Dec. 15, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Former career US diplomat charged with secretly spying for Cuban intelligence for decades

Relying on relentless source work and their joint years of experience, Joshua Goodman and Eric Tucker landed twin scoops on the arrest and indictment of a former career American diplomat charged with being a secret agent for communist Cuba for decades.

Manuel Rocha, who was formerly ambassador to Bolivia, was accused of engaging in “clandestine activity” on Cuba’s behalf since at least 1981, the year he joined the U.S. foreign service. While the case was short on specifics of how Rocha may have assisted the island nation, it provided a vivid case study of how Cuba and its sophisticated intelligence services seek to target, and flip, U.S. officials.

First word came to Latin America correspondent Goodman from a trusted source who called on a Friday evening to say the FBI had arrested Rocha earlier that day at his home in Miami but details were under seal. He enlisted Washington-based Tucker to see if his national security sources could help shake anything loose about the case.

Their break came Sunday — with the case still sealed — when sources gave them enough information to report that Rocha was arrested on federal charges of being an agent of the Cuban government. Their urgent story, which included extensive background on Rocha’s diplomatic stops in Bolivia, Argentina, Havana and elsewhere, staked out AP’s ownership of the case.

More details followed the next morning with another AP break, when Goodman and Tucker obtained the sealed case affidavit from highly placed sources nearly an hour before it was filed, allowing them to trounce the competition with a fast news alert and urgent series.

For putting AP far ahead in revealing what the Justice Department called one of the highest-reaching infiltrations of the U.S. government by a foreign agent, Goodman and Tucker are 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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Dec. 01, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP lives from Gaza, Israel, West Bank, Egypt, Lebanon border provide footage for media around the world

Since the beginning of the war, maintaining live coverage from Gaza, Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and the Israel-Lebanon border has been challenging. But our journalists in the region have risen to the challenge, using creative solutions to provide customers with round-the-clock coverage.

Once the ground operation started and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians evacuated northern Gaza, including our own crew, having a live of the north of the Gaza Strip where much of the fighting was taking place was key from a journalistic and competitive point of view.

With no options inside of northern Gaza, the team secured a position in southern Israel, from which it was possible to see the airstrikes, the destruction of buildings and the devastating effects of the war in Gaza. The live has remained up 24/7 for more than a month.

In recent days, when the ceasefire and exchange of hostages for prisoners began, the crews in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel were deployed to cover all possible points to be able to see the live release of hostages/prisoners and reunions with families.

The video team in Cairo also convinced a local television network to allow the AP to broadcast their images from Rafah Crossing on direct and show the world the moment the hostages left the Gaza Strip and entered Egypt. Those efforts in Gaza, Egypt, the West Bank and Israel allowed AP to provide more than seven live shots almost simultaneously using Live U and Bambuser.

While attention has been heavily focused on the Israel-Hamas war, tension also ratcheted up in northern Israel as near-daily shelling between Israeli military and Hezbollah killed several civilians. The crew in Lebanon moved to the south of the country from where they provided live coverage of the strikes on both sides of the border.

For dedication and creativity in providing invaluable eyes on the Israel-Hamas war, the teams in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, Egypt and Lebanon win 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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