AP staffers win APME awards for coverage of Oklahoma tornado, aftermath of school shootings

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NEW YORK, N.Y. – Coverage of the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado won an award for deadline reporting and a story on the aftermath of the Connecticut school shootings won one for feature writing from the Associated Press Media Editors for journalism excellence by AP staffers.

The AP’s investigation of the disappearance of CIA contractor Robert Levinson in Iran in 2007 — and its decision to publish the story last year — was honoured in the enterprise category.

“The judges were impressed by the exceptional work being produced by AP journalists around the world,” APME President Debra Adams Simmons said. “The work reveals a deep commitment — sometimes at substantial cost — to report news and information locally and globally that news consumers could not get anywhere else.”

“The judges were tasked with recognizing just a fraction of the significant work of AP reporters, photographers and editors, but the annual awards contest is a reminder of the vitality and importance of the AP to our industry,” she said.

In selecting the Moore tornado coverage, the judges said, “The reporting was detailed, fast-paced and accurate — breaking news coverage as it should be done.” The AP, they said, “owned the story, with vivid photos, arresting interviews with survivors and aggressive questions for authorities who acknowledged they had botched the casualty count.”

Christopher Sullivan of the Newsfeatures staff won the feature writing award for “Newtown Marches On.” The judges said he captured “the struggles and resilience of the Labor Day parade committee in Newtown, a community struggling to find its footing” after shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School claimed 26 lives.

Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, formerly of the Washington bureau, and AP editors were cited for their coverage of the Levinson disappearance.

“In a very competitive category, this entry stood above the rest because of the difficulty of reporting because of the tenacity, patience and courage that was needed to publish this story,” the judges wrote. “The story is a gripping narrative that reads like a spy novel.” Goldman is now with The Washington Post and Apuzzo with The New York Times.

A team of four staffers — Paul Elias in San Francisco, Gillian Flaccus in Orange County and Don Thompson in Sacramento, overseen by Sacramento correspondent Tom Verdin — was honoured with the Charles Rowe Award for distinguished state reporting for coverage of the California prison system.

“This is an engaging and monumental work by a newly created reporting team that provided important coverage for California’s AP members and their audience,” the judges said. “It is mind-boggling the scope of the problems uncovered by this team. The sweep of these issues continues to grow as stories are uncovered.”

Sergei Grits, a photographer based in Belarus, won the News Single Photo award for his image of a Ukrainian demonstrator setting off a Molotov cocktail in a slingshot. “This dramatic image captures the passion of the protesters in Ukraine,” the judges said. “This moment amid chaos is a vivid metaphor for the crisis.”

Photographer Jerome Delay was honoured with the News Story Photo award for his series on the fighting in the Central African Republic, where he is based. “The dedication of (Delay) to seek out and record these ‘found moments’ is exemplary,” the judges wrote. “The images show the complexity of life amid civil war in the Central African Republic.”

Jerusalem photographer Sebastian Scheiner won the Feature Single Photo award for his image of Palestinians living in a cave after their house was demolished by Israeli authorities. “The subject matter combined with the creative composition sets this photo apart,” the judges said.

Rodrigo Abd, a photographer based in Lima, Peru, was honoured with the Feature Story Photo award for his story on exhumations from Peru’s 1980-2000 conflict. “These images convey a cohesive story arch, one of the agonizing emotional toll taken on the families of victims of the conflict,” the judges said.

Nathan Griffiths, Nicholas Harbaugh, Kevin Viney, Peter Hamlin and Roque Ruiz were awarded the Best Use of Multimedia for their interactives on the U.S. health care overhaul. Their interactives, the judges said, “were simple to follow and allowed each reader to personalize the information — an amazing feat given the complexity of the law.”

The Best in Video award was given to Al-emrun Garjon of New Delhi for his coverage of the collapse of a Bangladesh factory. The judges said Garjon provided amazing shots of not only destruction but survival as well. “It was a powerful work from start to finish,” they said.

Adriana Gomez Licon of Mexico City won the John L. Dougherty prize for exemplary work by an AP staff member who is 30 years old or younger. The judges said she “is a compelling storyteller, who uses in-depth reporting and telling details to powerful effect.” Her work included a piece on the death of a beauty queen caught up in the nation’s drug wars.

APME is an association of editors and content leaders at newspapers, broadcast outlets and digital newsrooms as well as journalism educators and student leaders in the United States and Canada. APME works closely with The Associated Press to foster journalism excellence.

The judges also awarded the following honourable mentions:

—Deadline Reporting: the coverage of the death of Yarnell firefighters in Arizona and the coverage of the manhunt for former Los Angeles policeman Christopher Dorner.

Judges: Kurt Franck, executive editor, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, chairman; Michael Days, editor, Philadelphia Daily News; and Mark Baldwin, executive editor, Rockford (Ill.) Register Star.

—Enterprise Reporting: Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh, based in Ramallah in the West Bank, for Mideast reporting; and Adriana Gomez Licon of Mexico, Natacha Pisarenko and Michael Warren of Buenos Aires, Juan Zamorano of Panama, and Michael Weissenstein of Mexico City for their Latin America consumer watchdog series.

Judges: Angie Muhs, executive editor, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Illinois, chairman; Autumn Phillips, editor, Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho; and Laura Sellers, managing editor, The Daily Astorian, Astoria, Oregon.

—Feature Writing: Alberto Arce, based in Mexico City, for “Surviving in Honduras,” a series of stories about surviving violence and poverty in a country in crisis.

Judges: Bill Church, executive editor, Herald-Tribune Media Co., Sarasota, Florida, chairman; Dennis Anderson, executive editor, Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star; and Aminda Marques Gonzalez, executive editor, The Miami Herald.

—John L. Dougherty Award: Nataliya Vasilyeva, in Moscow, for her reporting on the human and environmental cost of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and Ashley Thomas, weekend supervisor on the East desk in Philadelphia.

Judges: Jim Simon, deputy managing editor, The Seattle Times, chairman; Monica Richardson, managing editor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and Sonny Albarado, projects editor, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

—Best Use of Multimedia: Nathan Griffiths and Peter Santilli, for interactives on the aging population worldwide.

Judges: Days, chairman; Teri Hayt, executive editor, The Canton (Ohio) Repository; and Alan English, executive editor/general manager, Shreveport (La.) Times.

—Best Use of Video: Raul Gallego, based in Bangkok, for “Myanmar In Transition.”

Judges: Richardson; Eric Ludgood, assistant news director, WAGA-TV, Fox 5 News; and Greg Peppers, executive producer of radio and audio, The Associated Press.

—Charles Rowe Award for distinguished state reporting: Rebecca Boone, based in Boise, for stories on a privately run prison in Idaho, and Tom LoBianco, based in Indianapolis, for his watchdog work.

Judges: Anderson, chairman; Chris Cobler, editor, Victoria (Texas) Advocate; and Thomas Koetting, assistant managing editor, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

—News Single Photo: Santi Palacios, based in Madrid, for a migrant trying to scale a border fence into the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco.

— New Story Photo: David Guttenfelder, formerly based in Tokyo, for a series on Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

—Feature Single Photo: Ben Curtis of Nairobi for orphaned elephants getting a dust bath.

—Feature Story Photo: Daniel Ochoa de Olza of Madrid for a series of portraits of bullfighters.

Photo judges: Debra Adams Simmons, vice-president of news development, Advance Local; Alan Miller, managing editor, The Columbus Dispatch; Hayt; Sellers; Simon; and Luanne Dietz, photo editor, The San Francisco Chronicle.

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