July 23, 2021

Best of the States

Smart prep, sharp execution put AP out front on obit of prominent civil rights leader Gloria Richardson

Among the toughest obits to write on the fly are those for people who were hugely influential but rarely heard from in their later years. AP’s Brian Witte, however, was fully prepared when he got an exclusive tip on a Friday evening that prominent civil rights figure Gloria Richardson had died at 99.

Witte, AP’s Annapolis, Maryland, correspondent, used carefully crafted, detailed prep and source work to break news of the death of the first Black woman to lead a sustained desegregation movement outside the South. Thanks in part to a striking 1963 AP photo of Richardson pushing away the bayonet of a National Guardsman, she came to symbolize fearlessness among civil rights activists.

Witte’s prep included an interview with Richardson’s biographer, building enough trust for the author to email him with first word of her death. He persuaded the biographer to share family contacts, scoring quotes that forced many outlets to cite AP. Witte’s story, linked with archival photos, hit the wire early Friday evening, beating all competition and receiving strong play.

For insightful, resourceful reporting that puts Richardson's significant legacy back in the public eye, Witte earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 18, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Family trusts AP with news of filmmaker Ivan Reitman’s death

landed a clean scoop on the death of director-producer Ivan Reitman thanks to her reputation for professionalism on the film beat. Los Angeles-based Bahr received a call from a source during the Super Bowl, saying the 75-year-old Reitman had died and the family trusted her to break the story. That set Bahr and AP into motion on an obit that made news, even on a busy Sunday night. Read more

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Feb. 05, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

With sourcing, preparedness, AP breaks news on death of pioneering actress Cicely Tyson

AP national writer Hillel Italie took a call Thursday evening from a longtime source with an unexpected tip: Groundbreaking actress Cicely Tyson, known for her roles playing strong, fiercely dignified Black women, was dead. 

Italie set off to get the news on the wire quickly, while also alerting colleagues. That included entertainment writer Mark Kennedy who had met Tyson years earlier. Kennedy had decided that when the time came, the AP obituary would have to capture the breadth and achievement of her life and career. And he had prepared just that.

The AP story moved at least 15 minutes before other outlets, earning more than 265,000 page views and front page headlines.

Celebrity obituaries are intensely competitive; Italie and Kennedy kept AP well in front, through source work, commitment and solid preparation. For that, they win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Sept. 04, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP shocks world with first word of death of ‘Black Panther’ star Chadwick Boseman

AP entertainment video manager Ryan Pearson had interviewed Chadwick Boseman eight times since 2013. He knew the actor and his work well, and he’d worked closely with the actor’s publicist and her company. 

That’s why the publicist’s first media call after Boseman’s death was to Pearson and the AP – she wanted the story reported by a responsible news organization. Another outlet, she worried, was getting close. 

Pearson immediately alerted colleagues and set out to write an obituary that shocked the world. The AP staff in turn responded with comprehensive all-formats coverage, the story quickly becoming the biggest of the month on AP News and mobile.

For source and beat development that led to a tip on perhaps the biggest entertainment story of the year, and delivered a stream of important work for AP’s customers and audience, Pearson wins AP’s Best of the Week.

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April 16, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Meticulous planning, near-flawless execution put AP ahead of the pack on Prince Philip coverage

The AP team in London had been preparing its coverage of Prince Philip’s death for years to ensure when the moment came, everyone would be ready. That exceptional planning laid the foundation for lightning handling and a major win when Philip passed on Friday.

The preparation included multiple revisions of the main obituaries, filing plans for all formats and a strategy for how the newsroom and editorial support teams would communicate to customers. It all paid off on Friday when AP picked up rumors of Philip’s death. U.K. news director Susie Blann confirmed with her sources and immediately let the wider team know. When official word came via email from the palace, the all-formats coverage team of more than 25 individuals in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States was poised for action. 

From the Flash alert two minutes after the email confirmation, AP was incredibly fast with the news: text, photos, live and edited video, all tailored to customers who depend on and expect this coverage when it matters. 

