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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March 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Conspiracy, lies and social media: AP finds state, local GOP officials promoting online disinformation

After the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, investigative reporters Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza and Juliet Linderman wanted to know if local, county and state Republican officials across the country were continuing to amplify online messages similar to those that had inspired the riot, and what they hoped to accomplish by doing so.

The trio turned to data journalist Larry Fenn, AP statehouse reporters and a comprehensive archive of the Parler social media platform. A third-party algorithm matched public officials to their Parler accounts, allowing an unprecedented look at GOP officials’ unfiltered posts on the right-wing aligned site. The analysis of Parler and other alternative platforms identified a faction of lower-level Republican officials that have pushed lies, misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories echoing those that fueled the violent U.S. Capitol siege.

For harnessing the power of social media analysis, data science and AP’s state-level expertise to reveal how lies and misinformation from the 2020 election have reached deep into the GOP’s state apparatus, Burke, Mendoza, Linderman and Fenn win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Nov. 02, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

APNewsBreak: US mediation expert to push Venezuela political dialogue

for an APNewsBreak that uncovered an effort promoted by Sen. Bob Corker to jumpstart political dialogue in deeply polarized Venezuela. Deep source reporting by Goodman revealed secret efforts by Corker’s office to bring a Harvard-trained conflict resolution expert to Caracas for closed-door workshops with representatives of Venezuela’s socialist government and the opposition. https://bit.ly/2OMGg5m

Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Online learning and sanctions lead to a laptop shortage

reported exclusively that the world’s three largest computer makers have told school districts nationwide that they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops – in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers – just as many districts move to online learning during the pandemic. AP bureaus across the country contributed by reaching out to some of the largest school districts in 15 states to assess the scope of the problem. https://bit.ly/3lkhPJb

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July 26, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Trump’s harsh words on ‘squad’ reinforce dark posts online

for an impactful look at the connection between President Donald Trump’s words and the misinformation as well as sexist and racist content that circulates online. The collaboration between the fact check and White House teams showed how Trump has elevated incendiary rhetoric against four freshman Democratic congresswomen, playing into a conspiratorial feedback loop that has reared its head repeatedly during his campaign and presidency. https://bit.ly/2OjmMWa

Aug. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Families in Appalachia describe challenges of online learning

made the most of her first major enterprise story in Kentucky, reporting deep in the mountains of Appalachia on the dilemma facing parents with spotty internet service as they weigh the challenge of a new school year. Together with freelance photographer Bryan Woolston, Blackburn sharpened the focus on an often overlooked segment of the population to demonstrate the unique challenges they face, doing so with sensitivity and respect. https://bit.ly/3g8OnBR

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June 26, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoops celeb media on Billie Eilish hearing

was the only reporter who attended a hearing involving singer Billie Eilish, who sought a restraining order against a man who trespassed at her home. With Eilish and her family attending remotely, Dalton convinced a bailiff to let him in and was the only one in the courtroom aside from court staff. Other news outlets were forced to rely on details in his exclusive story for their own reporting. https://bit.ly/3fWVNZw

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July 26, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team leads media fight for photo access at OJ Simpson parole hearing

What happens when the state of Nevada announces it intends to use its own photographer to cover the parole hearing of O.J. Simpson, and exclude all others?

The Associated Press steps up, rallies the media and forces the state to backtrack. For their efforts to ensure news photo access to a high-profile story, the team of Stephanie Mullen, Ken Ritter and Tom Tait is awarded Beat of the Week.

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May 03, 2019

Best of the States

‘Destined to Burn’: AP, media organizations join forces to expose California wildfire risks

A groundbreaking collaboration among California newspapers and The Associated Press started with a tweet.

Northern California News Editor Juliet Williams saw on Twitter that the editor of The Sacramento Bee, a McClatchy paper, was driving to meet with the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record, a MediaNews paper, to talk about wildfire coverage. Williams reached out, offered the AP’s help, and a partnership was born, with the goal of illuminating problems and pointing to potential solutions to California’s increasingly deadly wildfires.

The results: nearly a dozen stories, including an analysis of data by McClatchy and AP Los Angeles-based data journalist Angeliki Kastanis revealing that more than 350,000 Californians live in towns and cities almost entirely within zones of very high wildfire risk. An analysis also found that a 2008 building code for California’s fire-prone regions can make the difference in whether homes burn or not, but there’s little retrofitting of older homes.

The partnership’s next installment was focused on evacuation planning, revealing that many communities wouldn’t share the information or didn’t have an adequate plan, or any plan at all. Data analysis by USA TODAY Network-California showed many communities had too few roads to get everyone out.

We heavily publicized the package and play was impressive, with hundreds of downloads of the first two installments. Many outlets used the data to report their own stories about local fire risks. And this isn’t the end of the partnership: The next phase will focus on legislative action on wildfire coverage.

When AP engages in collaborations like these we become more than just a content provider to our customers; we’re helping them produce high-impact local coverage that wouldn’t exist otherwise. In this case, the “Destined to Burn” partnership was managed at every level by West Deputy Director of Newsgathering Anna Jo Bratton, who worked for six months with people throughout the AP and the collaborators to make the partnership a success.

For putting the AP at the center of an important collaboration, driving important journalism in a state ravaged by wildfires, and forging a stronger relationship with members, Williams, Kastanis and Bratton win this AP’s Best of the States.

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April 02, 2017

Best of the States

Fight for access leads to Porter's breaking news in Bridgegate case

The Associated Press has been working for more than a year with a group of media organizations to lobby the federal court system in New Jersey to release pre-sentencing memos in criminal court cases to pull back the veil on what goes into judge’s sentencing decisions.

With two former allies of Gov. Chris Christie convicted in the Bridgegate case set to find out their fates last week, New Jersey law enforcement reporter David Porter was done waiting.

For his work collaborating with AP members in New Jersey to fight for public access to the memos and then being the first to report on them, Porter wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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