March 08, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP beats everyone on Mitch McConnell’s decision to step down

Even before Mitch McConnell began speaking in the well of the Senate on Feb. 28, everyone knew what the majority leader’s historic announcement would be. That was because AP had already delivered the news, beating all the competition.

Deputy Bureau Chief Mike Tackett had obtained McConnell’s remarks in advance, saying that he planned to step down in November to close his run as the longest-serving Senate leader. Tackett also worked out an agreement that AP could publish before McConnell made his announcement on the Senate floor.

Tackett, who is writing a biography on McConnell, worked closely with digital politics editor Katie Vogel and Washington text editor Tom Strong to make sure copy was edited and ready go. When the time came, Strong filed the urgent copy perfectly with the APNewsAlert and full story moving within the same minute.

The news sent a buzz through the Senate floor, and several journalists there asked Tackett how he did it.

Tackett’s source work also enabled Congress reporter Mary Clare Jalonick and chief congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro to dive straight into the ‘what happens next’ portion of reporting instead of having to focus on the breaking news.

For delivering a package that kept AP ahead of amazed competitors through the day, Tackett, Vogel, Strong, Mascaro and Jalonick are this week’s 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. 05, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

36 days at sea: How castaways survived hallucinations, thirst and desperation

In a partner story to “Adrift,” an AP team tracked down migrants who survived 36 days and told the story of their journey.

When video journalist Renata Brito saw the news of the rescue of several dozen men who survived 36 days at sea, she was shocked. Brito has been covering migrant crossings for years and had never heard of people on the route from West Africa to the Canary Islands surviving that long. She wondered what they might have endured during those 36 days, and so, she and photographer Felipe Dana set out to find out.

When the survivors were rescued, they were taken to Cape Verde and locked up in a school. A few days later, Brito and Dana were on a plane to Cape Verde’s Sal Island. Access to survivors, who were essentially detained, was restricted and authorities announced they would fly them back to Dakar in a few hours.

Brito and Dana followed them there, working with AP Dakar colleague Ndeye Sene Mbengue to make contacts with survivors and their families in Fass Boye but found many of the survivors had gone into hiding after returning to Senegal.

Together with Ndeye, they drove to more than five towns across different regions to meet with them. With Ndeye’s help they translated hours of on- and off-camera interviews. Brito kept in touch with survivors after leaving Senegal and obtained the contact of one of the rescuers who had made several cellphone videos the day they were found and brought on board.

The AP got strong user-generated content that showed what the survivors looked like when they were found, barely alive. The result was an all-formats story, complete with an immersive presentation that included creative motion graphics and illustrations.

For powerfully telling an exclusive story that otherwise might not have been told, Brito and Dana win Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 02, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP scores with the kiss seen around the world

Hail Mary? Hail Julio. As swarms of players and media surrounded Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce after the Kansas City Chiefs’ AFC championship win, photographer Julio Cortez captured the perfect shot: the couple kissing on the field, Swift’s hand pressed against Kelce’s cheek. It was an intimate moment amid chaos, one that only Cortez — AP’s chief photographer for Texas and Oklahoma, temporarily returned to Baltimore — got. Other outlets made photos of the couple embracing, but Cortez had the singular — and viral — angle.

Before Sunday’s game, the only photos of Swift’s football attendee era were made in tunnels or from afar as she watched in luxury suites. But Cortez knew that if the Chiefs punched their ticket to another Super Bowl, players’ friends and families would end up on the field. With AP’s Matt Slocum, Alex Brandon and Nick Wass in their assigned on-field positions, Cortez called an audible, walking around the stage to find Swift. A believer in being “pushy but professional,” Cortez “sweet-talked” bodyguards to get into unique position. Swift and Kelce’s reunion was, well, swift. As Kelce “gave her the fastest kiss,” Cortez jumped in front of the NFL Films camera, raising his own over a guard’s head. About a minute after the photo was made, photo editor Mike Stewart knew it was the shot of the game, affixing the golden APTOPIX stamp. It was immediately picked up by hundreds, rocketing around the world with usage by customers ranging from The New York Times, People to India’s Hindustan Times and Argentina’s La Voz.

For an image that’s assuredly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Cortez is Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 05, 2024

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Maui wildfire stories showcase team’s monthslong commitment despite daunting challenges

A series of capstone Maui wildfire stories that ran in the final week of 2023 — one focused on Lahaina’s losses and another on its uncertain future — showcase fruits of the extraordinary effort, commitment and selfless teamwork exhibited by AP’s Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii reporting team over months amid endless challenges to share Lahaina’s plight with the world.Read more

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