April 19, 2019

Best of the States

FOIA checklist enables reporter to break news in case of missing boy’s impostor

Knowing what information can be obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs) from various public agencies is critical to breaking news. And keeping a checklist of those information gold mines is key to accessing that knowledge, Columbus, Ohio-based reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins has found.

Welsh-Huggins used those skills to great effect in the case of the man accused of pulling a cruel hoax by pretending to be a long-missing Illinois boy. The story captured the nation’s attention and set reporters in motion trying to flesh out the background of a 23-year-old ex-con who Ohio authorities say faked being Timmothy Pitzen. Pitzen was 6 years old when he disappeared in 2011.

Welsh-Huggins’ checklist for enterprise off the news includes FOIAs to all agencies a suspect has had contact with. He filed a FOIA with the Ohio corrections department to obtain access to the disciplinary records of suspect Brian Rini, knowing from experience that the agency would release them.

A few days later the agency handed him 15 disciplinary reports showing that Rini was someone who liked to fabricate stories – including things as mundane as being short of toilet paper and as serious as being raped by a guard.

The AP was alone with the story, which got strong play in Ohio and across the country.

For using his knowledge of FOIA to break news on this highly competitive story, Welsh-Huggins wins this week’s Best of the States.

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March 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats sweep as AP breaks news of Supreme Court nominee

beat all the competition, breaking the news of President Joe Biden’s nominee for the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. AP flooded the media space with content on every platform, delivering a comprehensive package that told customers and readers everything they need to know about federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, what comes next and who bears watching in the process.The initial scoop came from smart source work, and the impressive range of content that quickly followed was made possible by advance coordination across formats and departments — AP was poised with thorough preparation on each of the front-runners for the nomination. Read more

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Aug. 13, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Character-driven coverage reveals unhealed wounds of Beirut blast

produced a sweeping set of stories to mark the first anniversary of the massive Beirut port explosion, with the emphasis on character-driven pieces that underscore the suffering experienced by survivors of the blast and families of the victims, one year later. With that in mind, reporter Mroue, senior producer Abuelgasim and photographer Hussein told the tragic tale of a 21-year-old nurse who died at work, weaving her story together with that of a couple whose son was born minutes later in the same hospital amid the chaos of the blast. The result was a stunning all-formats narrative embedded with dramatic family video and hospital-supplied footage from the day of the blast. The Beirut crew worked closely with digital storytelling producers and editors Raghuram Vadarevu and Natalie Castañeda. AP’s online video, created by deputy regional news director Balint Szlanko, was heavily used and widely shared on social media.Meanwhile, El Deeb reported — with photos by Ammar — on grieving families seeking justice and accountability for their deceased loved ones; she also collaborated with news director Karam on the anniversary mainbar which was accompanied by compelling photos and video by Abuelgasim and cameraman Tawil. El Deeb and Abuelgasim also teamed up with photographer Malla for a piece on conservators painstakingly rebuilding and restoring a landmark Beirut museum.In the days surrounding the actual anniversary, the staff shifted its coverage to breaking news as masses of protesters took to the streets, some clashing with police as they demanded that officials be held responsible for corruption and indifference leading to the tragedy.https://aplink.news/u59https://aplink.news/b1dhttps://aplink.news/dmjhttps://aplink.news/alyhttps://aplink.video/z0j

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July 30, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

As Herschel Walker eyes US Senate run, AP reveals a turbulent past

broke news on former football star Herschel Walker, who is said to be considering a run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. The Georgia Senate race may be the most competitive in the nation next year and Walker, a former University of Georgia star and a friend of former President Donald Trump, would be an appealing Republican candidate. But Walker also has a history of mental illness and a tell-all book with extraordinary details about his troubled past.The tales in Walker’s 2008 book would have been enough for a good story, but Washington-based reporter Slodysko and his colleagues, Atlanta’s Barrow and Dallas’ Bleiberg, wanted to know more.The trio turned up records that had never been reported on, including claims by Walker’s ex-wife that he threatened her life, concerns by his business partners about his behavior; and evidence that he had exaggerated the size of his company in federal filings.Knowing that several other outlets were also working the story, the reporters wrote quickly from a strong paper trail and good source reporting that added important political context about Walker’s deliberations. They wrote carefully and precisely about Walker’s illness. The result was an extraordinary read that may influence the Georgia race for U.S. Senate. The piece was the most-read story on AP News last week — a stunning feat for a story that ran midday on a summer Friday. https://aplink.news/frs

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July 09, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Reporter’s instincts, deep preparation break stunning news of Cosby case reversal and prison release

Comedian Bill Cosby had been in a Pennsylvania prison for more than two years last December when the state’s high court took on his appeal of his sexual assault conviction.

