Aug. 27, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Transatlantic teamwork launches early coverage of Tennessee floods

teamed up from the moment it became clear that Tennessee flooding was causing death and destruction on a catastrophic scale, capturing the full dimensions of the tragedy.Late Saturday, Atlanta desk editor R.J. Rico moved aggressively in pursuit of the story. Acting on information unearthed by user-generated content sleuth Nishit Morsawala in London, Rico conducted a late-night interview with Kansas Klein, the owner of a pizzeria in Waverly, Tennessee, who described standing on a bridge and watching two girls holding a puppy and clinging to a wooden board sweep past in the water below. The early presentation, which included compelling UGC video of the devastation, was so vivid that AP Deputy Managing Editor Noreen Gillespie said it felt like AP was already on the ground in Middle Tennessee.Reporter Jonathan Mattise and photographer Mark Humphrey set out at first light Sunday to McEwen and Waverly where they captured personal stories and heartbreaking images of the destruction wrought by 17 inches of rain in a single day. Working with colleagues John Raby in West Virginia and Jeffrey Collins in South Carolina, and freelance photographer John Amis, Mattise and Humphrey delivered a moving portrait in real time of a storm that took the lives of at least 22 people, left dozens of others missing and the remaining residents of a rural Tennessee community straining to cope with the devastation. The widely played all-formats coverage deftly examined the unusual nature of the storm and its likely connection to climate change, laying out its impact for a global audience that will almost certainly be experiencing similar storms going forward.https://aplink.news/zw1https://aplink.video/bdlhttps://aplink.news/qfb

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March 13, 2020

Best of the States

Tennessee team does double duty when tornadoes strike on Super Tuesday

When tornadoes tore through Middle Tennessee in the early-morning hours of Super Tuesday, AP’s staff deftly pivoted from preparing for the state’s primary to covering a natural disaster. 

From first light on Tuesday and throughout the day, Nashville and Memphis staffers delivered compelling all-formats coverage of the devastation that left at least 24 dead statewide. The team also connected the disaster to the primary, monitoring the impact on voting.

Strong aftermath coverage followed, including a presidential visit on Friday and well-received pieces on recovery efforts and a worship service at a damaged church. With out-of-state staffers and the entire South Desk contributing to the coverage, the sustained effort showed the AP at its best.

For proving nimble, responsive and collaborative coverage on a major breaking news story under chaotic conditions, the multiformat Tennessee team of Travis Loller, Kristin Hall, Kimberlee Kruesi, Mark Humphrey, Jonathan Mattise, Adrian Sainz and Teresa Walker shares this week’s Best of the States award. 

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March 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP story helps derail partisan effort to oust Tennessee judge

revealed a move by the Tennessee House to oust Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle, a judge who allowed widespread access to absentee voting before the 2020 election.That ruling last summer by Lyle didn't sit well with Tennessee Republicans. So not long after the legislature reconvened for the first time after the 2020 election, an effort to remove her began in earnest. With GOP supermajorities in both chambers, the measure had a chance to pass despite concerns that it represented a breach of judicial independence.Mattise’s March 8 story went deep on the mounting criticism, including colorful context on Tennessee’s previous efforts to remove judges over the past 50 years. The day after the story hit the wire, the push to oust Lyle went down to defeat in a House subcommittee, demonstrating the power of sunshine to upend questionable policy making. https://bit.ly/3tvbttG

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Sept. 25, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals Walmart, Amazon donations to Q-linked lawmaker

reviewed campaign finance records and social media posts, finding that Walmart, Amazon and other corporate giants donated to the reelection campaign of a Tennessee lawmaker who had amplified and promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory. Milligan helped compile and review Federal Election Commission data for 81 current or former congressional candidates who have expressed support for or interest in QAnon. The AP analysis showed that dozens of QAnon-promoting candidates have run for federal or state offices during this election cycle. Collectively, they have raised nearly $5 million from thousands of donors. Individually, however, most of them have run poorly financed campaigns with little or no corporate or party backing. Kunzelman’s story showed up in more than 200 news outlets with strong engagement, including Hollywood director Judd Apatow, who tweeted a link to his 2.4 million followers. https://bit.ly/3j0AnfH

