Joplin, Mo., tornado coverage wins APME award

July 9, 2012
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Joplin-recovery
Shovels and hard hats stand prepared on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Irving Elementary School to be located near the former St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo. The old school, located nine blocks east of the new site, was completely destroyed by the May 22, 2011 tornado. The groundbreaking was one of a number of events taking place on the anniversary of the Joplin tornado. (AP Photo/The Joplin Globe, Roger Nomer)
NEW YORK (AP) — Coverage of the catastrophic Joplin, Mo., tornado and the investigation into secret intelligence operations set up by the New York City Police Department won awards for deadline and enterprise reporting from the Associated Press Media Editors association for journalism excellence by AP staffers.

"The coverage of the Joplin carnage provided a riveting, detailed window onto what amounted to a post-apocalyptic wasteland," the APME judges said in awarding the Deadline Reporting prize to the AP team that covered the tornado. "For all the challenges they faced, the AP team may as well have been in a war zone - no amount of planning could have anticipated the technical and physical hardships in the storm's aftermath. This is deadline reporting at its absolute finest."

In honoring the AP team of Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Chris Hawley for its NYPD coverage, the judges for Enterprise Reporting said, "This is a case of classic boots-on-the-ground reporting coupled with impressive document mining. The consistently excellent writing made the AP series read like an engrossing suspense novel." The series won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

APME is an association of editors at newspapers, broadcast outlets and journalism educators and student leaders in the United States and Canada. It works closely with the AP to foster journalism excellence.

Photographer Petros Giannakouris, based in Athens, Greece, received the News Photos award for his series of photos on the Greek financial crisis.

"The photographs cover the financial crisis completely - not just the violence, but also the effects on the lives of average citizens," the judges said in awarding the prize. "All aspects of the crisis are represented distinctly. The photos are wonderfully composed."

Tim Sullivan, AP's regional Asia writer based in New Delhi, won the Feature Writing award for two stories from India about the inflated dreams of car dealers in what was once a sleepy backwater town and the wrecked dreams of those living on a single plot of land slated for redevelopment in New Delhi.

"His stories were a masterful example of using intimate, deeply personal stories to illuminate the very complex narrative of how rapid development is reshaping India," the judges said. "He's a terrific observer, capturing both the microscopic details of daily life and vivid descriptions of the characters in his stories."

Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder, based in Tokyo, won the Feature Photos award for a series of photos of daily life in North Korea.

"These photos provide a rare look inside a closed society, and what separates these from the others is the distinct style conveyed by this photographer's eye," the judges said. "The photos show joy amid a meager existence in North Korea. He presents a wonderful variety of images."

Interactive producers Jake O'Connell and Phil Holm were cited for Best Use of Multimedia for leading the Interactive Department in its work on the AP's "Aging Nukes" series about the nation's commercial nuclear reactors.

The judges described the work as "an incredibly rich data visualization effort, coupled with infographics and videos" and said they were impressed with the level of commitment of time and resources devoted to the nearly two-year project.

Photographer Jae C. Hong, based in Los Angeles, won for Best Use of Video for his work covering a skinhead. "The entry tells the fascinating story about a skinhead who has reversed course, even going to the painful extreme of having his extensive tattoos removed," the judges said.

The Vermont staff of reporters John Curran, Wilson Ring, David Gram and Lisa Rathke, and photographer Toby Talbot won the Charles Rowe Award for Distinguished State Reporting for their coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. "The digital-first approach and resiliency made this entry one of the most inspiring in a talented field," the judges said. Curran, Montpelier correspondent, died less than two weeks after Irene hit.

Jack Gillum, of the Washington investigative team, was awarded the John L. Dougherty Award for exemplary work by an AP staff member who is 30 years old or younger. In honoring him, the judges said "considerable skills in computer data analysis combined with impressive reporting skills are a powerful combination."

The judges also awarded the following honorable mentions:

— Deadline Reporting: AP staff for coverage of the fall of Tripoli, Libya, and staff coverage of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

— News Photos: Marish Swarup, based in New Delhi, for his photo of a Tibetan exile's self-immolation in India to protest the visit of the Chinese president.

— Enterprise Reporting: Chris Wills and John O'Connor, of Springfield, Ill., for "Deadbeat Illinois" about the state's problems paying its bills. Also cited was Erika Kinetz, based in Mumbai, India, for "Killed by Debt" about microfinance lenders apparently encouraging the most impoverished Indians to kill themselves to have their debts forgiven.

— Feature Writing: Allen Breed, national writer, Raleigh, N.C., for "Saving Ali" about an aging couple's race to adopt an infant given up by an overwhelmed teenage mother, even though the 61-year-old would-be adoptive father is terminally ill, and the adoption must be completed while he is still alive for the child to qualify for his veterans benefits.

— Feature Photos: Oded Balilty, based in Tel Aviv, for his series on an ultra-Orthodox wedding in Israel.

— Best Use of Multimedia: AP staff for "Video Animation: Body of Work", a compilation of five projects, and staff coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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