discuss Stoner, his impact on the genre and the effect his killing had on him and others. Mone rode along with Cotton to the Meadow Brook subdivision in Fort Worth, dubbed “Murder Brook” by some of the kids on the street where Cotton filmed.

The multi-platform work played prominently with impressive reader engagement.

For relentless sourcework to show how a generation of storytellers is impacting its communities, Tarm and Mone win this week’s Best of the States.

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Oct. 12, 2018

Best of the States

Staffers respond with multiformat report after limo crash kills 20

The short item that moved on the Associated Press’ New York state wire Saturday night about a two-car crash involving a limousine in the upstate town of Schoharie was hardly remarkable. It included the line: “State police said only that the crash happened just before 2 p.m. ... and caused “multiple fatalities.”

Then came the shocking update from the State Police the next morning: 20 people were killed in the crash, making it the deadliest traffic incident in the United States in more than a decade.

That triggered a coordinated multiformat response that leveraged the AP's resources in New York State and beyond, leading all coverage of the tragedy.

For outstanding breaking news work that lived up to the highest standards of the AP, Michael Hill, David Klepper, Hans Pennink, Bob Salsberg and Deepti Hajela win this week's Best of the States award.

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Aug. 10, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

50-state investigation reveals arbitrary patchwork of justice for juvenile lifers

After the U.S. Supreme Court told states that juveniles who had been given mandatory life without parole sentences should get the chance to argue for their release, national writers Sharon Cohen and Adam Geller wanted to know how judges, prosecutors, lawmakers and parole boards were dealing with the inmates.

Aided by reporters in all 50 states, their exhaustive investigation showed for the first time that the high court’s mandate in 2016 to give inmates a chance at freedom is being applied inconsistently, varying from state to state, even county to county, “in a pattern that can make justice seem arbitrary.”

The resulting three-day series featured deeply reported text stories, an expansive photo report of inmates from across the country, a 16-minute audio extra, a video animation on teen brain development, a video story, and a searchable trove of state-by-state details – all hosted in a dynamic hub on APNews.com.

Cohen and Geller’s work wins this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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