Sept. 16, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP/‘Frontline’: Michael Flynn building Christian nationalist movement

teamed up with PBS “Frontline” on a deeply reported all-formats investigative package revealing how retired lieutenant general and former national security adviser Michael Flynn has used public appearances, endorsements and a network of well-funded groups to build a movement centered on Christian nationalist ideas.Smith spoke with more than 60 people, from Flynn’s family and friends to his opponents, examined dozens of Flynn’s speeches, interviews and other appearances, reviewed campaign finance records, corporate and charity filings, social media posts, as well as attending Flynn events. She also landed a rare interview with the retired three-star general — the footage edited by AP investigative video journalist Roosblad — and spent two days reporting on the ReAwaken America tour in upstate New York, along with photographer Kaster and a “Frontline” crew.The joint AP/“Frontline” reporting found Flynn deliberately and systematically driving a far-right political narrative with the goal of influencing elections this year and beyond.Read more

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Dec. 16, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Ransomed: The freeing of 226 Christians from Islamic State

What AP’s Lori Hinnant knew, from a conversation with Beirut bureau chief Zeina Karam early this year, amounted to a fascinating mystery: A series of Syrian villages had been emptied and many of their people taken hostage by the Islamic State group, but now most appeared to be free. It was clear that ransoms were paid, but no one would talk about how it happened.

The hostages were more than 200 Assyrian Christians who were rescued through a fundraising effort among the vanishing people’s global diaspora that brought in millions of dollars. These were the broad outlines of the story that Hinnant’s months of reporting confirmed, but even better were the exclusive details she unearthed _ including IS sending one villager with a ransom note to his bishop, the church dinners and concerts held around the world for donations, and the decision, fraught with ethical qualms and legal risks, to pay a ransom.

Hinnant’s resulting “thriller,” as one admirer called it, is the Beat of the Week.

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Oct. 14, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

At the intersection of politics and religion, AP reports from Michael Flynn’s Christian nationalist road show

Michael Flynn’s ReAwaken America cross-country tour has attracted lots of media attention, but journalists trying to cover it have faced a hostile environment. So correspondent Michelle Smith and photographer Carolyn Kaster simply bought tickets to the tour’s stop in upstate New York.

The decision to go as attendees made all the difference: The two were fully engaged in Flynn’s world for two days, documenting an event at the heart of an ascendent Christian nationalist movement. And Washington colleague Richard Lardner added more reporting as he monitored the event on livestream.

The trio’s story, part of an AP investigation in partnership with PBS “Frontline,” detailed how Flynn and allies are using ReAwaken America to spread divisive rhetoric and conspiracy theories targeting democratic ideas and institutions while urging people to join and take action. The compelling all-formats coverage has won strong play and readership.For an up-close, insightful package on a far-right movement spearheaded by a former general close to Donald Trump, Smith, Kaster and Lardner earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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May 17, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals: Pakistani Christian girls trafficked to China as brides

for an excellent example of cross-regional cooperation that uncovered how Pakistan’s poor Christian population has become a new target in China’s market for foreign brides, leading to hundreds of girls being trafficked to China – a trade that has not been previously reported in international media. In the slums around Punjab, Gannon immersed herself in Pakistan’s Christian community, meeting a dozen brides and girls, and finding brokers and local priests complicit in the trade. Kang, meanwhile, worked the China side. With Wang’s help he eventually tracked down one husband in a small village, providing the other side of the story. The result was the first story on the subject beyond small stories in Pakistani media that didn’t capture the full scope of the trade. https://bit.ly/2PSpNtDhttps://bit.ly/2VDl1q7

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Aug. 16, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Reporters overcome fears to expose faith crackdown in China

The assignment always promised to be a challenge: talk with Christians in China about a state crackdown on their faith when many are afraid to speak out for fear of government retribution.

When reporter Yanan Wang, photographer Han Guan Ng and video journalist Emily Wang visited cities in China’s Christian heartland, they discovered the government’s campaign to “Sinicize” Christianity was far more aggressive than previously known. Hundreds of informal churches in private homes were shuttered. Gatherings were raided. Bibles were seized. Authorities ordered posters of Jesus replaced with portraits of President Xi Jinping.

