Sept. 10, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Resourceful post-hurricane reporting yields exclusives on Louisiana oil spills

As Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana — launching strong AP coverage that would stretch from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast — Washington-based investigative reporter Michael Biesecker contacted federal and state officials who kept telling him they had no confirmed reports of oil or chemical spills along the coast.

But Biesecker’s inspection of aerial photos by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told a different story. He found a worrying miles-long oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico off the region’s main oil and gas port, and another sheen coming from a massive oil refinery along the Mississippi River.

His persistence led to a series of exclusives on the two oil spills, including the news that divers had identified a broken undersea pipeline as the apparent source of the offshore slick.

For smart reporting that put AP ahead of the competition — and even ahead of the government and energy companies themselves — on an important environmental story in the wake of Ida, Biesecker is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP 21245776346747 2000

Sept. 08, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Fewer carrying flood insurance despite the risk

Floodwaters from Harvey were still rising in the Houston area and AP’s responsibilities to thoroughly cover breaking news developments across the region hadn’t diminished, but already there was an appetite for investigative reporting on the disaster. An AP team from across the company quickly mobilized.

Among the early efforts was a package of stories, data, photos and an interactive revealing that fewer Americans, in the Houston area and nationally, were buying flood insurance than just five years ago, despite serious risks from flooding.

The stories relied on federal data analyzed by Meghan Hoyer and reporting from Business writers Bernard Condon and Ken Sweet in New York as well as staff writers Terry Spencer in south Florida, Michael Kunzelman in Baton Rouge and Jeff Donn in Boston, with an interactive national map of flood insurance policies by Maureen Linke in Washington.

For their efforts that produced exclusive content with relevance to national and local media, Hoyer, Spencer, Kunzelman, Sweet, Condon, Donn and Linke will share this week’s Best of States award.

Ap 17242522492994 1024

Sept. 08, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Toxic waste sites flooded; AP on the scene ahead of EPA

Hurricane Harvey inundated homes, flooded freeways and swamped entire neighborhoods. Florida-based reporter Jason Dearen, who was deployed to Houston to help cover the disaster, knew there might be something else submerged beneath the turbid floodwaters. Superfund sites, some of the nation’s most contaminated places, are scattered along the low-lying Gulf coastline, including in the Houston area.

Dearen had been trying to obtain a copy of a federal study about the risks of flooding at those sites from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but had been stonewalled for two weeks. Harvey’s destruction provided new urgency to his request. For help, he reached out to Washington investigative reporter Michael Biesecker, a fellow member of the AP’s environmental beat team.

Through creative reporting that relied on data, collaboration and Dearen’s newfound skills as a boat man, they became the first journalists to report on the extent of flooding at contaminated waste sites in and around Houston. The on-site observations by Dearen and freelance 360-video producer Claudia Prat raised concerns that some of the decades-old toxic stew left over from the oil, gas and chemical industries may have mixed with floodwaters. They also were on the ground – and on the water – before the EPA’s own inspectors. For their efforts, Dearen, Biesecker and Prat win Beat of the Week.

Ap 17244855765671 1024

Oct. 06, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Chief Texas oil regulator vacationed at the height of hurricane

Hurricane Harvey killed more than 80 people and triggered historic flooding in Houston and across large swaths of Texas. But it also sparked oil spills and gasoline shortages. Those presented major tests for the state’s Railroad Commission, which, despite its peculiar name, actually regulates the energy industry – with historically lax enforcement.

So when the commission’s executive director, Kim Corley, abruptly resigned, the timing and circumstances made Austin newsman Paul Weber curious. He began making calls and soon secured a tip: Corley had been on vacation and unreachable at the height of the Category 4 hurricane that walloped the industry she was paid $180,000 annually to safeguard.

For his exclusive on a hyper-competitive story, Weber wins this week’s Best of the States award.

