Jan. 27, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP's Boone spearheads 20-outlet legal challenge to Idaho college stabbings gag order

The fatal stabbings of four college students at the University of Idaho campus in Moscow, Idaho, in November 2022 were initially shrouded in mystery and misinformation. As Boise, Idaho, Supervisory Correspondent Rebecca Boone worked to untangle all of this, a judge put up yet another barrier to getting the story to the public: a sweeping gag order prohibiting law enforcement agencies, attorneys or anyone else associated with the case from discussing it publicly.   

In the middle of one of the biggest stories in the nation, Boone suddenly had a new task on her plate: singlehandedly spearheading a legal challenge to the gag order — ultimately recruiting a coalition of 22 print and TV media outlets, including The New York Times, to join the cause.  

The AP couldn't have had a better advocate for the task. Boone has a track record of fighting for press access and has made the issue a top priority in her lengthy AP career. 

AP 23018805314824

Nov. 10, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Intimate reporting and stunning access show how the housing crisis has created missing students 

For the past year, education writer Bianca Vázquez Toness took on the difficult reporting task of finding students who have slipped through the cracks since the pandemic, and looked to Los Angeles, where advocates say the housing crisis is causing students to go missing from school.

She met a homeless mother renting space in strangers’ apartments, sleeping on a twin bed with her two children. The situation had devastated the teenage son Deneffy’s mental health and school performance.

After multiple visits to LA to meet Deneffy’s mother, and eventually Deneffy himself, he confided in Toness, allowing her to capture their narrative.

Photographer Jae C. Hong waited weeks for the family to feel safe having him inside, capturing powerful visuals when he was able to. Illustrations by Peter Hamlin anchored the story’s presentation. Eunice Esomonu put the Spanish version of the story in the immersive design, a first for AP.

Education journalists and readers alike have reached out to share how remarkable and powerful they found Toness’ reporting.

For building trust and cinematic reporting that showed the great lengths homeless kids must go to attend school, Best of the Week — First Winner is awarded to Bianca Vázquez Toness and Jae C. Hong.

AP23271829095415

Sept. 08, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Reporting raises questions about abortion story told during GOP debate, scores several firsts

It was among the most puzzling moments of the first Republican presidential debate: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to answer a question about supporting a national abortion ban and instead offered a story about a woman he met who had survived “multiple abortion attempts” and was saved after being “discarded in a pan.” The tale was clearly meant to curry favor with the conservative voters who decide GOP primaries, but was it true?

Dogged reporting over several days by a team of three reporters — democracy team misinformation reporters Ali Swenson and Christine Fernando, and Miami-based national political reporter Adriana Gomez Licon — found that the woman did exist but that her birth story was far more complicated than the version described by DeSantis. While other outlets also pursued DeSantis’ story, the AP team had several significant firsts: They were was the first to interview the woman and get her story first hand; the first to surface newspaper stories from the 1950s that offered a much different version of events; and the first to get historical photos from the time she was born, including one showing her as a baby being discharged from the hospital. These allowed AP to distinguish its coverage of a nationally significant moment in the GOP presidential primary.

Swenson quickly found a few old news articles about the woman and two YouTube videos that featured her telling her story for anti-abortion advocacy groups and looped in Gomez Licon, who had spent years covering DeSantis in Florida, and Fernando, who had covered the national abortion debate extensively in her previous job.

It was Fernando who reached the woman, Miriam “Penny” Hopper, and persuaded her to talk to the AP. Gomez Licon meanwhile worked with news researcher Rhonda Shafner and local libraries in central Florida to surface newspaper clippings from 1956 about the medical effort to save the baby.

For scoring significant firsts on a story that widely resonated, Swenson, Fernando and Gomez Licon win this week’s first citation for Best of the Week.

AP23241599188533

Aug. 25, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP recounts final mental health struggles of Olympics champ Tori Bowie

On the eve of the first world track championships since Bowie’s passing, AP sportswriters Eddie Pells and Pat Graham teamed up to report exclusively on the mental health struggles of Tori Bowie that led up to the star athlete’s death April 23 from complications during childbirth at the age of 32.

The two had covered Bowie, who won three medals at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Games, for many years and had heard whispers of her difficulties. A few weeks after her death, the autopsy listed the cause as “complications in childbirth.”

While other outlets pursued the angle that Black women suffer disproportionately from pregnancy complications, Pells opted to explore another dimension of her story, her struggles with mental health.

