July 26, 2017

Best of the States

AP finds US buildings using the same cladding blamed in London fire

Sometimes a story doesn’t come from a reporter’s beat or region, just from natural journalistic curiosity.

Atlanta’s Jeff Martin was intrigued after investigators blamed the deadly tower fire in London in part on the flammable cladding that wrapped around its exterior. Wondering what buildings in the U.S. might be using the cladding, he went to the manufacturer’s website and found a trove of information in a promotional brochure.

The brochure said the cladding was used on a terminal at the Dallas airport, the Cleveland Browns stadium, an Alaska High School and a high-rise hotel in Baltimore. Martin, Gainesville, Florida, reporter Jason Dearen, and Baltimore reporter Juliet Linderman helped coordinate a cross-country, multi-media reporting effort that wins this week’s Best of the States.

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Sept. 27, 2019

Best of the States

AP investigation shines light on dark side of CBD craze

Responding to AP’s call for ambitious journalism in 2019, Holbrook “Bert” Mohr of the U.S. investigative team tossed out an idea during a brainstorming session: Authorities in Mississippi had found vapes containing fentanyl and synthetic marijuana in stores near Mohr’s home. What caught his eye was that the product was labeled as CBD. 

That led to a collaboration by the Investigations and the Health and Science teams that would offer not just the exclusive results of laboratory testing — finding cheap and illegal synthetic marijuana instead of natural CBD in vapes and edibles — but also telling details about the people who bring dangerous products to market. 

The “Spiked CBD” package broke through. It was easily the top story on AP Mobile, and Mohr’s bylined story appeared on the front page of at least 23 newspapers; it was teased on the front of nearly 100 others. 

For identifying and leading a collaborative investigative project that connected with customers and readers, Mohr receives this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 20, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Virtually no regulation of contaminated sludge used as crop fertilizer

for an all-formats package that holds state and federal regulators accountable for doing little or nothing to address rising concerns that sewage sludge, used as cheap farm fertilizer, is contaminating food with potentially harmful chemicals. The team interviewed numerous experts and officials about PFAS, a group of chemicals used in a wide variety of household products and industrial processes. They found concern that certain of these chemicals associated with increased risk of cancer and organ damage could wind up in the food chain fertilized by contaminated sludge. But they also found that the federal government and most states had done little if anything to assess or regulate the amount of PFAS in the sludge being spread on farm fields across America.https://bit.ly/2kRjDiihttps://bit.ly/2mmYxc2https://bit.ly/2lXGo4f

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May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Creative storytelling brings new life to spectacle of cicadas

teamed up, using creativity, tenacity and multiformat collaboration to bring a fresh perspective to a widely covered natural phenomenon happening every 17 years.Borenstein, an AP science writer, had done cicada stories before and knew the timing would be tricky. The bugs emerge only when the temperature is right, usually in mid-May. He and Ritzell, an animator and video journalist on the Health and Science team, began hours of Zoom interviews with bug scientists in mid-March.Meanwhile, Washington-based photographer Carolyn Kaster made it her mission to document the bugs she called “beautifully weird.” She had first encountered the Brood X cicadas 17 years ago in Pennsylvania and knew they would be a challenging subject — if she could find them. Kaster reached out to an EPA scientist and photographed undergraduate students who were sticking thermometers into the ground to find the places where cicadas would soon be emerging. She found some nymphs that she photographed as they matured, and for a week she went out every night looking for mature bugs and their telltale red eyes.Adding a key element, Health & Science video journalist Kathy Young and Ritzel produced an animated video explainer on the life cycle of cicadas. The animation, guest-narrated by Allen Breed, was built around the colorful soundbites of a University of Maryland entomologist describing the cicadas’ life cycle.The team’s all-formats package was timed perfectly, just as the bugs were starting to emerge in some places. Borenstein and Kaster followed up several days later with an illustrated FAQ explainer on cicadas.The package created buzz on social media and was among the week’s most-viewed stories on AP News, while the animation and the newsroom video were used globally, including South Korea and India among others.https://aplink.news/pjlhttps://aplink.video/vkphttps://aplink.news/0ab

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May 11, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Yemen's Dirty War: Starving moms skip meals to feed their starving children

The civil war gripping Yemen for the last three years has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters as millions of people face starvation. In an effort to understand the scope of the crisis, The Associated Press launched a one-year project with the Pulitzer Center, a non-profit news organization that helps cover underreported stories internationally.

