April 05, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Florida targeting massage parlor prostitution, trafficking

When police busted several massage parlors engaging in prostitution in Florida in February, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft drew all the attention, but hundreds of other men were also charged in what seemed like a new approach for Florida authorities.

AP Florida reporters Mike Schneider, Orlando, and Terry Spencer, West Palm Beach, seized on the Kraft-driven attention to dig into legal issues surrounding massage parlors and prostitution in Florida. With a deep dive into state records and a key interview with a local source, the pair landed an AP Exclusive that showed a change in strategy: Usually only low-level massage therapists were arrested. Owners were rarely charged and typically faced only fines and probation. Johns typically were not charged at all.

But the recent investigation had instead focused heavily on the possibility of widespread human trafficking. Several spa owners were charged with felonies, and authorities also charged 300 men accused of being patrons, including Kraft and the former president of Citigroup. The Martin County sheriff told Spencer that he wanted to shut down the sex-massage industry in part by targeting the demand side.

Strong play included prominent display in The Washington Post.

For their enterprising use of state records and source-building to find an AP Exclusive in a story that drew enormous global attention, Schneider and Spencer win this week’s Best of States 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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Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP captures the essential work of Spain’s mortuary workers

produced a powerful set of images that captures the grim but essential work of mortuary workers collecting the bodies of COVID-19 victims from hospitals, nursing homes and private residences in Spain. Since the pandemic began in the spring, Morenatti has recorded the impact of the coronavirus on Spain with moving and sometimes jarring photo packages from spaces not often open to journalists: hospitals, funeral parlors and even private homes. While the images may shock, Morenatti consistently documents his subjects with sensitivity and respect. His latest package is no exception.After weeks of trying, Morenatti managed to embed with the Barcelona mortuary workers. His photos, accompanied by colleague Joe Wilson’s text, revealed the important work done by people in a profession that rarely makes headlines, and also captured the emotional toll on the workers. One image from a nursing home showed workers in protective suits removing the body of an elderly COVID victim as another resident slept in an adjacent bed. The images played widely, including the front-page of Spain’s leading daily, El Pais, and made The Guardian’s “20 Photographs of the Week.”https://bit.ly/36yJvVdhttps://bit.ly/36BFfnM

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