July 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: US Navy crews set record for time at sea

broke news with a compelling story about two U.S. warships that set the Navy record – more than five months – for staying at sea as they avoided exposure to COVID-19. Baldor has written extensively about the Navy’s problems coping with the coronavirus pandemic, and her credibility with the Navy gained her access to remotely interview ship captains and crew in the Middle East. https://bit.ly/31xeCyo

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May 08, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive: SEALs tried to locate US captive in Afghanistan

conducted an exclusive investigation into an attempt by Navy SEALs to locate Mark Frerichs, an American contractor kidnapped in Afghanistan by a Taliban-linked militant network. The story, based on conversations with multiple U.S. officials, included sensitive details of the military operation, and revealed the growing exasperation of Frerichs’ family with the U.S. government for not including him in a recent peace deal with the Taliban. https://bit.ly/3do2Wkg

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Aug. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation reveals why a SEAL unit was pulled out of Iraq

relied on strong document work and deep sourcing to report exclusively on the reason a Navy SEAL unit sent to fight ISIS was abruptly pulled out of Iraq last year without explanation. The Navy gave few details, but the monthslong investigation by LaPorta and Watson revealed that female intelligence staffers deployed with a platoon of SEAL Team 7 said they were constantly ogled and sexually harassed during their time in the country. The pair tracked down a female sailor who was deployed with the SEALs who had reported the allegations and who agreed to be quoted on the record in an exclusive interview. The reporting, which began with a Freedom of Information Act request, also uncovered a previously unknown allegation of sexual misconduct against the SEAL platoon chief. https://bit.ly/3gHgpod

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June 14, 2019

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Navy reassigns unconventional war college head after AP reveals probe

“... Due to the distractions caused by the unfounded AP article last week, I am stepping down as President of YOUR college effective immediately.”

Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harley, head of the elite U.S. Naval War College, pushed the button on that all-staff missive Monday after the Navy announced it was reassigning him in the wake of exclusive reporting by Jennifer McDermott and Michelle R. Smith – reporting that produced two APNewsBreaks in 72 hours.

Their first NewsBreak moved Friday, confirming the military was investigating allegations that Harley spent excessively, abused his hiring authority and otherwise behaved inappropriately, including keeping a margarita machine in his office. Three days later, the AP team was first again with word that the Navy was removing Harley from his post pending the outcome of its probe.

Both stories gained huge traction with customers and on social media. The scoops by McDermott’s and Smith were “just the tip of the iceberg,” one source said, and they’ve since led to new tips.

For dogged and diligent reporting that exposed questionable leadership at the heart of the Navy’s brain trust, McDermott and Smith win this week’s Best of the States prize.

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May 24, 2019

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Military prosecutors sent tracking software to defense team, reporter

Los Angeles courts reporter Brian Melley was enjoying a Sunday afternoon when a longtime legal source reached out with a remarkable tip in the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL facing a court martial on charges he murdered a teenage Islamic State fighter in Iraq in 2017.

The source told Melley that military prosecutors, frustrated by leaks in the case, planted tracking software in emails sent to defense lawyers and a reporter. The unsophisticated software was quickly discovered by the recipients.

Melley worked up the story, including an interview with a military law expert who thought the tactic was ethically, legally and intellectually dubious. His story hit the wire the next morning, quickly gaining traction online. AP was widely credited everywhere it appeared and no major media outlet matched it.

For giving AP an exclusive on an important military justice story, Melley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 09, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work breaks news of surge in US military sexual assault

tapped into her deep network of Pentagon sources to score a major scoop a full day ahead of the official announcement: Sexual assaults in the military had increased by 13% last year, largely driven by a 26% surge of reported sexual assaults in the Army.Few reporters have broken as many stories on issues affecting the lives of U.S. service members as Baldor, AP’s longtime military affairs reporter. She had been working sources for weeks before the official report on sexual assault, and knew the Army numbers would be bad. Then a source came through with all 26 pages of the Pentagon talking points, giving her virtually everything she needed to break the story. Many news organizations used Baldor’s story or had to cite AP’s reporting in their own reporting.Read more

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May 14, 2021

Best of the States

Nimble AP reporting reveals Alabama trooper charged in child rape hid alleged misconduct at FBI

In a classic case of keeping an open mind during reporting, AP’s Jim Mustian and Kim Chandler started out reporting one story, but found themselves reporting exclusively that an Alabama state trooper, arrested on charges he raped an 11-year-old girl, had used a forged letter and lied on his application to get hired after being removed from the FBI — also on serious allegations of sexual misconduct.

