July 16, 2021

Best of the States

AP takes immersive look as drought puts ‘flatlining’ Great Salt Lake at historic risk

As the western U.S. finds itself in the grips of one of the worst droughts in recent history, the AP West region staff has delved into every aspect of the drought’s impact across the region. In one of the hardest-hit areas, the Salt Lake City-based team of Rick Bowmer, Lindsay Whitehurst and Brady McCombs documented that Utah’s Great Salt Lake may be headed to the lowest water levels in 170 years.

Reporting ahead of other news outlets, they delivered an all-formats package with stunning visuals showing readers how the dying lake is impacting people and wildlife and is a harbinger of worrisome drought-related consequences ahead. Decades of drought and water diversion in the booming region have hurt bird habitats, forced boats from shallow water and exposed dry lakebed that could send arsenic-laced dust into the air that millions breathe.

The result was a compelling package that had the highest engagement of all AP stories on July 6 and fourth-most for the week.

For distinctive work that expands AP’s ongoing coverage of climate and drought in the West, the team of Bowmer, Whitehurst and McCombs wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 28, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats: New threat for endangered Great Lakes bird

for gaining exclusive all-formats access to an already endangered shorebird’s primary nesting area. The AP team documented the plight of the piping plovers being squeezed out by surging Great Lakes waters during this spring’s Midwestern flooding. The package put the birds’ story into the broader context of climate change, explaining that the rising waters result from prolonged heavy rainfall and snowmelt that some experts believe will become a “new normal,” threatening the fragile Great Lakes coastline habitat. https://bit.ly/2NhTVB4

July 22, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

A ‘graveyard’: Distinctive images capture the impact of major drought on Nevada’s Lake Mead

Las Vegas-based photographer John Locher has seen no shortage of drought in his years covering the Southwest desert. But this year felt different, particularly when it came to Lake Mead, a popular tourist destination and important source of water, where levels have plummeted.

Over the course of several weeks, he made repeat visits to the lake, talking to people on beached boats, exploring different areas and running down visual leads he found on social media.

Little by little, a theme began to emerge: The receding body of water had effectively exposed a graveyard, not just of sunken boats, but also of wildlife. Locher captured this in a unique visual essay used widely and prominently by AP members and customers across the country.

For persistence, creativity and shoe-leather reporting to reveal in striking images the precipitous decline of Lake Mead, Locher earns AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Feb. 16, 2018

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Lawmaker accused of meeting with prostitute used taxpayer money for hotel

Allegations that a lawmaker had been trysting with a prostitute while the Utah Legislature was in session rocked the state’s politics. The former lawmaker who had previously pushed for stricter laws cracking down on prostitution went into hiding. His attorney refused comment. The House speaker washed his hands of the scandal, and the prostitute was no longer talking, having sold the story to the tabloid site dailymail.com.

Political reporter Michelle Price needed another way into the story, so she started asking questions around the capitol.

She made a key discovery while looking at the screen grabs of the texts in the tabloid story: The dates lined up with the legislative session. She knew the lawmaker from southern Utah didn’t commute to the Legislature and would be staying in hotels while in Salt Lake City.

She started asking tougher questions. Was taxpayer money used to reimburse the lawmaker for hotel rooms where he met the prostitute? Now she had the attention of officials in state government.

Finally came the APNewsBreak: Price exclusively reported that the lawmaker used taxpayer money to book at least two hotel rooms he is accused of using to meet with the prostitute.

For determination and a commitment to exploring all angles even when the main characters weren’t talking, Price wins this week’s Best of the States.

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June 14, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats package explores little-known world of intersex children

for delving into the world of intersex children by winning the trust of a family to tell of their struggles and triumphs in raising two such children who share male and female traits. The all-formats package brought understanding of a condition unfamiliar to most people, and perhaps empathy for the family’s children, as well as a conflicted father and a mother who wants to share her learned experience.https://bit.ly/2WJtKrahttps://bit.ly/2RgOmkC

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Aug. 30, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP gets first word of plan to allow drilling, mining near national monument

for breaking the news that the government would allow mining, drilling, grazing and recreation on lands around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah that had been off limits. President Donald Trump downsized the protected area two years ago.

