May 10, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exclusively breaks news that DEA moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug

White House Correspondent Zeke Miller, Latin America Correspondent Joshua Goodman, Investigative Reporter Jim Mustian and Washington Reporter Lindsay Whitehurst combined forces to exclusively break the news that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, a historic shift that could clear the way toward easing federal criminal penalties on pot at a time when President Joe Biden is seeking the support of younger voters.

The DEA’s biggest policy recommendation in its 50-year history had been highly anticipated and hotly contested by every major news organization. In the end, AP’s bombshell story last Tuesday left competitors scrambling to match AP’s reporting and give AP full credit for being first.

But AP wasn’t done. In the ensuing hours there was another APNewsAlert on Attorney General Merrick Garland endorsing the DEA proposal, a politics sidebar by Jonathan J. Cooper on how this is Biden’s latest attempt to reach out to younger voters and a “What It Means” glance by Jennifer Peltz and Whitehurst that unpacked the nuances of the order. That was also neatly presented in an AP video narrated by Whitehurst.

For strong, fast, exclusive reporting that put the AP out front to drive the conversation on a historic policy shift on pot, Miller, Goodman, Mustian and Whitehurst are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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June 23, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

The Great Grift: How billions in COVID-19 relief aid was stolen or wasted

After a monthslong analysis, the AP revealed that at least 10% of $4 trillion in federal COVID-19 relief money was stolen or misspent.

The story was sparked by a simple question in January from Acting Global Investigations Editor Alison Kodjak: How much relief money was stolen? Richard Lardner, of the global investigations team, teamed up with climate reporter Jennifer McDermott and data team reporter Aaron Kessler to get an answer. They conducted scores of interviews, read dozens of government indictments and reports and tracked down experts.

In the end, they determined scam artists potentially stole more than $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding, and another $123 billion was wasted or misspent — a combined loss of 10% of the relief aid the U.S. government has so far disbursed. Senior video producer Jeannie Ohm and motion graphics designer Eva Malek created an animated video explainer, narrated by Kessler, that succinctly laid out how easy it was for fraudsters to make off with so much money. Multimedia editor Kevin Vineys created a series of compelling graphics that helped break down government spending and potential theft.

For spending months investigating and documenting how much of the federal government’s $4.2 trillion in COVID-19 relief was looted or misspent, Lardner, McDermott, Kessler, Vineys and Malek earn Best of the Week — First Winners.

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Nov. 19, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sourcing, expertise deliver latest scoop on Venezuela corruption case

used strong sourcing, along with prep work and his deep knowledge of the federal court system, to snag a court filing before a judge ordered it redacted, giving Goodman his second major scoop in as many weeks in the case of a top U.S. corruption target from Venezuela.Latin America correspondent Goodman has spent years painstakingly covering the shady dealings between Alex Saab and Venezuela’s socialist government. But when the Colombian-born businessman was finally extradited to Miami last month, media interest surged, with 300 journalists attending his first court appearance.Goodman, the must-read reporter on corruption in Venezuela, beat all the competition with a major discovery: Saab, who has repeatedly sworn loyalty to President Nicolás Maduro, had been betraying the Venezuelan government for years in secret meetings with U.S. law enforcement. Goodman had previously heard about the meetings from off-the-record sources, but here they were described in a court record that gave him cover to publish. Only Goodman, an ace on the labyrinthine federal courts record system, knew what to look for and could find it before a federal judge removed the document from the docket. Other news organizations were left scrambling to match the AP story.This latest scoop followed Goodman’s recent reporting that Maduro’s government had quietly offered to swap six imprisoned American oil executives for Saab in a secret Mexico City meeting with a Trump administration envoy and controversial Blackwater founder Erik Prince. https://aplink.news/rix

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April 07, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

3 days, 2 nights, 1 train: Kyiv team crosses Ukraine with Zelenskyy in unprecedented embed

Months of building trust with the Ukrainian government led to unmatched access to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his travels across Ukraine. It resulted in a powerful all-formats series of stories that made headlines across the world and gave an in-depth portrait of a wartime leader in perpetual motion. 

