Nov. 17, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP photographers show the despair, and hopes, of homeless along US West Coast

For three months, Associated Press photographer Jae Hong traveled America’s West Coast to chronicle the region’s exploding homeless crisis and do what many try to avoid: look into the eyes of the people living on the streets, in tents or in their vehicles and get to know them.

His series of intimate portraits focused on the subjects’ eyes and were combined with short text stories to reveal their humanity, whether it was an aging, down-on-his-luck street performer on Los Angeles’ Skid Row or a 9-year-old boy who lives with his family in a rented RV blocks from Google’s headquarters.

The unique portraits were one part of a larger package of images that Hong and his colleagues across the West – Ted Warren, Marcio Sanchez, Chris Carlson and Greg Bull – produced for a project looking at the roots of the homeless crisis in the region and identifying potential solutions.

For their work documenting the lives of the homeless, the team wins this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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July 09, 2021

Best of the States

AP reveals a water crisis at the boiling point for Native Americans, farmers in Western river basin

AP Portland, Oregon, reporter Gillian Flaccus has long followed a simmering issue in the Klamath River Basin, a swath of rural agricultural land in Northern California and southern Oregon that is ground zero for the fight over an increasingly precious resource in the American West: water. Amid extreme drought in the region, the U.S. government has stopped irrigation to hundreds of farmers for the first time in history, while Native American tribes along the 257-mile Klamath River are watching fish species hover closer to extinction. The farmers face ruin and tribes worry their culture will vanish.Flaccus has developed deep sources with area farmers as well as tribal members and recently spent nearly a week in the remote area with freelance photographer Nathan Howard documenting an issue that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Working with New York photo editor and digital storyteller Alyssa Goodman, they produced a sweeping, striking all-formats package that showed the pain on both sides as people begin to realize the water may not be coming back. The package was among AP’s most-viewed stories for Friday. For immersive journalism that explores the human consequences of drought in the U.S. West, Flaccus, Howard and Goodman receive this week’s Best of the States 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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Sept. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: In drought-stricken West, farmers ponder water-sharing plan

teamed up on an all-formats package that used two Oregon carrot seed farmers, living just miles apart, to illustrate the deep inequities of water distribution amid crippling drought. The contrast between the two farm fields — one a virtual desert, while a short distance away sprinklers douse crops and cattle graze on green grass — illustrates the arcane water allocation rules determining who will wither and who will thrive amid the ongoing drought in the American West.Using this striking example, the journalists explored how farmers, out of necessity, are considering proposals to set up water banks that use the supply and demand principles of the free market to funnel scarce water where it’s needed most while encouraging conservation. But the concept also brings risk and resistance.Flaccus reported on the ground in and around Madras, Oregon, and shot video, while Peterson reported from Denver and produced the video, which featured Howard’s striking photos and drone footage of the drought’s impact. Top Stories Desk photo editor Alyssa Goodman in New York drew all the elements together in an engaging presentation that saw remarkable play in the West and beyond.https://aplink.news/a4uhttps://aplink.video/k19

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Aug. 06, 2021

Best of the States

As wells dry up in parched US West, AP reports on residents now without running water

The extreme drought in the American West has already taken a dramatic toll. And now, near the Oregon-California border, as many as several hundred wells have dried up in the past few weeks, leaving dozens of homeowners in the parched region with no running water at all. Reporter Gillian Flaccus and freelance photographer Nathan Howard documented the residents’ plight and the challenges facing authorities responding to the situation.

Flaccus used sources she had built in months of reporting on the dire conditions in the Klamath River Basin, convincing people to let Howard depict their hardship over water in photos and video. Digital storyteller Samantha Shotzbarger then weaved all the elements into a compelling multimedia offering. The story drew widespread play in the U.S., especially in the West.

For continuing to shine light on the effects of the drought afflicting the U.S. West, Flaccus, Howard and Shotzbarger win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 27, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Vivid package examines wild horse conflict amid Western drought

collaborated on an evocative, in-depth examination of the U.S. government’s roundups of wild horses on the arid plains of the American West. The roundups have expanded during this year’s megadrought. Federal land managers say they are increasing the number of horses removed from the range to protect the parched land and the animals themselves, but wild-horse advocates accuse the government of using the conditions as an excuse to move out the iconic animals to preserve cattle grazing.Photographer Bowmer and Salt Lake City colleague Whitehurst attended a July roundup on the plains west of Salt Lake City and watched from a mountaintop perch as about 300 horses were corralled to be adopted or kept in captivity. Bowmer’s striking images include helicopters swooping low to corral the horses as the mustangs gallop away, and horses gathered around watering holes against a mountain landscape. Whitehurst and Denver reporter Anderson weaved color into the story, describing the horses’ high-pitched whinnies rising into the dry air, while explaining how the summer roundups have escalated tensions between government officials and the horse advocates. The package was used by countless members in the West and elsewhere in the country.https://aplink.news/7ulhttps://apnews.com/hub/drought...

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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.

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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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Oct. 29, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP provides rare coverage of rebel conflict in Western Sahara

shed light on one of the world’s most obscure conflicts with all-formats coverage of the fighting between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for the Sahrawi people in the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The flare-up in the conflict, after nearly 30 years of cease-fire, is fueled by new generations of Sahrawi refugees who believe that the wait for a referendum on self-determination, as promised by the United Nations, has only worked to Morocco's benefit while they languished in unforgiving desert camps.AP photographer Armangue and his Madrid colleague, chief correspondent Parra, spent a week with the rebel movement, providing a rare glimpse of rebel rocket and artillery positions, as well as life inside Polisario refugee camps in neighboring Algeria.https://aplink.news/a4whttps://aplink.video/gf6https://aplink.photos/w8p

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Dec. 11, 2020

Best of the States

True West: Enterprise reporting reveals lurid story that led to Idaho cold case arrest

An arrest in a decades-old Idaho cold case started Boise correspondent Rebecca Boone digging, aiming to tell a broader story about the victim, the suspect and the colorful — and at times shady — pro rodeo and gambling circuit. 

Forty years ago, Dan Woolley was shot in the parking lot of a small-town bar in the Idaho mountains. The shooter crossed the street to the only other bar in town, ordered a drink and declared, “I just killed a man.” Then he disappeared. But late last year an 87-year-old man was arrested in Texas for the slaying — a former pro rodeo rider.

Boone spent months building trust with Woolley’s son and other sources, talking to long-time central Idaho residents and historians. All while juggling her state coverage of breaking news, the pandemic and the 2020 election.

The result of her efforts, an engaging 1,900-word Saturday piece, was among AP’s top stories for the weekend. For an absorbing read that is a textbook example of a general assignment reporter chipping away at a challenging enterprise piece, Boone earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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