Q&A: Uncovering the dirty cost of green energy

The Associated Press today published a major investigative report by Washington bureau journalists Dina Cappiello and Matt Apuzzo showing that the ethanol era has proved far more damaging to the environment than the government has acknowledged.

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they touched off a cascade of unintended consequences, including wiping out millions of acres of conservation land, polluting water and destroying habitat.

Ted Bridis

Ted Bridis

Here, Ted Bridis, the lead editor on the months-long investigation, describes what went into reporting the hidden, dirty cost of this green energy source:

What prompted AP to explore the topic of ethanol?
This year, among other stories, the Washington investigative team has been exploring some of the little-known costs and consequences of green energy. This project developed out of reporting by and conversations with Dina Cappiello, our excellent environmental reporter, who was “loaned” to our investigations team in the newsroom away from her everyday specialty beat responsibilities to work on some longer-term reporting efforts.

What were the most striking findings?
We were able to conservatively quantify how many acres farmers had set aside for conservation purposes but, driven in part by Washington’s biofuels mandate, had been converted to crops. The figure was at least five million acres _ more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined _ that have vanished on President Barack Obama’s watch.

We also conducted by computer a satellite-imagery analysis to show how many more acres of pristine grassland in the Corn Belt had been plowed into cornfields or soybeans since 2006, the year before the ethanol mandate passed. Insiders revealed to our reporters how the government’s analysis of ethanol’s carbon dioxide footprint was flawed and influenced by input from the industry. But in many ways no one in government is keeping track of its environmental toll.  

I also think one of our findings was how friendly and accommodating we found farmers and others in the Midwest when our journalists visited and explained the story we were investigating; many farmers, especially, explained they were genuinely conflicted by economic forces, chasing corn profits at the expense of continued conservation.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in reporting this project?
The tale of U.S. ethanol policy is complicated for many different audiences: farmers, motorists, policy makers, politicians, environmentalists, farmers, scientists and others. Turning months of reporting about agricultural and energy policies, scores of interviews and hefty data analyses into a narrative that readers will find compelling and informative is always a challenge.

How did you draw on AP’s resources — around the world and in the 50 states — to do it?
This project represents the efforts of dozens of AP journalists, photographers, video producers, data experts, editors and others who helped in its production

See the AP reporting here, which includes companion photos, video and a detailed interactive. Join a conversation about the AP’s reporting on ethanol today at 3 p.m. ET on Reddit.

Giarrusso to lead AP sports coverage

Michael Giarrusso

AP Global Sports Editor Michael Giarrusso (AP photo)

Today marks 100 days until the 2014 winter Olympics kick off in Sochi, Russia, and AP has named a new global sports editor to lead coverage of the games and other major events in the coming months, including the Super Bowl outside New York and the World Cup in Brazil.

Russia Sochi Olympics

In this Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 photo, workers are fixing the Olympic emblem at an entrance to the railway station of Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. Russia starts 100 day count down on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. (AP Photo/Lesya Polyakova)

In his new role, Michael Giarrusso, a former AP sports writer, news editor and state news executive, will oversee more than 100 journalists around the world and ensure that AP remains the leader in breaking sports news across formats.

What’s Giarrusso most looking forward to?

“People are consuming more sports news than they ever have before,” Giarrusso said, in newspapers and on television, smartphones and tablets. “AP sports is perfectly positioned to deliver any type of content to readers, members and customers at a moment’s notice.”

He added: “It’s so exciting to be leading this team of great journalists, and I’m honored.”

AP is already busy covering the countdown to the games, with stories on the athletes, the apparel, the politics and more.

Read more about Giarrusso and follow him on Twitter at @MichaelG1.

Gallery opening celebrates debut of Vietnam photo book

Nick_Ut

AP photographer Nick Ut stands near his iconic picture of a 9-year-old running from a napalm attack.

Crowds of journalists, photographers, distinguished guests and members of the public packed into the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York Thursday night to view iconic and rarely seen images of the Vietnam War taken by Associated Press photographers.

The exhibit showcases some of the nearly 300 images included in a new photo history book, “Vietnam: The Real War” (Abrams; Oct. 1, 2013; 304 pages; 300 photographs; US $40.00/CAN $45.00/UK £25).

