April 06, 2018

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Confidential toxicology report details Prince overdose

In the nearly two years since Prince’s sudden drug overdose death in 2016, Minneapolis reporter Amy Forliti has closely tracked the criminal investigation into his death, cultivating sources who could help her break developments along the way, including the possibility of criminal charges.

A medical examiner's scant one-page report had cited an accidental overdose of fentanyl as the cause of Prince’s death, but provided almost no other detail. Forliti had pursued a copy of the autopsy and toxicology report ever since from multiple sources. She finally obtained the confidential toxicology report on March 26.

Forliti talked to three experts not involved in the case who analyzed blood and liver readings in the report and characterized them as “exceedingly high” – as one expert put it, they were very high even for a chronic pain patient. The details were something no other media could match.

Forliti's exclusive was widely played. It led the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website for hours and made the printed paper, a rarity for a story on which they compete with AP. CNN referenced the story on-air and online with credit to AP.

For relentlessly working her sources to break news on a long-simmering story, Amy Forliti wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 12, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Big farms find easy ways around caps on tariff aid

An AP Best of States mention in February about the hundreds of companies avoiding President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs raised questions about Trump’s $12 billion aid package to farmers hurt by the tariffs. What happened next shows how states can produce sharp, data-driven journalism – simply by calling on the data team for help.

AP filed Freedom of Information Act requests for U.S. Department of Agriculture data that was analyzed by Balint Szalai, a Hungarian investigative reporter embedded with AP’s data team, and Washington data team intern Riin Aljas.

Among their findings: Many big farming operations were legally collecting far more than the supposed caps on aid.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis reporter Steve Karnowski spoke to longtime USDA critics and interviewed farmers who defended taking the big checks, saying they didn’t even cover their losses under Trump’s trade war.

The Only-on-AP story ran on dozens of sites, and because the data and analysis were released to AP members in advance, many chose to localize their stories.

For sophisticated data analysis and on-the-ground reporting that shed light on a key consequences of trade policy, Karnowski, Szalai and Aljas share this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 19, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Race and Ethnicity team explores question: ‘What is a black life worth?’

In the course of covering protests and a memorial service for George Floyd in Minneapolis, AP race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison started thinking about other cases that began over minor offenses and ended with a black person dying. Morrison visited the scene where Floyd took his last breaths, talked to members of Floyd’s family and interviewed protesters with this question in mind: 

What is a black life worth? 

AP video journalist Noreen Nasir, also in the Twin Cities, was picking up on the same theme in her own reporting. Joined by New York-based photographer Bebeto Matthews, the team took a deep and unflinching look the at the circumstances behind Floyd’s death, and what many see as a pivotal moment in the struggle against institutional racism. Their story led the AP News site, was featured at the launch of the Facebook’s News Feed and was widely used by AP members. 

For sharp reporting and analysis that cast George Floyd’s killing in light of systemic issues of race inequality, Morrison, Nasir and Matthews win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 10, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exploring racial trauma caused by images of police brutality

took a fresh, insightful look at racial injustice, exploring the trauma caused by exposure to images of police brutality.

Nasir started reporting on the issue while in Minneapolis covering the aftermath of the George Floyd killing. She followed up with interviews of people who experienced the trauma, as well as a psychiatrist and others who specialize in racial trauma therapy. Hong meanwhile delivered fresh images of a man who tries to find balance between his awareness of racial injustice and the pain inflicted by such images.https://bit.ly/2VY45sehttps://bit.ly/3iEqqF5

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March 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork delivers multiformat coverage of Chauvin jury selection

used planning and strategy to produce standout crossformat coverage of jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-officer charged in the death of George Floyd. Preparation included a robust package setting the stage: a piece by Steve Karnowski describing the tension in Minneapolis as the trial loomed, a story by Report for America corps member Mohamed Ibrahim with photos from Jim Mone on the significance — and battle over — the intersection where Floyd was confronted by police, and a story by Amy Forliti examining the legal issues at the heart of the case.Karnowski, in the courtroom and a member of rotating pool, concentrated on the proceedings while Forliti and news editor Doug Glass also focused on the livestream. Ibrahim and Mone worked outside the courtroom to capture reaction and protests for text, photos and video. Central Desk reporter Tammy Webber pulled together the text story remotely, with editors Andrea Thomas and Jeff McMurray handling the majority of spot and enterprise coverage. Atlanta-based video producer Ritu Shukla handled most of the video edits as live video was provided to customers.https://bit.ly/3cf5yTzhttps://bit.ly/2QpVBdxhttps://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-derek-chauvi...

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June 23, 2017

Best of the States

AP gets first juror comment in Philando Castile trial

When Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted in the fatal shooting of black motorist Philando Castile, a question on the mind of every reporter in the courtroom was this: How did jurors reach their verdict?

One of those reporters, Minneapolis’ Amy Forliti, had been laying the groundwork to answer that question for two weeks. Her efforts paid off with The Associated Press getting the first interview with a juror – critical insight into a case that had generated global interest since millions of people saw the aftermath of Castile's death from his girlfriend's livestream on Facebook.

Meanwhile, colleague Steve Karnowski’s subsequent interview provided details in AP’s story that no one else had: The jury had been split 10-2 earlier in the week in favor of an acquittal, and neither of the two jurors who favored conviction was black.

For smart reporting and strong execution that put the AP ahead on a competitive aspect of a competitive story, Forliti and Karnowski win this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.

