Feb. 02, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP scores with the kiss seen around the world

Hail Mary? Hail Julio. As swarms of players and media surrounded Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce after the Kansas City Chiefs’ AFC championship win, photographer Julio Cortez captured the perfect shot: the couple kissing on the field, Swift’s hand pressed against Kelce’s cheek. It was an intimate moment amid chaos, one that only Cortez — AP’s chief photographer for Texas and Oklahoma, temporarily returned to Baltimore — got. Other outlets made photos of the couple embracing, but Cortez had the singular — and viral — angle.

Before Sunday’s game, the only photos of Swift’s football attendee era were made in tunnels or from afar as she watched in luxury suites. But Cortez knew that if the Chiefs punched their ticket to another Super Bowl, players’ friends and families would end up on the field. With AP’s Matt Slocum, Alex Brandon and Nick Wass in their assigned on-field positions, Cortez called an audible, walking around the stage to find Swift. A believer in being “pushy but professional,” Cortez “sweet-talked” bodyguards to get into unique position. Swift and Kelce’s reunion was, well, swift. As Kelce “gave her the fastest kiss,” Cortez jumped in front of the NFL Films camera, raising his own over a guard’s head. About a minute after the photo was made, photo editor Mike Stewart knew it was the shot of the game, affixing the golden APTOPIX stamp. It was immediately picked up by hundreds, rocketing around the world with usage by customers ranging from The New York Times, People to India’s Hindustan Times and Argentina’s La Voz.

For an image that’s assuredly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Cortez is Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 23, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP responds when gunfire erupts at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade

Kansas City’s AP staff was just wrapping up what was supposed to be a day of fun as the city was celebrating the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win with a parade and rally. They were regrouping in the office — and some had family nearby at the parade — when shots rang out.

Photographer Charlie Riedel and video journalist Nick Ingram rushed out the door, while correspondent Heather Hollingsworth tried to confirm what happened. After she alerted that shots had been fired — the first of many alerts on this story — she also raced outside, and days of exhaustive coverage began.

Riedel and stringers sent in photos showing the reality of the shooting’s aftermath — people on stretchers, bloodied and shocked. Ingram went live, interviewing people who were stunned by the violence and gathering background video, or b-roll. Hollingsworth sought out witnesses, while other AP staffers helped from afar, including Oklahoma City correspondent Sean Murphy, who jumped in to help stitch the story together as it was developing.

AP’s coverage was a collaboration across teams and formats for the next several days.

For leaping into a fast-breaking story, supported by colleagues around the United States, Ingram, Hollingsworth and Riedel earn Best of the Week — First Winner.

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March 01, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

A leaked trove of documents opens a rare window into Chinese hacking practices

China has long used hacking as a political and law-enforcement tool to put eyes on dissidents, governments and other people it wants to watch. Because of Associated Press reporting efforts, the picture of how that is done — and what it might mean — is a bit clearer now. On Feb. 19, multiple sources alerted China investigative correspondent Dake Kang to a newly discovered leak of documents from a Chinese police contractor that revealed the company was hacking the networks of over a dozen foreign governments for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. The documents revealed how these hackers-for-hire operations worked, which systems they targeted, what tools they used and how they assisted police in the surveillance and harassment of dissidents and oppressed ethnicities even outside China’s borders. The documents had been published online by an unknown source, and no other major media outlet had picked up on it yet. But how to verify? Kang, who at the time happened to be in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, was en route to the airport to return to Beijing when he was browsing the contractor’s website. One of their addresses was right there, just a 40-minute drive from the airport. Kang canceled his flight, hopped into a cab and headed to the company’s offices. U.S.-based technology reporter Frank Bajak simultaneously jumped on the story, contacting cybersecurity analysts, many of whom said they thought it was authentic. The following morning, Kang returned to the company where two employees confirmed the leak. With effective communication and swift editing, the story made it to the wire during U.S. daytime.  

The cross-continental teamwork and speed paid off. The AP was first among major competitors to put the story out, with others following hours later — some of them using AP’s exclusive photos.  

For a quick and concerted scramble that leveraged differing forms of AP expertise, touched multiple continents and delivered precision on deadline, Kang and Bajak are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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March 29, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exposes evidence that Burkina Faso security forces massacred civilians

West Africa Correspondent Sam Mednick obtained exclusive accounts from massacre survivors in the remote region of Zaongo in Burkina Faso.

Killings of civilians by security forces happen regularly in Burkina Faso yet are hardly reported amid a brutal war with jihadist rebels. Few survivors are brave enough to speak out and most flee, staying silent under a repressive regime. Government investigations are also rare, and no one is held accountable.

Mednick, who is based in Senegal, was looking into reports of one of many such violent incidents that she had seen video evidence of circulating in WhatsApp groups, when a source in Dakar said he had relatives who survived the massacre and could speak to her.

Through the trusted contact in Senegal, she was able to talk to a family that lived in the area and connect with survivors.

AP was the only media able to get the story and photos of this attack, one of several killings under investigation by the U.N. and government. To date, no one has been held accountable.

Washington-based newsperson Michael Biesecker was able to add reporting on Burkina’s military links to the U.S. and worked closely with Mednick from the start to develop the reporting.

For exposing a crime that was all but impossible to report on, Mednick and Biesecker’s story is Best of the Week — First Winner.

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April 12, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team springs into action after Ecuador raids Mexican embassy to arrest former VP

When the Ecuadorian government, under the orders of President Daniel Noboa, took the unprecedented action of storming the Mexican Embassy in Quito late on Friday, April 5, AP’s visual team based in the Andean city responded swiftly. They were on the ground during crucial moments of the significant event, which garnered global attention over the weekend and subsequent days.

Freelance video journalist Cesar Olmos and photojournalist Dolores Ochoa captured images and sound of the incensed embassy staff and rapidly filed images of military forces scaling the walls of the building as they entered and seized Jorge Glas, Ecuador’s former vice president, who had previously faced multiple corruption charges and sought refuge in the Mexican embassy several months prior to the raid.

In addition to securing the initial visuals, the AP team was quick to deliver across other formats to publish the details of this unprecedented event.

For comprehensive and quick work to report on the initial events and immediate fallout after an unprecedented international incident, Olmos, Ochoa, Regina Garcia Cano, Megan Janetsky, Gonzalo Solano, Gabriela Molina, David Biller and Sara Espana are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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