July 14, 2023
Beat of the Week
Yearlong photo project shines spotlight on coal-country drag
help show that this is more than just entertaining, but a way of life.Read more.
help show that this is more than just entertaining, but a way of life.Read more.
AP Richmond reporter Sarah Rankin learned from a state lawmaker that Chinese coal ash was being imported into Virginia, despite millions of tons of ash already stored near power plants, threatening surface and ground water with contamination by heavy metals. Like other states, Virginia is struggling with how to dispose of its existing waste.
Her story pinpointed where the overseas ash was coming from: China, India and Poland over the past two years. While the foreign shipments of the industrial byproduct were moving through Virginia to Wisconsin and Ohio, interviews with concrete producers and coal ash recyclers and sellers showed more ash was being imported into Virginia from other states.
One environmentalist raised the irony of the situation: "We have millions of tons of this sitting along our riverbanks. Why in the world would we be importing it from other states and countries?"
For exposing a problematic industry practice with statewide environmental and health implications, Rankin's story wins this week's Best of the States.
for combing through water pollution reports posted by hundreds of utilities to reveal the scope of contamination from the dumping of coal ash from power plants into man-made ponds and landfills. http://bit.ly/2FpCHci
for leading strong AP coverage of the devastation of Hurricane Florence. Biesecker drew on experience to warn readers that the storm would likely cause widespread water pollution from ruptured hog lagoons and swamped coal ash dumps, and scored a series of storm-related scoops. Helber captured iconic images including a widely used aerial shot that earned a rare two-page spread in Time magazine.https://bit.ly/2xMWdwMhttps://bit.ly/2NEn7lrhttps://bit.ly/2zw7WlNhttps://bit.ly/2Og1G9U
for working with newspapers and broadcast outlets in Washington state to file a lawsuit over access to legislative records. http://bit.ly/2fkqC0h
for following up the Trump administration’s actions promoting the coal industry with a reality check story and a quickly turned enterprise piece about what the actions might mean for one coal town. The latter story prompted a tweet from the president. http://apne.ws/2oF2cS5 http://apne.ws/2oDzzVQ
for a report that the Trump administration is considering using military bases as other federal properties on the West Coast to export coal and natural gas to Asia after several major port proposals have been blocked by coastal states. https://bit.ly/2J2Xzca
Coal-burning generating plants are closing in the U.S., and coal mines are shutting down amid worries of climate change and the new economies of renewable energy.
Against that backdrop, correspondents Felicia Fonseca and Susan Montoya Bryan traveled to Arizona’s remote Navajo Generating Station to the tell the story of workers, their families, a community and the tribal nations who have depended on coal and are feeling the profound effects of the plant’s impending closure.
In their all-formats package, the pair let workers explain what they were losing, and how the local economy is taking a massive hit with millions of dollars of revenue no longer flowing to the Hopi and Navajo tribes.
For a comprehensive, compelling look at the impact of coal’s decline on a community and a culture, Fonseca and Montoya earn this week’s Best of the States award.
The world watched enthralled on Jan. 23 as little-known Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself president of the struggling South American nation and called on socialist President Nicolas Maduro to resign. More surprising still, the United States, Canada and a host of Latin American countries recognized Guaido almost immediately as the country’s rightful leader.
The timing was clearly no coincidence, but what exactly had happened?
Andean News Director Josh Goodman, Canada Bureau Chief Rob Gillies and Washington newsman Luis Alonso shared first-rate source work to scoop everyone, revealing a coordinated behind-the-scenes push to back Guaido that read like a spy novel. For weeks, a coalition of Latin American governments had launched secret diplomatic efforts, including encrypted messages and a furtive trip by Guaido to Washington, Bogota and Brasilia to build a strategy around the baby-faced Assembly president.
So far, the AP is the only media outlet to have told this story, and it has been widely used inside and outside Venezuela. Even embattled President Maduro praised the AP scoop to supporters at a rally over the weekend.
For their resourceful and consequential news break on one of the top stories in the world, Goodman, Gillies and Alonso win AP’s Best of the Week.
Washington science writer Seth Borenstein knew the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was not going to notify anyone when it posted new data on the nation’s air quality for 2018, but he knew where it would be posted. He also knew that the Trump administration was poised to replace an Obama-era clean-air rule with a new regulation that was friendlier to coal-fired power plants, so he kept checking for the agency’s data.
When the data finally showed up, Borenstein teamed with New York-based Health and Science data journalist Nicky Forster to evaluate the data, put it in context and run it by scientists. Forster even pointed out errors that the EPA was forced to correct.
Their persistence made AP the first to report that the annual number of days of poor air quality in the U.S. had increased for the second year in a row, after decades of improvement. The story ran on the eve of the EPA’s announcement of its loosened regulation, undermining the rationale for the new standards with the government’s own numbers. Trump’s new rule, experts told the AP, could turn what is so far a modest backslide into a deadly trend.
For diligent reporting and sophisticated analysis to hold a federal agency accountable for its data and regulatory policy, Borenstein and Forster earn this week’s Best of the States award.