AP Cairo-based reporter Maggie Michael, one of the few journalists who has followed the unfolding tragedy in Yemen from the beginning, often at great risk, used the Pulitzer grant for an extended reporting trip across Yemen with Cairo photographer Nariman el-Mofty and Yemen-based videographer Maad al-Zekri.

They drove more than 400 miles through five governorates, including one harrowing drive near an active front line outside of Khoukha, from their base in Aden. They interviewed mothers and families affected, plus food experts, doctors and volunteers, and they found that more than 8.4 million of the nation’s 29 million people rely almost completely on food aid.

The team’s courageous efforts to tell this story win the Beat of the Week.

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March 16, 2018

Best of the States

AP analysis: NRA contributes to schools; few willing to decline the money

Major corporations were cutting ties with the National Rifle Association after the massacre at a Florida high school, but what about schools that had received grants from the gun organization? It was a natural follow to the Associated Press’ exclusive story that the alleged shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had belonged to a school JROTC program that received NRA grants.

Data journalist Meghan Hoyer dug through tax records to identify the schools that had received more than $7 million in NRA grants. Education beat team member Collin Binkley began calling recipients around the country to see if they would forgo the money. Few said they would.

For their work breaking news on a story that everyone is reporting and providing data that allowed AP members to localize the story, Binkley and Hoyer will receive this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Jan. 05, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP NewsBreak: US soldier fought to the end after ambush in Niger

The horror tales from Niger – as reported by some of the world’s most reputable media – were gruesome: Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four Americans who died on a mysterious U.S. Army Special Forces mission in early October, had been captured alive, tortured, killed execution-style at close range and his remains had been mutilated.

The details were all erroneous, it turned out.

It took the AP’s Pentagon reporter Lita Baldor to set the record straight with a stunning scoop on an otherwise quiet Washington Sunday in December, revealing the findings of a still confidential Pentagon report.

For an unmatched story that revealed the heroism of an American soldier who died in the line of duty, Baldor wins this week’s Beat of the Week.

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Jan. 28, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deeply reported package explores the shift away from fossil fuels, impact on states, communities

AP reporting on energy policies in all 50 states led to an unexpected discovery: Roughly two-thirds of states in the U.S. plan to use nuclear power as an essential part of their plan to replace fossil fuels.

That resurgence in nuclear energy, despite its downsides, launched AP coverage of the latest nuclear technology and the impact on local communities, particularly those dependent on coal: a small Wyoming town replacing its coal plant with a nontraditional nuclear reactor by a Bill Gates-founded company, and a town in Colorado where coal is being phased out after generations, with no plans to replace it. “We can’t recover from that,” a former mayor told the AP.

The all-formats work showed the nation’s struggles as it shifts energy sources to stave off the worst effects of climate change. And showcasing the AP’s 50-state footprint, a localization guide enabled AP’s customers to bring the debate home for their own audiences. The package played widely at home and abroad, from local papers to national news outlets.

For superior coverage bringing to light developments in energy policy across the country and the effects on people at a local level, the team ofJennifer McDermott, Brady McCombs, Mead Gruver, Patty Nieberg, Rick Bowmer, Elaine Thompson, Manuel Valdes and Natalie Behring is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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March 31, 2017

Best of the States

Coal ash: "Why would we be importing it?"

