Nov. 16, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Cataclysmic fires cap off week of momentous and devastating news in California

California’s news staff still was in the midst of reporting the tragic night-spot shooting in Thousand Oaks when news reached the AP that a wildfire in Northern California was spreading quickly, sending thousands fleeing.

Bay Area freelance photographer Noah Berger, as good a fire chaser as there is anywhere, tipped the office off that the Northern California fire looked explosive. By 11 a.m. Sacramento reporter Don Thompson was hitting the road, and a first AP NewsAlert moved saying people fleeing for their lives had abandoned vehicles as the fire swept in.

AP’s all-formats coverage went into high gear, with staffers pouring in from the region. In addition to Thompson, who stayed at the scene with fire crews for several days straight, Portland, Ore., all-formats reporter Gilly Flaccus arrived, producing unmatched interviews in text and video of survivors and of crews searching for the remains of those killed. San Francisco reporter Paul Elias gathered information on the dramatic rescues and chaotic evacuation, while Las Vegas photographer John Locher and Denver videographer Peter Banda provided gripping visuals from the scene.

AP was first to report thousands of homes destroyed, first to report a named victim, and we were alone in accompanying a search and recovery crew in all formats as they went to a victim’s home and found her remains.

The coverage was nuanced and emotional. California News Editor Frank Baker says there was no one on the California staff who didn’t contribute, working unrelentingly from last week’s elections and mass shooting straight into the wildfire.

For outstanding work, bolstered and supported by California’s all-formats reporting staff and editors, Thompson, Flaccus, Elias, Berger, Locher and Banda share this AP's Best of the Week.

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May 03, 2019

Best of the States

‘Destined to Burn’: AP, media organizations join forces to expose California wildfire risks

A groundbreaking collaboration among California newspapers and The Associated Press started with a tweet.

Northern California News Editor Juliet Williams saw on Twitter that the editor of The Sacramento Bee, a McClatchy paper, was driving to meet with the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record, a MediaNews paper, to talk about wildfire coverage. Williams reached out, offered the AP’s help, and a partnership was born, with the goal of illuminating problems and pointing to potential solutions to California’s increasingly deadly wildfires.

The results: nearly a dozen stories, including an analysis of data by McClatchy and AP Los Angeles-based data journalist Angeliki Kastanis revealing that more than 350,000 Californians live in towns and cities almost entirely within zones of very high wildfire risk. An analysis also found that a 2008 building code for California’s fire-prone regions can make the difference in whether homes burn or not, but there’s little retrofitting of older homes.

The partnership’s next installment was focused on evacuation planning, revealing that many communities wouldn’t share the information or didn’t have an adequate plan, or any plan at all. Data analysis by USA TODAY Network-California showed many communities had too few roads to get everyone out.

We heavily publicized the package and play was impressive, with hundreds of downloads of the first two installments. Many outlets used the data to report their own stories about local fire risks. And this isn’t the end of the partnership: The next phase will focus on legislative action on wildfire coverage.

When AP engages in collaborations like these we become more than just a content provider to our customers; we’re helping them produce high-impact local coverage that wouldn’t exist otherwise. In this case, the “Destined to Burn” partnership was managed at every level by West Deputy Director of Newsgathering Anna Jo Bratton, who worked for six months with people throughout the AP and the collaborators to make the partnership a success.

For putting the AP at the center of an important collaboration, driving important journalism in a state ravaged by wildfires, and forging a stronger relationship with members, Williams, Kastanis and Bratton win this AP’s Best of the States.

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July 29, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigation finds Ukrainian refugees forcibly evacuated, subjected to abuse in Russia

The idea for this deeply reported story emerged months ago when AP noticed Ukrainian refugees being sent to Russia — then disappearing.

The process was painstaking, but AP spoke with 36 Ukrainians, most of them from the devastated city of Mariupol, all of whom were sent to Russia. Some had made their way to other countries, but almost a dozen were still in Russia, an important find. The refugees’ personal stories humanized the larger findings of the investigation: Ukrainian civilians have indeed been forced into Russia, subjected along the way to human rights abuses, from interrogation to being yanked aside and never seen again.

The story was widely used and cited by other news organizations, and a week after it ran it was still near the top for AP reader engagement.

