May 15, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work yields exclusive: $6M aid for tennis players

worked sources to score a 24-hour beat on all competition, reporting that a $6 million fund was being set up to help more than 800 lower-ranked players who are going broke during the pandemic. Fendrich’s story went unmatched until the official announcement, getting wide play, including ESPN.com and Tennis.com, and was the subject of a panel discussion on Tennis Channel.https://bit.ly/35UvPBQhttps://bit.ly/2YZwoJl

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Aug. 07, 2020

Best of the States

Players open up to AP, describe coach’s abusive practices at Oregon State

National sports writer Eddie Pells was first approached in February by the mom of a player who said she had some concerns about abuses going on in the volleyball program at Oregon State. 

Over the next five months, Pells conducted dozens of interviews both in and out of the program, and checked with experts to learn if volleyball coach Mark Barnard was over the line. Several athletes spoke to Pells, including a former OSU player who described how the coach’s abusive practices contributed to a suicide attempt. 

Pells’ exclusive led to immediate calls for the coach’s firing and questions about the university officials who didn’t take action after hearing complaints. 

For months of persistent and sensitive reporting despite uncertain prospects, resulting in an impressive story with impact, Pells wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Only on AP: No US-born Black players in the World Series

noticed at the 2005 World Series that the Houston Astros fielded a team without any U.S.-born Black players, prompting the AP baseball writer to wonder when he would cover a World Series without such a player on either team. The answer: 2022.Leaning on his previous reporting, reaching out to sources and working closely with Race and Ethnicity reporter Aaron Morrison for precise language about Black identity in baseball clubhouses, Walker and AP were alone in reporting that this year’s Astros-Phillies Fall Classic would be the first since 1950 without any U.S.-born Black players.In a World Series full of big names and rich storylines, Walker’s piece was undoubtedly the buzz of baseball in the days before Game 1. It was the top Google result for searches of “World Series,” “MLB” and “baseball” for several days, and it was cited widely even outside the sports world, by NPR, CNN and others.Read more

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Feb. 08, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive AP analysis: The NFL keeps getting younger and cheaper

The unusually short careers of NFL players have long been a thorny issue among the players, the league and even fans of one of the most injury-prone leagues in sports. A pair of high-profile contract disputes during the 2018 season placed the topic front-and-center yet again.

But what more was there to say?

Denver-based national sports writer Eddie Pells and Global Sports Editor Michael Giarrusso came up with the idea of mining data to illustrate how average experience on NFL rosters has changed since 2011, when the league and players agreed to a contract designed in part to help veterans get a bigger share of revenue.

Pells was joined by New York-based data journalist Larry Fenn who started digging. After scouring season-opening rosters from the last 14 years, Pells and Fenn had the data: Average experience in the league was going down consistently as every team chose younger players over veterans who would earn more – even if the veterans were better players.

Pells then asked more than a dozen AP writers in the field for reaction from key players on the teams they covered, while Fenn worked with Top Stories designer Phil Holm, who produced insightful illustrations of the data. Pells also collaborated on videos that were used on social media and embedded in the story.

Other stories in the package included a profile of a typical 4-year player who is cut just as he became eligible for a larger contract, a piece on shortened careers at the center position, and a column foreshadowing collective-bargaining hurdles. Pells also did a story looking at how Super Bowl champions shed expensive players after winning the title.

The package was released in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, commanding attention across the football landscape and getting about double the usage of typical top sports stories. Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee called it a blueprint for how to plan coverage around big events by timing enterprise and breaking news when attention is high.

For using data and creative storytelling to quantify one of the NFL’s central issues and break news during the biggest sports week of the year, Pells, Fenn and Holm share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Nov. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work leads to scoop on largest US dam demolition

used strong source development to break news of plans for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, affecting four massive hydroelectric dams along the Oregon-California border. Native American tribes that have fought for decades to remove the dams and restore vital salmon habitat. Flaccus had reported from the region earlier, but the coronavirus and coverage of Portland’s racial justice protests kept her from returning during the summer. Still, she followed developments and kept in touch with the key players. Her sourcing paid off when she learned recently that an announcement was imminent on plans to demolish the dams. Flaccus pushed for an embargo, reporting and writing the story in advance with the understanding of tribal leaders and the governors of Oregon and California that she would hold her story until the official announcement.Her deeply reported APNewsBreak moved 15 minutes before the official news release, detailing the restructured deal that will almost certainly lead to the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, a first step in what would also be the largest salmon recovery project in history — a project that would also rejuvenate area tribes.Oregon’s biggest newspaper didn’t try to match the story; they used Flaccus’ story and photos in their entirety. https://bit.ly/3qaV8to

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May 21, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Deep AP reporting on NFL’s race-adjusted brain injury settlements

reported that thousands of retired Black professional football players, their families and supporters are demanding an end to the use of “race-norming,” a practice the NFL has insisted on using in the league’s $1 billion brain injury settlement. Black NFL players delivered some 50,000 petitions to a federal court to end the practice.The algorithm used by the NFL assumes Black men start with lower cognitive skills. They must therefore score much lower than whites to show enough mental decline to win an award. The practice went unnoticed until 2018.Dale and Smith recognized that the story extends far beyond sports and money, to discrimination and racial injustice. Their deeply reported story quotes neurology experts who said the practice, sometimes used in medicine as a rough proxy for socioeconomic factors that can affect a person’s health, should not be used in the settlement because it has the effect of systematically discriminating against Black players. The story played widely; CBSN devoted eight minutes to the piece, calling it “a damning report.” https://aplink.news/rcp

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May 28, 2021

Best of the States

Only on AP: A report of college rape, a Facebook admission years later and a woman’s fight for justice

“So I raped you.” 

That message on Facebook, years after Shannon Keeler left college, sent her back to the night as a freshman that changed her life. It also was the basis for her continued fight for justice, as well as this exclusive, powerful examination of campus sexual assault. AP’s Maryclaire Dale, a legal affairs reporter in Philadelphia, and video journalist Allen Breed interviewed Keeler and others, including a student who befriended Keeler on the night of the 2013 attack. That woman, Katayoun Amir-Aslani, told her story, too: She was raped later, by a different man.

The deeply reported all-formats package sheds light on often unreported college rapes, and the systemic obstacles students like Keeler face in their search for justice when they do report. The story drew major attention on AP News, where it was the most-read story for days. Other media rushed to match it, and Keeler has since told her story on network TV.

For sensitive and insightful reporting on a system that one of the victims describes as “broken,” Dale and Breed receive this week’s Best of the States award.

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