For careful, persistent reporting to expose what experts and activists described as the most severe systematic repression of Christianity since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982, the three win this week’s Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Agency exclusive video of Ted Cruz in Cancun

collaborated to give the AP an agency exclusive with video of Sen. Ted Cruz at Cancun’s airport as he was returning to the U.S. amid the backlash over leaving Texas during the deadly winter storm.Triboulard, senior producer in Mexico City, had alerted Rojas about the potential scandal brewing in the U.S. and Rojas, freelance Cancun video journalist, immediately began reaching out to local contacts after images started circulating on Twitter purporting to show Cruz en route to Cancun with his family. After hearing the senator was booked on a return flight early that afternoon, she rushed to the airport and was there when he showed up to check in. Rojas followed the visibly annoyed Cruz through the terminal to the security checkpoint, getting not just video but also eliciting comment from the senator, who said that he was headed home to work on helping Texans. Cruz’s comments were immediately included in the AP’s text story. A competitive agency had to obtain video of Cruz from its Mexican partner, Telemundo, moving it more than an hour after AP’s fast file. https://bit.ly/2ZSVsRf

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Sept. 13, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scores series of beats on California boat fire that killed 34

for excellent source reporting and coordination that allowed AP to scoop other news outlets, often by hours, on several aspects of the aftermath of a diving boat fire, including: the recovery of 25 bodies, that the boat’s owners had preemptively sued to limit victims’ lawsuits, and that search warrants in a criminal inquiry were being served.https://bit.ly/2kB4XDPhttps://bit.ly/2kDNY3Bhttps://bit.ly/2lL2Mhihttps://bit.ly/2kE9Vjd

Oct. 09, 2020

Best of the States

AP ties Supreme Court nominee to faith group said to subjugate women

When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Barrett and her supporters clearly did not want to discuss the nominee’s reported ties to a religious group called People of Praise.

Enter reporters Michelle Smith and Michael Biesecker. Using on-the-record interviews and an archive of deleted web pages, the pair documented Barrett's deep ties to the charismatic Christian group and painted a detailed picture of the organization’s beliefs and practices from its early days to the present. And the reporters went on to reveal how the organization had systematically deleted all mentions of Barrett and her family from its website.

For deep, resourceful reporting that sheds new light on the current Supreme Court nominee on the cusp of her confirmation hearings, Smith and Biesecker share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 19, 2021

Best of the States

AP team finds diversity of politics and religion among West Virginia evangelicals

A tweet was the seed for this illuminating story. “Most people in my rural, Appalachian hometown are being radicalized at church by their pastor, which is the person they trust the most,” it read. AP’s Global Religion team ran with it.

Reporter Luis Andres Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski visited the parishioners of three churches in Bluefield, West Virginia, including one pastor who had attended the Jan. 6 Washington rally that degenerated into a riot. The AP pair spent weeks convincing him to sit down for an interview. The result was an all-formats package of diverse congregations seeking common ground, even as they are divided on the role of evangelical Christianity in American politics. 

For applying gentle persuasion and balanced reporting to produce a nuanced look at religion and politics in one West Virginia town, Henao and Wardarski win this week’s Best of the States award. 

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March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Science-based reality check on pope’s planned Iraq trip

teamed up to provide a science-based reality check to the pope’s planned trip to Iraq. Their story raised questions about how the Vatican can justify going through with the trip during a global pandemic. Chief Vatican correspondent Winfield had been preparing a preview on the Iraq trip and Christian-Muslim relations, but while interviewing experts she realized that the virus issues would dominate that story. Instead, she and Baghdad colleague Kullab hustled to put together a weekend piece focused exclusively on the virus, adding a valuable story to AP’s planned trip line-up.Beyond the obvious risks involved in any mass religious gathering, the story also raised the more problematic optics of having a vaccinated papal delegation descend on a country where the virus is surging, the vaccine campaign hasn’t even begun and where an already fragile health care system has been weakened by war and economic crises. The story was well timed, given the day it moved the pope’s own ambassador to Iraq tested positive. https://bit.ly/2O0EcHD