To federal law enforcement reporter Mustian, this initially appeared as yet another case of the FBI allowing an accused agent to quietly move on with his career. But just as he was about to publish, the FBI said the bureau letter Christopher Bauer submitted to Alabama authorities when he was hired was “not legitimate.” Meanwhile, Chandler, Montgomery statehouse reporter, tracked down Bauer’s application for the trooper job, in which he said he was still employed by the FBI and had never been forced to resign because of disciplinary action.

This had become the story of a former agent, and perhaps others, falsifying his record. The piece was among the week’s top stories on AP News, with nearly 200,000 pageviews.

For deep reporting that followed the story wherever it took them, Mustian and Chandler earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 12, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: As imperiled species recover, some pose threat to others

reported exclusively and in all formats on a little-noticed ripple effect of saving endangerd wildlife: Some formerly imperiled species such as bald eagles, gray seals and merlin falcons are harming the recovery of others in dire shape by outcompeting them for food and living space.Studying scientific papers, interviewing experts and reporting from field — where researchers were using a robotic owl — the journalists found the pattern was showing up repeatedly. It didn’t mean conservation laws and programs were flawed, biologists said, but it showed that rescuing individual species wasn’t always enough — ecosystems need protection as well.Read more

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July 22, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Smart source work delivers exclusive on Polanski case transcript

scooped everyone by obtaining the first copy of a newly unsealed transcript in Roman Polanski's long-running underage sex abuse case, filing a story before anyone else had it, including prosecutors and the director's attorney.Melley drew on experience to quickly find the court reporter and arrange to electronically obtain the 400-page transcript of testimony by a former prosecutor who handled the case. In the previously sealed testimony, the former prosecutor said that the judge in the 1977 case was reneging on a promise not to jail Polanski, prompting the director to flee the country on the eve of sentencing.After receiving the files, Melley worked late into the night to deliver the news, putting AP significantly ahead on a high profile, internationally competitive celebrity court case.Read more

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March 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive AP access to US flight over militarized Chinese islands

were the only journalists invited aboard a U.S. Navy reconnaissance flight over the South China Sea and China’s island outposts in the region. While Favila made photos and video of the Chinese military facilities built on man-made islands — and recorded audio of the warnings the aircraft received from China — Gomez landed an exclusive interview with Adm. John C. Aquilino U.S. Indo-Pacific commander.With the war in Ukraine raising concern over other potential international conflicts, Aquilino told AP that China has fully militarized at least three of several islands it built in the disputed South China Sea and has armed them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment, and fighter jets. He said the increasingly aggressive moves threaten all nations operating nearby. Read more

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March 11, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

As the world watches Ukraine, AP is the world’s eyes on besieged Mariupol

With the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol under siege by Russian forces, two courageous AP journalists, Germany-based video journalist Mstyslav Chernov and Kyiv photographer Evgeniy Maloletka, have been out in the streets, day in and day out, virtually alone in chronicling the city’s fall into chaos, despair and utter isolation, and the suffering of the civilian population.

Driving a van with windows blown out by explosions and filing their video and photos when they can establish communications, the pair has been the world’s only eyes on a key city that is suffering at the hands of the Russian offensive. Their images and words have riveted the world’s attention.

For harrowing reporting from a besieged city that would go unseen without their unflinching courage, we are honored to award the pair AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 25, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Enterprising reporters reveal another China far from Olympic bubble

delivered two compelling stories far from the hermetically sealed and officially sanctioned Olympic bubble, focusing on marginalized people in Chinese society and official efforts to suppress unflattering media.Resourceful reporting by Kang and McNeil revealed the success of Chinese government efforts to subdue unrest in Tibet, the site of violent protests during the 2008 Summer Games hosted by China.And Wu reported the story of a chained woman 500 miles from Beijing who was shown in a viral video with a chain around her neck, her circumstances unclear. Chinese authorities tried to block the video but Wu revealed another side of China, where creative netizens stay one step ahead of the censors to keep injustices from obscurity.AP’s Tibet story was unmatched in any format. Other Chinese and foreign outlets covered the chained woman story, but not with the depth and detail of AP. Read more

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Dec. 10, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation, analysis reveals that despite diversity gains, racism still plagues US military academies

The AP’s groundbreaking investigation of racism and discrimination at the five elite U.S. military academies — based on experiences related by many graduates of color and exclusive analysis of decades of data — exposed racial gaps in the makeup of the academies’ student bodies and graduation rates, despite assurances of diversity and inclusion by the armed services.

Reporters Aaron Morrison and Helen Wieffering, and video journalist Noreen Nasir, gained the trust of current and former academy attendees who described discriminatory treatment, including experiences of being singled out for nonexistent infractions or treated like stereotypes.

Data intern Jasen Lo handled the analysis of demographics and graduation rates, finding that at the Naval Academy, for instance, there were 73 Black midshipmen in the class of 2000 — and just 77 in 2020. Black midshipmen also had the lowest graduation rate of any racial group at the academy.

