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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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.

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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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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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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

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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

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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.

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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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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.

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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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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

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