Jan. 19, 2018

Best of the States

Strong sourcing, teamwork put AP ahead on offshore drilling news

For Tallahassee reporter Gary Fineout, the first day of the legislative session began with the usual pomp and circumstance, and Gov. Rick Scott’s annual state of the state speech. From there it took a quick turn.

A source in Scott’s office called Fineout at around 4 p.m. to say that Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke would be flying in from Atlanta to meet with the governor – and both would be willing to talk to the media afterward. Fineout immediately emailed Matthew Daly in Washington, who covers Interior, and who had tapped into a key political problem in the Trump administration' recently announced offshore drilling plan: Republican governors were not on board.

At around 6 p.m. Zinke and Scott strode through Tallahassee’s small airport and dropped the news that Florida would be removed from the administration’s oil drilling plan. Before the two officials stopped talking, Fineout emailed Daly in D.C. to let him know the news that would soon create a torrent of criticism from other states that oppose the oil drilling plan. By the time Fineout got back to his car in the parking lot, Daly was moving the news alert.

Daly and Fineout’s model of teamwork put AP so far ahead some in the competition didn’t bother to catch up. For their initiative and coordinated effort to give AP an important beat, Fineout and Daly share this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Texas gas drilling disproportionately impacts residents of color

led a team of AP journalists exclusively documenting the potential health impact of an alarming series of events in residential areas of Arlington, Texas: Literally in the shadow of Mother’s Heart Learning Center, a day care center that primarily serves Black and Latino children, a French company is pumping for natural gas — and seeking to drill three new wells.The AP’s all-formats story not only captured the stories of families facing heightened risks, it also put their stories in the context of a trend with far-reaching consequences: Despite pledges from global leaders to embrace cleaner energy, the world’s reliance on natural gas is growing.Seizing on a tip from area activists, energy reporter Bussewitz and national writer Irvine spoke with mothers exasperated with government inaction, residents who endure noise and vibrations just outside their backyards, and people who often breathe dangerous fumes, including one who developed asthma.Collaborating with Irvine on the reporting, Bussewitz took the lead on writing while multiformat specialist Irvine shot the video and photos, consulting on the photo selection with editors Maye-E Wong and Swayne Hall. The story was buttressed by two exclusive data analyses, including one by data journalist Angeliki Kastanis that found the density of wells in a given neighborhood correlated with the proportion of residents of color.Digital storytelling producer Peter Hamlin created a video explainer and graphic artist Francois Duckett developed an interactive map showing the proximity of wells to day cares. And Dario Lopez, digital storytelling producer for global investigations, built an online presentation that deftly packaged all the components.The project drew immediate responses on social media and was used by news outlets across the country, notably in Texas, where newsrooms pride themselves on their energy coverage.https://aplink.news/fhghttps://aplink.video/nf3https://interactives.ap.org/na...

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP gets first word of plan to allow drilling, mining near national monument

for breaking the news that the government would allow mining, drilling, grazing and recreation on lands around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah that had been off limits. President Donald Trump downsized the protected area two years ago.

Impressed by AP’s fairness in coverage of the ongoing debate about managing public lands in the West, the Bureau of Land Management reached out to McCombs to share embargoed materials and the first interview by the region’s acting director ahead of the plan’s release. The APNewsBreak revealed that not only would the formerly protected lands be made available to a wide variety of uses but that those activities could have an adverse effect on the monument that is home to dramatic formations and vistas and is prime territory for paleontologists. https://bit.ly/2UafUcE

April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats look at BP oil disaster, 10 years later

produced a comprehensive, multiformat Only on AP package marking 10 years since the fatal Deepwater Horizon explosion and massive oil spill. Three pieces ran over three days: investigative work that showed continued and increasing drilling risks, a personal look at how life has changed along the coast, and the lasting environmental impacts a decade after the disaster. https://apnews.com/DeepwaterHorizonSpill

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Aug. 14, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals investigation into Venezuelan officials’ money laundering

used deep source reporting to uncover an international investigation into how the former treasurer of Venezuela, who had once served as nurse to then-President Hugo Chávez, used a network of offshore shell companies and dodgy Swiss bankers to loot millions from Venezuela, hiding much of her unexplained wealth in gold.

Goodman’s piece provided a rare look into how former officials in Venezuela used various money laundering schemes to raid the country’s coffers of an estimated $300 billion in two decades of socialist rule. An unexpected twist was the physical transfer of heavy gold bars — previously unmentioned in court records — underscoring the lengths to which some prominent Venezuelans have gone to hide stolen wealth. https://bit.ly/2PMX2iI

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Sept. 10, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Resourceful post-hurricane reporting yields exclusives on Louisiana oil spills

As Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana — launching strong AP coverage that would stretch from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast — Washington-based investigative reporter Michael Biesecker contacted federal and state officials who kept telling him they had no confirmed reports of oil or chemical spills along the coast.

But Biesecker’s inspection of aerial photos by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told a different story. He found a worrying miles-long oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico off the region’s main oil and gas port, and another sheen coming from a massive oil refinery along the Mississippi River.

His persistence led to a series of exclusives on the two oil spills, including the news that divers had identified a broken undersea pipeline as the apparent source of the offshore slick.

For smart reporting that put AP ahead of the competition — and even ahead of the government and energy companies themselves — on an important environmental story in the wake of Ida, Biesecker is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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June 12, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

First photos of migrants held on Malta tourist boats

captured Malta’s controversial practice of using harbor cruise ships as floating detention centers for migrants rescued at sea. No one had made photos of the ships until Rossignaud traveled to the area about 23 kilometers (14 miles) offshore in his own motorboat. His images, accompanied by D'Emilio’s story, created a stir in Europe and beyond, putting pressure on Malta to let the migrants disembark.https://bit.ly/2AlRl7a

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Oct. 18, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Anatomy of a phone call: New details of Trump’s Ukraine call revealed

President Donald Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president, and the ensuing impeachment investigation, has been the hottest story in Washington for weeks. It’s extremely challenging to find new ways to report on the conversation and gather new details of how a rough transcript of the call was created and handled. 

