June 18, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Secret panel investigating Louisiana State Police unit’s treatment of Black motorists

From the very beginning of Jim Mustian’s stellar reporting on the death of Black motorist Ronald Greene, he has been driven by two main questions: What really happened to Greene on the night of his 2019 arrest? And was this a pattern of how Louisiana state troopers treated Black motorists?

Mustian answered the first last month when he obtained body camera video showing troopers stunning, choking, punching and dragging the unarmed Greene as he apologized and begged for mercy. 

And he began answering the second this past week when he exclusively reported that the Louisiana State Police has convened a secret panel to investigate whether Troop F — the same unit involved in Greene’s arrest  — was systematically targeting other Black motorists. Mustian’s detailed reporting and solid sourcing turned up new cases and new video, and he landed the first-ever interview with one of the victims. 

His scoop scored with heavy play and strong engagement. For dogged reporting to keep the AP ahead on a searing case of racial injustice and its continuing fallout, Mustian earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 11, 2021

Best of the States

Effects of California drought documented in compelling all-formats content and presentation

With California sinking deeper into drought as wildfire season approaches, AP set out to show the drought’s impact on vulnerable areas — beyond the orange glow of burning homes. Top freelance photographers Noah Berger and Josh Edelson teamed up with reporter Adam Beam, focusing on the six reservoirs with the lowest water levels. 

Both photographers are trained and equipped with drones; they delivered stunning visuals, including boat docks beached on dry land, charred hillside homes overlooking a lake reduced to puddle-like status and boat launches that don’t even reach the water’s edge. Meanwhile, Beam conducted interviews and visited the massive Lake Oroville reservoir, where the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century raged in 2018. 

The package was enhanced by digital storyteller Samantha Shotzbarger, who created a arresting presentation giving readers an immersive view of the evaporating reservoirs.   

For a revealing and forbidding look at the effects of California’s drought, the team of Berger, Edelson, Beam and Shotzbarger earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Access to Syrian camp reveals forgotten children left to IS influence

gained rare access to Syria's sprawling al-Hol camp, their work shedding light on tens of thousands of forgotten kids languishing without any real opportunities or education beyond the ideology of the Islamic State group communicated to them by their mothers.In video, photos and text, the story revealed the lives of children at the camp — which houses families of IS and IS sympathizers —and their exposure to the influence of IS, including children waving black IS flags, metal-like swords and gesturing in the form of beheadings. The story received wide play and was cited by Syria experts and academics as evidence of the perils of leaving al-Hol’s kids to their fate, and why foreign countries need to take responsibility for their nationals and repatriate them.https://aplink.news/ar0https://aplink.video/4ze

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June 04, 2021

Best of the Week

Unique AP visual investigation reveals Myanmar's junta using bodies to terrorize civilians

The video was startling: As a motorcycle carrying three men speeds down a city street in Myanmar, a soldier traveling in the back of a pickup truck opens fire. A man falls to the ground, mortally wounded, while the other two run away. 

Investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason found that the video was one of many seeming to show the military firing at civilians indiscriminately in the wake of February’s coup. They also noticed that security forces appear to go out of their way to mutilate and drag bodies in the street, seemingly to terrorize the populace. The pair teamed up with the Human Rights Center Investigations Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, applying cutting-edge image analysis to thousands of social media posts and images online to reveal how the junta in Myanmar was using the bodies as tools of terror, according to human rights activists. 

With important contributions by Southeast Asia news director Kiko Rosario, and video by Manuel Valdes, the piece received more than 53,000 views on AP platforms.

For finding a way to analyze visual data from one of the world’s most secretive countries and presenting it in a rich and compelling multiformat narrative, McDowell, Mason, Rosario and Valdes earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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May 28, 2021

Best of the Week

AP Exclusive: Investigative reporter obtains bodycam video of Ronald Greene’s deadly arrest

When Ronald Greene died in 2019, Louisiana State Police troopers initially blamed the Black man’s death on injuries from a crash at the end of a high-speed chase, then later said Greene became unresponsive in a struggle with troopers and died on his way to the hospital.

For the most part, that was all the public would know about the case, until AP’s Jim Mustian took up the story. Since he began reporting nine months ago, he’s broken a string of stories revealing there was more to the story. But Mustian always knew he needed to get his hands on one crucial piece of evidence: video.

This past week, Mustian did just that. In the most explosive break yet in the case, Mustian obtained body camera footage that showed Greene repeatedly apologizing and pleading for mercy as troopers jolted him with stun guns, put him in a choke hold, punched him and dragged him by his ankle shackles. The story led national newscasts and websites, and fronted newspapers across the country, with credit to AP’s reporting and the video, again and again.

