June 25, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years in the making, AP’s ‘AWOL Weapons’ investigation prompts immediate Pentagon reaction

Ten years ago, Kristin M. Hall noticed several cases in which U.S. troops stole military guns and sold them to the public. Hall, a military beat reporter at the time, then fired off the first of many Freedom of Information Act requests. The Army, however, refused to release any records and the story could easily have ended there, with Hall moving on to become a Nashville-based entertainment video journalist focused on country music. Yet, she kept at it.

Last week, Hall’s decade-long journey — and the work of a host of others on the global investigations, data and immersive storytelling teams — paid off in “AWOL Weapons,” a multilayered, visually rich project revealing that at least 1,900 military weapons — from handguns to rocket launchers — had been either lost or stolen during the 2010s, with some used in street violence in America.

Two days after publication, the Pentagon’s top general and the Army each said they would seek systematic fixes for the missing weapon problem, and through a spokesman, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called AP’s investigation “another example of the free press shining a light on the important subjects we need to get right.”

With deep reporting and a riveting digital presentation, the multistory package saw outstanding customer use and reader engagement.

For remarkable persistence that revealed a problem the military wanted to keep quiet, generating immediate prospects for reform, Hall receives special distinction alongside colleagues Justin Pritchard, James LaPorta, Justin Myers and Jeannie Ohm as winners of AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Sept. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: In drought-stricken West, farmers of weed are stealing water

revealed that illegal marijuana growers are taking water in uncontrolled amounts, draining wells used by landowners and farmers — and that overstretched law enforcement can do little about it.Selsky, based in Salem, Oregon, has reported on the impact of drought in the West and for years has tracked the burgeoning market for legal pot. But when he checked with sources about water theft by illegal marijuana grows, he quickly found that the situation was dire. Hundreds of huge illegal grows have been erected, too many for law enforcement officials to raid.The problem is showing up in parts of Oregon and California. Selsky visited a neighborhood in central Oregon where a homeowner was having a new well drilled after his existing well ran dry just a block away from a recently busted illegal grow. And he tracked down a resident in southern Oregon who for decades has depended on a creek for growing food. That creek has gone completely dry since large illegal marijuana grows began popping up in the area last spring. The local sheriff described “catastrophic” consequences for natural water resources, citing “blatant theft.” https://aplink.news/v3c

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Sept. 24, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP has rare access as Haitian migrants, in bid to reach US, face perilous jungle crossing of Darien Gap

Hundreds of migrants try each day to cross the Darien Gap — a thick jungle between Colombia and Panama traversed by many ultimately seeking the U.S. border — yet journalists rarely observe more than the first few steps of the journey.

But after days of negotiations with locals who participate in a human-trafficking network, the Bogota-based all-formats team of correspondent Astrid Suárez, photographer Fernando Vergara and video journalist Marko Álvarez were given exclusive access to the first hour of a treacherous six-day journey. That single hour was enough to tell the stories of migrants willing to risk their lives in a jungle teeming with threats, from raging rivers to gangs targeting migrants for theft and sexual assault.

For a stark all-formats portrait of desperation and determination in the depths of the jungle, Suárez, Vergara and Álvarez earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AWOL weapons: ’Explosive’ investigation of missing military ordnance

expanded AP’s “AWOL Weapons” investigation, revealing how explosives are lost or stolen from the U.S. armed services, sometimes with deadly consequences.When AP reported in June that the U.S. military couldn’t account for all its firearms, the team knew there was more to uncover. Their latest installment reports that hundreds (if not thousands) of armor-piercing grenades and hundreds of pounds of plastic explosives also vanished.AP’s investigation was built on data the team extracted from the military, and which data editor Myers marshaled for analysis. Investigative reporter LaPorta filed the original Freedom of Information Act request with the Marines, obtaining data that was crucial to framing the scope of the problem, while video journalist Hall and investigative reporter Pritchard used exclusive investigative case files to detail how troops stole plastic explosives. At a major Marine base a sergeant hoarded C4 because he feared Donald Trump would lose; after another insider theft, explosives ended up with high school kids.Hall found a man who survived the explosion of an artillery shell at the Mississippi recycling yard where he worked. His co-worker died. That emotional interview alone drew more than 56,000 Twitter views. Combined with exclusive interrogation footage of Marines, video journalists Serginho Roosblad and Jeannie Ohm wove together a compelling video package using interviews by colleagues Stacey Plaisance and Robert Bumsted. Senior researcher Jennifer Farrar also contributed.The online presentation by Raghu Vadarevu, Natalie Castañeda and Peter Hamlin took the distinctive visual language they previously developed for the series and gave it even more impact. Thanks also to the expert wordsmithing of editor Jerry Schwartz and a well-conceived social media plan by audience engagement specialist Elise Ryan, the package scored over 130,000 views on AP News, more than double other top stories. The story also generated media buzz, including a prominent interview with Hall by CNBC’s Shepard Smith.https://aplink.news/xjghttps://aplink.news/d7yhttps://aplink.video/xnn

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