Ap 17270623879261 1024

Oct. 20, 2017

Best of the States

AP shines with cross format coverage of deadliest wildfires in California history

California is used to devastating wildfires but the firestorm that swept through wine country north of San Francisco was unlike any other. The devastation was staggering – at least 42 killed and more than 5,700 homes and other structures burned to the ground.

The series of fires broke out nearly simultaneously late at night and quickly stretched across 100 miles. AP quickly mobilized staffers throughout California and beyond.

San Francisco reporter Ellen Knickmeyer, concerned her Napa County home could fall victim to the flames (it did not, fortunately), never stopped reporting. Her experience living with the flames while reporting on them was turned into a compelling first-person narrative.

Every staffer in the field contributed in multiple formats. Phoenix-based videojournalist Brian Skoloff, and photographers Jae Hong (Los Angeles) and Marcio Sanchez (San Francisco) put themselves in harm’s way to ensure AP could show the fires and their heart-wrenching impact on people and property. Meanwhile, Sacramento photographer Rich Pedroncelli shot stills and video in Napa Valley where two sons returned to the home where their parents – 100-year-old Charles Rippey, and his wife, Sara, 98 – were killed.

For their work in the initial days documenting how the flames devastated people and property, Knickmeyer, Skoloff, Sanchez, Hong and Pedroncelli win this week’s $300 Best of the States award.

Ap 17286033051643 1024

Dec. 15, 2017

Best of the States

AP photo team owns Southern California wildfire coverage

Late in the evening on Dec. 4, West Region photo editor Stephanie Mullen was monitoring a fire that broke out in Ventura County, about 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Mullen knew that if the notorious Santa Ana winds really picked up the flames could start burning homes.

She hired Northern California freelance photographer Noah Berger, an expert at shooting wildfires, and partnered him with Los Angeles-based staff photographer Jae Hong. Berger and Hong were in place as daylight broke and the fire surged into the city of Ventura, where it burned hundreds of homes. They rapidly shot and filed, allowing AP to deliver striking imagery before our competitors had even started their day.

The AP owned the coverage in those important early hours with impressive play globally.

Later that morning, Orange County-based photographer Chris Carlson worked his way through road closures to make images of horses being rescued and flames overwhelming homes in Los Angeles County. And as the week wore on, photographer Greg Bull snaked his way through roadblocks and heavy traffic to capture nighttime images of fires in San Diego County, then slept in his car and got haunting daybreak photos of the destruction.

For providing a photo package no competitor could rival, Hong, Carlson, Bull and Berger share this week’s Best of the States prize.

Ap 17339701236430 1024

Jan. 05, 2018

Best of the States

ONLY ON AP: FEMA sells trailers for pennies on the dollar despite high demand from disaster victims

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas in August, Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas, and Michael Sisak in Philadelphia teamed up to report exclusively that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had sold off scores of trailers with little to no damage in the days leading up to the storm. Their reporting had an immediate impact: FEMA said it had halted the auctions and would evaluate whether any of the units could be used for Harvey victims.

Fast forward to November, when Sisak noticed the auctions had resumed. Working with Central Desk editor Jeff McMurray, Sisak and Schmall took a pointed look at government waste, showing how FEMA was selling gently used trailers for pennies on the dollar rather than making them available for disaster victims.

For resourceful reporting that broke new ground, Schmall and Sisak share this week’s Best of the States prize.

Ap 17356054512494 1024

March 02, 2018

Best of the States

Texas effort to streamline hurricane recovery backfires

As the six-month mark approached of Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas, Austin Administrative Correspondent Will Weissert and Fort Worth Correspondent Emily Schmall teamed up to report exclusively that the state’s decision to lead housing recovery – meant to be faster and better than anything the federal government could muster – was actually resulting in backlogs that made the chaotic response after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina look good by comparison.

Acting on a tip, the duo dug into federal records and added field reporting to produce a multi-format report showing that delay by the governor, and the state land office’s steep learning curve, meant temporary shelter and quick-fix home repair programs were rolling out at a startlingly slow pace.

