Sept. 25, 2020

Best of the States

AP’s portrait of a family forced into tough choices during the pandemic

As stories with impact go, this one stands out: The lead subject of the piece, struggling to feed her family during the pandemic, was tracked down on social media and hired by a reader for a job. 

The all-formats package by reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski chronicled the struggle of Sharawn Vinson and her Brooklyn family as they coped with a shortage of food and other crises, taking readers into the lives of a family that was forced to separate to keep everyone fed. The details shared by the family give readers a better understanding of the issues confronting many of the nation’s most vulnerable during the pandemic.

For a rare, intimate look at a family on the front lines of food insecurity brought on by the coronavirus, documented with riveting photos and video, Henao and Wardarski share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Report from a tiny hospital; weary staff treats friends, family

teamed up for an intimate look into a 25-bed rural hospital whose medical staff was struggling with deeply personal concerns as they treated people they had known long before the coronavirus hit.

Salter, from rural Missouri himself, has been covering the pandemic in the state all year, on the lookout for undertold stories. When he found a hospital with an extraordinarily accommodating public relations chief, he proposed an all-formats package that would put readers inside the Scotland County Hospital in Memphis, Missouri. As they have for years, he and Roberson collaborated on this package, Salter working the phones to interview patients and staff while Roberson suited up in personal protective gear to capture poignant photos and video on the hospital floor.

Said Roberson: “What makes this story different and interesting to me are the close relationships between the hospital and its patients. The fact they are often neighbors, coworkers and sometimes even family makes the story unique and somehow more personal.”https://bit.ly/37PkEvJhttps://bit.ly/37VRyuS

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May 19, 2017

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Daring escape: Dissident lawyer's family flees China with US help

for his exclusive narrative detailing how the wife and children of an imprisoned Chinese rights lawyer-activist managed to elude government security agents and escape China to reach the U.S. The gripping story revealed the lengths China's government has been increasingly willing to go in pursuit of dissidents and their families. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/...

Feb. 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tip leads to scoop on end of family separation policy

broke the news that the Biden-era Justice Department was about to undo the infamous “zero tolerance policy” that led to family separations.When national security reporter Tucker received a tip on the policy change from a longtime source, he quickly relayed the information to DOJ reporter Balsamo. Working with Colleen Long, who covered Homeland Security and zero tolerance extensively, they pieced together an analytical story that broke the news and added crucial context about the challenge Biden faces to undo Donald Trump’s policies on immigration. https://bit.ly/3jDWny1

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June 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Gaza family loses 22 people on war’s deadliest night

teamed up to tell the story of the heavy toll paid by Gaza’s civilians in last month’s war between Israel and Hamas militants, with scores of civilians dead and hundreds of homes destroyed. Looking for a way to tell that story, Laub and Akram went through a list of people killed in Israeli airstrikes, then noticed that the youngest and oldest victims came from the same family — the Kawlaks.The family of four generations lived next door to each other in downtown Gaza City, unprepared for the Israeli air raid that came at about 1 a.m. on May 16, causing homes belonging to the family to collapse. The Kawlaks lost 22 members that night — including the 89-year-old family patriarch and his 6-month-old great grandson who had just lost his first tooth. Three young nieces were found dead in a tight embrace, said one of the survivors. Israel said the strike, the single deadliest of the 11-day war, was aimed at Hamas military targets in the crowded Gaza City neighborhood. Middle East news director Laub and Gaza reporter Akram made a series of visits to the family hoping to interview them. At first, they were reluctant, but the AP pair managed to gain their trust, eventually gettting an exclusive all-formats interview. Thanks to their efforts, the family shared death certificates of all of the victims, along with photos of the men and children. For cultural reasons, the family chose not to provide photos of the women.With strong visuals from video journalist Dumitrache and photographers Hamra and Dana, the result was a compelling account of the terrifying night of the bombing, the family’s immense grief and poignant remembrances of lost loved ones.https://aplink.news/s78https://aplink.video/1mg

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July 20, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Anti-outsourcing senator's family business uses Mexican labor

One of the most vulnerable senators up for re-election in 2018 – Democrat Joe Donnelly of Indiana - has staked his nearly two-decade political career on opposition to outsourcing and free-trade agreements that ship American jobs abroad.

Following up on a tip from Washington, D.C., colleague Erica Werner, Indiana Statehouse reporter Brian Slodysko pulled together public documents and customs records to reveal that Donnelly has benefited financially from the very free trade policies he has decried since his first run for Congress. As Slodysko reported in his “Only on AP” story, Donnelly earned thousands of dollars in 2016 alone from stock in the arts and crafts business his family has owned for generations, which ships raw materials to its Mexican factory that produces ink pads and other supplies.