Crowd

Visitors view the AP exhibit at the Steven Kasher Gallery.

Writer Pete Hamill, who penned the book’s evocative introduction, and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Nick Ut, whose work is featured prominently in the book, were on hand to sign books at the reception. AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt, Tom Curley, former chief executive at AP, and Chairman of the Board Mary Junck were also in attendance.

The exhibit runs through Nov. 30. The gallery, located at 521 W. 23rd St. in New York, is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

AP is hosting other book-related events in Washington, D.C., at the Newseum on Saturday, Oct. 26, and next month in San Francisco.

AP Vietnam Photo Exhibit

Crowds attend the opening of the AP photo exhibit at the Steven Kasher Gallery (Photo by Sean Thompson)

AP Vietnam Photo Exhibit

Visitors crowd into the Steven Kasher Gallery to view the AP photo exhibit (Photo by Sean Thompson)

AP is your all access pass to New York Fashion Week

Iman

Iman is interviewed at New York Fashion Week, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (AP Nicole Evatt)

From the catwalk to the sidewalk, AP is your all access pass to New York Fashion Week, which runs through Sept. 12, and will be followed by events in London, Milan and Paris. Here’s a look at our multiformat coverage led by AP East Coast Entertainment & Lifestyles Editor Lisa Tolin and fashion writer Samantha Critchell:

-          AP will review and provide runway and celebrity photos from 60-plus shows.

-          Our journalists are producing 2 or more runway videos per day.

-          On Twitter, @AP_Fashion is providing color and the latest industry news.

Novek

AP’s Jocelyn Noveck interviews model Heidi Klum at New York Fashion Week. (Photo by Nicole Evatt)

-          A new interactive feature highlights behind-the-scenes images shot via Instagram by AP journalists such as entertainment producer Nicole Evatt and photographer Richard Drew.

-          All of AP’s fashion week coverage is accessible via AP Mobile, the award-winning mobile app and photo collections are available via AP Images.

“AP is always looking for new and innovative ways to cover one of the industry’s most-watched and highly anticipated events,” Tolin said. “The @AP_Fashion Twitter account and the Instagram project complement our comprehensive coverage and allow us to bring fashion fans behind the scenes and into the front row. ”

AP photographers accept Pulitzer Prize for Syria coverage

Five Associated Press journalists accepted the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography at an awards ceremony at New York’s Columbia University on May 30.  It is the 51st Pulitzer for AP and the 31st for photography.

Earlier this week the team reflected on the challenges and risks of documenting the civil war in Syria.

See a slideshow of the winning images.

Image

From left are: Pakistan chief photographer Muhammed Muheisen, Manu Brabo of Spain, Narciso Contreras of Mexico, Rodrigo Abd of Peru and Gaza-based Khalil Hamra. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Image

From left are: Gaza-based Khalil Hamra, Rodrigo Abd of Peru, Pakistan chief photographer Muhammed Muheisen, Manu Brabo of Spain and Narciso Contreras of Mexico. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

AP Pulitzer winners reflect on challenges, risks of covering Syria

The Associated Press journalists who won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography come from vastly different backgrounds, but are united in their mission to document the civil war in Syria openly, fairly and accurately.

PulitzerPanel

From left, Santiago Lyon, Rodrigo Abd, Muhammed Muheisen, Khalil Hamra, Narciso Contreras, Manu Brabo and Manoocher Deghati.

The team of Rodrigo Abd, Manu Brabo, Narciso Contreras, Khalil Hamra and Muhammed Muheisen spoke candidly about their experiences, living conditions and the backstory of some of their powerful images at a panel discussion for staff at AP headquarters in New York ahead of the Pulitzer ceremony on May 30. They were joined by Middle East Regional Photo Editor Manoocher Deghati and AP Vice President and Director of Photography Santiago Lyon.

Abd, who is based in Lima, Peru, but is of Syrian descent, said “going back to his roots” to cover this story was sad, but important. “We don’t do this for awards. We believe in journalism and the impact we can have with pictures,” he said.

Speaking about the importance of getting their images out to the world, Muheisen said: “If this picture doesn’t go out, it didn’t happen.”

 See a slideshow of winning images.

