June 04, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team probes the depth of racism in U.S. military ranks

teamed up to reveal how the roots of racism still run deep in all branches of the U.S. military, and how the Defense Department has done little to determine the scope of extremism in the ranks and take steps to address it.Although military members are often reluctant to speak out, fearful of damage to their careers or other forms of retaliation, this joint effort by AP race and ethnicity and investigative journalists landed searing interviews with active and former troops in nearly every branch of the armed services. They told of being taunted by racial slurs, disrespected by colleagues and discouraged by superiors from openly embracing their cultures.Among their other findings: The military’s judicial system has no explicit category for hate crimes, and the Defense Department still has no way to track the number of troops ousted for extremist views. The Defense Department had three weeks to respond to detailed questions, but failed to do so by the deadline. Once the piece was published and officials saw the depth and breadth of the AP’s reporting the DOD came forward with a 3,000-word statement that was incorporated in the live story.https://bit.ly/3gcO9fdhttps://bit.ly/3gcRXx1

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Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AWOL weapons: ’Explosive’ investigation of missing military ordnance

expanded AP’s “AWOL Weapons” investigation, revealing how explosives are lost or stolen from the U.S. armed services, sometimes with deadly consequences.When AP reported in June that the U.S. military couldn’t account for all its firearms, the team knew there was more to uncover. Their latest installment reports that hundreds (if not thousands) of armor-piercing grenades and hundreds of pounds of plastic explosives also vanished.AP’s investigation was built on data the team extracted from the military, and which data editor Myers marshaled for analysis. Investigative reporter LaPorta filed the original Freedom of Information Act request with the Marines, obtaining data that was crucial to framing the scope of the problem, while video journalist Hall and investigative reporter Pritchard used exclusive investigative case files to detail how troops stole plastic explosives. At a major Marine base a sergeant hoarded C4 because he feared Donald Trump would lose; after another insider theft, explosives ended up with high school kids.Hall found a man who survived the explosion of an artillery shell at the Mississippi recycling yard where he worked. His co-worker died. That emotional interview alone drew more than 56,000 Twitter views. Combined with exclusive interrogation footage of Marines, video journalists Serginho Roosblad and Jeannie Ohm wove together a compelling video package using interviews by colleagues Stacey Plaisance and Robert Bumsted. Senior researcher Jennifer Farrar also contributed.The online presentation by Raghu Vadarevu, Natalie Castañeda and Peter Hamlin took the distinctive visual language they previously developed for the series and gave it even more impact. Thanks also to the expert wordsmithing of editor Jerry Schwartz and a well-conceived social media plan by audience engagement specialist Elise Ryan, the package scored over 130,000 views on AP News, more than double other top stories. The story also generated media buzz, including a prominent interview with Hall by CNBC’s Shepard Smith.https://aplink.news/xjghttps://aplink.news/d7yhttps://aplink.video/xnn

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Jan. 06, 2017

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

While Venezuelans go hungry, military makes money from food

for showing that even as Venezuelans go hungry, the military charged with food distribution is making money from it instead; they dug up documents and talked to more than 60 people, including five retired generals, got into Venezuela's main port, which is closed to the media, and found out exclusively about a U.S. Congress probe into food trafficking in Venezuela. http://apne.ws/2i1qXUs

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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March 22, 2018

Best of the States

Sex assaults among children on US military bases routinely ignored

Last May, as Reese Dunklin and Justin Pritchard sifted through readers' email responses to AP's 2017 investigation into schoolhouse sex assault, both reporters flagged the same messages for follow-up: The tips described problems with the handling of sex assaults reported on U.S. military bases among the children and teens of service members.

Through dozens of FOIA requests and interviews, they found that reports of sexual assaults and rapes among military kids were getting lost in a dead zone of justice, with neither victim nor offender receiving help. Cases often died on the desks of prosecutors, even when an attacker confessed. And criminal investigators shelved other cases, despite requirements they be pursued, the reporters found.

Using government records and data released by the Pentagon’s military branches and school system, Dunklin and Pritchard catalogued nearly 600 cases of sex assaults among children on military bases, often after protracted FOIA negotiations. Though an acknowledged undercount, it was the first such quantification – something neither the Pentagon nor its global school system had previously done.