This scoop was the work of one dogged investigative reporter who never stopped believing that the world should know what really happened to Ronald Greene. For that we honor Jim Mustian with AP’s Best of the Week award.

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May 28, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals congressman chasing profits during pandemic

investigated the stock trading of U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, adding the New Jersey Democrat to the members of Congress who have come under scrutiny for their trades during the COVID-19 era. Detailing an extensive trading history that one former ethics official described as mind-boggling, Washington reporter Slodysko peeled back the curtain on the congressman’s trading activity and his failure to disclose it to the public.Getting the story wasn’t easy. To report it, Slodysko used software to harvest data from a list of trades released by Malinowski’s office. That enabled him to analyze just how active Malinowski had been in the stock market since the pandemic hit. Combining that with other stock price data, Slodysko was able to state that Malinowski — who early in the pandemic had admonished those looking to capitalize on the health crisis — bought or sold as much as $1 million of stock in medical and tech companies that had a stake in the virus response.AP’s story broke new ground in an important area of accountability reporting in Washington, and was quickly picked up by other outlets, including The Washington Post, Politico and The Hill, among others. https://aplink.news/yq7

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May 14, 2021

Best of the States

Nimble AP reporting reveals Alabama trooper charged in child rape hid alleged misconduct at FBI

In a classic case of keeping an open mind during reporting, AP’s Jim Mustian and Kim Chandler started out reporting one story, but found themselves reporting exclusively that an Alabama state trooper, arrested on charges he raped an 11-year-old girl, had used a forged letter and lied on his application to get hired after being removed from the FBI — also on serious allegations of sexual misconduct.

To federal law enforcement reporter Mustian, this initially appeared as yet another case of the FBI allowing an accused agent to quietly move on with his career. But just as he was about to publish, the FBI said the bureau letter Christopher Bauer submitted to Alabama authorities when he was hired was “not legitimate.” Meanwhile, Chandler, Montgomery statehouse reporter, tracked down Bauer’s application for the trooper job, in which he said he was still employed by the FBI and had never been forced to resign because of disciplinary action.

This had become the story of a former agent, and perhaps others, falsifying his record. The piece was among the week’s top stories on AP News, with nearly 200,000 pageviews.

For deep reporting that followed the story wherever it took them, Mustian and Chandler earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Amid pandemic crisis, AP looks at VP Kamala Harris’ ties to India

sidestepped resistance from Vice President Kamala Harris’ office to report on the vice president’s connections to India, even as the coronavirus raged in India and the U.S. came under criticism for not doing more to aid the country. Harris’ mother had immigrated to the U.S. from India in the 1950s to pursue a career as a scientist.White House reporter Jaffe lined up a Zoom interview with Harris’ uncle in New Delhi, who had spoken with the vice president on his 80th birthday this spring. And New Delhi writer Krutika Pathi contributed comments from the administrator of a temple in the hometown of Harris’ grandfather in southern Tamil Nadu state. Jaffe rounded out the story with India-related tweets from Harris’ niece in California and background on the vice president’s many comments about her ties to India over the years.The story generated strong play, particularly in Indian media, including online versions of the Indian Express and the Hindustan Times.https://bit.ly/3tFOH1Chttps://bit.ly/3vZZdT7

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May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, teamwork deliver scoop on federal charges in Floyd killing

delivered a 20-minute beat on the news that four former officers involved in the death of George Floyd were indicted on federal civil rights charges — an unusual move for the Justice Department because three of the officers haven’t faced state trial yet.Balsamo had learned that the federal charges were imminent, and Forliti worked her sources to get the full story: off-the-record details about the still-sealed indictment that allowed her to write robust, fully-formed prep. She was even tipped off that the charges would drop early Friday morning.But when that didn't happen, a source quietly tipped Forliti to phone into a federal hearing happening live. The officers were appearing in federal court, with the charges still sealed. The AP pair — possibly the only reporters listening during the hearing — put out a fast cover story that the former cops were facing federal charges. Balsamo then went to his sources, asking them to send the indictment, because, while it hadn’t been made public yet, he had heard the judge order it made public. AP soon had the indictment. He and Forliti filed alerts, writethrus loaded with context and a full story within 15 minutes. Forliti also filed a video brief on the charges. Meanwhile, no one matched their story for a full 20 minutes, and major national publications were 40 minutes or more behind the AP. Even the hometown Star Tribune used AP’s story on its website.https://bit.ly/3tJ9YYqhttps://bit.ly/3w2BvFF

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May 07, 2021

Best of the States

Intern’s rape accusation against Idaho lawmaker prompts AP national review of state legislatures

When a 19-year-old legislative intern reported that a state lawmaker in Idaho raped her, she almost immediately faced a campaign of harassment from right-wing groups in the state, and even from other state representatives, who publicized her identity against her will. A legislative panel then forced her to testify from behind a screen at an ethics hearing, after which she was followed and subjected to still further abuse by the accused lawmaker’s supporters.

