May 27, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Smarts and hustle put AP ahead on guilty plea in Floyd killing

The Minneapolis team of Amy Forliti, Steve Karnowski and Mohamed Ibrahim used diligent beat work and hustle to give AP a major win on the surprise guilty plea from one of three fired Minneapolis police officers facing trial in George Floyd’s killing.Forliti, who monitors legal developments around the officers in the Floyd case, spotted an unexpected May 18 hearing scheduled for Thomas Lane, but no other details — unusual for the Floyd case. Karnowski and Ibrahim were quickly hustled to the hearing while Forliti reworked longstanding prep copy for a possible plea — which was exactly what happened.

Although two other outlets also learned of the hearing and were in attendance, AP had an alert out five minutes ahead of the nearest competitor, and an hour or more ahead of some major national news organizations.Read more

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Nov. 25, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Innocent suspects face terrible choice: Plead guilty or risk life in prison

for using data and shoe-leather reporting to spotlight a terrible choice faced by many innocent people in a judicial system full of overworked defense lawyers and expedient judges and prosecutors: Plead guilty or risk going to prison for life. Last year, they found, 68 of 157 exonerations were in cases in which the defendant had pleaded guilty after facing that choice. http://apne.ws/2fVEf1O

Nov. 21, 2016

Best of the States

Innocent suspects face terrible choice: plead guilty or risk life in prison

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit. But as Richmond-based reporter Alanna Durkin Richer and Miami legal affairs reporter Curt Anderson found, it happens more often than you might think.

Digging through publicly available data on exonerations, they found alarming statistics: More than 300 of the roughly 1,900 people who have been exonerated in the U.S. since 1989 pleaded guilty. So Richer and Anderson set out to explain why anyone would plead guilty to a crime he or she didn’t commit ...

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May 31, 2018

Best of the States

Mentally disabled man made false confession to murder in 1998 – now it's used against him

A mentally disabled Louisiana man walked free last week after 20 years in prison for a killing his attorneys say he didn't commit. But New Orleans reporter Janet McConnaughey questioned why his plea agreement blames him for obstructing justice.

Corey Williams was a 16-year-old who still sucked his thumb, often wet himself and had been hospitalized for extreme lead poisoning when Shreveport, Louisiana, police brought him in for questioning in 1998 about a shooting that killed a pizza deliveryman.

For hours, he said he was innocent. Finally, Williams told police he did it and wanted to go home and lie down.

Two decades later, with doubts swirling around his murder conviction and the case submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court for review, Williams accepted a plea agreement, pleading guilty to manslaughter and obstructing justice.

McConnaughey asked the district attorney's office for documentation outlining the plea deal. There it was: Williams said he’d obstructed justice by removing evidence from the crime scene and by providing “a false inculpatory statement to police." Williams’ signature was in inch-high printing, with big circles over the i’s.

McConnaughey’s story received strong use by AP customers. For pursuing the underlying details and shining a light on a deal that set Williams free – but only after putting the blame on himself for a false confession – McConnaughey wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 17, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation reveals pattern of beatings, shrouded in secrecy, by Louisiana State Police

Law enforcement reporters Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg built on their previous reporting to document a devastating pattern of violence and secrecy at the Louisiana State Police, identifying at least a dozen beating cases over the past decade in which troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct.

Their exclusive investigation stems from the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene — initially blamed on a car crash. That case was blown open this spring when the AP published long-withheld video showing state troopers stunning, punching and dragging the Black motorist as he pleaded for mercy. Mustian and Bleiberg proceeded to scour investigative records and work sources, finding a disproportionate use of force against Louisiana’s Black population and an absence of transparency and accountability in the agency.

Impact from this latest story was swift, from the head of the state police to a Louisiana congressman and others calling for investigation and reform.

For dogged reporting that peeled back the layers of case after case to reveal a pattern of abuse — and is effecting change in Louisiana — Mustian and Bleiberg earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Distinctive reporting gives voice to fastest-growing US county

upended stereotypes with a deeply textured, intimate examination of a North Dakota community transformed by sudden growth.As part of the AP's ongoing coverage of the 2020 Census, Montana-based Brown went to McKenzie County, North Dakota — the center of the western oil boom and the fastest-growing county in the U.S. — to examine the impact of dramatic growth on a sleepy community on the western prairie. He charted the growth through the eyes of the people, from the old-timers who remembered riding horses through fields now lined with housing developments and oil wells, to newcomers finding their way into the fabric of the community.The story that emerged in Brown’s evocative words and photos came as something of a counternarrative to preconceived notions about how divided Americans are from one another. As revealed in graphics by Francois Duckett, a significant portion of McKenzie County’s newcomers are Hispanic, but many of those Brown interviewed described being embraced by the locals: the new restaurant owner helped along by customers who responded during the pandemic, or a transplanted family touched by the small-town charm of friendly faces saying hello in the grocery store.Brown’s nuanced reporting and writing gave his story a compelling narrative arc and showed the value of going to see firsthand what happens when a community is confronted with dramatic growth. https://aplink.news/bea