For months, The AP team has been working on improving our links with the Kyiv government. Persistence paid off. AP was offered an exclusive interview with the president, to be carried out by Executive Editor Julie Pace. She traveled into the country, accompanied by Europe and Africa News Director James Jordan and teamed up with Arhirova and Lukatsky and on-deployment Prague video journalist Adam Pemble for two nights and three days on the president’s train.  

For their herculean efforts to organize and deliver the meeting, engineering an opportunity for AP to conduct the most extensive embed with the Ukrainian president to date, Arhirova, Lukatsky and Pemble share Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Feb. 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Sharp rise in reports of sexual assault at US military academies

broke news ahead of a Pentagon announcement: Sexual assaults reported at U.S. military academies have risen sharply.Longtime Defense Department reporter Baldor used a tip, source work and rigorous reporting to determine the closely guarded numbers for all the elite academies. And when the DOD asked her to hold the story, suggesting her information might be wrong, she stood firm. Baldor’s AP story moved more than an hour before the official announcement, her numbers confirmed by the Pentagon. Read more

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Feb. 04, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive and explosive: WHO leader in Western Pacific accused of racism and abuse

London-based medical writer Maria Cheng, drawing on leaked emails, interviews, recordings and her deep understanding of the World Health Organization, revealed that dozens of staffers have accused Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the U.N. agency’s regional director for much of Asia, of racism and abuse, and that his actions allegedly hampered WHO’s efforts to curb the COVID pandemic in the region.

Cheng obtained internal complaints and talked to current and former staffers who said Kasai had engaged in racist, unethical and abusive behavior. Staffers said the departure of more than 55 WHO personnel from this critical region, most not replaced, significantly contributing to a surge in cases in many countries. Kasai was also accused of sharing COVID information improperly with his home country, Japan, for its political gain.

In an email to the AP, Kasai denied charges of racism and unethical behavior and said he had taken steps to communicate with all his staff.

Cheng’s story was explosive. At Saturday’s closing session of WHO’s board meeting, several countries pressured the organization to investigate the allegations reported by the AP. By Monday, the WHO director-general said an investigation had started.

For deeply reported, groundbreaking work that has had an impact, Cheng is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 17, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: US envoy secretly visited Venezuela on hostage mission

combined sleuthing and great source reporting to break a story that the Biden administration was trying to keep secret: that the U.S. government's top hostage negotiator was secretly visiting Venezuela as part of an ongoing effort to secure the release of jailed Americans, including American oil executives known as the Citgo 6.The AP pair has followed the case since the 2017 detention of the oil executives. When Latin America correspondent Goodman learned that a U.S. government flight was traveling toward Venezuela, he flagged it to Washington-based national security reporter Tucker, who quickly confirmed with sources that the plane was carrying Roger Carstens, the U.S. government’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. They spent the next several days reporting the details of Carstens’ visit. Goodman pressed multiple sources to learn Carstens visited American detainees behind bars and had also met with aides to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.Tucker, who has a history of reporting on hostage and detainee cases, then landed an exclusive interview with Carstens after he was safely out of Venezuela. The envoy shared first-hand details of his visit with the prisoners.The result was a vivid tale of the first known face-to-face outreach in Venezuela by a senior U.S. official since at least 2019. It earned widespread attention from CNN, which gave AP prominent credit, and other major news outlets. The story was even bigger in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin and South America. And while others eventually reported their own stories, they did not get Carstens. His lone interview was with AP. https://aplink.news/i7u

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Nov. 19, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

At the intersection of population growth and extreme heat, AP interactive brings global climate data to life

The team of data journalist Nicky Forster, science writer Drew Costley and storytelling producer Peter Hamlin, joined by AP colleagues, worked for months on an immersive interactive that takes readers across the globe, visualizing how and where exposure to extreme heat is escalating and its impact on population centers.

After securing early access to historical data tracking both population growth and a specific metric that gauges the impact of extreme temperatures on human health, AP’s analysis found that between 1983 and 2016, exposure to dangerous heat tripled, and now affects about a quarter of the world’s population.

The team spent weeks building an engaging presentation with 3D graphics and illustrations that brought the piece to life, drawing in readers. The interactive marked the latest example of AP’s new storytelling formats and stood out from the deluge of coverage during the United Nations climate summit in Scotland.

For their resourcefulness, creativity and dedication in helping AP’s audience understand the far-ranging impact of global warming in a new way, the team of Forster, Costley and Hamlin is this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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