April 09, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Gaza man tells AP he was tortured by Hamas, forced to divorce

reported exclusively on the imprisonment, torture and lost love of Palestinian activist Rami Aman, who spent months enduring brutal interrogations in a Hamas prison but was offered an unconventional proposition: Divorce your wife and you are free to go. Aman had recently signed a marriage contract with the daughter of a Hamas official, but the ruling Islamic militant group apparently wanted to dispel any hint that it supported Aman’s outreach to Israeli peace activists. He eventually caved to the pressure and now the love of his life has been whisked out of Gaza against her will. Akram, AP Gaza City correspondent, started reporting the all-formats exclusive a year ago when he met Aman after his release from the Hamas prison. They stayed in touch and Akram slowly learned the chilling details of the torture and forced divorce. Akram spent months persuading Aman to share his story on the record, and he spent an additional two months fact-checking the story, including a conversation with Aman’s ex-wife who confirmed the account. Aman also agreed to go on camera and share his story for AP’s video clients. https://bit.ly/3mti4SV

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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 11, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Gaza family loses 22 people on war’s deadliest night

teamed up to tell the story of the heavy toll paid by Gaza’s civilians in last month’s war between Israel and Hamas militants, with scores of civilians dead and hundreds of homes destroyed. Looking for a way to tell that story, Laub and Akram went through a list of people killed in Israeli airstrikes, then noticed that the youngest and oldest victims came from the same family — the Kawlaks.The family of four generations lived next door to each other in downtown Gaza City, unprepared for the Israeli air raid that came at about 1 a.m. on May 16, causing homes belonging to the family to collapse. The Kawlaks lost 22 members that night — including the 89-year-old family patriarch and his 6-month-old great grandson who had just lost his first tooth. Three young nieces were found dead in a tight embrace, said one of the survivors. Israel said the strike, the single deadliest of the 11-day war, was aimed at Hamas military targets in the crowded Gaza City neighborhood. Middle East news director Laub and Gaza reporter Akram made a series of visits to the family hoping to interview them. At first, they were reluctant, but the AP pair managed to gain their trust, eventually gettting an exclusive all-formats interview. Thanks to their efforts, the family shared death certificates of all of the victims, along with photos of the men and children. For cultural reasons, the family chose not to provide photos of the women.With strong visuals from video journalist Dumitrache and photographers Hamra and Dana, the result was a compelling account of the terrifying night of the bombing, the family’s immense grief and poignant remembrances of lost loved ones.https://aplink.news/s78https://aplink.video/1mg

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Dec. 14, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documented: In Gaza protests, Israeli troops aim for the legs

for a compelling set of photos, accompanying a story by Todd Pitman, documenting Palestinians wounded by Israeli gunfire. Israeli snipers have been targeting one part of the body more than any other – the legs. Israel says it is considers firing at the lower limbs an act of restraint as it responds to assaults on its frontier by Palestinians armed with stones, grenades and firebombs. https://bit.ly/2RUDgkI

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Nov. 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Distinctive AP photo project depicts Israelis, Palestinians sharing summer on distant shores

For years, AP’s Khalil Hamra and Oded Balilty have captured the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through their award-winning photography. This summer they turned their lenses away from the violence and onto a place of refuge for both sides: the stretch of beaches along the Mediterranean Sea.

With Balilty making images from Tel Aviv and Hamra from Gaza, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers produced an evocative essay showing Palestinians and Israelis basking on the beach, separated by 70 kilometers (40 miles) and free from fear of the next eruption of fighting. The photographers have met just once, years ago, but communicated online about what they were seeing, made pictures, shared them and then set out to find similar ones from their respective sides.

The immersive presentation includes an engaging video revealing more about the photographers and how they applied their craft.

For a strikingly unique, creative collaboration that brought, in Balilty’s words, “something positive” from a part of the world beset by conflict, Hamra and Balilty earn this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner award.

