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AP staff win awards for tornado, shooting stories

Tuesday - 7/1/2014, 1:31pm  ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- 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 honored 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 honored 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 honored 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 honored 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.

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