As seven months went by without a decision, Philadelphia-based legal affairs reporter Maryclaire Dale — who had been instrumental in breaking the original Cosby story — thought there might be something newsy in the works. Her instincts led to deep preparation that put AP ahead on one of the biggest news stories of the summer, one that almost no one but Dale had anticipated.

When the court tweeted out its opinion Wednesday, AP’s news alert moved within minutes, followed less than one minute later with a short breaking news story that Cosby's conviction was overturned, and that he would be released from prison. Both alerts beat all the competition; a full story moved less than two minutes later. Dale and colleagues followed up with full coverage throughout the day, with Cosby later appearing before cameras at his home, as the original news story drew heavy engagement online and maintained the top spot in Google’s news carousel.

For sharp anticipation and flawless execution that put AP ahead on a story that dominated the news cycle, Dale earns AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Oct. 30, 2020

Best of the States

AP breaks news on the opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma, with focus on victims

AP reporters from three different teams broke distinctive, significant stories on the continuing drug overdose crisis in the U.S., which has been overshadowed this year by the coronavirus pandemic:

— A state-level report showing that overdose deaths are on pace to reach an all-time high this year, and that overdoses increased after the virus began spreading in the U.S.— An accountability story on President Donald Trump’s handling of the opioid crisis, and how the issue has been overlooked in the presidential race.— A major scoop on a settlement between the federal government and Purdue Pharma, complete with details of criminal charges and the $8 billion settlement. 

But the depth of coverage didn’t end with the major news beats. All three stories put victims at the center of the reporting. 

For revealing stories that broke news and provided a powerful reminder of an ongoing epidemic that has contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans, Mike Stobbe, Adrian Sainz, Farnoush Amiri, Geoff Mulvihill, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Balsamo win this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 20, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP offers compelling takes on two oft-reported crises: Migrant rescues and opioid trafficking

They are crises that have received significant attention while playing out in different parts of the world, but the efforts of a trio of AP journalists have shed new light on both the perilous journey of migrants in the Mediterranean and the opioid epidemic in America.

The work of the journalists, Renata Brito aboard the Ocean Viking humanitarian ship sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, and Lindsay Whitehurst and Claire Galofaro in the U.S., tells the respective stories with a captivating clarity that resonated with readers and earned a rare tie in the Best of the Week contest. Each story demonstrated the profound storytelling power the AP can bring to complex stories with ingenuity, smart planning and teamwork.

Barcelona-based Brito wins for a story that she’s still living, and telling, from the Ocean Viking. Embedded with a ship that last week rescued 50 migrants fleeing violence in Africa, her dispatch, “Migrant escaping Libya torture: We will go to Europe or die,” showed in stark terms the journey that for many has ended in death.

Galofaro and Whitehurst, meanwhile, share the win with a very different but no-less-gripping tale: “The rise and fall of an Eagle Scout’s deadly fentanyl empire,” about a millennial who built a million-dollar empire of mail-order fentanyl-laced pills.

For packages that brought new insight and perspective to heavily covered stories with significant global impact, Brito, Galofaro and Whitehurst win AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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June 28, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Video of Merkel shaking turns routine live shot into a top story

for alertly elevating a routine ceremony into the day’s top visual story. Kienoel noticed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked unwell, and focused his video camera on her as she began to shake uncontrollably. Then he discretely phoned from the crowded media scrum to flag the episode for staffers in all formats, resulting in a text story and a video edit that moved ahead of any competitor.https://bit.ly/2KFefKrhttps://bit.ly/2KFTFJX

July 06, 2018

Best of the States

AP multiformat teams give voice to separated, reunited families. And break news too.

AP journalists have worked tirelessly across formats and locations to chronicle the stories of immigrant parents and children struggling to reunite after being separated at the border as a result of White House zero-tolerance enforcement policies.

Their work paid big dividends last week with exclusive images, videos and stories about separated families and White House policies by reporters Martha Irvine, Morgan Lee, Michael Tarm and Elliot Spagat, photographers Charlie Arbogast and Matt York and video journalist John Mone.

For compelling multiformat coverage of families affected by immigration policy, and for expanding AP's reach on this closely watched story, Irvine, Lee, Spagat, Tarm, Arbogast, York and Mone share this week's Best of the States award.

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