For an enlightening and enterprising story that showed how far the U.S. military still needs to go to rectify racial inequality at its prestigious service academies, the team of Morrison, Wieffering, Nasir and Lo earns Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Oct. 08, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AWOL Weapons: AP finds tracking tech could aid enemy

collaborated across formats to report on the latest story in AP’s ongoing investigation of missing military weapons, revealing a weapon-tracking technology that the U.S. Department of Defense itself describes as a “significant” security risk.After showing that the military has lost track of at least 1,900 guns, investigative reporter LaPorta and team trained their sights on how technology might help in weapons accountability. They found that one solution — putting radio frequency identification tracking tags inside guns — has introduced a security vulnerability into Army and Air Force units because it could help even relatively low-tech enemies target U.S. troops on the battlefield. The Pentagon originally appeared unaware that some units were using RFID, then said it allows service branches to explore innovative solutions. To demonstrate the highly technical story in understandable ways, LaPorta and editor Pritchard arranged field testing that showed the tags could be tracked from much greater distances than RFID contractors acknowledge. Photographer Berger and video journalist Chea illustrated the testing. Producers Roosblad and Hamlin turned that material into a sharp explainer video with the help of editors Ohm and Vadarevu. Storytelling producer Castañeda curated the AWOL Weapons hub and worked with Sison for the photo edit, while Nashville’s Hall contributed important reporting.https://aplink.news/cqmhttps://aplink.video/6l4https://apnews.com/hub/awol-we...

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July 30, 2021

Best of the States

Only on AP: 20 years later, chaplain’s litany of prayers for US troops killed in Afghanistan finally comes to an end

With the end of the war in Afghanistan looming, national writer Matt Sedensky sought a compelling way to humanize America’s longest war — and he found it. Nearly all the American troops killed in the war had their remains returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where the military runs a mortuary. There, Sedensky found chaplain David Sparks, who had been called to active duty after 9/11, assigned to the mortuary, and had been there ever since.

Sedensky pieced together Sparks’ experience: writing hundreds of prayers for the dead, standing beside their disfigured remains and ministering to their broken families. Joined by New York video journalist Jessie Wardarski and Washington photographer Carolyn Kaster, the team had access to parts of the base hidden far from public view. The resulting package, with Sedensky’s expressive prose and affecting visuals by Wardarski and Kaster, generated a strong response from veterans and non-military alike.

For intimate, revealing work that eloquently writes one of the closing chapters of America’s 20-year war, the team of Sedensky, Kaster and Wardarski earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Resourceful reporting, legal challenge reveal FBI going for the gold

has been breaking news about buried treasure since 2018, when the FBI conducted a secretive dig in a remote area of Pennsylvania, aimed at recovering a legendary cache of stolen Civil War-era gold. The FBI has long refused to confirm it was searching for the fabled gold — while also insisting it didn’t find whatever it was hoping to dig up.Rubinkam knew the FBI needed a federal search warrant to gain access to the site, but every document in the case was sealed ... as if the case didn’t exist. With help from AP attorney Brian Barrett and a Philadelphia-based media lawyer, a judge lifted the sealing order, revealing a veritable gold mine of news and confirming Rubinkam’s previous reporting: that the feds were, indeed, looking for gold. Among the details in the FBI’s unsealed affidavit: A contractor’s sensitive instruments had detected a huge underground mass with the density of gold.What the unsealed case didn’t include was a document describing what the FBI actually found. Federal prosecutors assert no such document exists because the dig came up empty. But the treasure hunters who led the FBI to the site in the first place believe the evidence says otherwise. They are seeking FBI records of the dig.Rubinkam’s story was among the top 10 most-viewed stories on apnews.com last week. It appeared on newspapers' front pages and spurred follow-ups, including by The Washington Post.https://aplink.news/gcohttps://aplink.news/jyq

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Aug. 12, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Deep sourcing and sensitive reporting deliver blockbuster on Mormon sex abuse cover-up

AP investigative reporter Mike Rezendes’ years of source work led him to a stunning discovery: a so-called help line that enabled a cover-up of sex abuse in the Mormon church community, including the case of a 5-year-old Arizona girl, molested by her father for seven years while church leaders were aware of the abuse.

Rezendes, video journalist Jessie Wardarski and photographer Dario Lopez met with victims and their families, earning their trust and telling the story in the victims’ own voices. The resulting package, including illustrations by Peter Hamlin, was one of AP’s most-viewed investigative projects of the year, protecting the victims even as it revealed a systemic effort to cover up horrific child sex abuse.

For deep sourcing and commitment to report a story with both impact and sensitivity, Mike Rezendes, Jessie Wardarski, Dario Lopez, Peter Hamlin and Randy Herschaft earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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