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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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May 28, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats team puts AP ahead on Spain-Morocco migrant crisis

alertly put AP out front of a burgeoning migration crisis on both sides of the Spain-Morocco border.While much of the world focused on the conflict in Gaza, Parra noticed something unusual on May 17: Dozens of migrants had entered Ceuta, Spain, that morning by swimming from Morocco. Usually, migrants seeking to enter Ceuta — in Spanish territory in North Africa — do so by climbing the border fence in small groups, evading the Moroccan security forces that keep would-be migrants away from the frontier. Parra filed a brief story and flagged it to other formats. Additional reporting confirmed something bigger was brewing, with the Moroccan authorities relaxing border security amid a diplomatic dispute. The all-formats team quickly responded, capturing riveting images of migrants swimming ashore by the thousands as Spain deployed troops and armored personnel carriers. Video coverage, both live and edited, showed migrants, including children, being rounded up on the beach and immediately returned to Morocco through a border gate by baton-wielding Spanish soldiers. There were also dramatic photos from the Moroccan side of the border, giving AP comprehensive coverage from both sides of the humanitarian crisis.Play for the story was tremendous. The video edits scored heavily and Armangue’s photos landed on news sites and in newspapers around the world, including in Spain, where the top papers used his photos on the front page two days in a row. His photo of a young migrant hugging a Red Cross volunteer on the beach went viral in social media and became perhaps the most iconic image of the crisis.https://aplink.news/mefhttps://aplink.news/vqihttps://aplink.photos/emahttps://aplink.video/j7whttps://aplink.video/zxuhttps://aplink.news/h8zhttps://aplink.photos/f8x

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March 22, 2018

Best of the States

Sex assaults among children on US military bases routinely ignored

Last May, as Reese Dunklin and Justin Pritchard sifted through readers' email responses to AP's 2017 investigation into schoolhouse sex assault, both reporters flagged the same messages for follow-up: The tips described problems with the handling of sex assaults reported on U.S. military bases among the children and teens of service members.

Through dozens of FOIA requests and interviews, they found that reports of sexual assaults and rapes among military kids were getting lost in a dead zone of justice, with neither victim nor offender receiving help. Cases often died on the desks of prosecutors, even when an attacker confessed. And criminal investigators shelved other cases, despite requirements they be pursued, the reporters found.

Using government records and data released by the Pentagon’s military branches and school system, Dunklin and Pritchard catalogued nearly 600 cases of sex assaults among children on military bases, often after protracted FOIA negotiations. Though an acknowledged undercount, it was the first such quantification – something neither the Pentagon nor its global school system had previously done.

For shedding light on a problem too long ignored, and localizing it for AP members in their states, Dunklin and Pritchard share this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AWOL weapons: ’Explosive’ investigation of missing military ordnance

expanded AP’s “AWOL Weapons” investigation, revealing how explosives are lost or stolen from the U.S. armed services, sometimes with deadly consequences.When AP reported in June that the U.S. military couldn’t account for all its firearms, the team knew there was more to uncover. Their latest installment reports that hundreds (if not thousands) of armor-piercing grenades and hundreds of pounds of plastic explosives also vanished.AP’s investigation was built on data the team extracted from the military, and which data editor Myers marshaled for analysis. Investigative reporter LaPorta filed the original Freedom of Information Act request with the Marines, obtaining data that was crucial to framing the scope of the problem, while video journalist Hall and investigative reporter Pritchard used exclusive investigative case files to detail how troops stole plastic explosives. At a major Marine base a sergeant hoarded C4 because he feared Donald Trump would lose; after another insider theft, explosives ended up with high school kids.Hall found a man who survived the explosion of an artillery shell at the Mississippi recycling yard where he worked. His co-worker died. That emotional interview alone drew more than 56,000 Twitter views. Combined with exclusive interrogation footage of Marines, video journalists Serginho Roosblad and Jeannie Ohm wove together a compelling video package using interviews by colleagues Stacey Plaisance and Robert Bumsted. Senior researcher Jennifer Farrar also contributed.The online presentation by Raghu Vadarevu, Natalie Castañeda and Peter Hamlin took the distinctive visual language they previously developed for the series and gave it even more impact. Thanks also to the expert wordsmithing of editor Jerry Schwartz and a well-conceived social media plan by audience engagement specialist Elise Ryan, the package scored over 130,000 views on AP News, more than double other top stories. The story also generated media buzz, including a prominent interview with Hall by CNBC’s Shepard Smith.https://aplink.news/xjghttps://aplink.news/d7yhttps://aplink.video/xnn

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March 15, 2019

Best of the States

Between the lines of a press release: Gray wolves could lose federal protection

The passing reference in a draft statement on an unrelated topic would have been easy miss. But Billings, Montana, correspondent Matthew Brown instantly recognized its significance – the U.S. was planning to lift protections for gray wolves, an action that would reignite the emotional debate over the predators’ resurgence.