For excellent sourcing and taking a deeper look at Texas’ hurricane recovery process, Weissert and Schmall share this week’s Best of the States prize.

Ap 18046504282206 1024

June 10, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Expanding Gulf Coast gas exports raise residents’ concerns

led an AP team producing a visually rich, deeply reported package examining a vast expansion of natural gas facilities in coastal Southwest Louisiana that is escalating greenhouse gas emissions, raising global temperatures, fueling extreme weather and imperiling communities.Reporting from coastal Southwest Louisiana, energy reporter Bussewitz and national multiformat journalist Irvine captured the lives of families hurt by extreme weather linked to a build-out of liquefied natural gas export terminals. But the two went further: They depicted an urgent concern: Where once it looked as if the nation might soon shift away from fossil fuel industries, a reversal has occurred. The U.S. has become the world’s largest exporter of LNG, with worrisome consequences for Gulf Coast residents and the planet’s climate.A few news organizations, mostly local or niche environmental publications, have reported previously on this issue, but none have had the depth and range of AP's package, with its data, visuals and reporting on human impact.Read more

LNG hm AP 22152579395360

Sept. 21, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP and partners document Puerto Rico hurricane deaths

Colleagues,

Welcome to Best of the Week.

This officially marks a rebirth of sorts for our weekly global staff contest, which celebrates some of the best work from around the AP world.

This week’s winner celebrates a great team effort by colleagues in Latin America and beyond, as well as a really productive partnership with two other news organizations. It’s creative and insightful work that breaks news and includes great visual journalism and innovative presentation. It rose to the top of an impressive field of entries.

Today, and each Friday going forward, the weekly winner is revealed at the Global News Meeting at 9:15 a.m. ET, which all AP staff are invited to attend.

Please join me in congratulating this week’s honorees.

BC

Since the early days after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, the debate over the death toll has raged. The Trump administration seized on initial reports that fewer than 100 people had died, but those numbers belied the scope of the devastation. The storm left the island without electricity for months, hospitals and other key infrastructure shuttered, roads unpassable and pharmacies closed.

In June, Caribbean News Director Mike Weissenstein in Havana forged a partnership with Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism and U.S.-based news site Quartz to undertake the most comprehensive list to date of Puerto Ricans who died in the wake of the storm.

For the project, Weissenstein, San Juan newswoman Danica Coto, Washington-based data journalist Larry Fenn, New York-based reporter Claudia Torrens, Miami-based reporter Gisela Salomon, Washington-based reporters Luis Alonso and Ben Fox, as well as senior Havana-based producer Chris Gillette, Havana photographer Ramon Espinosa, Santo Domingo reporter Ezequiel Lopez Blanco, Mexico-based digital producer Dario Lopez, New York-based motion graphics producer Peter Hamlin and enterprise editor Raghuram Vadarevu, based in Phoenix, share the Best of the Week award-

Ap 18256549826629 1024

Oct. 12, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

All-formats team overcomes logistics to report devastation, heartbreak and heroism in Indonesia

An enormous story struck quickly on Sept 28 and unfolded at breathtaking speed – a magnitude 7.5 earthquake followed by a tsunami that washed over the Indonesian city of Palu. Communications collapsed and government reports were sketchy, but the few posts on social media provided the first indications of the enormous scope of the disaster.

The AP team shot into action to move cross-format personnel to the hardest-hit areas, texting details for the wire and squeezing out initial images for photos and video. In the days that followed, the breadth of coverage expanded to include rolling live video of rescues, grim portrayals of the retrieval of the dead, and personal stories of those whose homes and neighborhoods were now rubble.

For impressive work across all platforms despite enormous obstacles, the Best of the Week award goes to the following team:

– Jakarta staffers: office manager Elis Salim, reporter Niniek Karmini, photographers Tatan Syulfana, Dita Alangkara and Achmad Ibrahim, business writer Stephen Wright, newsperson Ali Kotarumalos, medical writer Margie Mason, videojournalist Fadlan Syam and senior producer Andi Jatmiko.