The sordid story of the young woman’s ordeal was covered with sensitivity by Boise correspondent Rebecca Boone in a series of pieces that included an exclusive interview with the alleged victim, and it prompted a wider look by AP’s State Government Team at allegations of sexual misconduct in statehouses around the country. That story, led by correspondent David Lieb and Report for America data journalist Camille Fassett, provided state-by-state details to AP customers and revealed public allegations against at least 109 state lawmakers in 40 states.

For aggressive yet respectful coverage that put one woman’s voice at the center of the story while providing distinctive national context, Boone, Lieb and Fassett share this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 07, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation, teamwork lead to deep coverage of US census numbers

relied on meticulous planning, their in-depth knowledge of the subject, and AP’s national footprint to lead comprehensive coverage of just-released 2020 U.S. Census numbers. The first batch of numbers were deceptively simple — on the surface, a single population number from each state and bare-bones information on congressional seats and presidential electors. But with robust preparation and background on the headcount’s implications, the pair pushed AP's coverage to the forefront nationally on an announcement that turned out to contain plenty of surprises.While leveraging AP’s reach with a big assist from colleagues who helped prepare state stories all over the country, as well as advance coverage of millennial migration, a likely Latino undercount in the Sunbelt and California’s loss of a seat for the first time in its history, Schneider and Riccardi deftly adapted the AP’s spot story to the news that 13 states would either gain or lose congressional seats. The spot coverage included an informative glance box of winners and losers, an interactive map and independent analysis by the AP data team.Taken as a whole, the weeklong tour de force showcased the AP’s range and depth, with Schneider and Riccardi leading the effort.https://bit.ly/3toZFZghttps://bit.ly/3elizMlhttps://bit.ly/2PRIz8Ohttps://bit.ly/2Suq5fDhttps://bit.ly/3b3eIBE

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April 09, 2021

Best of the States

Exclusive data analysis, reporting on child abuse reveal worrying pandemic trend, heartbreaking tale

A true multiformat team of AP journalists produced this Only on AP piece by tracking down data on child abuse from every state to reveal a worrying trend: Reports of abuse are down while signs of severity are up. The team complemented that dogged data work and hard news with the tragic story of one girl who fell through the cracks during the pandemic. 

Acting on information sourced by video journalist Manuel Valdes, Seattle reporter Sally Ho coordinated the 50-state data survey and an ambitious analysis with data journalist Camille Fassett. Ho also read through hundreds of child abuse reports to find the case of 9-year-old Ava Lerario, killed by her father in a small Pennsylvania town. Ho worked with Philadelphia photojournalists Matt Rourke and Matt Slocum, and New York video journalist David Martin, to tell the story of about how the system failed Ava. 

The team’s deeply reported package drew remarkably high reader engagement, and many news outlets localized the work using AP’s data distribution.

For exposing another disturbing inequality stemming from the pandemic, Ho and colleagues Valdes, Fassett, Rourke, Slocum and Martin share this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive interview with Swiss banker in Venezuela corruption

spent months gaining the trust of Matthias Krull, a press-shy convicted felon, but the payoff was an exclusive story of how the Swiss banker facilitated the looting of Venezuela’s state coffers. Krull’s government testimony is credited with boosting multiple criminal investigations against corrupt allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. During a series of off-the-record meetings over 10 months, Latin America correspondent Goodman developed a rapport with Krull, allaying concerns of the former banker and his attorney. Krull shared documents bolstering his claim that his former firm, driven by profits, ignored indications of money laundering by its clients. And at one point Krull allowed Miami-based video journalist Cody Jackson to record the removal of his court-ordered ankle monitor. The access and trust were key in helping Goodman stave off major competitors also chasing the interview.On a busy news day, Goodman’s story — just his latest exposing corruption in Venezuela — was the most-read on apnews.com, with remarkable reader engagement. Social media in Venezuela buzzed, while a leading Swiss website for financial news, competing against Goodman on this story, even put it atop their “Best of the Month” selections.https://bit.ly/3wAch2Khttps://bit.ly/3fRD7gD

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March 26, 2021

Best of the States

AP all-formats team looks at town’s Black reparations through the eyes of a retired professor

When the college town of Amherst, Massachusetts, began taking a hard look at paying reparations to Black residents, the AP's Boston bureau set about using it as a backdrop for a national look at where things stand on making amends for the lingering effects of slavery.

