June 22, 2018

Best of the States

Chicago gangs embrace social media – often with deadly results

Chicago legal affairs writer Michael Tarm had been anticipating the release of a 400-page report on gangs, compiled about once every six years by the Chicago Crime Commission. He touched base with the commission every few months for years, asking for advanced access to the documents.

It paid off.

Tarm obtained exclusive access to new law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, then he spent weeks going through police and court records to find a gang-related killing to serve as a narrative of the findings. He uncovered the case of Lamanta Reese, a story illustrating how social media is transforming the city’s street-gang culture with deadly consequences. Gang member Reese, 19, had posted a smiley-face emoji on Facebook in response to an off-color joke about the mother of a rival gang member. Days later, that rival crossed the street between their gang factions, sneaked up on Reese and fatally shot him 11 times.

The story got strong play, with more than 10,000 page views on AP’s site the first day – almost 17,000 overall. The main story was published by 220 sites, including The New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the hometown Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. The Sun-Times and Daily Herald also ran it in their papers.

For obtaining exclusive access to law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, poring over police and court records, and drawing on in-depth sourcing to produce a multiformat, compelling narrative, Tarm wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP explores tense intersection of commerce, gangs, politics in Haiti

obtained rare access to members of Haiti’s wealthy elite — and to the violent gangs that threaten them — for a deep look at doing business in this failed state. Using contacts and determination and building trust, they explored how entrepreneurs continue to operate in an environment where more than 100 heavily armed gangs control access to the port, the fuel and the food supply chains. Kidnappings and killings are not uncommon in the impoverished capital, leaderless after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.During their reporting, the pair was threatened verbally by people who didn't want to be photographed and with weapons by gangsters who didn't want them there at all. After many attempts, Buenos-Aires based photographer Abd and freelance reporter Arce finally gained access to Barbecue, the leader of a coalition of gangs who presents himself as a populist fighting economic injustices, but who operates as an armed thug instilling fear in the people.The piece was among AP’s top stories in reader engagement and earned kudos from Pulitzer Center funders: “(Abd and Arce) avoided all the easy frameworks ... and did a fantastic job depicting the abject inequity that is at the root of Haiti's social/economic collapse,” wrote Executive Editor Marina Walker. https://aplink.news/wzdhttps://aplink.photos/b47

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

The motorcycle diary: Photos of NYC in the pandemic era

found themselves in a city that had gone to ground. Faced with the challenge of photographing the absence of life in a city normally teeming with it, they took more than a dozen motorcycle trips through a New York virtually emptied by the virus, making raw, “drive-by” images. They recorded ghostly pedestrians, lone workers, eerie post-apocalyptic streetscapes and shrouds of fog. And while the virus is unseen, the threat of it appears in the eyes of the people still on the street.https://bit.ly/2Vz99nlhttps://bit.ly/3bxhKMIhttps://bit.ly/2S2pnmuhttps://bit.ly/3bBvfen

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Oct. 04, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: California prisons ending program to make peace among gangs

for reporting exclusively that the California prison system was ending a controversial program in which it had attempted to get inmates who were members of rival gangs to meet and mingle in outdoor recreation areas. Thompson documented a series of fights, brawls and riots in the prison system, and officials decided to suspend the program, acknowledging that it had not worked as intended. https://bit.ly/2AFGQrX

May 17, 2018

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Texas biker accused of killing man who was shot by police

In the three years since the deadliest biker shooting in U.S. history, Fort Worth correspondent Emily Schmall has meticulously gathered documents, reports and court records to put together a spreadsheet that integrates autopsy reports, firearms analyses and ballistics evidence, including the names and serial numbers of the weapons, to whom they were traced, where they were recovered from and whether they were linked to a death or injury.

Her work paid off last week when prosecutors handed down the first murder charges in the case. Schmall was able to exclusively report that prosecutors had charged one of the bikers for murdering a man who was shot twice by a SWAT officer.

For persistent, investigative reporting that exclusively illuminated potential problems with a shifting strategy in a closely-watched case, Schmall wins this week’s Best of the States.

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March 08, 2019

Best of the States

Only on AP: Death of ‘hood CNN’ video pioneer exposes gangland reporting risks

There’s always a better story behind a statistic.

Chicago’s homicide rate is one of the worst in the United States. By digging into one drive-by shooting, Chicago-based legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm and Houston-based video journalist John Mone found out how one victim’s life had inspired a generation of gang territory storytellers.

Telling it took a lot of sourcework.

Tarm had already been working on a story about social media and gangs, and he’d watched a few of Zack Stoner’s reports on Chicago street gangs and rappers on his ZackTV1 YouTube channel. When reports surfaced that Stoner was gunned down, Tarm began to look deeper, stumbling across a wider story – about a new brand of gutsy gangland reporters in Chicago and elsewhere who have avid followers on YouTube.

Getting access to the storytellers was tough, but eventually the name of Texas-based reporter Shawn Cotton emerged. Cotton was eager to discuss Stoner, his impact on the genre and the effect his killing had on him and others. Mone rode along with Cotton to the Meadow Brook subdivision in Fort Worth, dubbed “Murder Brook” by some of the kids on the street where Cotton filmed.

The multi-platform work played prominently with impressive reader engagement.

For relentless sourcework to show how a generation of storytellers is impacting its communities, Tarm and Mone win this week’s Best of the States.