He sought out people at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and within track and field, to find out how a world-famous champion, who was eight months into what would be considered an at-risk pregnancy, came to die alone at home without medical care or anyone to look after her.

For sensitively telling the story of a great athlete who became isolated from her peers and died tragically alone in part because of neglect of her mental health difficulties, Pells and Graham are Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP23164532854384

Aug. 04, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

A photo and source work spark a compelling, emotional tale on migration

Migration-focused video journalist Renata Brito in Barcelona took note of a heartbreaking photo on social media to spark a story about the situation at the Tunisia-Libya border — and she used her years of source work, expertise on the border and help from around AP to confirm the story.

On July 19, the photo of a woman and child lying dead, barefoot and face down in the tawny desert sand began circulating on social media. It was retweeted by activists who accused Tunisia of abandoning migrants to their fates on the other side of Tunisia’s desert border with Libya.

But little was known about the photo or the stories of the two who had died.

On social media, some said the photo spoke to that growing crisis, but others insisted it was an old image from another country.

Three days after the photo surfaced, a source of Brito’s in Libya messaged her, saying he knew the woman and child in the photo. From afar, Brito had developed a relationship with the source for years. For this story, Brito asked the source: How did he know it was them? Could she speak to friends or family? With whom did they travel?

That resulted in a tale of dashed hope and tragedy as told to the AP by the late woman’s husband, with additional details and key context contributed by Elaine Ganley and Samy Magdy, who together are Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP23208727695792

May 26, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

The secret networks that circumvent Honduras’ abortion ban: How an AP team documented the invisible

For years, AP Mexico photo stringer Ginnette Riquelme was aware of clandestine networks helping women obtain abortions in Honduras, where they are banned under all circumstances.   

The locations were hidden, the phones untraceable, the contacts used code words to communicate. But Riquelme had a vision of how — and why — to document something that is both illegal and heavily stigmatized. With a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation, she joined forces with Honduran journalist Iolany Pérez in El Progreso and Mexico City reporter María Verza.   

Persistence and the ability to build the trust of more than a dozen women who helped or had received the networks’ assistance resulted in a previously unseen composite of an underground system built up over years of prohibition.   

For journalism that illustrates the invisible, and in-depth and unmatched coverage of an issue that resonates far outside Honduras, this team earns Best of the Week — First Winner. 

AP23100609867711

April 28, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP reveals DEA chief is being investigated for contracts to past associates 

Josh Goodman and Jim Mustian reported exclusively that a federal watchdog is investigating whether the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration under chief Anne Milgram improperly used millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to flout normal governing hiring procedures to hire past associates at a very high cost.   

The two followed up on a previous scoop about the arrest of former DEA agent Jose Irizarry, who confessed to laundering money for Colombian drug cartels and skimming millions of dollars from asset seizures and informants.   

After an external review of the DEA’s foreign operations was slammed for underplaying its scandals, Latin America reporter Goodman and investigative reporter Mustian began asking questions.   

What they found was that a Washington law firm that was hired as part of a no-bid contract did the review, and that its author was the former right-hand man to one of Milgram’s closest friends, former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. That led to more reporting, more questions and more sources talking about how the DEA used other no-bid contracts to hire Milgram’s past associates.  

For expert source reporting that holds accountable the DEA and its highest-ranking official, Goodman and Mustian win Best of the Week — First Winner. 

AP23106692608904

Feb. 24, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team documents growth of landmines’ hidden toll in Myanmar

Months of reporting by Victoria Milko, David Rising and a colleague in Myanmar led to the most authoritative look yet at the problem of landmines in the country.

Their story recounted how a boy was maimed and teenagers killed. The team was also able to get military defectors and others in the country to share with AP how civilians are used as human shields and how groups reuse mines they claim to have cleared. The story demonstrates that this will be an issue in the country for years to come.