For exceptional, nearly flawless performance across the AP on one of the biggest stories thus far this year, Susie Blann, Martin Cleaver, Bridget Jones, Anne Marie Belgrave, Samira Becirovic, Jill Lawless, Naomi Koppel, Danica Kirka, Sarah DiLorenzo and the international royal coverage team earn AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Aug. 24, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for AP brings first word on death of legendary Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin always had a soft spot for The Associated Press; over the years, she would seek out global Entertainment Editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody to chat – “We spoke when she was working on new music, or about an upcoming performance (like when she sang for the pope in 2015) or even her fitness plan and weight loss,” Moody recalled. Music editor Mesfin Fekadu, too, had interviewed Franklin, and witnessed her last public performance last November.

So when the Queen of Soul was in her last days, her people knew who to call. The result: Fekadu was so far ahead with Franklin’s death that that the news was widely attributed to the AP, even by at least one major competitor. His news break is the Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 02, 2016

Best of the Week — First Winner

Source development leads to two sharply different beats – on Henderson’s death and truck safety

The auto industry and Hollywood entertainment could hardly be more different worlds. But for AP reporters covering them, they have this in common: Building sources is essential.

Last week, Tom Krisher, a Detroit-based auto writer, and Lynn Elber, the TV writer in Los Angeles, demonstrated the value of great beat reporting. Both scored scoops that left competitors scrambling. Their stories also created a very unusual situation: A tie for Beat of the Week honors.

Krisher was the first to report the U.S. government was taking the unusual step of allowing General Motors to delay a large recall of potentially defective air bags, giving the automaker time to prove the devices are safe and possibly avoid a huge financial hit.

Elber broke the news of the death of Florence Henderson, "The Brady Bunch" star, about an hour after the beloved TV mom passed away in Los Angeles.

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Sept. 16, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Sweeping AP coverage captures the life, death of Queen Elizabeth II and a nation in mourning

Years of AP preparation and planning paid off when first word came early Thursday evening in London: Queen Elizabeth II had died.

Customers had an AP Flash within a minute, followed by all-formats coverage that was stunning for its speed and scope, from a comprehensive obituary to video and photo retrospectives, profiles of Charles and Camilla, a look at global tributes, a piece on the complex reaction of former British colonies, and much more. Countless AP staffers across bureaus and continents contributed, with London staffers critical to the core coverage.

Performance for the all-formats coverage bore witness to the exceptional work — the main obit alone had 1.1 million pageviews on AP News.

For remarkable journalism still unfolding as the queen’s funeral approaches, the London-based team of Susie Blann, Danica Kirka, Jill Lawless, Sylvia Hui, Samira Becirovic, Brian Friedman, Pete Brown, Naomi Koppel, Anne-Marie Belgrave, Martin Cleaver and Frank Griffiths, and colleagues near and far, receives AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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April 23, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP uses sourcing, deep reporting to break news of Madoff death

teamed up to break the news of the prison death of Bernie Madoff, the pair delivering a deeply reported obituary on the notorious Ponzi-schemer whose massive securities swindle wiped out people’s fortunes and ruined charities.Washington-based Justice Department reporter Balsamo called his editor Colleen Long early last Wednesday, calmly asking, “Hey, I’m driving. Can you help me with something? Bernie Madoff is dead.” Balsamo’s deep network of sources had tipped him off, and within minutes an alert moved, followed by a short story. Balsamo and New York reporter Hays worked to fill out the story, Hays layering it with details gleaned from experience covering Madoff and his trial. AP was ahead of the competition by 25 minutes to an hour, and many major outlets — including ABC, CBS and Fox — relied on the AP pair’s quick, exclusive reporting.https://bit.ly/3sGlP9mhttps://apnews.com/hub/bernard-madoff

