Aug. 24, 2016

Best of the States

Historic flooding in Louisiana

Many media were slow to respond to the historic flooding in Louisiana this month, but not The Associated Press. AP journalists provided timely, perceptive and poignant spot and enterprise stories from the very first hours of the torrential rains.

Aggressive cross-format coverage by a staff focused on stories of real people were key to covering the disaster. In text, the reporters included New Orleans administrative correspondent Rebecca Santana; Baton Rouge correspondent Melinda Deslatte; and newsmen Mike Kunzelman in Baton Rouge and Kevin McGill in New Orleans. Freelance photographer Max Becherer and video journalists John Mone of Houston, and Josh Replogle of Miami rounded out AP's team on the ground.

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May 03, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Back-to-back scoops reveal details of Louisiana police cases

for two accountability scoops in his native Louisiana. Mustian tapped sources to get the state police there to reveal an embarrassing security breach at the governor’s mansion – a man accused of breaking in, damaging property and then falling asleep on a couch. That APNewsBreak was published just hours after he revealed the full body-camera footage of the police-involved shooting of Juston Landry in Lake Charles. A grand jury cleared the officer of the shooting, but Landry’s attorney characterized the footage as “murder on camera.”https://bit.ly/2GQx9tvhttps://bit.ly/2LfQv0B

July 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team explores NASA climate research in Louisiana delta

explained in all formats an intensive, highly technical NASA study of Louisiana’s deltas designed to help protect and bolster the world’s deltas dwindling with climate change.McConnaughey and Herbert captured the start of the five-year study that is expected to help countries around the globe decide which of their deltas can be saved and which are beyond help. New Orleans reporter McConnaughey, who has been writing for decades about Louisiana’s land loss, learned about the project through a news release and stayed in touch with NASA and Louisiana State University researchers for more than a year. She and photojournalist Herbert eventually joined one of the researchers on his own boat to interview scientists doing research in the field.Herbert also used his own small plane and a kayak — trips frequently delayed by storms and major breaking news — to get exquisite environmental shots and video of the delta to illustrate the wetlands and wildlife scientists hope to protect. Video journalist Plaisance combined her own video with Herbert’s for a piece bringing the research to life. A separate photo gallery of Herbert’s striking nature photos in Hog Bayou, with poetic text by McConnaughey, completed the multiformat package, making a complex scientific effort understandable.https://aplink.news/nh6https://aplink.photos/e2phttps://aplink.video/2t9

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June 17, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation of Louisiana State Police triggers federal probe

fittingly beat the competition with news of the biggest impact yet from their two-year investigation of beatings and cover-ups by the Louisiana State Police: The U.S. Justice Department is launching a sweeping civil rights probe of the agency to see if there is a pattern of excessive force and racial discrimination.Based on their deep sourcing, Mustian and Bleiberg were able to exclusively report the federal “pattern-or-practice” investigation as a news alert about an hour before the official announcement in Baton Rouge. It marked the first such action against a statewide law enforcement agency in more than two decades. All the examples cited by the assistant attorney general as justitification for the probe came from a string of AP scoops that exposed (often with video) beatings of mostly Black men and the Louisiana agency’s instinct to protect troopers rather than investigate them.Read more

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Sept. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Breonna Taylor protesters find growing sense of community

showed the human side of the national reckoning on race, revealing how a sense of community and purpose has emerged among the small band of demonstrators who have gathered for weeks in search of justice for Breonna Taylor at Louisville’s “Injustice Square.”

The Louisville-based reporters covered the protests that emerged just after Taylor was killed by police in March, and then returned to check in on a small core group of demonstrators who had hung in for the long haul. They found a group that had discovered in themselves a sense of community and purpose greater than many of them had known before.

Galofaro told the story through the eyes of Amber Brown, a Louisville bus driver who feels so connected to Taylor and so committed to justice that she returns day after day to the small public square where the protesters gather.https://bit.ly/32iqHayhttps://bit.ly/3m8Tqq6

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Aug. 20, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

COVID surge overwhelms a Louisiana hospital; AP is there

produced a timely, moving, all-formats story from a Louisiana COVID-19 ward with a lightning turnaround, getting her video, text and photos to the wire the day after she spent hours at the hospital.Plaisance, New Orleans-based video journalist, was given access to a hospital intensive care unit in Jefferson, Louisiana, expecting to get a few comments and some b-roll. Instead, she ended up spending the most of the day there, interviewing exhausted staff and recovering COVID victims. She spoke to a doctor who was emptying garbage bins and bathing patients to relieve the pressure on nurses. She spoke to a nurse who lost his own father to COVID, and a patient — also a nurse — who didn't get vaccinated and wants to make sure others don’t follow her lead.After leaving the hospital, Plaisance immediately went to work cutting video and writing the text story. By the following afternoon her work was on the wire capturing the desperation and urgency at the hospital.The package drew attention amid the current spike in COVID cases. Other news outlets noticed: After Plaisance’s piece appeared, the hospital became the subject of other reporters’ coverage.https://aplink.news/e0uhttps://aplink.video/p2n

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June 18, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Secret panel investigating Louisiana State Police unit’s treatment of Black motorists

From the very beginning of Jim Mustian’s stellar reporting on the death of Black motorist Ronald Greene, he has been driven by two main questions: What really happened to Greene on the night of his 2019 arrest? And was this a pattern of how Louisiana state troopers treated Black motorists?

Mustian answered the first last month when he obtained body camera video showing troopers stunning, choking, punching and dragging the unarmed Greene as he apologized and begged for mercy. 

And he began answering the second this past week when he exclusively reported that the Louisiana State Police has convened a secret panel to investigate whether Troop F — the same unit involved in Greene’s arrest  — was systematically targeting other Black motorists. Mustian’s detailed reporting and solid sourcing turned up new cases and new video, and he landed the first-ever interview with one of the victims. 

