Feb. 24, 2017

Best of the States

Utah law allows legislators to get wined and dined in secret

Michelle Price was aware of the Utah’s lax requirements for reporting on lobbying activities and had been looking for a good way to tell that story. A social media posting from a lawmaker gave her the opening she was seeking when he shared an invitation from health care industry lobbyists to legislative members of three health-related committees to dine at a stylish new restaurant.

Price confirmed that under Utah’s loose lobbying laws, neither the lobbyists nor the lawmakers were required to report their night out. Price's AP NewsBreak went on to explain that no public disclosure is required as long as lobbyists extend their largesse to all members of a committee, a task force or a caucus. For her resourceful reporting, Price wins this week’s $300 Best of the States award.

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July 16, 2021

Best of the States

AP takes immersive look as drought puts ‘flatlining’ Great Salt Lake at historic risk

As the western U.S. finds itself in the grips of one of the worst droughts in recent history, the AP West region staff has delved into every aspect of the drought’s impact across the region. In one of the hardest-hit areas, the Salt Lake City-based team of Rick Bowmer, Lindsay Whitehurst and Brady McCombs documented that Utah’s Great Salt Lake may be headed to the lowest water levels in 170 years.

Reporting ahead of other news outlets, they delivered an all-formats package with stunning visuals showing readers how the dying lake is impacting people and wildlife and is a harbinger of worrisome drought-related consequences ahead. Decades of drought and water diversion in the booming region have hurt bird habitats, forced boats from shallow water and exposed dry lakebed that could send arsenic-laced dust into the air that millions breathe.

The result was a compelling package that had the highest engagement of all AP stories on July 6 and fourth-most for the week.

For distinctive work that expands AP’s ongoing coverage of climate and drought in the West, the team of Bowmer, Whitehurst and McCombs wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 16, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Lawmaker accused of meeting with prostitute used taxpayer money for hotel

Allegations that a lawmaker had been trysting with a prostitute while the Utah Legislature was in session rocked the state’s politics. The former lawmaker who had previously pushed for stricter laws cracking down on prostitution went into hiding. His attorney refused comment. The House speaker washed his hands of the scandal, and the prostitute was no longer talking, having sold the story to the tabloid site dailymail.com.

Political reporter Michelle Price needed another way into the story, so she started asking questions around the capitol.

She made a key discovery while looking at the screen grabs of the texts in the tabloid story: The dates lined up with the legislative session. She knew the lawmaker from southern Utah didn’t commute to the Legislature and would be staying in hotels while in Salt Lake City.

She started asking tougher questions. Was taxpayer money used to reimburse the lawmaker for hotel rooms where he met the prostitute? Now she had the attention of officials in state government.

Finally came the APNewsBreak: Price exclusively reported that the lawmaker used taxpayer money to book at least two hotel rooms he is accused of using to meet with the prostitute.

For determination and a commitment to exploring all angles even when the main characters weren’t talking, Price wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP gets first word of plan to allow drilling, mining near national monument

for breaking the news that the government would allow mining, drilling, grazing and recreation on lands around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah that had been off limits. President Donald Trump downsized the protected area two years ago.

Impressed by AP’s fairness in coverage of the ongoing debate about managing public lands in the West, the Bureau of Land Management reached out to McCombs to share embargoed materials and the first interview by the region’s acting director ahead of the plan’s release. The APNewsBreak revealed that not only would the formerly protected lands be made available to a wide variety of uses but that those activities could have an adverse effect on the monument that is home to dramatic formations and vistas and is prime territory for paleontologists. https://bit.ly/2UafUcE

May 29, 2020

Best of the States

AP takes a rare behind-the-scenes look into the complex world of contact tracing

With contact tracing in the spotlight as one of the keys to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, journalists across the AP have sought access to the investigators, only to be rebuffed for privacy concerns. But Utah-based correspondent Brady McCombs convinced a county health department that he and photographer Rick Bowmer could show the world how contact tracing is conducted, while protecting private details. 

Once they were in the door, the curtain rolled back. The pair spent parts of five days shadowing investigators as they talked, commiserated and cajoled people to comply with tracing – something simply unseen in other coverage or descriptions of contact tracing. 

And in a major break, McCombs used social media to identify one of the subjects of tracing, getting exclusive all-formats access to tell the story of a family on the other end of a tracer’s call.

For a timely and revealing package on a vital element of the pandemic response, McCombs and Bowmer share this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 31, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation reveals lenient pattern of punishment for serial cyberstalker

for using police and court records, and victim interviews to show that at least eight women and teenagers since 2012 contacted authorities to accuse a man of stalking or harassing them, but none of their complaints resulted in prison time for the man. The AP published its findings a day before a Utah judge sentenced the man to serve up to five years in prison. https://bit.ly/2YZMOxR

July 26, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team leads media fight for photo access at OJ Simpson parole hearing

What happens when the state of Nevada announces it intends to use its own photographer to cover the parole hearing of O.J. Simpson, and exclude all others?

The Associated Press steps up, rallies the media and forces the state to backtrack. For their efforts to ensure news photo access to a high-profile story, the team of Stephanie Mullen, Ken Ritter and Tom Tait is awarded Beat of the Week.