The team of video journalist Rodrique Ngowi, reporter Philip Marcelo and photographer Charlie Krupa soon found the perfect subject to make the project character-centered: 96-year-old former University of Massachusetts professor Edwin Driver, who arrived on campus in the 1940s as one of the nation’s first Black faculty members at a flagship university — only to find no one would sell him a house. He said he was denied pay raises for decades.

The all-formats team came away with a powerful and illuminating portrait of a Black man who'd been wronged — a compelling way to frame the earnest but complicated public effort to address injustice. 

For impactful and highly visual storytelling that helped put a face on a provocative and politically charged issue — one the nation will be wrestling with for years to come — Ngowi, Krupa and Marcelo earn the week’s Best of the States honors.

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March 12, 2021

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Hundreds claim abuse by staffers at New Hampshire youth detention facility

Concord-based reporter Holly Ramer, who has owned the story of abuse allegations at New Hampshire’s state-run youth detention center for more than a year, used source work to break news once again: A lawsuit filed in early 2020 has grown to include 230 men and women who say they were abused as children by 150 staffers over the course of six decades.  

Ramer’s story was based on exclusive interviews with the plaintiffs’ attorney and three victims, who described sickening allegations including broken bones, gang rape and impregnation. Powerful images by Boston photographer Charlie Krupa and video journalist Rodrique Ngowi complemented the piece.  

AP’s coverage prompted three Democratic lawmakers to call on Gov. Chris Sununu to shut down the center, and at least 40 more victims have come forward since the story ran. 

For this latest example of impactful storytelling that has helped expose a grave scandal at the state’s youth detention center, Ramer, Krupa and Ngowi earn Best of the States honors. 

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March 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP live, exclusive: Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls released

had previously covered the 2014 kidnap of the Chibok schoolgirls, and were well aware of the challenges they would face working in remote Zamfara state after hundreds of girls were kidnapped from a boarding school in northwest Nigeria on Feb. 26. And when the girls were released the March 2, the resourceful pair overcame all obstacles to deliver outstanding coverage, particularly live video.After making their way to Gusaure, the state capital, video journalist Oyekanmi and photographer Alamba had carefully reviewed the security situation on the ground, talking to local journalists and officials, as well as with AP editors, before setting off for the school to report on the missing girls. Returning to the capital after a day on the road, they worked well past midnight filing their work on balky internet. Then, with little more than two hours sleep, Oyekanmi received a tip from a local friend that the girls had been released. They roused their driver and raced to the Government House, powering up their live video gear as they drove. They talked their way past security and were broadcasting live exclusively at 5:50 a.m. local time as the schoolgirls were brought back safely for medical check-ups and reunion with their families. Their work dominated AP customer video usage around the world on the day, and Alamba’s photo coverage was no less impressive.https://bit.ly/2PW0vPnhttps://bit.ly/2OOdGRDhttps://bit.ly/2OGdgNkhttps://bit.ly/3lafpgd

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March 05, 2021

Best of the Week

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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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds diversity of politics and religion among West Virginia evangelicals

A tweet was the seed for this illuminating story. “Most people in my rural, Appalachian hometown are being radicalized at church by their pastor, which is the person they trust the most,” it read. AP’s Global Religion team ran with it.

Reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski visited the parishioners of three churches in Bluefield, West Virginia, including one pastor who had attended the Jan. 6 Washington rally that degenerated into a riot. The AP pair spent weeks convincing him to sit down for an interview. The result was an all-formats package of diverse congregations seeking common ground, even as they are divided on the role of evangelical Christianity in American politics. 

For applying gentle persuasion and balanced reporting to produce a nuanced look at religion and politics in one West Virginia town, Henao and Wardarski win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the Week

Latest on New York COVID policy: State sent more than 9,000 virus patients to nursing homes

For nine months, AP has led all media on the story of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial directive to return recovering coronavirus patients from hospitals to nursing homes during the pandemic.

Last week, reporters Bernard Condon and Jennifer Peltz added to that record. Using data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, they reported exclusively that more than 9,000 patients in New York were released under the state’s policy, amid criticism that it accelerated nursing home outbreaks. The latest AP scoop has helped put Cuomo and his administration on the defensive at home and nationally.

For keeping AP at the forefront of this accountability story for the better part of a year — including their latest break documenting the release of COVID patients into nursing homes — Condon and Peltz earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Tragedies frame high school for Parkland seniors

has stayed in regular contact with students and parents from the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting, a connection that helped her produce a poignant account of this year’s graduating class which endured the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting as freshmen and who are now living through the pandemic as seniors. Theirs is a story of a high school career disrupted and bookended by two separate traumas. In one of the most moving tales, Miami reporter Kennedy highlighted the life of one senior who lost her best friend in the shooting and moved to another state and school only to face difficulty connecting with new friends because of the pandemic. https://bit.ly/37q89Hx

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