AP Richmond reporter Sarah Rankin learned from a state lawmaker that Chinese coal ash was being imported into Virginia, despite millions of tons of ash already stored near power plants, threatening surface and ground water with contamination by heavy metals. Like other states, Virginia is struggling with how to dispose of its existing waste.

Her story pinpointed where the overseas ash was coming from: China, India and Poland over the past two years. While the foreign shipments of the industrial byproduct were moving through Virginia to Wisconsin and Ohio, interviews with concrete producers and coal ash recyclers and sellers showed more ash was being imported into Virginia from other states.

One environmentalist raised the irony of the situation: "We have millions of tons of this sitting along our riverbanks. Why in the world would we be importing it from other states and countries?"

For exposing a problematic industry practice with statewide environmental and health implications, Rankin's story wins this week's Best of the States.

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Dec. 01, 2016

Best of the States

US moves to block mining near Yellowstone

The Obama administration is racing in its final days to keep industry out of natural and environmentally sensitive areas throughout the U.S. West, where the incoming Trump administration has raised fears of loosened regulations on federal lands.

Billings, Montana Correspondent Matt Brown _ who has an acute sense of the value in reporting on land out West _ has broken news repeatedly to keep the AP ahead.

Brown is deeply sourced with federal interior officials and consistently checks in with them. He was working on a story week about officials canceling oil and gas leases on land near Glacier National Park that's considered sacred to tribes – also an APNewsBreak – when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell mentioned she was coming back to Montana in a week.

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Nov. 17, 2016

Best of the States

Bikers gotta stick together: Springsteen rescue goes viral via AP

Having a rock star jump on the back of your motorcycle after you stopped to help him on the side of the road could be a lyric in a Bruce Springsteen song. But it really happened for a group of veterans in New Jersey _ and the AP was first to report the story that naturally went viral.

Late Saturday evening, New Jersey News Editor Josh Cornfield had wrapped up a weekend BNS shift when he got a tip that an American Legion post in Freehold, N.J., had posted a photo of one of their members with Springsteen. As it happened, a group from the legion had been out riding after a Veterans Day event when they noticed a stranded biker. Figuring “bikers gotta stick together,” they stopped to help.

Turns out, the stranded biker was The Boss.

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Aug. 24, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for AP brings first word on death of legendary Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin always had a soft spot for The Associated Press; over the years, she would seek out global Entertainment Editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody to chat – “We spoke when she was working on new music, or about an upcoming performance (like when she sang for the pope in 2015) or even her fitness plan and weight loss,” Moody recalled. Music editor Mesfin Fekadu, too, had interviewed Franklin, and witnessed her last public performance last November.

So when the Queen of Soul was in her last days, her people knew who to call. The result: Fekadu was so far ahead with Franklin’s death that that the news was widely attributed to the AP, even by at least one major competitor. His news break is the Beat of the Week.

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May 06, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP explores a historic Black town vulnerable to climate change

tell the story of a historic Black town in North Carolina threatened by climate change, and its residents determined to endure and prosper.Princeville, North Carolina, the oldest town in the U.S. founded by Black Americans, has flooded many times, including two horrific disasters in recent memory: Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Matthew in 2016. And it will flood again — likely worse under the effects of global warming.AP’s all-formats trio visited the town multiple times, talking to the people who live there and reporting on the town’s historical significance as well as its efforts to rebuild and protect. They found townspeople determined to preserve their land and legacy, seeing connections to both a shared history and a continued fight for survival.Read more

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Nov. 11, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Search for solutions drives race to save Bonneville salt flats

collaborated on the most comprehensive coverage yet by a major news organization on a shrinking natural wonder, the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwest Utah near the Nevada border.The salt flats has long lured speed-obsessed racers and filmmakers, and, more recently, social media fans looking for a spectacular photo, but its future is in peril because the salt has been thinning for decades. When a Utah state agency launched yet another study to assess what was happening at the salt flats, AP’s Salt Lake City bureau recognized an opportunity explore the state of one the American West’s most unique sites.A thoroughly reported, reader-friendly story and impressive visuals — photos, drone images, video and digital animations — combined for a striking presentation that drew in readers.Read more

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Feb. 03, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP scores exclusive interview with Pope Francis, making news worldwide with a papal call to decriminalize homosexuality

Vatican Correspondent Nicole Winfield's tenacious reporting has already delivered numerous exclusives over a two-decade career covering three popes. Yet an on-camera, sit-down interview with a pontiff had eluded the AP.

