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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June 04, 2021

Best of the Week

Unique AP visual investigation reveals Myanmar's junta using bodies to terrorize civilians

The video was startling: As a motorcycle carrying three men speeds down a city street in Myanmar, a soldier traveling in the back of a pickup truck opens fire. A man falls to the ground, mortally wounded, while the other two run away. 

Investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason found that the video was one of many seeming to show the military firing at civilians indiscriminately in the wake of February’s coup. They also noticed that security forces appear to go out of their way to mutilate and drag bodies in the street, seemingly to terrorize the populace. The pair teamed up with the Human Rights Center Investigations Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, applying cutting-edge image analysis to thousands of social media posts and images online to reveal how the junta in Myanmar was using the bodies as tools of terror, according to human rights activists. 

With important contributions by Southeast Asia news director Kiko Rosario, and video by Manuel Valdes, the piece received more than 53,000 views on AP platforms.

For finding a way to analyze visual data from one of the world’s most secretive countries and presenting it in a rich and compelling multiformat narrative, McDowell, Mason, Rosario and Valdes earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 04, 2021

Best of the States

Multiformat team delivers expansive AP coverage during centennial of Tulsa Race Massacre

With the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre months away, text and visual journalists from AP’s Race and Ethnicity, Central Region and Enterprise teams embarked on a plan to dig deeper into the story of the atrocity, well beyond just covering the centennial events.

The team started arriving in Tulsa weeks ahead of the anniversary to explore the city and meet descendants of massacre survivors, who opened up about the horrific event and how it continues to impact their families and the community. Among those they met was the family of Ernestine Alpha Gibbs, who survived the massacre and died 18 years ago at age 100.

Their efforts resulted in a comprehensive package of enterprise stories, from the lost wealth and racial inequality that Black Tulsans have endured, to the descendants of Black victims preparing to resume a search for mass graves, to an examination of how history books and law enforcement have depicted the massacre, and much more. 

The coverage was not without breaking news. In addition to a visit by President Joe Biden, AP learned that the weekend’s headline event was canceled because of a disagreement over payments to three survivors for their appearance at the event. 

For sweeping enterprise and spot coverage that raises awareness of this grim milestone in American race relations, this multiformat team earns AP’s Best of the States award.

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May 28, 2021

Best of the Week

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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May 21, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Smart reporting puts AP ahead on indictments in spa killings

was far ahead of even local media in reporting the indictment of the man accused of killing eight people at Atlanta-area massage businesses, answering a key question in the case: whether the district attorneys in two counties where the shootings occurred would seek the death penalty and/or enhanced penalties under Georgia’s hate crimes law. Atlanta reporter Brumback had learned from sources that both counties would likely present their cases to grand juries the same day; she worked up prep for no fewer than eight different scenarios, then began checking Fulton County’s court website. The indictment showed up — with notice of intent to indeed seek hate crime charges and the death penalty. Brumback quickly obtained the document from court clerk sources, then turned to her prep reporting for the story.Meanwhile, she had asked South Desk editor R.J. Rico to keep checking Cherokee County’s court website. When the Cherokee County indictment did turn up, the pair worked together to expedite that news. As other reporters asked questions regarding Cherokee County’s indictment at the news conference, AP’s update was on the wire.AP’s reporting was more than half an hour ahead of local media, and national outlets were even further behind. The story led AP customer use for the day, picked up by some 650 news outlets. https://aplink.news/x05

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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 07, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals Ethiopia’s sweeping detention of ethnic Tigrayans

broke the news that Ethiopia has swept up thousands of ethnic Tigrayans into detention centers across the country, often holding them for months and without charges. The disturbing revelations marked the latest installment in AP’s standout coverage of the conflict.The Ethiopian government had acknowledged detaining a small number of high-level military officials from the Tigray minority. But the reporting by Anna, AP East Africa correspondent, found the detentions were far more sweeping and arbitrary, including priests, teachers and nurses. She spoke with 15 detainees and families, including two who were still in detention centers and using smuggled phones. The arbitrary locking up of non-combatants is against international law, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has met with family members of detainees but declined to answer questions. https://bit.ly/3emkCjv

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April 30, 2021

Best of the Week

Chauvin trial verdict, a Tigray refugee family: Diverse coverage exemplifies AP at its best

From major breaking news in the U.S. to unmatched international enterprise reporting, two very different entries — worlds apart but united by excellence — produce a rare joint winner for AP’s Best of the Week.