– Bangkok staffers: global enterprise writer Todd Pitman, videojournalist Tass Vejpongsa, video editor Jerry Harmer and special events coordinator Keiko Fujino.

– And: Kuala Lumpur videojournalist Syawall Zain, Manila photographer Aaron Favila, Malaysian correspondent Eileen Ng, Beijing facilities coordinator Xiao Wei Gong and Hanoi producer Hau Dinh.

Ap 18277414009321 1024

Aug. 20, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Dual winners: Resourceful AP teams deliver smart, fast, exclusive coverage in Afghanistan, Haiti

From Afghanistan to Haiti, AP staffers and stringers on two sides of the world were challenged last week to cover fast-breaking news while keeping themselves and their families safe. They excelled at both; AP’s coverage of Afghanistan’s fall to Taliban insurgents and the deadly earthquake across Haiti share Best of the Week honors.

In Afghanistan, with events unfolding at a breakneck pace, AP journalists amid the turmoil on the ground were complemented by colleagues in several countries and time zones collaborating to confirm the news and get it out.

AP sent out 17 alerts on Sunday alone, as city after city surrendered to the Taliban. And AP was among the first — perhaps the outright first — to report that President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country and Taliban forces were entering the capital.

That same weekend, when a powerful magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southwestern Haiti leaving hundreds dead, AP journalists on the island scrambled to get to the area within hours. Editors outside Haiti jumped in to help gather and verify content, and a second team arrived in-country within a day to reinforce the coverage. AP stood out in all formats, including first live video of the disaster and photos that landed on front pages.

For outstanding breaking news coverage under extreme circumstances, the AP team in Afghanistan with their international colleagues, and the AP team covering Haiti — Pierre Luxama, Evens Sanon, Joseph Odelyn, Mark Stevenson, Fernando Llano, Matías Delacroix, Marko Alvarez and Fernando González — are co-winners of AP’s Best of the Week award.

Combo 2000 afghan haiti

Nov. 16, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cataclysmic fires cap off week of momentous and devastating news in California

California’s news staff still was in the midst of reporting the tragic night-spot shooting in Thousand Oaks when news reached the AP that a wildfire in Northern California was spreading quickly, sending thousands fleeing.

Bay Area freelance photographer Noah Berger, as good a fire chaser as there is anywhere, tipped the office off that the Northern California fire looked explosive. By 11 a.m. Sacramento reporter Don Thompson was hitting the road, and a first AP NewsAlert moved saying people fleeing for their lives had abandoned vehicles as the fire swept in.

AP’s all-formats coverage went into high gear, with staffers pouring in from the region. In addition to Thompson, who stayed at the scene with fire crews for several days straight, Portland, Ore., all-formats reporter Gilly Flaccus arrived, producing unmatched interviews in text and video of survivors and of crews searching for the remains of those killed. San Francisco reporter Paul Elias gathered information on the dramatic rescues and chaotic evacuation, while Las Vegas photographer John Locher and Denver videographer Peter Banda provided gripping visuals from the scene.

AP was first to report thousands of homes destroyed, first to report a named victim, and we were alone in accompanying a search and recovery crew in all formats as they went to a victim’s home and found her remains.

The coverage was nuanced and emotional. California News Editor Frank Baker says there was no one on the California staff who didn’t contribute, working unrelentingly from last week’s elections and mass shooting straight into the wildfire.

For outstanding work, bolstered and supported by California’s all-formats reporting staff and editors, Thompson, Flaccus, Elias, Berger, Locher and Banda share this AP's Best of the Week.

Ap 18314862886986 1024

Jan. 12, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

Tokyo bureau delivers top-tier coverage on two of the biggest stories in years, massive quake and fiery plane disaster

In back-to-back days over the New Year’s holiday, it seemed that the eyes of the world were on Tokyo, as the AP bureau deftly handled a massive earthquake and a fiery plane disaster that rocked the country — two of the biggest stories from Japan in years — and beat the competition in all formats while doing so. Their coverage included exclusive video, print and photos that far surpassed the offerings from our competitors.

