Feb. 15, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Multiple APNewsBreaks in Virginia capital scandals

The Virginia governor’s medical school yearbook page was stunning. A photo in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook showed two people looking at the camera – one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in white Klan robes.

Hours after a conservative news outlet first reported the racist photo late on a Friday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam apologized and acknowledged that he appeared in the photo. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and several Democratic presidential candidates called for his resignation.

By the next day, however, he had a change of heart and Virginia statehouse correspondent Alan Suderman broke the news ahead of everyone else. Through a hard-won source he had cultivated during his five years at the statehouse, Suderman revealed that Northam did not believe he was in the photo and would not resign, hours before the governor made that decision public.

Then the scandal took a turn as sexual assault allegations were made against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat who is only the second African-American to win statewide office in the state. Suderman secured a denial from Fairfax after the second woman’s accusation.

But Suderman wasn’t done. Again working his sources, he revealed that Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, the potential successor to Northam and Fairfax, had admitted that he wore blackface during a party when he was a 19-year-old student at the University of Virginia.

The stories drew tremendous play with readers and customers, with more than 1,000 website matches on several days and 103,000 social media interactions in one day.

For his deft source-building and strong reporting on this highly competitive series of stories, Alan Suderman wins the AP’s Best of the Week award.

Ap 19033738864505 1024

April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Why dozens died inside Virginia nursing home

teamed up to report what went wrong inside a Virginia long-term care center where COVID-19 killed 45 residents, surpassing the Kirkland, Washington, nursing care center that became the nation’s initial hotspot. The pair reviewed records and developed sources, including patients’ families and the center’s medical director, who described the desperate situation inside the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center as a “virus’s dream.” https://bit.ly/3by5RGs

Ap 20095565900483 Hm Canterbury Lede

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. 

Ap 21036481998337 2000

June 12, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: Virginia to remove Robert E Lee statue

used a tip from a high-level state government source to break the news that Gov. Ralph Northam planned to remove the Gen. Robert E. Lee statue that has towered over Richmond for 130 years. Acting on the tip, Suderman relayed his reporting from the field to Rankin, who quickly filed the urgent series, adding important context from her years reporting on heated battles over monuments across the state.The pair’s AP Exclusive stood for more than half an hour before being matched by local and national outlets. https://bit.ly/3f5GzAE

Ap 20155767042515 Hm Lee Statue

Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the States

Records reveal Virginia attorney-lawmaker privilege that delays court proceedings

Sometimes accountability stories are hiding in plain sight, but getting to them requires first recognizing the potential and then doing a whole lot of digging. Virginia reporter Sarah Rankin did both of those things. 

After seeing a one-sentence mention in a legal trade publication, Rankin began the hunt for a deeper story about a continuance privilege granted to lawyer-legislators, and how one Virginia lawmaker used the privilege to consistently delay court hearings. 

Rankin plowed through records of cases that involved Virginia lawmaker Jeff Campbell, the defense attorney for a one-time NASCAR race driver accused of domestic violence. She found that Campbell had employed the continuance privilege at least 30 times over three years, more than double any other lawyer-legislator.

For seizing on the brief mention, then following up with determined reporting that revealed a potential for abuse by lawyer-lawmakers in Virginia and elsewhere, Rankin wins the week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 20038708266714 1920

Jan. 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusives lead all-formats coverage of Virginia pro-gun rally

for exclusive reporting and photo/video dominance around a massive pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, including breaking the news that Gov. Ralph Northam temporarily banned all weapons on the Capital grounds and a story that four Democrats opposed legislation that would have sought to ban assault weapons in the state, effectively killing the measure. https://bit.ly/3aDMYlhhttps://bit.ly/37njd6lhttps://bit.ly/2sTFrhl

Ap 20020644674101 Hm Helber

Jan. 27, 2017

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Feds advise Virginia on how to get around ban on using seized funds for salary hikes

for reporting that, despite a ban on using assets seized in criminal investigations to raise salaries for law enforcement, the federal government told the Virginia state government how to get around the rule. The resulting worker pay raises of up to 30 percent became the subject of a heated floor speech in the state Senate and a disapproving editorial. https://yhoo.it/2jRl90P

May 17, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Schedules reveal West Virginia governor largely absent from work

Anthony Izaguirre began hearing the chatter about West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice as soon as he started work as the AP’s statehouse correspondent in Charleston, West Virginia, in late February. Sources told him Justice – a billionaire who owns mines, farms and a swanky resort – wasn’t fully engaged and hadn’t even been in the capital, Charleston, much since taking office in 2017.