For their work documenting the horror of landmines in one of the world’s most isolated countries, we are honored to award Milko, our AP colleague in Myanmar and Rising this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP 21075370911524

Aug. 26, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Olympic gold medalist trusts AP with news of transition to male

made the AP one of only two news organizations trusted to interview and break the news of Ellia Green, a star on Australia’s 2016 gold medal-winning women’s sevens team, who has become rugby’s highest-profile player to transition to male. And AP was the only news outlet to get photos of Green and his family before the story went public.Trust established with the LGBTQ community over years by Sydney-based sports journalists Passa and Pye, and rapport built with Green, helped overcome his initial resistance to an interview and photographs. The resulting story, further elevated by Baker’s photos, won virtually all the play in Australia, appeared on major news sites in North America and Europe, and led sports coverage on AP’s own platforms.Read more

Green AP 22228100981276 hm 1

Jan. 20, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Faceless portraits: Noroozi innovates to show struggle of Afghan women athletes

The best portraits capture a person’s essence, almost always by focusing on the human face. But AP photographer Ebrahim Noroozi, on assignment in Kabul temporarily from Iran, needed to do something different to show the effects of Afghanistan’s rule banning women playing sports.

Using the emblematic burqa to conceal the identities of the women athletes now forbidden from doing what they love best, Noroozi came up with the haunting series of faceless portraits to illustrate the erasure of Afghan women from public life under the Taliban.

Several female athletes who once played a variety of sports unrestricted posed for Noroozi with their athletic equipment – and their identities hidden by burqas, the all-encompassing robe and hood that completely covers the face, leaving only a swath of mesh to see through.

Noroozi’s images were published in an array of multimedia presentations by AP’s subscribers worldwide, including the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. The latter used them to illustrate a story about the near-simultaneous decision by Australia to cancel a men’s one-day international cricket series over the restrictions on women.

For innovation and sensitivity in showing a difficult subject, Noroozi earns Best of the Week – First Winner.

AP 23010521549313

Dec. 23, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sources give AP tech team a beat on a critical Twitter story

Matt O'Brien and Barbara Ortutay anticipated that Elon Musk might disband Twitter's Trust and Safety Council, a group of external advisors who helped the platform with complicated content moderation -- and they broke the story as a result.

O'Brien, based in Providence, and New York-based Ortutay concluded after billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion that the trust council’s future was in doubt.

They kept contact with members of the group, which included around 100 independent civil, human rights and other organizations, and noted the date when the council was next scheduled to meet.

When the council finally was disbanded via email, their multiple sources reached out with a copy, and AP was first with the story.

For foresight and source work that made the scoop possible, O’Brien and Ortutay are Best of the Week – 1st Winner.

AP 22323034331831

Dec. 16, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP spotlights remarkable rise of federal prison official accused of misconduct

Mike Balsamo in Washington and Mike Sisak in New York trained a lens on a single Bureau of Prisons official, Thomas Ray Hinkle, who received promotions across four decades despite repeated allegations of abuse, misconduct and even admissions by him that he’d beaten inmates in the past as part of a gang of guards called “The Cowboys.”

After being tipped earlier this year to Hinkle’s past, Sisak and Balsamo went about securing and scrutinizing 1,600 pages of documents that provided details of the allegations and developed key sources within the prisons system who corroborated the accusations. Finally, toward the end of the reporting process, they secured comment from Hinkle and the bureau, both of which acknowledged his previous excesses but said he was a changed man.

For a dogged and impactful investigation that caps a year in which their reporting has shaken the hierarchy of the federal prison systems and forced officials to confront abuses long out of public view, Balsamo and Sisak are Best of the Week 1st Winners.

AP 22339860811549 1

Dec. 09, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Heartbreaking photos give rare personal look at fentanyl's toll on homeless people

When photographer Jae C. Hong returned to Los Angeles after a year in Japan, he was struck by how the number of homeless people had vastly multiplied. It was immediately before the pandemic -- and Hong, like so many reporters in the AP, spent much of the next year chronicling the impact of coronavirus.

Earlier this year, he was able to get back to the project he’d yearned to pursue and started chronicling homeless Angelenos between other assignments. One night, he encountered two police officers standing over a dead body -- and his project, spotlighting the lives, and sometimes the deaths, of fentanyl addicts, began to take shape.

Hong spent about six months documenting the humanitarian disaster. What he produced were gut-wrenching photos that gave a rare, intensely personal and brutally honest look into the tragedy unfolding on the streets of LA, an unconscionable scene often overlooked. AP writer Brian Melley, using Hong's reporting and experiences, crafted a story of equally vivid imagery that portrayed the raw human suffering with sensitivity to complete the package. The package was widely used and kept readers’ attention. The engagement score on AP News was a perfect 100 and Facebook featured it on its news feed.

For focusing on a problem that is too often unseen and producing a raw, compelling visual package, this week’s first Best of the Week is awarded to Los Angeles photojournalist Jae C. Hong.