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June 19, 2020

Best of the States

AP teams deliver a deeply reported all-formats profile of George Floyd

The story of George Floyd’s death will likely endure as a pivotal moment in civil rights and police accountability, but his life – from a start in Houston public housing to his death in Minneapolis, where he hoped to start a new chapter – wasn’t lived in a spotlight. 

In a uniquely AP collaboration across states and disciplines, AP journalists turned to people who knew Floyd from his childhood through his adult years, weaving together his story in all formats, enhanced by existing video of the man. The result was a revealing, deeply reported profile, including Floyd’s brief turns as a football player, rapper and bouncer, time in prison and days spent trying to help mentor kids to avoid his mistakes. 

For persistent, collaborative and creative storytelling that goes to the heart of the tragedy that unfolded in Minneapolis, the multiformat team of Luis Andres Henao, Juan Lozano, Nomaan Merchant, Adam Geller, John Mone, David Phillip and Aaron Morrison shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, teamwork deliver scoop on federal charges in Floyd killing

delivered a 20-minute beat on the news that four former officers involved in the death of George Floyd were indicted on federal civil rights charges — an unusual move for the Justice Department because three of the officers haven’t faced state trial yet.Balsamo had learned that the federal charges were imminent, and Forliti worked her sources to get the full story: off-the-record details about the still-sealed indictment that allowed her to write robust, fully-formed prep. She was even tipped off that the charges would drop early Friday morning.But when that didn't happen, a source quietly tipped Forliti to phone into a federal hearing happening live. The officers were appearing in federal court, with the charges still sealed. The AP pair — possibly the only reporters listening during the hearing — put out a fast cover story that the former cops were facing federal charges. Balsamo then went to his sources, asking them to send the indictment, because, while it hadn’t been made public yet, he had heard the judge order it made public. AP soon had the indictment. He and Forliti filed alerts, writethrus loaded with context and a full story within 15 minutes. Forliti also filed a video brief on the charges. Meanwhile, no one matched their story for a full 20 minutes, and major national publications were 40 minutes or more behind the AP. Even the hometown Star Tribune used AP’s story on its website.https://bit.ly/3tJ9YYqhttps://bit.ly/3w2BvFF

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Nov. 26, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Enterprising AP coverage of Rittenhouse trial reaches far beyond the courtroom testimony

AP’s team coverage led the pack for the three-week Kyle Rittenhouse trial — including word of Rittenhouse’s full acquittal in the killing of two protesters and wounding of a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin — thanks to smart, detailed planning and deep knowledge cultivated throughout the proceedings.

The foundation of the coverage was the daily testimony, but following a blueprint laid down during earlier coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis, it was the spinoff coverage, starting weeks ahead of the trial and carrying through after the verdict, that was key. A multiformat team of journalists delivered more than a dozen AP Explainers, enterprise pieces and video debriefings that went deeper into what was happening in court — and in some cases anticipated developments in the case.

The expansive team coverage figured prominently among AP’s top stories throughout the trial. AP’s explainer on the charges against the teenager remained at the top of Google’s “Rittenhouse” search results, placement that drove some 3.5 million pageviews on AP News before and after the verdict.

For comprehensive, speedy and illuminating coverage of a trial that riveted the country, the Kyle Rittenhouse trial team earns AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Nov. 17, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Minnesota widow meets man who received her husband’s face via transplant

When a Minnesota woman was preparing to meet the man who received her dead husband’s face in a transplant operation, the hospital that performed the surgery – the Mayo Clinic – immediately recommended that The Associated Press be the news organization to tell their story.

In early 2016 AP national writer Sharon Cohen, video journalist Teresa Crawford and photographer Charlie Neibergall had been first with the tale of Andy Sandness and Calen “Rudy” Ross. The AP team's sensitive portrayal of two men who had each attempted suicide, with the one who lived (Sandness) ultimately receiving the face of the one who did not (Ross), had been well-regarded by Sandness and by Ross’ widow, Lilly.

In the months following, Mayo was besieged with requests from news outlets to cover the first meeting between Andy and Lilly, but when the pair began making plans to meet in fall 2017, they wanted only AP in the room.

For their exclusive coverage of that poignant meeting, Crawford, Neibergall and correspondent Kyle Potter win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 07, 2020

Best of the States

AP investigates a teen’s life sentence – and the role of Amy Klobuchar

On the campaign trail, presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has often cited a case – a life sentence given to black teen for killing a young girl – as proof of her tough-on-crime bona fides as a former prosecutor. 

Over the course of a year, Minnesota-based investigative reporter Robin McDowell examined the case against Myon Burrell, who was 16 when he was sentenced to life in prison for the 2002 death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards. 

McDowell found major irregularities, including inconsistent evidence and questionable police tactics. The resulting package had impact, forcing new scrutiny of the case and Klobuchar’s handling of it. 

For dogged reported that shed new light and focused attention on the case against a man who has long said he was wrongfully convicted, McDowell wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 13, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP holds off on unverified posts about R. Kelly

for holding AP to high standards by not reporting on Instagram posts, apparently by long-loyal R. Kelly girlfriend Joycelyn Savage, attacking the singer. With news sites including The New York Times and the Chicago Sun-Times reporting on the salacious posts, there was huge pressure to publish, but Savage’s lawyer could offer only 85-90% assurance the posts were actually Savage’s. AP held off – and Savage eventually denied the account was hers.