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Sept. 09, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Sweeping coverage, exclusives mark Gorbachev’s death

delivered comprehensive coverage following Mikhail Gorbachev’s death, culminating in agency-exclusive images of the last Soviet leader’s funeral.Quick work late Tuesday night meant AP was one of the first international news organizations to break the news. That was closely followed by an in-depth obituary, photo and video retrospectives, and heavily used live video from Moscow. In the days leading up to the funeral, AP produced solid spot and enterprise offering, ranging from an analysis of how events set in motion by Gorbachev led in part to the current war in Ukraine to a distinctive piece recounting AP staffers’ experiences of covering “Gorby.”Capping the week was exclusive international agency footage of Gorbachev’s burial, the access resulting from the AP team’s determination to overcome official refusals.Read more

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Sept. 06, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

In the face of death, the party of a lifetime

In a world focused on life and survival, death is often unseen, endured in private and acknowledged in glowing obituaries or tragic news stories. It’s also mostly out of the control of the person who is dying.

Now, with nine U.S. states allowing terminally ill people to end their lives with fatal drugs, thousands of people have legally chosen how and when to end their lives.

Seattle Photographer Elaine Thompson has long wanted to show the real, personal side of what often comes across as an impersonal process. She spent months looking for the right subject, getting tantalizingly close to success before plans fell through. She stuck with it, and when she found Bob Fuller, she enlisted reporter Gene Johnson to tell his story.

This week’s Best of the Week goes to the team of Elaine Thompson and Gene Johnson who chronicled how one man, in the face of death, created the party of a lifetime.

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July 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP unmatched for fast, exclusive coverage of Abe assassination

dominated international coverage of the fatal shooting of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, delivering fast, comprehensive and exclusive content on one of Japan’s biggest stories in years.The Tokyo staff and colleagues at AP’s Asia hub in Bangkok beat competitive agencies and other international news organizations on urgent developments throughout the day, including the crucial word that Abe had died. AP quickly secured video and photos of the attack and had live video up at the scene of the shooting within minutes of the announcement of Abe’s death, accompanied by text and video obituaries. A full complement of spot enterprise pieces followed on Abe and the issues surrounding his assassination.For days, AP’s coverage featured prominently even on major Japanese news sites, often as an example of the way foreign media was covering the story.Read more

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Nov. 23, 2018

Best of the States

Requiem for Paradise: Remembering the sweet life of a town wiped out by wildfire

It’s not often you have to write an obituary for a town. Yet that’s what Martha Mendoza and Jocelyn Gecker did, with Gillian Flaccus producing a compelling video component. Their tribute to Paradise, California – leveled by a devastating wildfire that killed so many residents – painted a picture of all that was lost. Paradise was a gold prospector’s town, then a lumber town, and until two weeks ago was the home of 27,000 people “who lived and loved here; they built homes and businesses, schools and houses of worship, parks and museums that proudly honored Paradise's place in American history.”

Mendoza worked from the field, in the ashes of the town, with Gecker in San Francisco tracking down leads, helping to write the finished piece and finding photographs to illustrate “the town’s history and spirit.” Their nuanced reporting, along with that of many colleagues, drew forth tales of town holidays, and residents ruminating whether those staples of small-town America would continue.

The accompanying video by Gillian Flaccus, recorded during a ride-along with a long-time resident, complemented the text piece by showing street after street of utter devastation over the man’s narration.

Paradise is gone, and until it rebuilds in some fashion, Mendoza, Gecker and Flaccus have given the world the definitive piece on what it represented. For their deft depiction of the town behind the headlines, the trio wins AP's Best of the States.

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Jan. 06, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

‘I want to be with Carrie’: At Reynolds and Fisher deaths, AP gets exclusives

When Carrie Fisher died, generations lamented the loss of their Princess Leia. But when actress Debbie Reynolds died a day later, the near-simultaneous passings of mother and daughter were seen worldwide as an epic tragedy.

It was AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen who first reached Fisher’s brother, Todd, to confirm that his sister had been hospitalized. Days later, it was AP Television Writer Lynn Elber who first reached Todd Fisher to confirm the unthinkable -- that his mother had died, as well. Their sterling work is the Beat of the Week.