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April 08, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP explores implications of nurse’s conviction for medical error

elevated coverage of a Tennessee nurse’s trial by reporting the larger implications of the woman’s conviction for accidentally administering the wrong medication to a patient who subsequently died.Other news outlets focused their coverage solely on the trial of RaDonda Vaught, on trial for giving a patient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center a medication that proved fatal, but Loller realized the case’s potential impact on health care workers and how they respond to mistakes. Her enterprising reporting, including exclusive details from an interview with the convicted nurse, resulted in an evocative, beautifully written story that resonated with readers.Read more

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Jan. 01, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Fast response, resourceful work breaks news on Nashville’s Christmas Day bombing

When a bomb exploded in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, early on Christmas morning, AP’s local staff upended their holiday plans and sprang into action. They were soon joined by colleagues, many working remotely, who jumped in to help coordinate coverage and piece together what had happened. 

The team overcame severely limited access and communications to quickly deliver photos and break stories over several days, including the news that human tissue had been found at the explosion site, and the bomber’s chilling prediction of fame. 

The outstanding work attracted heavy play and readership. 

For mobilizing quickly and resourcefully over the Christmas holiday, Kimberlee Kruesi, Mark Humphrey, Eric Tucker, Mike Balsamo, Denise Lavoie and Mike Kunzelman share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the last full week of 2020.

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March 13, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

NRA firearms auction pulled after AP query

noticed that the NRA planned to auction off firearms during a fundraiser at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, but she knew that the Nashville, Tennessee, museum didn't allow weapons inside. So she reached out to the museum, the NRA, country artists and more for comment. Soon after Hall raised the question of the apparent violation of museum policy, a spokesperson confirmed to her that the April event will not take place at the site. Other news outlets had to cite AP’s reporting. https://bit.ly/2vSOAbz

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July 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tough calls for US families as school year looms

turned a spotlight on the stress parents are feeling as they consider the reopening of schools and weigh competing concerns – the health of their children, the burden of extended quarantine, the need to have children cared for as parents get back to work. Exploring the impact of these factors on working parents, Loller sorted through the nuanced implications for parents from New York to Texas as they react to the pivotal decisions being made by elected officials about when kids should return to school. https://bit.ly/2ZSnqO3

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March 12, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: One man’s fight against an oil pipeline on his land

reported on a land grab for a proposed oil pipeline, conveying the news in the most compelling way possible, from the perspective of the people involved. The story is told largely through the eyes of Clyde Robinson, a 80-year-old Memphis, Tennessee, landowner fighting against larger forces to keep his land in what advocates say is textbook environmental racism.Robinson, who is Black, compared the effort to seize his land through eminent domain to slavery, when members of his own family were not compensated for their work. He vowed that no amount of money would convince him to change his mind.Environmental lawyers who have taken up Robinson’s cause say there’s no public interest that would justify seizure of the land for a business project, while a spokeswoman for the pipeline project walked back a statement by a land agent that the company had chosen “a point of least resistance” for the pipeline's proposed path. That statement was interpreted by the project’s opponents as having discriminatory undertones. https://bit.ly/3bDr1VZ

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Jan. 11, 2021

Best of the States

He’s a ‘Soul Man’: AP profiles Steve Cropper, a low-key musical legend

Correspondent Adrian Sainz drew on his deep knowledge of Memphis’ musical history to tell the fascinating but sometimes overlooked story of Steve Cropper, the 79-year-old guitarist who worked at Stax Records alongside Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and others, leaving an indelible imprint on the American songbook.

Complemented by Kristin Hall’s engaging video and Mark Humphrey’s striking portraits, Sainz lays Cropper's story out in rich detail, from the birth of Redding’s “(Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay” to his work with the Blues Brothers and current projects.

For an illuminating, unexpected holiday offering that reveals the low-key man whose music everyone celebrates, Sainz earns AP’s Best of the States award for the week of Dec. 28.

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Feb. 11, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Accountability reporting uncovers taxpayer-funded anti-abortion centers, racial disparities in access

With the continued weakening of state laws protecting women’s rights to abortion in the U.S., the AP’s strong coverage of abortion continues with two stories earning Best of the Week for impressive state accountability reporting and analysis.