His scoop scored with heavy play and strong engagement. For dogged reporting to keep the AP ahead on a searing case of racial injustice and its continuing fallout, Mustian earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Use of racial slurs not ‘isolated’ at Louisiana State Police

reported exclusively on a string of racial slurs used by Louisiana State Police troopers, both in their official emails and spoken on the job, refuting the contention of the agency’s superintendent that the use of such demeaning language was just “isolated.”Mustian reviewed hundreds of police records and found at least a dozen instances over a three-year period in which employees forwarded racist emails or demeaned minority colleagues with racist nicknames. He also exclusively obtained documents of an accidental “pocket-dial” of sorts in which a white trooper sent a voice mail to a Black trooper that blurted out his name and then a vile racist slur. The state police superintendent made an abrupt retirement announcement in the midst of Mustian’s reporting, which follows weeks of his coverage on the still-unexplained death of Ronald Greene, a Black motorist taken into custody last year following a police chase. Reeves faced criticism for his secretive handling of the case, including the refusal to release body-cam video that, according to those who have seen it, shows troopers beating, choking and dragging Greene. The case is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation. Mustian’s story on the racial slurs received strong play, including on the front page of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune/Advocate. https://bit.ly/34VHCkp

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Sept. 17, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation reveals pattern of beatings, shrouded in secrecy, by Louisiana State Police

Law enforcement reporters Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg built on their previous reporting to document a devastating pattern of violence and secrecy at the Louisiana State Police, identifying at least a dozen beating cases over the past decade in which troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct.

Their exclusive investigation stems from the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene — initially blamed on a car crash. That case was blown open this spring when the AP published long-withheld video showing state troopers stunning, punching and dragging the Black motorist as he pleaded for mercy. Mustian and Bleiberg proceeded to scour investigative records and work sources, finding a disproportionate use of force against Louisiana’s Black population and an absence of transparency and accountability in the agency.

Impact from this latest story was swift, from the head of the state police to a Louisiana congressman and others calling for investigation and reform.

For dogged reporting that peeled back the layers of case after case to reveal a pattern of abuse — and is effecting change in Louisiana — Mustian and Bleiberg earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 01, 2021

Best of the States

AP finds hurricane-battered Louisiana residents struggling, enduring months later

Ever since Hurricane Laura hit southwest Louisiana in August, correspondent Rebecca Santana and photographer Gerald Herbert wanted to follow up with the region’s residents. But in a busy hurricane season, it wasn’t until December that plans finally came together. 

Santana researched for weeks, finding subjects and learning about recovery efforts. The pair then spent two days in the Lake Charles area where they saw the devastation firsthand and met storm victims, including a couple whose postponed wedding was finally happening. Herbert, who also shot the video for the stories, went back to Lake Charles eight times, even sleeping in a gutted house on Christmas Eve.

The result was two print stories, three video packages and a photo essay, all of which received prominent play. For uncovering the compelling stories of hurricane victims months after the storms faded from the headlines, Santana and Herbert earn AP’s Best of the States award for the week of Dec. 21.

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Sept. 10, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Resourceful post-hurricane reporting yields exclusives on Louisiana oil spills

As Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana — launching strong AP coverage that would stretch from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast — Washington-based investigative reporter Michael Biesecker contacted federal and state officials who kept telling him they had no confirmed reports of oil or chemical spills along the coast.

But Biesecker’s inspection of aerial photos by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told a different story. He found a worrying miles-long oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico off the region’s main oil and gas port, and another sheen coming from a massive oil refinery along the Mississippi River.

His persistence led to a series of exclusives on the two oil spills, including the news that divers had identified a broken undersea pipeline as the apparent source of the offshore slick.

For smart reporting that put AP ahead of the competition — and even ahead of the government and energy companies themselves — on an important environmental story in the wake of Ida, Biesecker is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Feds probing in-custody death of Black man in Louisiana

reported exclusively on the launch of a federal investigation into the death last year of Ronald Greene, a Black man in Louisiana, following what state troopers say was a struggle at the end of a traffic chase. It is a long-simmering case in which police have refused to release any body camera video or records. Mustian’s deep reporting also included confirmation of a separate FBI civil rights investigation and the publication of graphic death photos. The probe has raised questions that the Louisiana State Police has so far refused to answer.https://bit.ly/33Zvf58https://bit.ly/33Z1yBd

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Nov. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP’s latest on Louisiana State Police: A culture of impunity, nepotism, abuse

deconstructed how the Louisiana State Police scandal of beatings and cover-ups could have gone on for so long, digging deeper into the institutional thinking of the agency, its history and the background of key figures. They interviewed dozens of current and former troopers and uncovered thousands of pages of documents that described an entrenched culture of impunity, nepotism and in some cases outright racism.This story, the latest in their investigative series stemming from the deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene, was built around a father who rose to second in command of the state agency despite being reprimanded for racist behavior, and his son who became one of the state police’s most violent troopers — with the brunt of his use of force directed at Black people.Mustian and Bleiberg, federal law enforcement reporters, also had never-before-reported details of a 2019 cheating scandal in the state police academy that targeted the entire class for dismissal. In the end, nearly everyone in the class was allowed to graduate. And they conducted a revealing interview with the head of the state police in which he admitted he doesn’t know how many other cases like Ronald Greene’s could still be out there because “we’ve not looked at every video.”The story, accompanied by video and photos by multiformat journalist Allen Breed, added to calls for a federal investigation, and Louisiana lawmakers created a special committee to dig into reports of excessive force. The piece also resonated with readers, scoring strong play online and ranking as one of the most-engaged stories of the week.https://aplink.news/3zuhttps://aplink.video/ysmhttps://aplink.news/xda

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