For shining light on something a politician would have preferred left unknown to his constituents, Slodysko wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 11, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Family behind opioid maker gave millions to colleges

for following up on an offhand remark by an Ivy League fundraiser to document how the Sackler family, behind the powerfully addictive opioid OxyContin, gave money to colleges and universities on a much larger scale than previously known: at least $60 million to prestigious schools worldwide – including millions donated after the company became embroiled in lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic. https://bit.ly/2AGZ78o

Sept. 07, 2018

Best of the States

Making the signature photo, discreetly, as family mourns McCain

Sometimes it takes a team. And a resourceful photographer.

Phoenix photographer Ross Franklin made a stunning image of Cindy McCain resting her head on the casket of her late husband Sen. John McCain during a family service in the Arizona state Capitol. Getting to this moment was a team effort, starting with great Washington contacts and relationships that gave the AP not one but two exclusive spots in the rotunda in Phoenix.

But given the solemnity of the event, there was no way to shoot the private ceremony using a motor drive to take bursts of frames – it would have been too loud and would have echoed throughout the rotunda. So Franklin agreed to shoot the entire event balanced on a ladder overlooking the scene from the balcony, with his camera in a noise muffling blimp – basically operating a camera that is wrapped in a big pillow.

When Cindy McCain approached the casket, Franklin had just one or two frames to capture the signature moment. He nailed it, and the photo was used everywhere, including a stunning display on the front of the Arizona Republic.

For his exceptional work, Ross Franklin wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 20, 2018

Best of the States

AP investigation: Pence family’s failed gas station empire cost taxpayers millions to clean up

Indianapolis correspondent Brian Slodysko’s investigative story started from one sentence buried in a news release. It said that the public was paying for environmental cleanup at a contaminated petroleum storage site in Indianapolis that Vice President Mike Pence’s family abandoned after their gas station empire went bankrupt in 2004. The release didn’t mention Pence, just Kiel Brothers.

After attending a demolition celebration, where he photographed a crew tearing down a massive tank that had long-blighted a neighborhood, Slodysko worked over the coming months to detail how extensive contamination from the business was – and quantify the public cost.

The result: Indiana taxpayers paid more than $21 million to clean up after the company, in all likelihood a conservative figure because many of the documents were redacted, missing or incomplete.

But cost alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Slodysko’s review of public records showed that the Pence family business – which was run by Mike Pence’s older brother Greg, who is now running for Congress – repeatedly received favorable treatment from the state.

The story ran, or was teased, on the front page of at least eight Indiana papers, including the Indianapolis Star, which ran the story and photo across the top. It was also featured on the website of the Columbus Republic, Mike Pence’s hometown newspaper.

For an investigation that revealed the millions of tax dollars used to clean up more than 85 contaminated sites in three states, Slodysko earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Family photo reveals a heartbreaking story in tornado’s aftermath

obtained a stunning family photo in the aftermath of tornadoes that tore through the South and Midwest. That image, combined with Hanna’s reporting and a video interview, tells the wrenching story of a young storm victim, 9-year-old Annistyn Rackley, who died when a tornado destroyed the family’s Missouri home. Even amid AP’s remarkable body of work on the storm, this story stood out.Topeka, Kansas, correspondent Hanna had run across the name of Annistyn’s aunt in a routine member story about a vigil for storm victims. Through Facebook sleuthing he eventually found the aunt, Sandra Hooker, who said, “My heart is broken, but I will help you in any way I can.”In an initial conversation with Hooker, who is close to the Rackley family, she mentioned receiving a photo by text shortly before a tornado blew the Rackleys’ home apart. The photo shows Annistyn and her sisters taking shelter in a bathtub as the storm approached; Annistyn is holding her favorite doll, MawMaw. Fifteen minutes later the home lay in ruins and Annistyn was dead.Hooker wanted to honor Annistyn’s memory and secured the Rackley family’s permission for AP to use that photo and others. She also did an interview with Hanna by Zoom, one of several follow-up discussions they had.Hanna’s moving one-man, all-formats coverage — his story, the photo of Annistyn and his interview with her aunt — was among AP’s top enterprise stories in the wake of the storm, with strong play across the U.S. and internationally.https://aplink.news/fwvhttps://aplink.video/bpo

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Feb. 18, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Family trusts AP with news of filmmaker Ivan Reitman’s death

landed a clean scoop on the death of director-producer Ivan Reitman thanks to her reputation for professionalism on the film beat. Los Angeles-based Bahr received a call from a source during the Super Bowl, saying the 75-year-old Reitman had died and the family trusted her to break the story. That set Bahr and AP into motion on an obit that made news, even on a busy Sunday night. Read more

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