Deb Riechmann managed to do it all, with a deeply reported 1800-word story that laid out everything we know about who was on the call, how such conversations are memorialized and what happens to the rough transcripts once they are created.

For uncovering tantalizing new details about Trump’s fateful phone call with the Ukraine president, AP’s Best of the Week citation goes to White House reporter Deb Riechmann.

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July 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Powerful photos anchor all-formats coverage of Florida condo collapse

delivered standout photo coverage of the Surfside, Florida, condo collapse, anchoring an impressive AP response in all formats.Lee was at home a few blocks away when the tragic, catastrophic story broke early Thursday morning. He quickly made his way to the scene to make some of the first images the world would see of the pancaked Champlain Towers South. His fast work on the ground also earned him a text byline, with customers and readers across the country waking up to a comprehensive AP story with his images. More AP journalists were soon on the scene digging into spot developments as well as the history of the building, churning out urgent series after urgent series and sensitively reporting the human toll, finding names and details of the missing to round out a well-received vignettes package. Early video also scored heavily with AP customers. Throughout the coverage, the photo team, led by Lavandier and South regional photo editor Mike Stewart, fought restricted access and had to innovate visually. Herbert first chartered a plane, then a helicopter, making handheld aerial photos with an 800mm lens from as much as two miles offshore as flight restrictions tightened. Then the team hit on the idea of using a boat. That allowed closer access but still required long lenses from a moving craft, with the photographers effectively timing their shots to coincide with the peaks and troughs of the waves to minimize movement. Competitors scrambled to emulate AP's strategy with their own vessels. AP wins on visuals included powerful photos by Sladky and Lavandier of people comforting each other, and three different AP photos rotating as the lead photo on Saturday’s New York Times home page — images showing the destruction, the rescue operation and the emotional toll. The Miami Herald praised AP’s visuals and has used much of the work, even as its own photographers produced strong content. The Herald and other members have shared some of their best images in AP’s photo report. In addition to AP’s photography, members have praised the all-formats coverage, including the “microstories” AP published practically in real time, showcasing good nuggets of information throughout the news cycles. Coverage of the collapse topped AP’s measures of readership and reader engagement for the month. https://apnews.com/hub/buildin...

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Feb. 01, 2019

Best of the States

Trump rollbacks benefit fossil fuel industry but carry steep cost

Over the past two years, the Trump administration has relentlessly moved to relax or repeal major environmental and safety rules for the fossil fuels industry to further its energy goals. Each change was reported by news outlets, including the AP. But Billings, Montana, correspondent and environment team member Matthew Brown decided to look more deeply into the highly touted savings to industry as well as the societal costs.

Brown painstakingly examined 11 major rules targeted by Trump’s administration, wading through many thousands of pages of government documents. Brown identified $11.6 billion in potential savings for companies that produce, use and transport fossil fuels, with billions more expected from a freeze of vehicle fuel efficiency standards that will hike fuel consumption.

But Brown also discovered that those savings will come at a steep cost, including more premature deaths and illnesses from air pollution, increased greenhouse gas emissions and additional derailments of trains carrying explosive fuels.

His Only on AP story ran on front pages of at least 16 newspapers and on numerous web sites. The Washington Post displayed both the main-bar the accompanying glance.

For in-depth reporting and comprehensive accounting of the administration’s actions on important environmental and safety issues, Brown wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Oct. 11, 2019

Best of the States

AP Investigation: Priests accused of abuse have access to children, dozens commit crimes

As the ranks of dioceses promising to release lists of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse began to mushroom at the beginning of this year, Philadelphia reporter Claudia Lauer and Washington-based data editor Meghan Hoyer started to strategize: How could they leverage the information on a scale never before accomplished? 

After months of systematic, dogged work, the result was “Where Are They Now,” a blockbuster investigation that found almost 1,700 priests and other clergy members living with little to no oversight, many with positions giving them access to children. Dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault. 

The story received exceptional play online and in print, and AP Managing Editor Brian Carovillano called it, “One of the most monumental pieces of AP journalism in my memory.” 

For a stunning investigation that breaks new ground in the already impressive body of work that is “The Reckoning” series, Lauer and Hoyer win this week’s Best of the States award.

Combo

March 22, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: Kushner organization routinely filed false NYC housing documents

It started with a tip about tenants being harassed at a cluster of New York apartment buildings owned by Jared Kushner's family.

Bernard Condon, a New York-based business writer, began reporting the story last year, visiting buildings and interviewing the tenants, some of whom told similar stories of being subjected to loud construction at all hours, dust, rodents, lead paint in the air and heat suddenly shut off in the winter. Then, some were approached with offers of money to get them to move so the company could install higher-paying tenants.

But the tip did not truly develop until a tenant advocate source told Condon that Kushner Cos. had filed false paperwork for two buildings elsewhere in the city that made it easier to harass tenants during construction. Further, the organization had filed paperwork saying it had zero rent-regulated tenants in buildings throughout the city when, in fact, it had hundreds.

If the Kushner Cos. had disclosed those rent-regulated tenants, it could have triggered stricter city oversight, including possibly unscheduled "sweeps" on site by inspectors to keep the company from harassing tenants.

For dogged reporting that exposed the falsehoods of a company led by the president's son-in-law and trusted adviser, Condon earns the Beat of the Week.

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