Izaguirre's initial request for the governor’s schedules was declined, but he pressed with the help of AP’s legal department, finally getting the records. Armed with those calendars and his own resourceful reporting, he cobbled together a record of the governor’s activities, confirming what many suspected: Justice appeared to have better things to do than govern.

West Virginia media pounced on the exclusive story, which also played well outside the state.

For his resolute work to obtain public records and his thorough reporting to fill out a story no one else in the state could land, Izaguirre wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 19010085023463 1024

April 16, 2021

Best of the States

AP team embeds in West Virginia city seeing a resurgence of addiction amid the pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic killed more than a half-million Americans, it also quietly inflamed what had already been one of the country’s greatest public health crises: addiction. 

To tell that story, a multiformat AP team — writer Claire Galofaro, photographer David Goldman and video journalist Mike Householder — spent time in Huntington, West Virginia, exploring the resurgence of addiction in a community that had made progress against drug abuse. The AP team embedded with the city’s Quick Response team for a week, providing a unique window into the suffering those with addiction have endured as the pandemic brought despair and cut off access to support systems and health care resources.

The evocative package resonated with readers, and the story’s main subject said she was “ecstatic” over how well the story captured the world she sees every day.

For sensitive and compelling coverage that furthers the AP’s efforts to explore the rippling consequences of COVID-19, the team of Galofaro, Goldman and Householder wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 21096707139510 2000 C

March 31, 2017

Best of the States

Coal ash: "Why would we be importing it?"

AP Richmond reporter Sarah Rankin learned from a state lawmaker that Chinese coal ash was being imported into Virginia, despite millions of tons of ash already stored near power plants, threatening surface and ground water with contamination by heavy metals. Like other states, Virginia is struggling with how to dispose of its existing waste.

Her story pinpointed where the overseas ash was coming from: China, India and Poland over the past two years. While the foreign shipments of the industrial byproduct were moving through Virginia to Wisconsin and Ohio, interviews with concrete producers and coal ash recyclers and sellers showed more ash was being imported into Virginia from other states.

One environmentalist raised the irony of the situation: "We have millions of tons of this sitting along our riverbanks. Why in the world would we be importing it from other states and countries?"

For exposing a problematic industry practice with statewide environmental and health implications, Rankin's story wins this week's Best of the States.

Ap 745597136413 1024

April 29, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation, execution set AP apart on Johnny Depp testimony

teamed up to deliver timely, informed coverage of actor Johnny Depp’s testimony in the libel case against his ex-wife, Amber Heard.With no in-courtroom communications or reserved seating for print reporters, Barakat drafted prep copy, then arrived early for Depp's testimony to ensure he got into the Fairfax, Virginia, courtroom packed with celebrity watchers. Finley, meanwhile, watched a remote live video stream, gathering full quotes and writing through the story until Barakat could add colorful details, fact checks and reaction from those in the courtroom.The AP pair provided quick, insightful, balanced coverage, even as some news outlets focused on outrageous quotes without the context or analysis provided by AP.Read more

AP 22115720489869 hm depp

Jan. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP delivers stirring stories, fact check on I-95 shutdown

teamed up on quick, resourceful coverage of the massive gridlock on Virginia’s snowbound Interstate 95, reporting in all formats on the plight of stranded drivers while fact-checking state officials in real time.With the highway virtually inaccessible, journalists Gallion, Kunzelman, Walker and Finley used social media to land interviews with stranded motorists who waited hours for food, saw little in the way of law enforcement and struggled to conserve fuel amid frigid overnight temperatures.Richmond reporter Rankin, meanwhile, interviewed Virginia’s governor, pressing him on why he hadn’t activated the National Guard ahead of the storm. Photographer Helber delivered aerial images showing hundreds still stranded more than 24 hours in, important documentation as the state refused to estimate how many were trapped.The result was a mainbar, deftly assembled by Richmond’s Lavoie from a variety of feeds, racking up heavy play and readership numbers. A sidebar by Finley on one family’s plight kept also scored high reader engagement. Many Virginia news outlets used AP’s content as their top online offering. In a follow-up, Rankin and Springfield, Virginia, correspondent Matt Barakat reported on early missteps in the state and county response. With help from AP reporters in Ohio, New Jersey, Oregon and Georgia, the piece also recapped similar incidents elsewhere to evaluate Virginia’s handling. Other news organizations couldn’t easily or quickly match the story, demonstrating AP’s unique reach.https://aplink.news/8kihttps://aplink.news/egxhttps://aplink.news/3r6https://aplink.news/1cchttps://aplink.video/kq2https://aplink.video/yiq

AP 22004683438984 hm va snowstorm