The bureau activated immediately once a 7.6-magnitude quake hit western Japan on New Year’s Day, which was followed by more than 100 aftershocks. Business Writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo filed alerts and for days wrote stories that explained one of the most quake-prone places on earth. Photographer Hiro Komae and freelance videographer Richard Colombo rushed to the scene, followed by video journalist Ayaka McGill. They braved brutal working conditions — sleeping in their car and navigating wrecked roads, often driving more than 12 hours to reach destinations.

Then, on Jan. 2, another massive story: A Japan Airlines passenger jet struck a coast guard plane on a Tokyo runway. Dramatic video, which AP had faster than competitors, showed the JAL plane bursting into flames as it streaked away from the fireball that engulfed the other plane, where five died. Miraculously, all the JAL passengers evacuated safely. Working off TV coverage, News Director Foster Klug had the first urgents out ahead of competitors, with correspondent Mari Yamaguchi interrupting her holiday to write stories that investigated what went wrong and showed what it was like inside the plane. Business colleagues added invaluable context about the planes.

For dominating the competition on consecutive days in trying conditions on two massive breaking stories, we award the Tokyo bureau Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP24002415383657 AP24004100656901

Sept. 24, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: In drought-stricken West, farmers of weed are stealing water

revealed that illegal marijuana growers are taking water in uncontrolled amounts, draining wells used by landowners and farmers — and that overstretched law enforcement can do little about it.Selsky, based in Salem, Oregon, has reported on the impact of drought in the West and for years has tracked the burgeoning market for legal pot. But when he checked with sources about water theft by illegal marijuana grows, he quickly found that the situation was dire. Hundreds of huge illegal grows have been erected, too many for law enforcement officials to raid.The problem is showing up in parts of Oregon and California. Selsky visited a neighborhood in central Oregon where a homeowner was having a new well drilled after his existing well ran dry just a block away from a recently busted illegal grow. And he tracked down a resident in southern Oregon who for decades has depended on a creek for growing food. That creek has gone completely dry since large illegal marijuana grows began popping up in the area last spring. The local sheriff described “catastrophic” consequences for natural water resources, citing “blatant theft.” https://aplink.news/v3c

AP 21256710551073 hm weed 1

Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Texas gas drilling disproportionately impacts residents of color

led a team of AP journalists exclusively documenting the potential health impact of an alarming series of events in residential areas of Arlington, Texas: Literally in the shadow of Mother’s Heart Learning Center, a day care center that primarily serves Black and Latino children, a French company is pumping for natural gas — and seeking to drill three new wells.The AP’s all-formats story not only captured the stories of families facing heightened risks, it also put their stories in the context of a trend with far-reaching consequences: Despite pledges from global leaders to embrace cleaner energy, the world’s reliance on natural gas is growing.Seizing on a tip from area activists, energy reporter Bussewitz and national writer Irvine spoke with mothers exasperated with government inaction, residents who endure noise and vibrations just outside their backyards, and people who often breathe dangerous fumes, including one who developed asthma.Collaborating with Irvine on the reporting, Bussewitz took the lead on writing while multiformat specialist Irvine shot the video and photos, consulting on the photo selection with editors Maye-E Wong and Swayne Hall. The story was buttressed by two exclusive data analyses, including one by data journalist Angeliki Kastanis that found the density of wells in a given neighborhood correlated with the proportion of residents of color.Digital storytelling producer Peter Hamlin created a video explainer and graphic artist Francois Duckett developed an interactive map showing the proximity of wells to day cares. And Dario Lopez, digital storytelling producer for global investigations, built an online presentation that deftly packaged all the components.The project drew immediate responses on social media and was used by news outlets across the country, notably in Texas, where newsrooms pride themselves on their energy coverage.https://aplink.news/fhghttps://aplink.video/nf3https://interactives.ap.org/na...

AP 21333742539807hm texas gas 1