First, AP’s teamwork delivered unmatched breaking and explanatory cross-format coverage around the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, a case that framed the conversation on race and policing. Then, the trio of Cara Anna, Nariman El-Mofty and Mohaned Awad produced a riveting package on a Tigray father’s harrowing journey with his newborn twins, a stark illustration of the devastating war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

For powerful journalism that defines the range and depth of AP’s global coverage, the all-formats teams behind this compelling work share AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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April 30, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Fast response, sensitive coverage put AP ahead on shooting by deputy

responded quickly in all formats after a Black man in rural eastern North Carolina was shot and killed by deputies, the team deftly leading multiple news cycles by staying ahead on spot developments while telling the story of the man’s life. The quick coverage was key as authorities released few details.Hours after Andrew Brown Jr. was killed by deputies serving a warrant, AP was on the ground in Elizabeth City with text, photo and video staff, gathering a key eyewitness account and protester reaction while also interviewing family members.The following day, AP delivered a sensitive account that captured the complexity of Brown’s life, with family describing him as a proud father with a beaming smile. That story, along with the first day story, captured front pages around North Carolina and beyond. AP continued to lead with detail and context in subsequent cycles, drawing credit from other news outlets.The FBI has since launched a civil rights probe into Brown’s killing.https://bit.ly/3xtUL0Ehttps://bit.ly/3gHWv08https://bit.ly/3vobAIhhttps://bit.ly/3eECapO

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April 23, 2021

Best of the States

Teamwork, enterprise deliver deep coverage on fatal police shooting of Chicago teen

When Chicago police released the body camera video of an officer fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy in an alley, AP staffers in Chicago and across the AP sprang into action with aggressive reporting, sharp enterprise follow-ups and thoughtful standards discussions about how to responsibly portray the gruesome incident for photo and video clients.

The end result was three days of distinctive spot and enterprise coverage on a story that resonated with audiences around the world, especially with renewed focus on police violence in the midst of the Derek Chauvin murder trial.

For comprehensive coverage providing depth, detail and context on the shooting, the all-formats team of Michael Tarm, Don Babwin, Sara Burnett, Kat Stafford, Dave Bauder, Shafkat Anowar, Robert Bumsted and Derek Karikari shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exposes offensive Pennsylvania police Facebook page

teamed up to reveal a private Facebook page where western Pennsylvania police officers shared distasteful and malicious posts. Lauer had heard rumors of the page and spent a year gently working sources in Pittsburgh until one finally confirmed the Pittsburgh Area Police Breakroom page existed. The source, over a few months, helped Lauer, a member of AP’s law enforcement team, acquire information found on the page, including transphobic, racist and bullying posts.

Lauer, along with news associate Beaty, took a hard look at the officers with the most egregious posts. She then went to Pittsburgh with New York video journalist Shaffrey and Pittsburgh photographer Srakocic to confront some of the officers, including a police chief listed as an administrator of the Facebook group. The result was an all-formats investigative story that appeared on numerous newspaper landing pages and generated high engagement on social media. Facebook reached out to AP not long after the story went live to say the offensive page was removed for violating company policy and to give an official comment. https://bit.ly/3wjaGhohttps://bit.ly/3ug6Dkr

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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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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

Best of the Week

Riot in America: Compelling and courageous coverage of the insurrection at the US Capitol

The AP team arriving on Capitol Hill expected to cover history on Jan. 6: an unprecedented challenge from Republicans lawmakers to the outcome of the election. Within hours, however, those staffers found themselves covering an insurrectionist mob storming the U.S. Capitol.

As angry supporters of President Donald Trump descended on Capitol Hill, confronting police, breaking down barricades and smashing through windows, AP journalists working in all formats documented the chaotic scenes inside and outside the Capitol.

Despite orders to evacuate, trashed equipment and a vicious attack on one of our staffers, the team on the ground kept words and images moving throughout the day, highlighted by stunning visuals. The work continued into the early hours of the next morning, when Congress finally the certified election results.