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Nov. 22, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Migrants face bleak situation in camps south of the border

for bringing new attention to a growing humanitarian crisis with a pair of powerful, complementary stories on the bleak conditions facing migrants forced to wait at the U.S.-Mexico border under Trump administration policies. Verza reported that drug cartels and gangs are profiting from the policy by robbing and extorting the migrants, while Merchant revealed the dire medical conditions at a migrant camp just feet from U.S. soil.https://bit.ly/2s0z5M8https://bit.ly/2XFDxvB

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Nov. 17, 2016

Best of the States

Bikers gotta stick together: Springsteen rescue goes viral via AP

Having a rock star jump on the back of your motorcycle after you stopped to help him on the side of the road could be a lyric in a Bruce Springsteen song. But it really happened for a group of veterans in New Jersey _ and the AP was first to report the story that naturally went viral.

Late Saturday evening, New Jersey News Editor Josh Cornfield had wrapped up a weekend BNS shift when he got a tip that an American Legion post in Freehold, N.J., had posted a photo of one of their members with Springsteen. As it happened, a group from the legion had been out riding after a Veterans Day event when they noticed a stranded biker. Figuring “bikers gotta stick together,” they stopped to help.

Turns out, the stranded biker was The Boss.

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June 04, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

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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Jan. 17, 2020

Best of the States

AP reveals chronic problems, personal stories behind a deadly period in Mississippi prisons

The Associated Press began chronicling rising violence across Mississippi’s troubled prison system in late 2019, but after four deaths in four days it became clear that something bigger was going on.

Reporters Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus explored the history of underfunding and other problems in the state’s prison system. In addition to official documents describing understaffing, the pair obtained photos and video shot by a prisoner that showed the conditions inside the infamous penitentiary at Parchman. 

AP also published all-formats interviews with grieving mothers of prisoners killed, and reported on the state’s decision to house inmates at a private prison.

For bringing much-needed insight and context to a chaotic, evolving situation and giving voice to those affected by the deadly violence, Amy and Wagster Pettus receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 06, 2020

Best of the States

AP looks at race in Baltimore through the lens of ‘squeegee kids’

Reporter Regina Garcia Cano took what could have been a dense, pro forma story on complaints about Baltimore’s “squeegee kids” and turned it into a layered piece about inequality in post-Freddie Gray Baltimore. The timing was perfect, as a way for AP to mark the end of 2020’s Black History Month. 

She reviewed figures related to reports on the practice and found one squeegee kid in particular who was willing to open up about the daily grind of dashing into intersections to wash windshields, and how it helped him support his family. 

For her keen eye, and a deft hand, on a complicated topic that would have most likely gone overlooked, Garcia Cano wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 24, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP has rare access as Haitian migrants, in bid to reach US, face perilous jungle crossing of Darien Gap

Hundreds of migrants try each day to cross the Darien Gap — a thick jungle between Colombia and Panama traversed by many ultimately seeking the U.S. border — yet journalists rarely observe more than the first few steps of the journey.

But after days of negotiations with locals who participate in a human-trafficking network, the Bogota-based all-formats team of correspondent Astrid Suárez, photographer Fernando Vergara and video journalist Marko Álvarez were given exclusive access to the first hour of a treacherous six-day journey. That single hour was enough to tell the stories of migrants willing to risk their lives in a jungle teeming with threats, from raging rivers to gangs targeting migrants for theft and sexual assault.

For a stark all-formats portrait of desperation and determination in the depths of the jungle, Suárez, Vergara and Álvarez earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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June 29, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Immigration: Back-to-back scoops by investigative teams, Washington reporters

The disturbing stories of more than 2,000 kids caught up in the U.S. immigration system – including babies and toddlers forcibly separated from their parents – dominated headlines and led newscasts around the world.

AP reporters, working across the country, in Washington, D.C., Latin America and along the U.S.-Mexican border led the coverage of the impact of the zero tolerance immigration policy. Their work produced a series of scoops that set the agenda, alerting Capitol Hill leaders to a major White House order, leaving an MSNBC anchor in tears and generating action by politicians.

For their work, the Beat of the Week is shared by investigative reporters Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza, Michael Biesecker and Jake Pearson, and Washington reporters Jill Colvin and Colleen Long. The award also recognizes an outstanding company-wide effort that included reporting from numerous locations and across formats, putting the AP repeatedly in front of a major global story.

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Oct. 11, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP provides dramatic all-formats coverage of Iraq’s deadly protests

The calls on social media were informal and scattered, urging demonstrations Oct. 1 in Baghdad to protest deteriorating living conditions in the battered Iraqi capital. There was nothing to indicate that the protests would be more significant than previous actions. But Khalid Mohammed, AP’s chief photographer in Baghdad, had a hunch. He put the demonstrations on the bureau’s planner and urged all formats to be ready, despite the prevailing mood of skepticism.

Mohammed’s assessment proved prescient. The demonstrations erupted into five days of furious violence, the worst in the country since the quieting of its internal war against the Islamic State group. AP’s staff witnessed the first violence and stayed on the grueling story for days.

For their anticipation and courageous eyewitness journalism that set AP apart, Mohammed, photographer Hadi Mizban, video journalist Ali Jabar and reporter Qassim Abdul-Zahra share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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