May 06, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Flawless source work, preparation deliver all-formats scoop on US-Russia prisoner swap

In a textbook display of outstanding source work and planning, Eric Tucker and Matthew Lee acted on a tip to score a massive scoop on a stunning U.S.-Russia prisoner exchange that happened despite heightened tensions between the countries.

In the process, the pair showed the rewards of careful, long-term source-building, a model of how to prepare in all formats to put the AP ahead of the competition the moment the news broke, and examples of how to build on a big story with smart sidebars in-cycle and a compelling follow-up story that offered new, behind-the-scenes details.

Their efforts paid off handsomely on Wednesday when Lee got the green light that the exchange had taken place, allowing AP to push out an alert and full story accompanied by photos and video, well before any Western media competitors were even aware the swap had happened.

For their exhaustive, comprehensive work that scooped everyone on the surprising swap, Tucker and Lee share AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

AP 22089483140527 2000b

Aug. 19, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work documents Russia recruiting prisoners to fight

found sources who gave detailed accounts of covert Russian military recruitment efforts — including offers of amnesty to prisoners — to make up the manpower shortage as losses mount in Ukraine.Getting anyone to speak, even off the record, about the recruitment drive has been virtually impossible. But AP’s reporter, unnamed for their security, managed to obtain access to a Russian social network group for family members of prisoners. One woman agreed to speak privately about how her boyfriend declined the offer to fight but others accepted the offer; she said eight had died in Ukraine.Another contact, the father of a soldier, corroborated reports of hundreds of Russian soldiers refusing to fight or trying to leave the military.Read more

Russia AP 22222607186199 hm1

Oct. 07, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Deep sourcing puts AP way ahead on US-Venezuela prisoner swap

spent months earning the trust of prisoners’ families and senior U.S. officials, enabling them to break the story of the largest prisoner swap between the United States and a foreign government in recent years. Their scoop on the release of seven American prisoners in Venezuela, in exchange for the release by the U.S. of two relatives of President Nicolas Maduro, put AP far ahead on a hugely competitive story and on a development journalists at rival news organizations had themselves been chasing for years.The AP published a full, detailed story before any competitor had a single word and ahead of the official White House announcement.Read more

AP 21316018514418 hm citgo

Nov. 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP presses F1 racing on human rights; helps free political prisoner

has kept human rights on the media agenda while covering the international Formula One auto racing series. His reporting has had impact and is now credited with helping free a political prisoner in Bahrain, site of one of the races.Paris-based Pugmire, long aware of governmental efforts at “sportswashing” in authoritarian countries hosting the series, had been one of the first journalists to press world champion Lewis Hamilton last season about jailed dissidents after discovering that Hamilton had received letters with harrowing descriptions of torture and sexual abuse by authorities in Bahrain. When an 11-year-old boy whose father is on Bahrain's death row sent Hamilton a drawing of the driver’s Mercedes race car, Pugmire had asked the driver publicly what he would do it about the case. Hamilton pledged to raise the cases with Bahraini authorities, saying the boy’s letter “really hits home.” Such questioning by reporters is rare and risky at sports events in such tightly controlled countries, but Pugmire kept at it for months.Then, this past September, an 18-year-old man was released from prison in Bahrain after being allegedly being tortured since 2019, an apparent reprisal against his family. His mother had spent more than two years in prison for criticizing the Bahrain F1 race on social media.The family’s supporters credit Pugmire’s reporting for helping lead to the release.Pugmire raised the rights issue again at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix last week, asking Hamilton about a doctor on a 138-day hunger strike. The driver, who wore a rainbow helmet in support of LGBTQ rights in Qatar, said F1 is “duty bound” to call attention to human rights.AP’s reporting emboldened other media, including the BBC and Britain’s The Times, to follow Pugmire’s lead, questioning drivers and F1’s governing body about such issues. Pugmire won praise from a Bahraini human rights advocacy group as well as AP’s news leadership.https://aplink.news/etyhttps://aplink.news/gnghttps://aplink.news/xzehttps://aplink.news/ba9

AP 21322819846542 hm ham 1

June 02, 2017

Best of the States

​Death row inmates' last words: Apologies, thanks, defiance

To most, inmates facing execution in America are just names, mug shots and written descriptions of their crimes.

AP was interested in going beyond that, seeking to tell their stories in creative ways that reach beyond our traditional audiences. To make that happen, a unique interactive created by Atlanta-based reporter Kate Brumback, Interactive Editor Nathan Griffiths and Interactive Producer Roque Ruiz takes people inside Georgia’s execution chamber to actually hear the last words of inmates right before they were put to death.