That changed dramatically Jan. 24. After years of lobbying, the pope sat down for an historic interview with Winfield, whom Francis has for years called the “prima della classe,” or “first in class,” as a sign of respect for her tough but fair reporting on his pontificate. In fact, during the interview, he mentioned how Winfield’s questions about sex abuse during a 2018 airborne press conference led to his “conversion” moment when he realized that Chilean bishops had been covering up cases of abuse for decades.

For weeks, Winfield prepared the interview with Rome Senior Producer Maria Grazia Murru, who for decades has led the Vatican video operations. They coordinated every detail and prepared the right questions and approach for the interview. Murru designed the video coverage plan and spearheaded the production of social media promotion material. And together, they wrote letters in the most formal Italian to Francis’ private secretaries, until a date was finally arranged — for late January, a time that seemed ripe to make news. It was one week ahead of his planned trip to Africa and just over a month ahead of the 10th anniversary of his pontificate.

Video’s Paolo Santalucia and Photos’ Domenico Stinellis planned the lighting at the venue and sorted out technical details, and photographer Andrew Medichini’s images captured the historic event. Spanish language editor Cristina Fuentes-Cantillana transcribed and translated the full interview, conducted in the pope’s native Spanish.

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Feb. 17, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP journalists overcome odds to cover powerful quake that killed tens of thousands in Turkey and Syria 

More than a dozen AP journalists worked non-stop with translators and drivers, crisscrossing a battered landscape, driving on icy roads for up to 10 hours on any given day to reach some of the hard-hit areas. They defied freezing temperatures to capture the big and the small: the scale of the destruction, and the tales of hope that came with each and every new rescue. 

The 7.8 earthquake and the ensuing 7.5 temblor that followed struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria on Feb. 6. It will go down in history as the deadliest natural disaster in modern times in a region already battered by years of conflict.

Years of experience working in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon translated into a quick response in the field and aggressive reporting under extremely challenging circumstances.

For their extraordinary display of bravery, skill and dedication, AP’s Turkey and Syria earthquake teams are this week’s Best of the Week – First Winner. 

From Turkey’s capital, Ankara, to the earthquake’s hardest-hit Hatay province to rebel-held northwestern Syria, AP journalists worked day and night, risking injury and worse, to produce heart wrenching coverage.

For their extraordinary display of bravery, skill and dedication, AP’s Turkey and Syria earthquake teams are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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Feb. 25, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Source work, reporting, exclusive data modeling put AP ahead on omicron immunity

For two years, as COVID-19 ravaged the world, AP health and science reporter Carla Johnson stayed in constant contact with disease modelers who were using careful analysis to predict what the coronavirus would do next.

This time her subject was the omicron wave — millions were infected and millions more had immunity through vaccination and/or past infection. Johnson knew those numbers might answer one of the most vexing questions of the pandemic: How much immunity had Americans developed from omicron?

Johnson leaned on her sources and asked one influential analyst to produce projections for the AP. The result was a key finding that gave the country the earliest and clearest sense yet of how the U.S. is navigating the pandemic: 73% of the country is believed to be protected from omicron.

Her deeply reported but straightforward story, explaining why future waves may be far less disruptive in the U.S., played widely with credit to AP’s exclusive reporting.

For recognizing that the data might hold answers on COVID immunity, and resourceful source work that delivered a unique projection of future infection, Johnson is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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