Impressed by AP’s fairness in coverage of the ongoing debate about managing public lands in the West, the Bureau of Land Management reached out to McCombs to share embargoed materials and the first interview by the region’s acting director ahead of the plan’s release. The APNewsBreak revealed that not only would the formerly protected lands be made available to a wide variety of uses but that those activities could have an adverse effect on the monument that is home to dramatic formations and vistas and is prime territory for paleontologists. https://bit.ly/2UafUcE

Feb. 24, 2017

Best of the States

Utah law allows legislators to get wined and dined in secret

Michelle Price was aware of the Utah’s lax requirements for reporting on lobbying activities and had been looking for a good way to tell that story. A social media posting from a lawmaker gave her the opening she was seeking when he shared an invitation from health care industry lobbyists to legislative members of three health-related committees to dine at a stylish new restaurant.

Price confirmed that under Utah’s loose lobbying laws, neither the lobbyists nor the lawmakers were required to report their night out. Price's AP NewsBreak went on to explain that no public disclosure is required as long as lobbyists extend their largesse to all members of a committee, a task force or a caucus. For her resourceful reporting, Price wins this week’s $300 Best of the States award.

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Sept. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sweeping team coverage as wildfire threatens Lake Tahoe

teamed up across formats, beats and states, drawing on AP resources throughout the West to dominate coverage of the high-profile Northern California wildfires that threatened an international gem, Lake Tahoe.Striking photos by Noah Berger and Jae Hong captured the drama as the fire raged toward the resort city and a vast swath of the Sierra Nevada. Report for America journalist Sam Metz was indefatigable on the ground, interviewing rescue workers, residents and firefighters, then capturing the chaos of the evacuation. Reporters John Antczak, Janie Har and Jocelyn Gecker worked the phones from Los Angeles and San Francisco providing detail and context as they wrote the spot stories. Video journalist Terence Chea and Michelle L. Price reported on people who refused to leave.For this latest in a series of major blazes, the West region dug to identify wildfire-related stories of interest beyond the breaking news, including Tom Verdin’s story on the special sites that were threatened, Don Thompson’s assessment of what went wrong in fighting the blaze, Brian Melley’s report on canceled vacations nationwide and a piece by Metz and Scott Sonner on price gouging.https://aplink.news/rwdhttps://aplink.news/qo4https://aplink.news/slxhttps://aplink.news/cp0https://aplink.video/4jlhttps://aplink.video/a3bhttps://apnews.com/hub/wildfires

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Jan. 01, 2021

Best of the States

AP finds hurricane-battered Louisiana residents struggling, enduring months later

Ever since Hurricane Laura hit southwest Louisiana in August, correspondent Rebecca Santana and photographer Gerald Herbert wanted to follow up with the region’s residents. But in a busy hurricane season, it wasn’t until December that plans finally came together. 

Santana researched for weeks, finding subjects and learning about recovery efforts. The pair then spent two days in the Lake Charles area where they saw the devastation firsthand and met storm victims, including a couple whose postponed wedding was finally happening. Herbert, who also shot the video for the stories, went back to Lake Charles eight times, even sleeping in a gutted house on Christmas Eve.

The result was two print stories, three video packages and a photo essay, all of which received prominent play. For uncovering the compelling stories of hurricane victims months after the storms faded from the headlines, Santana and Herbert earn AP’s Best of the States award for the week of Dec. 21.

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Oct. 16, 2020

Best of the States

11 weeks in the bubble: AP writer’s exhaustive NBA report goes well beyond the games

Through 78 days at Walt Disney World, basketball writer Tim Reynolds proved himself virtually unstoppable, turning out game stories on deadline while also spinning insightful pieces that examined the major topics of 2020, from coronavirus concerns to racial injustice issues and the presidential election – not to mention the league’s work stoppage. The so-called bubble may have confined him to an arena in central Florida, but Reynolds’ relentless NBA coverage reminded readers that sports illuminate our lives in ways big and small.

In all, Reynolds wrote an eye-popping 200-plus stories, collecting exclusives along the way. He capped his efforts with his insightful analysis of LeBron James’ legacy after James led the Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA title. 

For his exhaustive, and exhausting, work that went well beyond the games in the NBA bubble, Reynolds wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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