Aug. 25, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP recounts final mental health struggles of Olympics champ Tori Bowie

On the eve of the first world track championships since Bowie’s passing, AP sportswriters Eddie Pells and Pat Graham teamed up to report exclusively on the mental health struggles of Tori Bowie that led up to the star athlete’s death April 23 from complications during childbirth at the age of 32.

The two had covered Bowie, who won three medals at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Games, for many years and had heard whispers of her difficulties. A few weeks after her death, the autopsy listed the cause as “complications in childbirth.”

While other outlets pursued the angle that Black women suffer disproportionately from pregnancy complications, Pells opted to explore another dimension of her story, her struggles with mental health.

He sought out people at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and within track and field, to find out how a world-famous champion, who was eight months into what would be considered an at-risk pregnancy, came to die alone at home without medical care or anyone to look after her.

For sensitively telling the story of a great athlete who became isolated from her peers and died tragically alone in part because of neglect of her mental health difficulties, Pells and Graham are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 08, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Reporting raises questions about abortion story told during GOP debate, scores several firsts

It was among the most puzzling moments of the first Republican presidential debate: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to answer a question about supporting a national abortion ban and instead offered a story about a woman he met who had survived “multiple abortion attempts” and was saved after being “discarded in a pan.” The tale was clearly meant to curry favor with the conservative voters who decide GOP primaries, but was it true?

Dogged reporting over several days by a team of three reporters — democracy team misinformation reporters Ali Swenson and Christine Fernando, and Miami-based national political reporter Adriana Gomez Licon — found that the woman did exist but that her birth story was far more complicated than the version described by DeSantis. While other outlets also pursued DeSantis’ story, the AP team had several significant firsts: They were was the first to interview the woman and get her story first hand; the first to surface newspaper stories from the 1950s that offered a much different version of events; and the first to get historical photos from the time she was born, including one showing her as a baby being discharged from the hospital. These allowed AP to distinguish its coverage of a nationally significant moment in the GOP presidential primary.

Swenson quickly found a few old news articles about the woman and two YouTube videos that featured her telling her story for anti-abortion advocacy groups and looped in Gomez Licon, who had spent years covering DeSantis in Florida, and Fernando, who had covered the national abortion debate extensively in her previous job.

It was Fernando who reached the woman, Miriam “Penny” Hopper, and persuaded her to talk to the AP. Gomez Licon meanwhile worked with news researcher Rhonda Shafner and local libraries in central Florida to surface newspaper clippings from 1956 about the medical effort to save the baby.

For scoring significant firsts on a story that widely resonated, Swenson, Fernando and Gomez Licon win this week’s first citation for Best of the Week.

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Jan. 05, 2024

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Maui wildfire stories showcase team’s monthslong commitment despite daunting challenges

A series of capstone Maui wildfire stories that ran in the final week of 2023 — one focused on Lahaina’s losses and another on its uncertain future — showcase fruits of the extraordinary effort, commitment and selfless teamwork exhibited by AP’s Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii reporting team over months amid endless challenges to share Lahaina’s plight with the world.Read more

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