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Oct. 22, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP teams examine vaccine hesitancy, inequality in Africa

delivered two distinctive packages from Africa on vaccine hesitancy and gender inequality in the pandemic response on the continent — bolstering AP’s strong record of reporting on global inequity during the coronavirus outbreak.Teamwork and deep reporting from Gambia resulted in a visually stunning package that revealed Africa’s women as being the least vaccinated population in the world and explained why, bringing readers and viewers into the women’s lives.West Africa bureau chief Larson, senior producer Fisch and photographer Correa first focused on an oyster and fishing collective to better understand the women’s precarious financial position and why that makes them hesitant to get vaccinated. The team also trekked into Gambia’s interior, gaining the trust of a village chief who assembled his community to come talk to the AP about their fears and concerns around vaccination.The stunning package featured the women’s own voices and striking portraits, underscoring the cultural pressures the women face and the power of misinformation. A sidebar by Cheng expanded on the international scale of the problem, reinforcing AP’s commitment to covering global vaccine inequality as a major theme for 2021.Thousands of miles to the south, Zimbabwe stringer Mutsaka and photographer Mukwazhi worked relentlessly to build trust with one of Zimbabwe's leading churches, producing the first in-depth story from Africa on the role of the church in promoting vaccines. The Apostolic Christian Church has a strong distrust of modern medicine and is among the most skeptical churches in the country when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.Mukwazhi and Mutsaka made contacts, including a church leader who was encouraging worshippers to get vaccinated, and the AP pair was permitted to cover an outdoor service where vaccinations were discussed, the congregants wrapped in white robes. The resulting all-formats package, compelling and sensitively reported, tenderly illustrated the dilemma confronting many Zimbabwean churches regarding COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.https://aplink.news/mrwhttps://aplink.news/oalhttps://aplink.news/dlrhttps://aplink.video/8nqhttps://aplink.photos/jnuhttps://aplink.news/oryhttps://aplink.video/2bp

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June 19, 2020

Best of the States

AP teams deliver a deeply reported all-formats profile of George Floyd

The story of George Floyd’s death will likely endure as a pivotal moment in civil rights and police accountability, but his life – from a start in Houston public housing to his death in Minneapolis, where he hoped to start a new chapter – wasn’t lived in a spotlight. 

In a uniquely AP collaboration across states and disciplines, AP journalists turned to people who knew Floyd from his childhood through his adult years, weaving together his story in all formats, enhanced by existing video of the man. The result was a revealing, deeply reported profile, including Floyd’s brief turns as a football player, rapper and bouncer, time in prison and days spent trying to help mentor kids to avoid his mistakes. 

For persistent, collaborative and creative storytelling that goes to the heart of the tragedy that unfolded in Minneapolis, the multiformat team of Luis Andres Henao, Juan Lozano, Nomaan Merchant, Adam Geller, John Mone, David Phillip and Aaron Morrison shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 08, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Dodging flames, AP team delivers extraordinary all-formats coverage of raging California wildfires

When two burning tree limbs crashed in flames on the exact spot where Marcio Sanchez had been standing just moments earlier, the shaken AP Los Angeles photographer called two colleagues to check that they both had his wife’s phone number, figuring that “if something happened to me, they could tell her.” He then plunged back to work, capturing vivid images of the furious wildfires tearing across swaths of California.

That incident captured the commitment of AP journalists during a frenetic week documenting the wind-whipped wildfires and accompanying blackouts. Sanchez was joined in the riveting coverage by photographers Noah Berger and Greg Bull, reporters Janie Har and Don Thompson, and more than a dozen others on the ground and in AP bureaus.

The engrossing, all-formats coverage was among the most popular on AP all week.

For their extraordinary work during a hectic and dangerous week, Sanchez, Berger, Bull, Thompson and Har share AP’s Best of the Week.  

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Dec. 06, 2019

Best of the States

Dual labors of love: Documenting a Chicago neighborhood that would not die

Chicago-based national writer Martha Irvine has always been interested in stories about the city’s neighborhoods that buck stereotypes. So when she learned of a grassroots project to “reclaim” abandoned housing on the city’s South Side, Irvine began what she calls “a labor of love.” 

She spent months getting to know the people of the Chicago Lawn neighborhood and their stories. Residents – ex-cons, immigrants, members of the urban working class – were not prepared to let their neighborhood succumb to the malaise that had engulfed other areas of the city, so they came together to make Chicago Lawn a desirable place to live. 

Irvine did it all – not just writing this remarkable story, but shooting the photos and video. The package received heavy play and elicited rewarding feedback. One woman called the work “incredibly uplifting,” adding, “Loved the video, too. Inspiration station.”

For a compelling all-formats package that shed light on a Chicago neighborhood’s success story and resonated with readers, Martha Irvine earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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