AP 22330773704054 1

Oct. 28, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Only on AP: Central Europe readies for potential nuclear fallout

made AP the first major news organization to take a serious look at readiness in the countries most likely to be affected, as fighting around Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons reawaken nuclear fears in Europe. Some of Ukraine’s neighboring countries have started distributing potassium iodide pills, and officials are preparing old Soviet-era nuclear shelters for possible use.After two weeks spent persuading authorities to give AP’s journalists access to the underground shelters, the team reported comprehensively and responsibly — and with strong visuals — on European readiness for a possible nuclear attack. The team was careful to avoid sensationalizing the coverage or raising unnecessary fear.Read more

Nuclear AP 22293724180713 hm1

Oct. 28, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP breaks stunning story of child caught in custody battle between Afghan couple, US Marine

The story was nothing short of shocking: An Afghan baby, the only surviving member of her immediate family following an American attack on their home, was brought to the United States for medical treatment only to be taken from the Afghan couple who raised her as their own and — against the couple’s wishes — placed in the custody of a U.S. Marine attorney and his wife.

AP reporters Juliet Linderman, Martha Mendoza and Claire Galofaro broke the competitive story after poring through hundreds of pages of legal filings and documents, talking to Afghan officials and pushing relentlessly for interviews with everyone involved. Then the trio wove their reporting into a beautifully written, compelling narrative that reads like an international thriller. The piece prompted strong reader reaction, with many asking how they could hold the government agencies involved responsible.

For intensive, lightning-fast work to put AP first on this deeply reported, deeply moving story, Linderman, Galofaro and Mendoza earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

Final A baby 2000

Oct. 28, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive reveals probe into actions of WHO’s Syria leader

revealed the largest internal investigation conducted by the World Health Organization in years — over allegations by WHO staffers in Syria that their boss mismanaged millions of dollars, plied government officials with gifts and acted frivolously as COVID-19 swept the country.A tip last November about misconduct in the Syria office led to nearly a year of document reporting and source work for Cheng, AP London-based medical writer. Instrumental to this story was her previous reporting about accusations of racism against WHO’s regional director in the Western Pacific. That coverage led to the director being placed on leave, which persuaded Syria staffers of WHO, some of whom had been reluctant to talk to AP, that Cheng’s reporting could result in concrete action. They provided further documentation of Dr. Akjemal Magtymova’s management practices in Syria, and Cheng had her exclusive.The story won massive play in the Middle East and WHO dispatched an ethics team to Cairo, while major AP competitors reached out to congratulate Cheng on her scoop.Read more

WHO AP 22292695251986 hm1

Sept. 30, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exposes candidate’s lies; upends one of the year’s most competitive congressional races

This AP exclusive started with a tip: A Republican nominee in Ohio had made questionable claims about his tenure in the Air Force.

J.R. Majewski told voters he was a combat veteran with a tour of duty in Afghanistan, but reporters Brian Slodysko and James LaPorta, joined by investigative researcher Randy Herschaft, reported extensively using public documents, expert interviews and a survey of former employers, revealing that among multiple misrepresentations, Majewski did not deploy to Afghanistan but instead spent six-months loading planes in Qatar. He was also demoted and barred from reenlisting.

The story was a hit with readers and had rival news outlets citing AP’s exclusive, while the Republican Party pulled its advertising money from Majewski, essentially giving up on his race.

For deep source work and dogged reporting that exposed a political candidate’s blatant lies about his record, Slodysko, LaPorta and Herschaft take AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

AP 22261505479359 2000

Sept. 23, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Informant raped during unmonitored drug sting; AP finds little regulation of common police tactic

Investigative reporter Jim Mustian told the exclusive story of a female informant raped twice in an undercover drug sting after her law enforcement handlers left her alone and unmonitored — a case that revealed the perils such informants can face while seeking to “work off” criminal charges in often secretive arrangements.

Mustian spent weeks interviewing sources and obtaining confidential documents after receiving a tip about the incident which took place in central Louisiana early last year. His reporting showed authorities’ apparent disregard for the safety of the informant, while experts told him that such drug stings are conducted countless times a day across the country, but they are notoriously unregulated.

Mustian’s story was among the most-read stories of the week on AP News and earned prominent play by AP members and customers.

For deep reporting that exposed a horrific case and took a hard look at a common police practice, Mustian earns AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

AP 22255525095604 2000