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April 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: States passing tough abortion laws often have weak social programs

collaborated with a team of AP state reporters on an analysis of federal data, finding that states passing the toughest abortion restrictions are generally the most challenging places for people to have and raise children. With the U.S. Supreme Court widely expected to roll back abortion rights later this year, the data and reporting revealed a weak network of social services in many of these states for women who become pregnant and may be unable to obtain an abortion.AP’s analysis, led by data journalists Fassett and Lo, looked at seven social safety net measurements collected by the federal government; visualized in an engaging interactive by the data team’s Gorman. The reporting team, led by Utah statehouse reporter Whitehurst, interviewed parents, researchers and nonprofit groups that provide support to pregnant people, new parents, infants and young children. And while the data overwhelming showed that Republican-controlled states with strict abortion laws performed the worst on these social services, the reporting also came with the important caveat that a few Democratically controlled states with more permissive abortion laws also measured poorly in some categories.Read more

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Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Across the US, AP covers a Thanksgiving Day like no other

teamed up on Thanksgiving Day to deliver a standout package that showed the various ways that Americans observed the holiday in the year that COVID-19 upended tradition.Reporters and photographers fanned out to deliver intimate, heartbreaking and heartwarming tales from homes and dinner tables around America, the diverse elements coming together in a seamlessly edited narrative.Among the highlights: From New York, an elderly nursing home resident marking the holiday alone, and a family with an empty spot at the table to commemorate a mother lost to the virus. In Kansas City, a nurse who recently lost her mother and marked the holiday after completing an overnight shift at the hospital. A Florida woman who skipped the family gathering to write Thanksgiving notes to her loved ones. A Utah family of three, all of whom tested positive for COVID-19, who found boxes outside their home overflowing with canned goods, desserts and a turkey. And in Southern California, a man who spent $1,000 on rapid virus tests so he could share Thanksgiving Day with family. https://bit.ly/3lIUgZy

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Nov. 08, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Closing of coal plant on tribal land upends a community and a culture

Coal-burning generating plants are closing in the U.S., and coal mines are shutting down amid worries of climate change and the new economies of renewable energy.

Against that backdrop, correspondents Felicia Fonseca and Susan Montoya Bryan traveled to Arizona’s remote Navajo Generating Station to the tell the story of workers, their families, a community and the tribal nations who have depended on coal and are feeling the profound effects of the plant’s impending closure. 

In their all-formats package, the pair let workers explain what they were losing, and how the local economy is taking a massive hit with millions of dollars of revenue no longer flowing to the Hopi and Navajo tribes.  

For a comprehensive, compelling look at the impact of coal’s decline on a community and a culture, Fonseca and Montoya earn this week’s Best of the States award. 

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Jan. 24, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reporting reveals nonstop chaos in overburdened immigration courtrooms

Led by reporters Amy Taxin and Deepti Hajela, the AP harnessed its vast geographic reach and expertise on the topic of immigration to deliver a striking, all-formats examination of the nation’s beleaguered immigration court system. 

AP journalists fanned out to courtrooms across the U.S. to vividly illustrate chaos in the nation’s immigration courts, plagued by a 1 million case backlog. 

The reporting uncovered personal stories of immigrants entangled in the system, including an in-depth package from rural Georgia by reporter Kate Brumback and photographer David Goldman, and video by producer Noreen Nasir.

For a revealing look at a legal system struggling to cope with the influx of immigrants, and families caught up in the grinding legal process, Taxin, Hajela, Brumback, Goldman and Nasir share AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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May 17, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP examines patient consent before pelvic exams; states, med schools split on legislation

“Don’t dismiss a [story] idea just because it’s unfamiliar. Pelvic exams aren’t exactly in the wheelhouse of the State Government Team, but it turned out to be a really terrific and distinctive topic.”

That’s one editor’s takeaway from a story by Providence, Rhode Island, reporter Jennifer McDermott and Seattle medical writer Carla Johnson, both of whom, acting on a heads-up from New York photo editor Jenny Kane, found that it’s common practice for medical students to perform a pelvic exam on women under anesthesia as part of their training. Whether the patients have given consent for that exam is not clear, drawing the interest of state lawmakers.

The pair faced multiple obstacles in reporting the story, including initial reluctance by doctors and harried legislators to discuss the issue, but McDermott and Johnson succeeded in defining the conflict between medical schools and elected officials seeking to protect patient rights. Their efforts resulted in a unique story that received heavy play among major AP customers, both online and in print.

For their teamwork, execution and sensitive handling of a complex topic, McDermott, Johnson and Kane win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 10, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Exclusive: China forces Uighurs to cut births with IUDs, abortions, sterilization

The shocking story exposed a serious human rights issue: The Chinese government has forced the use of IUDs, abortions and sterilization on members of China’s Muslim minority in an apparent effort to reduce its population. 

The piece, which ran without a byline for security reasons, established that China is imposing birth control on Uighurs and other Muslims in a far more widespread and systematic way than previously known. The exclusive reporting drew on Uighur and Kazakh sources, research by a prominent China scholar and hours-long interviews with ex-detainees, family members and even a former detention camp instructor. 

The story elicited a strong global response from government officials, news media and the public.

For uncovering another major chapter on the plight of the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China, the unidentified AP reporter wins this week’s Best of the Week award.

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