Brown was reporting on sage grouse when he came across the draft Interior Department press release. It mentioned remarks that Acting Secretary David Bernhardt planned to make the next day at a wildlife conference in Denver: Gray wolves had recovered across the Lower 48 states.

Brown recognized the implication of that one sentence, and teamed up with fellow environmental beat team writer John Flesher of Traverse City, Michigan, to begin a race against the clock. Brown and Flesher scrambled to break the news before Bernhardt took the stage the next morning at the closed-press wildlife conference. Finally a source confirmed: Protections for wolves were again in the agency’s crosshairs.

The APNewsAlert moved at 8:45 a.m., a full 15 minutes before Bernhardt was scheduled to speak. Other news outlets were forced to follow in AP’s wake, posting their own stories that relied on a statement put out by Interior.

For seizing on a stray reference and reporting it out into a significant APNewsBreak on wolves, Brown and Flesher win this week’s Best of the States.

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June 19, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Race and Ethnicity team explores question: ‘What is a black life worth?’

In the course of covering protests and a memorial service for George Floyd in Minneapolis, AP race and ethnicity writer Aaron Morrison started thinking about other cases that began over minor offenses and ended with a black person dying. Morrison visited the scene where Floyd took his last breaths, talked to members of Floyd’s family and interviewed protesters with this question in mind: 

What is a black life worth? 

AP video journalist Noreen Nasir, also in the Twin Cities, was picking up on the same theme in her own reporting. Joined by New York-based photographer Bebeto Matthews, the team took a deep and unflinching look the at the circumstances behind Floyd’s death, and what many see as a pivotal moment in the struggle against institutional racism. Their story led the AP News site, was featured at the launch of the Facebook’s News Feed and was widely used by AP members. 

For sharp reporting and analysis that cast George Floyd’s killing in light of systemic issues of race inequality, Morrison, Nasir and Matthews win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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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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June 25, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Years in the making, AP’s ‘AWOL Weapons’ investigation prompts immediate Pentagon reaction

Ten years ago, Kristin M. Hall noticed several cases in which U.S. troops stole military guns and sold them to the public. Hall, a military beat reporter at the time, then fired off the first of many Freedom of Information Act requests. The Army, however, refused to release any records and the story could easily have ended there, with Hall moving on to become a Nashville-based entertainment video journalist focused on country music. Yet, she kept at it.

Last week, Hall’s decade-long journey — and the work of a host of others on the global investigations, data and immersive storytelling teams — paid off in “AWOL Weapons,” a multilayered, visually rich project revealing that at least 1,900 military weapons — from handguns to rocket launchers — had been either lost or stolen during the 2010s, with some used in street violence in America.

Two days after publication, the Pentagon’s top general and the Army each said they would seek systematic fixes for the missing weapon problem, and through a spokesman, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called AP’s investigation “another example of the free press shining a light on the important subjects we need to get right.”

With deep reporting and a riveting digital presentation, the multistory package saw outstanding customer use and reader engagement.

For remarkable persistence that revealed a problem the military wanted to keep quiet, generating immediate prospects for reform, Hall receives special distinction alongside colleagues Justin Pritchard, James LaPorta, Justin Myers and Jeannie Ohm as winners of AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 29, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

Immigration: Back-to-back scoops by investigative teams, Washington reporters

The disturbing stories of more than 2,000 kids caught up in the U.S. immigration system – including babies and toddlers forcibly separated from their parents – dominated headlines and led newscasts around the world.

AP reporters, working across the country, in Washington, D.C., Latin America and along the U.S.-Mexican border led the coverage of the impact of the zero tolerance immigration policy. Their work produced a series of scoops that set the agenda, alerting Capitol Hill leaders to a major White House order, leaving an MSNBC anchor in tears and generating action by politicians.

For their work, the Beat of the Week is shared by investigative reporters Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza, Michael Biesecker and Jake Pearson, and Washington reporters Jill Colvin and Colleen Long. The award also recognizes an outstanding company-wide effort that included reporting from numerous locations and across formats, putting the AP repeatedly in front of a major global story.

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