April 05, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team jumps into action to lead the pack on stunning Baltimore bridge collapse

When the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed in the middle of the night, AP staff from Bangkok to Baltimore contributed to all-formats reporting over a vast spectrum of spot and investigative angles.

It was just a bit after 3 a.m. when Baltimore reporter Lea Skene learned the Francis Scott Key Bridge had just crumpled into the river below.

Skene sprang into action and got a key fire department official on the phone. That allowed the AP to quickly give accurate details and avoid inflating the numbers of people missing, like other outlets did. Soon a team of AP reporters, photographers and video journalists joined to deliver coverage that earned huge play in newspapers around the world.

Annapolis reporter Brian Witte joined Skene on the ground and scored early-morning interviews with the governor and the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board. Video journalists Nathan Ellgren and Rick Gentilo provided coverage that was the most downloaded among customers globally for the week, particularly their early shots. Photographers Mark Schiefelbein and Matt Rourke delivered images of the crumpled bridge and of locals discussing how the collapse challenged Baltimore’s identity as a port city.

For delivering an encompassing and engrossing look at how the collapse of a bridge scarred a city’s psyche and uncovered potential trade-offs when it comes to safety, Skene, Witte, Schiefelbein, Rourke, Ellgren, Gentilo and the Baltimore Bridge Collapse Team 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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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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Jan. 19, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP dominates coverage of exceptional genocide hearings targeting Israel

AP’s team in The Hague dominated coverage of the International Court of Justice hearings into South Africa’s accusation that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians, thanks to expertise in international law and solid planning across continents.

Across two intense days and under close global scrutiny, AP’s team explored and explained the hearings into accusations that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Expertise in international law, knowledge of sensitive geopolitics and solid planning and coordination across continents contributed to AP’s showing.

AP’s coverage was front and center on customer websites and broadcasts around the world for two days straight. AP ran more than a dozen videos of the hearings and protests and reactions around the world. Video edits from The Hague alone scored more than 5,000 hits, and the live coverage over two days earned a staggering 3,300 hits. The top five videos on APNews on Jan. 11 were all from The Hague. The text stories with photos were among the top stories viewed both by customers and online. The New York Times was among customers featuring all formats of AP coverage on its website as the hearings unfolded.

For teaming up to tell the story of a case at The Hague that struck at the heart of Israel’s national identity, Corder, Furtula, Carlson and Casert share Best of the Week — First Winner.

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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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