For their resourceful and compelling work, the team of Brumback, Griffiths and Ruiz receives this week's Best of the States award.

Last Words Combo 1024

July 23, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Dedicated source work produces rare video as Tigray forces retake regional capital

Through months of patient contacts, Nairobi-based senior producer Khaled Kazziha built trust with an Ethiopian freelancer who promised AP first refusal on video and photos he made as events unfolded in the embattled Tigray region. That promise was fulfilled recently with images that included celebrations as Tigrayan forces retook the regional capital Mekele, prisoners of war in detention and an on-camera interview with Tigray's leader, among other rare scenes.

Kazziha had trained the freelancer and knew he was in Mekele when Ethiopian government forces fled Tigray, allowing the region's former leaders, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, to return. But with communication and transportation blocked, Kazziha had to wait almost two weeks for the footage to reach him. He then worked tirelessly with colleagues in Addis Ababa to cut multiple video packages that have been widely used by AP’s global video clients and platforms.

“This is a reminder that a journalist never knows whose help might prove critically useful in the future, and training and teaching people wherever one goes ... especially in the world’s trouble spots,” said Andy Drake, deputy director of newsgathering for Africa.

For exceptional collaboration and video production work that led to multiple world exclusives, Kazziha and the video freelancer — unnamed for his security — share AP’s Best of the Week award.

AP 21194547057580 2000b

Dec. 17, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Meticulous preparation produces standout video of pope’s trip

ensured that video coverage of the pope’s recent five-day trip to Greece and Cyprus was comprehensive and virtually flawless, giving AP an edge over the competition.Working from the pope’s complex schedule, the two senior producers — Murru in Rome, Tsongas in Athens — began advance work in August. Their meticulous planning and smart deployments of AP video journalists from European bureaus meant that AP had cameras in all the right places, live coverage of all the main events and coordination with other agencies and host broadcasters for pool material.As the pope plane-hopped from Cyprus to Athens to Lesbos and back to Athens, AP provided unrivaled live and edited coverage, including unscheduled incidents, such as the Orthodox priest heckling the pope in Athens and two Italian exchange students convincing him to pose with them for a selfie. Murru also had the foresight to work from the Athens press center during the pope’s visit to Lesbos, making AP the only agency to deliver video that wasn’t part of the pool coverage, including key footage of the pope greeting people in a migrant camp on the island. In all, the team produced some 60 video edits during the trip.The video planning and production paid dividends in logistics and content for other formats as well; AP writers enhanced their stories with color and comments pulled from the footage.https://aplink.video/kyehttps://aplink.video/tnvhttps://aplink.video/ym5

AP 21339372856741 hm pope

Oct. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP wins exclusive access to notorious federal jail in NY

secured rare access inside the federal jail in Manhattan where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, reporting first-hand about the structural mess and squalid conditions. The AP pair had previously reported that the infamous Metropolitan Correctional Center, built in the 1970s, is slated for at least temporary closure. Still, they wanted more.Previous requests had been denied, but Balsamo and Sisak relied on years of deep source work and weeks of negotiations with the Justice Department and the BOP, finally winning access inside the MCC in Manhattan and the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where a majority of the inmates will be moved.Balsamo, AP’s lead Justice Department reporter who was the first journalist to cover the resumption of federal executions, came away from MCC with details like: “One cell is off-limits because the door is now unstable — likely because of the constant pounding over the years from the prisoners inside on the cinder block walls.” New York-based law enforcement reporter Sisak also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and judicial orders that detailed the conditions inmates had faced and researched the history of the building.The result was a vividly written and reported exclusive unmatched by any other news agency. The story was picked up by New York media and news outlets across the country. https://aplink.news/xck

AP 21074560033260cr hm MCC

Aug. 06, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deep reporting on a failed KKK murder plot reveals white supremacists working in Florida prison

Some stories just stick with a journalist. For AP investigative reporter Jason Dearen, a sparse 2015 announcement — three currrent or former Florida prison guards, identified by the FBI as Ku Klux Klansmen, had been arrested for plotting a former inmate’s murder — sparked a yearslong reporting effort.

Dearen’s big break came last summer when trial transcripts revealed an FBI informant was the star witness against the KKK members, his secret recordings providing a rare, detailed look at the inner workings of the klan cell and the domestic terrorism probe. Dearen and visual journalist David Goldman retraced the klansmen’s steps through Palatka, Florida, then producers Marshall Ritzel, Samantha Shotzbarger and Peter Hamlin stepped in to create a riveting online presentation.