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Oct. 08, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Accounting and Accountability: AP follows the money, finds most ‘rescue’ funds unspent

Earlier this year, states and cities across the country pleaded for a pandemic “rescue” plan to avoid a fiscal cliff, and they got it: $350 billion from Washington for local and state governments. Five months later, AP State Government Team reporter David Lieb dug into the data, state by state, city by city. He found that states overall had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5% — not such an emergency after all.

It was a dramatic finding from an ongoing series of accountability stories led by AP’s state government and data teams tracking hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic aid.

As Lieb gathered and analyzed the reports, data journalist Camille Fassett prepared the information for wider distribution to customers who used it for their own localized reporting.

Play for the story was outstanding. It landed on the front pages of dozens of AP’s biggest customers, online and print, and drew readership on AP News. For distinctive accountability journalism that delivered on both the national and local level, Lieb and Fassett earn AP’s Best of Week — First Winner.

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July 23, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals the inside story of glaring vaccine inequity globally

turned a year spent tracking global vaccine distribution into an authoritatively sobering assessment: A grotesque vaccine disparity has emerged between rich and poor countries, at a scale even experts who’d warned of inequitable distribution hadn’t envisioned.Tapping connections worldwide, including officials and bankers who participated in key behind-the-scenes vaccine discussions in Europe and the U.S., the AP trio found that negotiators acknowledged they could have made bigger demands of pharmaceutical companies — but that it was now too late. They also learned that COVAX, the United Nations’ vaccine procurement effort, simply did not have the cash to make deals when rich countries were buying up all the supplies, while pleas for funding to the World Bank and others were rejected.What emerged was a richly reported piece that lays out the specific reasons behind the glaring disparities and contradicts the sweeping pandemic rhetoric about global solidarity: European and American officials deeply involved in bankrolling and distributing the vaccines told the AP there was no thought of how to handle the situation globally. Instead, they jostled for their own domestic use. https://aplink.news/wjg

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May 21, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Gaza team evacuates, responds with outstanding coverage as airstrike destroys AP’s building

Last Saturday afternoon, the AP’s staff in the Gaza Strip received an urgent call: They had less than an hour to evacuate the office before the Israeli military planned to destroy the entire building. Staff and freelancers scrambled to pack up whatever equipment and belongings they could carry, but even as they rushed to safety they continued reporting the news, including smartphone video of the evacuation and a live shot set up on a neighboring building. 

Moments later, an Israeli airstrike flattened the 12-story building that had served as a second home in one of the world’s most challenging war zones for the past 15 years. The AP team captured the dramatic scene for all formats, then, despite the stunning turn of events, quickly regrouped to continue their coverage of the ongoing conflict. 

The destruction of the building capped a difficult week in which Gaza came under intense Israeli aerial bombing, and thousands of rockets were launched into Israel.  AP’s staff on both sides of the conflict rose to the occasion, presenting fast, accurate stories, powerful photography, gripping video. 

For extreme dedication in the most difficult of circumstances, and their commitment to covering the conflict even at great personal risk, the Gaza team of Fares Akram, Najib Jobain, Rashed Rashid, Khalil Hamra, Hatem Moussa, Adel Hana, Mohammed Jahjouh and Wafaa Shurafa is the unanimous pick for Best of the Week honors.

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June 04, 2021

Best of the States

Multiformat team delivers expansive AP coverage during centennial of Tulsa Race Massacre

With the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre months away, text and visual journalists from AP’s Race and Ethnicity, Central Region and Enterprise teams embarked on a plan to dig deeper into the story of the atrocity, well beyond just covering the centennial events.

The team started arriving in Tulsa weeks ahead of the anniversary to explore the city and meet descendants of massacre survivors, who opened up about the horrific event and how it continues to impact their families and the community. Among those they met was the family of Ernestine Alpha Gibbs, who survived the massacre and died 18 years ago at age 100.

Their efforts resulted in a comprehensive package of enterprise stories, from the lost wealth and racial inequality that Black Tulsans have endured, to the descendants of Black victims preparing to resume a search for mass graves, to an examination of how history books and law enforcement have depicted the massacre, and much more. 

The coverage was not without breaking news. In addition to a visit by President Joe Biden, AP learned that the weekend’s headline event was canceled because of a disagreement over payments to three survivors for their appearance at the event. 

For sweeping enterprise and spot coverage that raises awareness of this grim milestone in American race relations, this multiformat team earns AP’s Best of the States award.

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