AP reporting on energy policies in all 50 states led to an unexpected discovery: Roughly two-thirds of states in the U.S. plan to use nuclear power as an essential part of their plan to replace fossil fuels.
That resurgence in nuclear energy, despite its downsides, launched AP coverage of the latest nuclear technology and the impact on local communities, particularly those dependent on coal: a small Wyoming town replacing its coal plant with a nontraditional nuclear reactor by a Bill Gates-founded company, and a town in Colorado where coal is being phased out after generations, with no plans to replace it. “We can’t recover from that,” a former mayor told the AP.
The all-formats work showed the nation’s struggles as it shifts energy sources to stave off the worst effects of climate change. And showcasing the AP’s 50-state footprint, a localization guide enabled AP’s customers to bring the debate home for their own audiences. The package played widely at home and abroad, from local papers to national news outlets.
For superior coverage bringing to light developments in energy policy across the country and the effects on people at a local level, the team ofJennifer McDermott, Brady McCombs, Mead Gruver, Patty Nieberg, Rick Bowmer, Elaine Thompson, Manuel Valdes and Natalie Behring is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.
for an AP investigation that found thousands more civilian deaths caused by the U.S.-led coalition in Mosul than earlier acknowledged. http://bit.ly/2phgQ3a
provided an intimate and visually captivating portrait of the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard as its residents persevered through the round-the-clock polar night.
The AP team established a close rapport with the pastor in the community, joined the church’s children’s choir on a trip to a Russian/Ukrainian village, and spent a day at a century-old coal mine threatened with closure in two years. The trip had extra challenges for photo and video because it took place in mid-winter. For Cole, it meant developing a special sensitivity for light – from the glow of the aurora to the beam of a headlamp. Read more.
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.
for revealing that in the turmoil over the government shutdown, a tax that pays for medical treatment for black lung sufferers was quietly cut in half. Lovan broke the story with a muscular multimedia package demonstrating the decision’s impact at its most human, visceral level – and placed that in the context of the Trump administration’s promises to save the coal industry. https://bit.ly/2YkBNYuhttps://bit.ly/2WveFFd
provided fast and comprehensive all-formats coverage of protests against a move to demolish a hamlet to make way for a coal mine in western Germany. The team braved rain, mud and frigid temperatures to bring the coverage -- including more than 20 hours of live video and an interview with climate campaigner Greta Thunberg – to the world.Read more.
delivered a distinctive enterprise package, shining light on the little-recognized 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre which involved the killings of at least 25 Black people and the destruction of Black-owned businesses.Warren, an Atlanta desk editor who also writes and edits for the AP’s Race and Ethnicity Team, has a passion and eye for history, particularly overlooked events related to race. Through diligent source work and reporting — and despite the misgivings of some Atlantans — he and multiformat colleague Sharon Johnson developed an engaging all-formats package raising awareness of the massacre and making it relevant to the current racial reckoning in the U.S.Read more
AP journalists from Kentucky and beyond responded to June 28’s torrential rainfall and historic flooding with a remarkable run of enterprise work spun from the breaking news, telling the deeper stories behind the tragedy in poignant and authoritative text, photos and video.From the impact on a region already struggling with the coal industry’s rapid decline to intimate stories of families coping with profound loss, the AP led with sweeping, insightful coverage, offering detail and context that can only come from familiarity with the landscape and its people.Read more
set out to explore the abortion rights resistance — dedicated advocates for abortion access who are grappling with what is expected to be a wave of women seeking abortions as the U.S. Supreme Court takes aim at Roe v. Wade and states tighten restrictions, pushing pregnant people farther from home — some hundreds of miles away.After interviewing more than a dozen people, the pair reported for all-formats on a woman with a Midwest coalition providing “practical support” for women seeking abortions. Galofaro and Irvine spent days on her Missouri farm, shadowing Alison Dreith as she fielded calls on a hotline used by women desperate for help.And a companion story revealed the deeply religious employees of an Alabama abortion clinic who have no trouble reconciling their work with their religion, breaking preconceptions about the religious divide over abortion.Both stories won wide use and high reader engagement, prompting praise for balanced, nuanced coverage.Read more
obtained rare access to members of Haiti’s wealthy elite — and to the violent gangs that threaten them — for a deep look at doing business in this failed state. Using contacts and determination and building trust, they explored how entrepreneurs continue to operate in an environment where more than 100 heavily armed gangs control access to the port, the fuel and the food supply chains. Kidnappings and killings are not uncommon in the impoverished capital, leaderless after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.During their reporting, the pair was threatened verbally by people who didn't want to be photographed and with weapons by gangsters who didn't want them there at all. After many attempts, Buenos-Aires based photographer Abd and freelance reporter Arce finally gained access to Barbecue, the leader of a coalition of gangs who presents himself as a populist fighting economic injustices, but who operates as an armed thug instilling fear in the people.The piece was among AP’s top stories in reader engagement and earned kudos from Pulitzer Center funders: “(Abd and Arce) avoided all the easy frameworks ... and did a fantastic job depicting the abject inequity that is at the root of Haiti's social/economic collapse,” wrote Executive Editor Marina Walker. https://aplink.news/wzdhttps://aplink.photos/b47