The resulting all-formats package had immediate impact, with Florida papers featuring it on home pages and front pages, and prompting calls for investigations into white supremacy among prison workers. The story found 360,000 readers on AP News and kept them there for an average of more than five minutes — longer than any other AP story in memory.

For dogged reporting and an immersive all-formats narrative that exposes a salient, timely issue, Dearan, Goldman, Ritzel, Shotzbarger and Hamlin win AP’s Best of the Week award.

AP 21204563478209 2000

Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In Mississippi, ‘Looking for America’ examines Black voting rights

looked at at the circumstances faced by Mississippi’s Black voters for the third installment of AP’s “Looking For America” road trip series.The highly evocative package was framed in the context of the “Mississippi Burning” murders of three civil rights activists in 1964 – and it found that too little has changed. The AP team saw the issue through the eyes of a now-elderly activist who was close to two of the murder victims more than 50 years ago. They reported that while poll taxes and tests on the state constitution may be gone, Black voters still face obstacles such as state-mandated ID laws and the disenfranchisement tens of thousands of former prisoners.The text, photos and video, with digital presentation by multimedia journalist Samantha Shotzbarger, perfectly captured the frustration that so many decades later, Black voters are still challenged by the state.The work was highlighted in a long entry in Politico’s Playbook, and attracted attention in the U.S. and internationally.https://bit.ly/31THAI1https://bit.ly/3jzaKCphttps://bit.ly/3oCX50E

Ap 20295847106108 Hm Mississippi 1

July 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

15-month data collaboration yields exclusives on COVID in prisons

collaborated with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization focusing on criminal justice, for 15 months during the pandemic, tracking coronavirus in prisons in all 50 states.The reporters tracked virus sickness, death and vaccinations from every prison system and the federal government. Each week they entered the data into the system that editors refined into what became the definitive picture of COVID-19 and incarceration. They filed exclusives off the data along the way, detailing how 1 in 5 prisoners were sickened nationwide, thousands had died, how prisons and jails emptied out and then started to fill up again, and how the uniquely grueling conditions of prison — close quarters, poor health and hygiene, would make for a breeding ground like no other for the virus.The journalists reported how prisoners, despite being in an extremely high-risk environment, were often put lower on the vaccination list out of political fears over public perception. They also discovered how the prison systems were able to adapt to meet the moment in some cases, increasing transparency and letting prisoners go free without an increase in crime — only to draw the curtains closed once the virus abated. Every single story was an exclusive based on the team’s exhaustive data.https://aplink.news/vajhttps://aplink.news/404https://bit.ly/3dS34evhttps://aplink.news/pxuhttps://aplink.news/9p5https://aplink.news/7c5

AP 21180837333538 hm prisons 1

March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documents expose misconduct by elite federal prosecutors

started digging after federal prosecutors in New York took the unusual step last spring of abruptly dismissing all charges against a banker convicted of evading U.S. sanctions by funneling $115 million to his family’s business in Iran. Goodman’s curiosity was rewarded with an exclusive.Goodman worked with AP assistant general counsel Brian Barrett to convince a court to release internal communications within the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York detailing how the elite unit tried to conceal their mishandling of evidence in the botched prosecution. A plethora of private correspondence between prosecutors showed a coordinated effort to mislead the court. In one exchange of text messages, supervising prosecutors admitted “we lied” to the defense during the trial. “This is going to be a bloodbath,” one wrote, anticipating the judge’s reaction to the disclosure. https://bit.ly/30bwLzEhttps://bit.ly/30aQmAf

Feb. 26, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Executioners sanitized official reports of federal inmates’ last moments

AP legal affairs reporter Michael Tarm witnessed 10 of the unprecedented 13 federal executions in the final months of the Trump administration, diligently taking notes on what he saw in the chamber, from the inmates’ last words to their last breaths. 

But weeks after the last execution in mid-January, something nagged at him: The executioner’s official account did not jibe with what he had observed during the execution. Tarm went back, looking through hundreds of filings and court transcripts. His reporting resulted in a stunning exclusive on how the executioners all used euphemisms like “snored” and “fell asleep” while Tarm and other witnesses saw inmates’ stomachs dramatically shuddering and jerking in the minutes after lethal injections.

The sanitized accounts, Tarm realized, raised serious questions about whether officials misled courts to ensure the executions would be completed before Joe Biden, a death penalty foe, took office. His story — the latest exclusive in AP’s coverage of the federal executions — received prominent play and reader engagement.

For backing up his own observations with rigorous reporting to hold the federal government accountable for its official accounts of the executions, Tarm earns this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 21047696154711 2000