For shedding light on a problem too long ignored, and localizing it for AP members in their states, Dunklin and Pritchard share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Sharp rise in reports of sexual assault at US military academies

broke news ahead of a Pentagon announcement: Sexual assaults reported at U.S. military academies have risen sharply.Longtime Defense Department reporter Baldor used a tip, source work and rigorous reporting to determine the closely guarded numbers for all the elite academies. And when the DOD asked her to hold the story, suggesting her information might be wrong, she stood firm. Baldor’s AP story moved more than an hour before the official announcement, her numbers confirmed by the Pentagon. Read more

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July 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Myanmar military, police declare war on medics

continued AP’s dominant coverage of Myanmar’s unrest, this time revealing how Myanmar security forces were deliberately and systematically attacking medics in the middle of the pandemic. In an extremely difficult story to report, the AP team was able to track down health workers who were in hiding and carefully contacted them using encrypted apps.One interviewee spoke of a newborn in the embattled town of Mindat who had died due to suspected pneumonia because his parents could not find a doctor. Going on scant information, AP finally broke that story open thanks to a tweet by someone in Myanmar referencing the baby's death that included the parents' names. Stringers then overcame bad communications, an adversarial military and monsoon season to locate the parents of the dead child in a refugee camp. The resulting story by Sydney-based Gelineau and Jakarta-based Milko was one of heartbreak and sensitivity with disturbing but compelling video produced by multiformat journalist Allen Breed, including medics being beaten by police, and photos that laid out how, despite the brutality, the health care workers continued trying to save lives.Physicians for Human Rights called it an ”amazing piece,” and the “deepest dive” so far into the attack on doctors in Myanmar. It was shared on Twitter by prominent human rights advocates and called a “gripping and important investigation” and a “devastating investigative report.”https://aplink.news/o02https://aplink.video/i3n

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May 24, 2019

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Military prosecutors sent tracking software to defense team, reporter

Los Angeles courts reporter Brian Melley was enjoying a Sunday afternoon when a longtime legal source reached out with a remarkable tip in the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL facing a court martial on charges he murdered a teenage Islamic State fighter in Iraq in 2017.

The source told Melley that military prosecutors, frustrated by leaks in the case, planted tracking software in emails sent to defense lawyers and a reporter. The unsophisticated software was quickly discovered by the recipients.

Melley worked up the story, including an interview with a military law expert who thought the tactic was ethically, legally and intellectually dubious. His story hit the wire the next morning, quickly gaining traction online. AP was widely credited everywhere it appeared and no major media outlet matched it.

For giving AP an exclusive on an important military justice story, Melley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 28, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP dominates multiformat coverage of attack on Iran military parade

A Sept. 22 assault on a military parade in Iran was the country’s deadliest terror attack in nearly a decade. AP's entire team of journalists in Tehran drew on its vast expertise to convey key details and the broader context of the shootings that killed at least 25 people and wounded 60 others.

Staffers swung into action soon after gunmen disguised as soldiers suddenly opened fire on the annual military celebration in Ahvaz, in southwestern Iran. The attack sent parade viewers fleeing in panic, the scenes of chaos and fear broadcast live across the country.

For their dominating work in covering the breaking news, the Tehran-based team of Nasser Karimi, Ami Vahdat, Vahid Salemi, Ebrahim Noroozi, Mehdi Fattahi, Mohammad Nasiri, Mohsen Ganji, Saeed Sarmadi share the Best of the Week award.

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May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Myanmar military is disappearing young men to crush uprising

were the first to report that Myanmar’s military had abducted thousands, especially young men and boys, in a bid to break the back of the three-month uprising against the country’s military coup.The story was difficult to report, given the military's targeting of journalists in Myanmar and the fact that the junta keeps cutting internet access. Milko and Gelineau worked with a brave stringer in Myanmar who identified more than 20 cases of abductions. Those, along with the contributions of another courageous stringer, supplied the story’s main subjects. The pair also analyzed more than 3,500 arrests collected by a non-profit group, revealing that many of the disappeared were young men and boys, and that in most cases their families did not know where they were.The story broke ground not only in terms of news, but in the previously unreported depth and detail of the cases they described. Milko and Gelineau also took particular care not to put either our staffers or our sources into danger. Their reporting did not rely on our staff in Myanmar, and they used Milko’s location, Jakarta, as the dateline. They also used partial names for most of the subjects to protect them from retaliation.The story was among the top 10 on the AP News app and generated strong reactions from observers, readers and, significantly, Myanmar’s military, which was concerned enough to hold two rare news conferences: one when AP asked for comment and another after the story ran, with Gelineau the only reporter present from a Western news organization. https://aplink.news/xzz

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May 17, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Russian hackers posed as Islamic State to harass US military wives

The threat over her phone to Army wife Angela Ricketts was terrifying. “Dear Angela!” it said. “Bloody Valentine’s Day!”