A story that surfaced in Tennessee, finding federal dollars being spent on nonprofits aligned with the anti-abortion movement, revealed that legislatures in about a dozen U.S. states were funneling millions of taxpayer dollars to so-called crisis pregnancy centers that are typically unlicensed and have been accused of engaging in misinformation campaigns targeting pregnant women.

A second story focused on racial inequities in access to abortion, an idea sparked by an observation during a visit to the Shreveport, La., abortion clinic where almost every woman in the waiting room was Black. The all-formats package showed how minority women in states where abortion is under attack have the most to lose if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Both stories drew strong play on AP News and customer platforms.

For revelatory state stories on two elements in the pitched national debate over abortion rights, Kruesi, Willingham, Wagster Pettus, Nasir, Solis and Lo earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Oct. 16, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Experience, source work put AP ahead on NFL virus outbreak

used her sources and experience as the AP’s long-established Tennessee Titans beat writer the keep the AP out front on the week’s biggest NFL story – not on the field but in the lab, as COVID-19 broke out among the Titans. Walker checked in with her well-developed sources on many early mornings to break news on the latest tests and team status updates. She had her name on the NFL mainbar for seven days straight: Working with pro football writer Barry Wilner, she revealed details of test results, team protocol violations, NFL coronavirus protocol changes and threats of punishment to organizations. Here deep knowledge of the Titans enriching her analysis of the situation that postponed the team’s last two games.https://bit.ly/3j1nMImhttps://bit.ly/3iZhGZchttps://bit.ly/3lMnWFu

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Feb. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tip leads to exclusive catch on invasive carp

for scooping national media by more than a week on a hunt for the invasive Asian carp in Kentucky. Loller learned of plans for the hunt and along with Flesher worked to tell the broader story of how efforts to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and other important waterways was proving far more expensive than expected, teaming with visual colleagues to get images of the hunt ahead of a planned media event. https://bit.ly/2v4HujC

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June 26, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: COVID-19 takes a growing toll on Latino communities

reported on a disturbing trend: the disproportionate toll of the coronavirus in Latino communities. With COVID-19 spreading deeper into the U.S., the team told the stories of individuals impacted by the pandemic, vividly illustrating the data showing that Latinos make up large portions of infected patients even in areas where they were a relatively small share of the population. https://bit.ly/2Vetpd4

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Jan. 11, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP traces child labor from Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields to major brands, Girl Scout cookies

For the third installment of their groundbreaking investigation into labor abuse in Asia’s palm oil industry, reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason linked child labor to the supply chains of the makers of popular cereals, candies and ice creams, including KitKats, Oreos and Cap’n Crunch. They also traced the oil to that most American treat: Girl Scout cookies. 

Joined by photographers Binsar Bakkara and Mark Humphrey, and video journalist Allen Breed, their reporting found that some tens of thousands of children toil in the palm fields, some kept from school and forced to work for free or for little pay. Some are trafficked.

The framing of the story — through the eyes of a young girl in the fields in Indonesia and a Tennessee Girl Scout campaigning to have palm oil removed from the cookies — resonated with readers; reaction on social media led the Girl Scouts to address the issue with their suppliers.

For shedding unprecedented light on the children toiling in Southeast Asia’s palm oil fields, and connecting the abusive practice to major consumer brands, McDowell, Mason, Bakkara, Breed and Humphrey share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 28.

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Collaboration reveals racial divide in US schools reopening plans

collaborated with Chalkbeat, a non-profit that reports on U.S. education, to reveal that schools serving primarily students of color were far more likely to start the year online than schools serving mostly white students – a divide that threatens to further exacerbate inequities in education.Fenn and Hoyer gathered and analyzed the data from hundreds of school districts, while Rubinkam and Vertuno interviewed school administrators, parents and educators to learn about the pressures that shaped districts’ choices. The all-formats story was co-reported and co-written with Chalkbeat. https://bit.ly/2Rwwxirhttps://bit.ly/2FHfNCwhttps://bit.ly/3iAuaa8https://bit.ly/3iF2KQo

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