For teamwork across borders that resulted in the most extensive and revealing investigation yet into the forcible transfers of Ukrainian refugees, the team of Lori Hinnant, Vasilisa Stepanenko, Cara Anna, Sara El Deeb and colleagues in Russia and Georgia earns AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Aug. 27, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Quick response, strong sourcing put AP ahead on Washington standoff

delivered exclusive reporting and photos of a disturbed man who held the capital hostage for hours last week when he threatened to blow up his truck outside the Library of Congress.Washington reporter Tucker received an exclusive tip that something was happening near the U.S. Capitol; his colleague Balsamo confirmed it and they quickly filed an alert. AP had details of the threat for a solid 20 minutes before anyone else reported it, and continued to report exclusive details of building evacuations and the police response. Meanwhile, Biesecker dug up details of the suspect’s life and spoke with familymembers who were concerned about the man’s mental state.At the scene, photographer Brandon scrambled to a vantage point at the Capitol and was first to make photos — and report — when the man finally surrendered to authorities. Our exclusive alert and story based on Brandon’s details moved before other news organizations that relied on the news conference. Brandon’s images of the truck and the man surrendering were also AP exclusives. Fellow photographer Carolyn Kaster made photos of the investigation that followed.https://aplink.news/7slhttps://aplink.video/6g2

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Oct. 01, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Iberian team delivers stunning coverage of Canaries eruption

overcame roadblocks and other obstacles to deliver outstanding coverage of the violent volcanic eruption on La Palma in the Canary Islands. That included some of the most striking visuals of the week showing the destructive power of the eruption and the evacuations of thousands of residents.Knowing the earliest AP could get a crew on the ground would be the next day, journalists Wilson, Brito, Morenatti and Leon spent the first few hours after Sunday’s eruption remotely gathering material for all formats from sources on the island.

The next morning video freelancer Leon and Aritz Parra, chief correspondent for Spain and Portugal, took the first flight from Madrid to La Palma and hit the ground running, interviewing shocked residents who had grabbed what they could before abandoning their homes to the advancing wall of molten rock.They were joined by video journalist Brito and photographer Morenatti who made images with his drone and from a rescue helicopter, capturing the vast reach of the lava flows from above, including iconic shots of an isolated house left seemingly untouched amid a sea of lava.Meanwhile, in Lisbon, correspondent Barry Hatton wrote the stories, gathering material from the team on the ground and others. Helena Alves, did the same for video, handling incoming footage from various sources. The video edits and live shots were among the AP’s most-used throughout the week while the photos and text received prominent play in major online media.https://aplink.news/4zthttps://aplink.video/c5nhttps://aplink.video/djn

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April 24, 2020

Best of the States

The cost of Trump environmental rollbacks: Health woes hit minority communities hardest

With African American and Hispanic communities in the Houston region already suffering higher rates of asthma and other diseases than the nation at large, AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer decided to focus on the area for a story on ordinary Americans living through the Trump administration’s public health and environmental rollbacks. 

The administration was cutting back on rules limiting and monitoring harmful industrial pollutants, slashing enforcement and weakening an industrial-disaster rule.

Knickmeyer, a Washington-based environmental issues reporter, spent months searching out Houston residents, telling their stories along with deep reporting on the regulatory actions and their consequences.

Former EPA Director Gina McCarthy was among many retweeting the story, calling it a “must read” article.

For a rich, insightful look at the consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks on vulnerable communities, Knickmeyer wins 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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Aug. 27, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Intrepid AP journalists work the streets of Kabul documenting Taliban troops, daily life

When the Taliban overran Kabul on Aug. 15, no one in the city knew if the Taliban would resume the brutal practices that carried them to power in 1996 — or would they show some restraint?

Kabul video journalist Ahmad Seir and photographer Rahmat Gul remember the previous Taliban rule, but like their AP colleagues, they were determined to record history. The pair took to the streets. Despite being beaten with rifle butts at a Taliban checkpoint near the airport, they persisted, eventually gaining the trust of Taliban fighters at a checkpoint near AP’s office. Seir and Gul went on Taliban patrols, delivering unique video and photos of the militiamen now in command of Afghanistan.

Those rare images, along with spot features that included daily life in the capital and an interview with a female activist now in hiding, played at the very top of AP’s offerings for the week and reflected the tireless efforts of everyone in AP’s Kabul office who pushed aside their own fears and personal concerns to continue reporting in all formats.

For their historic and important work, thorough professionalism and unbound bravery, Seir and Gul share AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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June 15, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

All-formats coverage of deadly Guatemala volcano dominates play

After Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire erupted June 3, sending a fast-moving flow of superheated ash, rock and debris into villages, AP staffers sprang into action. Over the next week, they worked around the clock in difficult and often-perilous conditions to produce all-formats dispatches from the scene and from shelters and funerals. They told the stories of people who had lost dozens of family members in the explosion, authorities’ search for survivors and victims, and relatives’ own return to homes buried up to the rooftops in ash to dig, in many cases with their own hands.

For scoring numerous exclusives that included highly detailed drone video of the disaster and spectacular photos and video, Guatemala-based journalist Sonia Perez, Mexico City-based reporter Mark Stevenson, Bogota camera operator Marko Alvarez, Guatemala photographer Moises Castillo, Peru-based senior photographer Rodrigo Abd, and stringer photographer Luis Soto have earned the Beat of the Week.

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