Jan. 05, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigates Russia’s cover-up of deaths caused by dam explosion in Ukraine

More than six months after the explosion that destroyed the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine’s Kherson region, an AP investigation by Samya Kullab and Ilia Novikov found that Russian occupation authorities vastly and deliberately undercounted the dead. The AP inquiry came the closest yet to revealing the real number of deaths Russia tried to hide from the dam’s destruction, which Ukrainians believe was carried out to hamper the Ukrainian counteroffensive across the Dnipro River. Russia has denied it was responsible.

AP Kyiv correspondent Kullab and news assistant Novikov were working on a different story about how residents of the affected town of Oleshky were returning slowly to Ukraine. During their reporting, a source told them of a mass grave. That sent Kullab and Novikov in a fresh direction, and the story of the hidden deaths developed from there. Eventually, the AP spoke to health workers, volunteers, residents and recent escapees who provided invaluable details. Instead of the 59 people Russian authorities said drowned in the territory they control, AP found the real number is at least in the hundreds in just one town.

For dogged pursuit of the facts and allowing victims and their survivors to be heard, Kullab and Novikov earn Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 05, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

36 days at sea: How castaways survived hallucinations, thirst and desperation

In a partner story to “Adrift,” an AP team tracked down migrants who survived 36 days and told the story of their journey.

When video journalist Renata Brito saw the news of the rescue of several dozen men who survived 36 days at sea, she was shocked. Brito has been covering migrant crossings for years and had never heard of people on the route from West Africa to the Canary Islands surviving that long. She wondered what they might have endured during those 36 days, and so, she and photographer Felipe Dana set out to find out.

When the survivors were rescued, they were taken to Cape Verde and locked up in a school. A few days later, Brito and Dana were on a plane to Cape Verde’s Sal Island. Access to survivors, who were essentially detained, was restricted and authorities announced they would fly them back to Dakar in a few hours.

Brito and Dana followed them there, working with AP Dakar colleague Ndeye Sene Mbengue to make contacts with survivors and their families in Fass Boye but found many of the survivors had gone into hiding after returning to Senegal.

Together with Ndeye, they drove to more than five towns across different regions to meet with them. With Ndeye’s help they translated hours of on- and off-camera interviews. Brito kept in touch with survivors after leaving Senegal and obtained the contact of one of the rescuers who had made several cellphone videos the day they were found and brought on board.

The AP got strong user-generated content that showed what the survivors looked like when they were found, barely alive. The result was an all-formats story, complete with an immersive presentation that included creative motion graphics and illustrations.

For powerfully telling an exclusive story that otherwise might not have been told, Brito and Dana win Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 08, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Investigation uncovers private school selling diplomas, no classes required

In a package featuring multiple scoops and exclusives, an AP team investigating Louisiana’s rise in unapproved private schools stumbled on a school selling diplomas to anyone whose parents said they had completed their education — even years later. That revelation rocked the state and reverberated across the nation.

Education data reporter Sharon Lurye partnered with Charles Lussier of The (Louisiana) Advocate to secure stunning interviews with an operator of the school defending the practice as an extension of parents’ rights and also met multiple graduates who had gained their diplomas. On the other side of the investigation Lurye and Lussier demonstrated the depth of the risks in sending a child to such a school, landing a rare interview with a mom who says a teacher offered her teen daughter money for sexually explicit photos and wanted to warn others against enrolling their kids in an unapproved school.

Lurye and Lussier were the first to quantify the rise in popularity among Louisiana’s unapproved schools — over 21,000 students, nearly double the number before the pandemic. Many of the families using unapproved schools are homeschooling. But 30 of the schools have more than 50 students.

The project ran on the front page in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Arcadiana. Lurye did radio interviews on WWL in New Orleans and for the “Louisiana Considered” program on the public radio stations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Prominent pickups included Fox News, Newser and ABC News. The project was named one of the best stories of the week by “The Grade,” a well-read education blog.

For a strong investigation, securing multiple exclusives while providing a public service to the people of Louisiana, Lurye wins this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Nov. 24, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

The Protein Problem: Can we feed this growing world without starving the planet?

During one particularly bad fire season in the Amazon, as thousands of square miles of rainforest were being leveled so people around the world could eat more beef, the AP Health & Science team decided to step back and tell the larger story of the impact our food choices have on the environment — and what some people are doing about it. 

After a pandemic-related delay, the AP Health & Science team enlisted a total of 55 AP journalists from 13 different AP departments to show how farmers, researchers and scientists are trying to make sure we can continue to enjoy the food we love without destroying the planet we need. 

Developers and designers Linda Gorman, Koko Nakajima and Peter Hamlin built out a stunning immersive experience that allows the reader a host of different options including videos, photo galleries, data visualizations and even a quiz. 

Photographers, videographers, text journalists and data journalists from the Health & Science team and several other global beats and regional teams contributed, including David Goldman, Shelby Lum, Kathy Young, Laura Ungar, Christina Larson and Nicky Forster. A full list can be found here.

For extensive collaboration, planning and work that resulted in eight stories and an immersive digital experience for readers on the future of food, this team of over 50 journalists win Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Nov. 17, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Data-driven reporting highlights outsized presence and influence of fossil fuels industry at climate negotiations

Members of the AP Climate team were struck by the large size and flashiness of stands dedicated to oil and gas at last year’s COP27. The AP team wanted to get beyond the anecdotes to truly measure the presence and influence of fossil fuels industries.

Climate data journalist Mary Katherine Wildeman developed a methodology to cross reference, identify and categorize more than 24,000 participants at the summit that focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate reporter Seth Borenstein, Climate news editor Dana Beltaji and their colleagues found nearly 400 people from fossil fuels industries attended the summit, not always in a transparent way.

The analysis led to other stories from AP’s Climate team, including water reporter Suman Naishadham and video journalist Victor Caivano’s package about Canada’s commitments to climate. In a separate story, Wildeman, Climate editor Doug Glass and Climate news director Peter Prengaman pored over documents to find that despite lots of talk, oil and gas companies are not moving toward a transition to green energy.

Climate video editor Teresa de Miguel and Climate photo editor Alyssa Goodman developed creative visual plans for all three stories to elevate the data and storytelling.

For work that resulted in three exclusive stories ahead of COP28, the team of Wildeman, Borenstein, Naishadham, Caivano, Beltaji, de Miguel and Glass win Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Nov. 10, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Intimate reporting and stunning access show how the housing crisis has created missing students 

For the past year, education writer Bianca Vázquez Toness took on the difficult reporting task of finding students who have slipped through the cracks since the pandemic, and looked to Los Angeles, where advocates say the housing crisis is causing students to go missing from school.

She met a homeless mother renting space in strangers’ apartments, sleeping on a twin bed with her two children. The situation had devastated the teenage son Deneffy’s mental health and school performance.

After multiple visits to LA to meet Deneffy’s mother, and eventually Deneffy himself, he confided in Toness, allowing her to capture their narrative.

Photographer Jae C. Hong waited weeks for the family to feel safe having him inside, capturing powerful visuals when he was able to. Illustrations by Peter Hamlin anchored the story’s presentation. Eunice Esomonu put the Spanish version of the story in the immersive design, a first for AP.

Education journalists and readers alike have reached out to share how remarkable and powerful they found Toness’ reporting.

For building trust and cinematic reporting that showed the great lengths homeless kids must go to attend school, Best of the Week — First Winner is awarded to Bianca Vázquez Toness and Jae C. Hong.

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