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Jan. 10, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP breaks news of Soleimani killing; dominates all-formats coverage

The source’s initial tip seemed fairly run-of-the-mill for Baghdad: A late-night rocket attack hit the international airport.

But AP’s Baghdad correspondent Qassim Abdul-Zahra sensed something unusual was afoot. He alerted colleagues and kept digging, teasing out a name that set alarm bells ringing: Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general and one of the Middle East’s most powerful protagonists, might have been in the car. 

Soon, from three sources, came confirmation that Soleimani was dead. Regional news director Zeina Karam’s AP alert reached our customers well ahead of the competition and triggered a response by teams, across the region and beyond, that would maintain AP’s edge with all-formats coverage astounding in its breadth, speed and insight.

Usage in all formats was off the charts, both by AP customers and on social channels.

For standout work in a competitive tour de force, AP’s Middle East team of Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Zeina Karam, Jon Gambrell, Nasser Karimi, Ahmed Sami and Nasser Nasser share Best of the Week honors.

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Jan. 20, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Three-ring scoop: Ringling Bros. folding its circus tent after 146 years

Last weekend, the greatest show at the AP was Tampa, Florida, reporter Tamara Lush’s exclusive. Drawing upon relationships she built over years with the company that owns the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Lush was able to break the news: “The Greatest Show on Earth,” was folding up its tents after 146 years.

Circus owner Feld Entertainment approached Lush about what they said would be a scoop of “biblical” proportions. They reached out to her because of they knew and trusted her work.

Lush’s all-formats work earns the Beat of the Week.

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Dec. 27, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Comprehensive impeachment coverage showcases AP’s speed, depth and reach

The world depends on The Associated Press during historic moments, and the impeachment of President Donald Trump was no exception. 

Journalists in Washington and beyond demonstrated the AP’s extraordinary power and depth to cover all angles of the story, including the monthslong footrace to tally votes ahead of proceedings, videos filed quickly of both the hearings and of Trump’s reaction, and the ground-level view of impeachment in six election battleground states.

Stellar post-vote stories included an analysis of how impeachment would affect Trump’s legacy and the 2020 campaign, as well as an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

For impeachment coverage that consistently broke news, gave crucial context and provided customers with materials they could localize and promote, the Washington bureau and the team of journalists behind the vote tracking effort win AP’s Best of the Week.

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March 15, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team demonstrates what a community loses when a small-town newspaper dies

What’s lost when a newspaper dies? And how do you tell the story of this slow disaster happening in front of everyone’s eyes and still make the world sit up and take notice?

For reporters Dave Bauder and David Lieb, the answer was by focusing on the residents of one small town as they explained the death of local journalism in an authentic, vivid and compelling way.

It’s a story that’s happened repeatedly across the country, with 1,400 cities or towns losing newspapers in the last 15 years. The aftermath of the loss of the Daily Guide in Waynesville, Missouri, was richly told by a multiformat team of text, video and photo journalists as the centerpiece story for “Fading Light,” the AP’s Sunshine Week package on the decline of local news.

New York-based media reporter Bauder and Lieb, a member of the state government team based in Missouri’s capitol, spent several days in Waynesville and its twin city, St. Robert, reporting the story. Denver video journalist Peter Banda and Kansas City photographer Orlin Wagner worked closely with them to shoot visuals, while Alina Hartounian, the multiformat coordinator for the U.S. beat teams, created social videos that drove readers to the story. Bauder also secured an interview with executives at the company that shuttered the Daily Guide.

The package received incredible attention and sparked discussion online. Bauder and Lieb’s text story has been viewed nearly 120,000 times with high engagement, it has landed on nearly 30 front pages, and has been cited in several influential media reports.

For masterful work shining a light on a problem that has left whole communities less informed, Bauder, Lieb, Banda, Wagner and Hartounian win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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