For their riveting real-time coverage as U.S. history unfolded, the courageous and dedicated staff on Capitol Hill earns AP’s Best of the Week 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. 15, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP explores racial double standard in Capitol attack

explored the apparent disparity between the response to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and last year’s racial justice protests.New York-based race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison had watched President Donald Trump’s supporters storm the Capitol and reasoned that the protesters who called out racial injustice over the summer wouldn’t have been allowed to get close enough to the Capitol to breach it. Morrison and the AP team set out to examine the circumstances.Sources gave Morrisons interviews or statements saying that Black people who protest systemic racism are often met by police or National Guard troops equipped with assault rifles and tear gas. However, they pointed out, the mostly white mob that attacked the Capitol was met by an underwhelming law enforcement presence.Urban affairs reporter Gillian Flaccus contributed to Morrison’s reporting from Portland, Oregon, where Black Lives Matter advocates quickly noted the discrepancy between Trump’s response to racial justice protests in the Pacific Northwest city and his encouragement of the violence in the halls of Congress.Washington-based broadcast producer Padmananda Rama interviewed newly sworn-in St. Louis Rep. Cori Bush, who said the race of the Capitol rioters played a big part in their ability to breach the building; her video was packaged with the text piece. And Top Stories Hub photo editor Alyssa Goodman pulled together several images contrasting how the last week’s insurrection was handled as opposed to the racial justice protests.The violent breaching of the halls of power on Capitol Hill represented “one of the plainest displays of a racial double standard in both modern and recent history,” Morrison wrote.https://bit.ly/3bCEcqvhttps://bit.ly/38HK0x2

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Jan. 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Greece team tracks down nurse who built a home ICU

dug behind the scenes to reveal the extraordinary lengths one man went to in caring for his COVID-19-stricken mother-in-law and other relatives — the nurse created an intensive care unit in his home. Kantouris won the international competition to track down the man whose feat had begun to appear in local media reports. He interviewed nurse Gabriel Tachtatzoglou, delving into his motivations and methods for taking on the high-risk endeavor. Tachtatzoglou had spared his family members from hospitalization in an overburdened local facility while simultaneously easing the patient load in Greece’s most heavily affected region, where ICUs were already at capacity. Visuals were a challenge as the makeshift ICU was dismantled when the family recovered, but photo stringer Papanikos complemented the story with a visit to the home for a portrait shoot. Athens staffer Derek Gatopoulos drafted this installment of AP’s “One Good Thing” series, which was picked up even by the Greek press. https://bit.ly/3oy9nHv

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Dec. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals sexual misconduct charges against FBI leadership

used interviews, public records requests and court papers to exclusively confirm at least six sexual misconduct allegations against senior FBI officials over the past five years, and that each avoided discipline. Several were quietly transferred or retired with full benefits, even when probes substantiated the claims.Starting with a single tip from a longtime FBI source, Mustian chipped away for months to reveal the previously undisclosed names of most of those senior officials as well as the details of the allegations against them. He used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain inspector general reports, one of which confirmed the identity of an assistant FBI director who had been credibly accused of of drunkenly groping a female subordinate in a stairwell. The assistant director left the bureau without discipline.Mustian also found a civil rights lawyer in Washington who was preparing two lawsuits by women accusing senior officials. Mustian negotiated both for an exclusive interview with one of the plaintiffs, and to be the first reporter to write about those cases, including one woman’s claim of being blackmailed into sexual encounters for years.Mustian’s story received heavy play and elicited a strong reaction from readers, particularly those inside the FBI. Several women emailed Mustian to say his count was just the beginning; that they too were victims of senior agents while at the FBI. A California congresswoman says she is considering hearings into the FBI’s handling of sexual misconduct. https://bit.ly/3h15d7R

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Dec. 11, 2020

Best of the Week

In exclusive AP interview, AG Barr says no evidence of widespread election fraud, undermining Trump

Justice Department reporter Mike Balsamo has spent months cultivating sources at the Department of Justice, earning a reputation as an objective journalist who reports fairly and accurately. 

His relationships paid off with an exclusive interview of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in which Barr said the DOJ could find no evidence of widespread voting fraud, dramatically undercutting President Donald Trump’s insistence to the contrary.

“I knew ... he had made probably the biggest news he has in his tenure as AG,” said Balsamo. His story topped the news cycle and resonated for days. No other news outlet could match it and AP was widely cited for the scoop.

For persistent, evenhanded reporting on the Justice Department beat resulting in the interview that netted one of AP’s most consequential news coups of the year, Balsamo wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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