Sept. 30, 2016

Best of the States

Lead crisis in housing project was actually no surprise

The down-at-the-heels industrial city of East Chicago, Indiana, made headlines around the world in August after the mayor ordered 1,000 people to get out of a 40-year-old public-housing complex because of lead contamination.

Many residents and observers expressed surprise: How could such a problem go overlooked for so many decades?

The Chicago bureau’s Sara Burnett and Jason Keyser teamed up for several weeks of intensive document and street reporting. What they found was as disturbing as the original news: The hazard shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone – because the housing complex had been built on the former site of a lead-products factory.

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May 06, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats team exposes housing crisis for college students

exposed a growing housing crisis hitting college campuses across the U.S.: A surge in the number of new students who deferred college during the worst of the COVID crisis has strained campus housing nationwide, leaving many students homeless, sleeping in cars or living in motel rooms while attending school — or causing them to further delay their education.Working with AP’s housing coverage team, San Francisco reporter Har found that while the college housing crunch may be most acute in California, it impacts college students nationwide.With video from Terry Chea and photos by Eric Risberg, digital storyteller Samantha Shotzbarger created a strong presentation that performed well both on AP platforms and with customers, but its real impact was on Facebook, where it was viewed 2.4 million times.Read more

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March 22, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Kushner organization routinely filed false NYC housing documents

It started with a tip about tenants being harassed at a cluster of New York apartment buildings owned by Jared Kushner's family.

Bernard Condon, a New York-based business writer, began reporting the story last year, visiting buildings and interviewing the tenants, some of whom told similar stories of being subjected to loud construction at all hours, dust, rodents, lead paint in the air and heat suddenly shut off in the winter. Then, some were approached with offers of money to get them to move so the company could install higher-paying tenants.

But the tip did not truly develop until a tenant advocate source told Condon that Kushner Cos. had filed false paperwork for two buildings elsewhere in the city that made it easier to harass tenants during construction. Further, the organization had filed paperwork saying it had zero rent-regulated tenants in buildings throughout the city when, in fact, it had hundreds.

If the Kushner Cos. had disclosed those rent-regulated tenants, it could have triggered stricter city oversight, including possibly unscheduled "sweeps" on site by inspectors to keep the company from harassing tenants.

For dogged reporting that exposed the falsehoods of a company led by the president's son-in-law and trusted adviser, Condon earns the Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 06, 2019

Best of the States

Dual labors of love: Documenting a Chicago neighborhood that would not die

Chicago-based national writer Martha Irvine has always been interested in stories about the city’s neighborhoods that buck stereotypes. So when she learned of a grassroots project to “reclaim” abandoned housing on the city’s South Side, Irvine began what she calls “a labor of love.” 

She spent months getting to know the people of the Chicago Lawn neighborhood and their stories. Residents – ex-cons, immigrants, members of the urban working class – were not prepared to let their neighborhood succumb to the malaise that had engulfed other areas of the city, so they came together to make Chicago Lawn a desirable place to live. 

Irvine did it all – not just writing this remarkable story, but shooting the photos and video. The package received heavy play and elicited rewarding feedback. One woman called the work “incredibly uplifting,” adding, “Loved the video, too. Inspiration station.”

For a compelling all-formats package that shed light on a Chicago neighborhood’s success story and resonated with readers, Martha Irvine earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 23, 2018

Best of the States

AP collaboration exposes unequal lending practices across the country

When editors with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting approached AP with a story on unfair lending practices, data editor Meghan Hoyer and data journalist Angel Kastanis saw an opportunity to use AP’s reach to expand the story and generate real impact.

Starting with 31 million records, representing nearly every mortgage loan application submitted in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, they found that 50 years after the federal Fair Housing Act, people of color are still denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts. The analysis found a pattern of denials across the country, including in major metropolitan areas.

While Reveal took the lead on the national story, Kastanis and Hoyer took the story deeper. The data distribution they prepared and shared with AP reporters and members showed 61 metro areas where applicants of color were more likely to be denied a conventional home purchase mortgage, even controlling for factors such as income, loan amount and neighborhood.

For taking the story to the next level in a way only AP can, Kastanis and Hoyer receive this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.

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April 29, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Inside a Lviv apartment building, AP team gives a glimpse of life for displaced Ukrainians

London-based news director Susie Blann wanted to tell the story of how the city of Lviv had welcomed hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who fled their homes during the Russian invasion but chose to remain in their country.

Blann, joined by photographer Nariman El-Mofty, video journalist Renata Brito and text reporter Cara Anna, looked behind the doors of one Lviv apartment block, earning the trust of people from Irpin, Kyiv and Kharkiv who had found temporary housing there and were willing to tell their stories.

The result was a remarkable presentation produced in collaboration with Natalie Castañeda, giving a deeply personal glimpse into the lives of some of the millions of people displaced by war.

For their tireless, resourceful work in demanding circumstances, the team of Blann, Anna, El-Mofty, Brito and Castañeda is the AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 05, 2018

Best of the States

ONLY ON AP: FEMA sells trailers for pennies on the dollar despite high demand from disaster victims

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas in August, Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas, and Michael Sisak in Philadelphia teamed up to report exclusively that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had sold off scores of trailers with little to no damage in the days leading up to the storm. Their reporting had an immediate impact: FEMA said it had halted the auctions and would evaluate whether any of the units could be used for Harvey victims.