“We know everything about you, your husband and your children,” it continued, claiming that Islamic State militants had penetrated her computer. “We’re much closer than you can even imagine.”

More than three years after Ricketts and four other military wives received this and other alarming messages, AP London-based cybersecurity reporter Raphael Satter unraveled the secret behind it all. Satter drew on a massive hit list of Russian hacking targets, focusing on a group of five women whose names were clustered together on the list. All reported having received death threats from a mysterious group calling itself CyberCaliphate back in 2015.

The threats were not from Middle Eastern terrorists at all, but hackers from the Russian group widely dubbed Fancy Bear – the same gang who later broke into the Democratic Party’s emails and interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

For revealing the latest wrinkle in the Russian hacking story, Satter earns the Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Trump on trial: AP delivers coverage for the history books

for anchoring expansive and informative coverage of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial – just the third such trial in American history. Coverage of the trial in all formats showcased the AP’s unmatched ability to meet the call of history with sharp storytelling, delivered with speed but hanging on substance. The AP’s mainbar provided a definitive account of the trial for more than three weeks running. And as lawmakers weighed the ultimate judgment on a president, journalists in Washington carefully reported the arguments in real-time while churning out informative sidebars, fact-checks and explanatory guides. The final story alone, on the Senate vote to acquit Trump, appeared on more than 200 newspaper front pages across the country, and hundreds of websites. https://bit.ly/2UQ9EcK

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Dec. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing puts readers inside stolen military weapons plot

used the last major installment of the “AWOL Weapons” investigative series to take readers inside an attempted sale of stolen Army ordnance.LaPorta’s textbook source development yielded access to private text messages and Facebook groups, as well as exclusive interviews with both the government informant and one of the men he helped bust, providing intimate details of the intended weapons sale to narcotraffickers that ended instead with a SWAT team raid at an El Paso, Texas, truck stop.The story, written by Dearen, was produced by the digital storytelling team of Raghu Vadarevu, Natalie Castañeda and Peter Hamlin with the distinctive visual presentation of previous installments. A well-conceived social media plan by audience engagement journalist Elise Ryan helped drive remarkably strong readership: The piece led AP’s platforms for pageviews (more than 100,000) and reader engagement for the day.https://aplink.news/mvhhttps://apnews.com/hub/awol-we...

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Jan. 07, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: New policies may fail to address US military racism, extremism

teamed up on an investigation revealing that despite recently issued Department of Defense guidelines, racism and extremism in the U.S. military remain a concern. Among the most significant policy updates, “liking” and reposting white nationalist and extremist content on social media could result in disciplinary action.But Stafford and Laporta found that the new guidelines failed to address hate crimes or ongoing racial disparities in military law. Numerous studies show Black and Hispanic service members were disproportionately investigated and court-martialed.The investigative reporters also found that the Pentagon rules do not outright ban service members from being members of extremist organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, Oath Keepers or other right-wing and white nationalist groups. The regulations, like the previous ones, only prohibit “active participation,” in such groups.These concerns aren't new. Stafford and LaPorta reported on the decadeslong history of racism in the military, and they point to previous DOD efforts that have fallen short of rooting out extremism in the ranks.The investigation, part of AP’s “Racism in the Ranks” series, earned widespread attention online and landed on the front pages of at least a half-dozen newspapers.https://aplink.news/7gy

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Dec. 10, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation, analysis reveals that despite diversity gains, racism still plagues US military academies

The AP’s groundbreaking investigation of racism and discrimination at the five elite U.S. military academies — based on experiences related by many graduates of color and exclusive analysis of decades of data — exposed racial gaps in the makeup of the academies’ student bodies and graduation rates, despite assurances of diversity and inclusion by the armed services.

Reporters Aaron Morrison and Helen Wieffering, and video journalist Noreen Nasir, gained the trust of current and former academy attendees who described discriminatory treatment, including experiences of being singled out for nonexistent infractions or treated like stereotypes.

Data intern Jasen Lo handled the analysis of demographics and graduation rates, finding that at the Naval Academy, for instance, there were 73 Black midshipmen in the class of 2000 — and just 77 in 2020. Black midshipmen also had the lowest graduation rate of any racial group at the academy.

For an enlightening and enterprising story that showed how far the U.S. military still needs to go to rectify racial inequality at its prestigious service academies, the team of Morrison, Wieffering, Nasir and Lo earns Best of the Week — First Winner.

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