Fast forward to November, when Sisak noticed the auctions had resumed. Working with Central Desk editor Jeff McMurray, Sisak and Schmall took a pointed look at government waste, showing how FEMA was selling gently used trailers for pennies on the dollar rather than making them available for disaster victims.

For resourceful reporting that broke new ground, Schmall and Sisak share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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July 19, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Unscrupulous landlord exposed in hurricane-ravaged North Carolina

for deft text and video reporting that highlighted, as no other news outlet had, the struggles of vulnerable hurricane victims caught in a vice between rent hikes and a housing shortage. Morris reported that in a county hammered by two hurricanes in two years, a Florida-based landlord had bought up two-dozen area mobile home parks between storms, doubling or tripling rents. https://bit.ly/30DCvAA

March 02, 2018

Best of the States

Texas effort to streamline hurricane recovery backfires

As the six-month mark approached of Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas, Austin Administrative Correspondent Will Weissert and Fort Worth Correspondent Emily Schmall teamed up to report exclusively that the state’s decision to lead housing recovery – meant to be faster and better than anything the federal government could muster – was actually resulting in backlogs that made the chaotic response after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina look good by comparison.

Acting on a tip, the duo dug into federal records and added field reporting to produce a multi-format report showing that delay by the governor, and the state land office’s steep learning curve, meant temporary shelter and quick-fix home repair programs were rolling out at a startlingly slow pace.

For excellent sourcing and taking a deeper look at Texas’ hurricane recovery process, Weissert and Schmall share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Nov. 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: White House election party under scrutiny for virus cases

used dogged source work to report on COVID infections among guests at President Donald Trump’s election night party. Election night eventually stretched into five long days in AP’s Washington bureau, leaving political journalists exhausted, but Colvin wasn’t done. She circled back on the East Room party meant to celebrate a Trump victory that never came. Colvin described the event as a classic case of the White House flouting coronavirus guidelines that were drawing new scrutiny after chief of staff Mark Meadows turned out to be among the guests who had tested positive for COVID-19. The story required determined reporting because, as Colvin wrote in the story, “the White House has been increasingly secretive about outbreaks. Many White House and campaign officials, as well as those who attended the election watch party, were kept in the dark” about who had contracted the virus. But within hours, the story proved prophetic as word surfaced that two more prominent attendees, Housing Secretary Ben Carson and campaign adviser David Bossie had also tested positive. In coming days, even more guests at the event tested positive. https://bit.ly/2Hm7Une

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March 18, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Liberal US cities change course, clearing homeless camps

Sara Cline documented how liberal cities from Seattle to Austin, Texas, to New York, are taking a far more aggressive approach in dealing with homelessness as they emerge from the pandemic.Cities that for years tolerated tent encampments in public parks and public spaces are responding to fed-up business owners and residents who say the levels of street disorder are too high. But people who work with the unhoused say newly elected mayors are targeting a vulnerable population to score political points, rather than dealing with the underlying issues of addiction and housing affordability.Cline, a Portland, Oregon-based Report For America AP fellow, worked with staff photographers Ted Warren in Seattle and Rich Pedroncelli in Sacramento, California, to document the increased camp sweeps and to highlight the issues of people living on the street. Her story was one of only two non-Ukraine stories in AP’s top 10 for reader engagement over the weekend. Read more

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Sept. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Distinctive reporting gives voice to fastest-growing US county

upended stereotypes with a deeply textured, intimate examination of a North Dakota community transformed by sudden growth.As part of the AP's ongoing coverage of the 2020 Census, Montana-based Brown went to McKenzie County, North Dakota — the center of the western oil boom and the fastest-growing county in the U.S. — to examine the impact of dramatic growth on a sleepy community on the western prairie. He charted the growth through the eyes of the people, from the old-timers who remembered riding horses through fields now lined with housing developments and oil wells, to newcomers finding their way into the fabric of the community.The story that emerged in Brown’s evocative words and photos came as something of a counternarrative to preconceived notions about how divided Americans are from one another. As revealed in graphics by Francois Duckett, a significant portion of McKenzie County’s newcomers are Hispanic, but many of those Brown interviewed described being embraced by the locals: the new restaurant owner helped along by customers who responded during the pandemic, or a transplanted family touched by the small-town charm of friendly faces saying hello in the grocery store.Brown’s nuanced reporting and writing gave his story a compelling narrative arc and showed the value of going to see firsthand what happens when a community is confronted with dramatic growth. https://aplink.news/bea

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Dec. 21, 2018

Best of the States

Sourcework pays off with scoop on Julian Castro presidential bid

Getting a source to give AP a major scoop over competitors can take weeks or months of building credibility and trust. Sometimes that payoff takes years – as Austin, Texas, newsman Paul Weber discovered while breaking the news that former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro was becoming the first Democrat in the 2020 field to launch an exploratory committee for president.

Weber’s relationship with Castro goes back nearly a decade. Weber moved to AP’s San Antonio bureau in 2009, covering the 34-year-old mayor as a national political figure, including regular source meetings and face time with his family.

When Castro returned to Texas after two years as the nation’s housing secretary, Weber ran into him, stumping for other Democrats on the 2018 campaign trail. Months later Weber received a call from the number he had plugged into his phone eight years earlier: It was Castro calling to say he was “likely” to run for president.

The APNewsBreak immediately trended as a top story on social media and put AP hours ahead of major competitors, including The New York Times, which cited AP and quoted from Weber’s exclusive all-formats interview.

For exceptional source development and for negotiating an AP exclusive, Weber wins this week’s Best of the States.

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