AP photographer: For a moment, hope in devastation

AP Photographer Sue Ogrocki has worked in Oklahoma for more than 10 years where she has covered about a dozen tornadoes. She was at the elementary school destroyed by a tornado and saw rescuers pulling children out of the rubble, capturing the key images of the tragedy. This is her account of what she witnessed.

Watch AP news video.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Follow the latest news from Oklahoma.

Former AP White House photographer honored for ‘Lifetime Achievement’

Former Associated Press Senior White House photographer Ron Edmonds is being honored by the White House News Photographers Association with its Lifetime Achievement Award. It will be presented at the 2013 “Eyes of History” annual awards gala on Saturday, May 11, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington.

Image

President Barack Obama congratulates AP White House Photographer Ron Edmonds, with his wife Grace and daughter Ashley, upon his retirement from AP. (White House photo by Lawrence Jackson, July 30, 2009)

Edmonds is “the quintessential Washington photojournalist,” said J. David Ake, AP assistant chief of bureau for photography in Washington. “Many of his images have stood the test of time and are now icons in our collective memory. He was arguably during his Washington tenure, the AP’s most published photographer.”

In interviews with AP and PBS, Edmonds offered recollections of his fascinating career and the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan — a split-second that he captured and that earned him a Pulitzer Prize.

“I have had one of the most fantastic jobs in the world,” Edmonds told colleagues in an email upon his retirement from AP after 28 years. “It has allowed me to work with some of the greatest journalists in the world and to make images of some of the biggest events in the last thirty years. I hope that in some small way, I have helped the Associated Press maintain its prominence as the number-one news organization.”

Video journalist hightails it to the heart of disaster in Texas

With quick thinking and immediate action, an AP video journalist beat even the first responders to the scene of a disaster in West, Texas. AP Managing Editor for State News Kristin Gazlay explains:

Dallas video journalist John Mone got a telephone call from a friend in the small town of West, Texas, whose house had just been shaking. He checked Twitter, saw reports that a fertilizer plant had exploded and called the Dallas desk. “Go,” editors told him. So he went.

John_Mone

John Mone

Because he was so quick to get on the road, he was able to get to the heart of the disaster, gaining access to first responders, witnesses and triage tents before authorities were able to cordon off the area. Austin-based legislative relief staffer Michael Brick wasn’t far behind, and Lubbock correspondent Betsy Blaney worked the phones.

Mone hightailed it down Interstate 35 fully expecting to be detoured to clear the way for response units. As he approached West, encountering the acrid smell of ammonia in the air, he was directed away from the blast site and to a triage center where all the witnesses were gathered –- and access to them had not yet been locked down.

He hit the record button on his video camera and didn’t stop rolling. He located people waiting for word on the injured, eyewitnesses wandering around in a daze and someone who had captured iPhone video of the explosion. Later, when police began to block off the area, he sneaked down a side road on foot with his camera, walked a mile and was able to film damaged homes.

Image

This Thursday, April 18, 2013, aerial photo shows the remains of a nursing home, left, apartment complex, center, and fertilizer plant, right, destroyed by an explosion in West, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Mone shared his interviews with desk editors putting together the mainbar, and shared a byline with Brick.

See his video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RqnLR-ZWGU

Read the story here: http://www.bostonglobe.com/2013/04/17/texas-fertilizer-plant-blast-injures-dozens/ytYc2CZkcuF8XJjqe6AFLO/story.html

The video of his witness interview was used 1,000 times by AP clients and, overall, video filed by Mone was taken by 2,600 times clients internationally. ABC News regularly used AP video in its updates.

For helping ensure the AP owned the story of the fertilizer explosion in a way no other news organization could match, Mone wins this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.

Stories behind coverage of Boston Marathon blasts

In a memo to staff, Senior Managing Editor for U.S. News Mike Oreskes recounts how photographer Charles Krupa, who covered his first Boston Marathon in 1986, pushed toward danger to capture one of the signature images of the April 15 bomb blasts. Oreskes also singles out other AP staffers near and far who contributed significantly to AP’s news report:

Even in the midst of the biggest stories, it is often the individual acts of journalistic determination that make all the difference. Charles Krupa, AP’s Boston Photographer, was in the pressroom finishing his coverage of the Boston Marathon when two deep booms resonated through the Copley Plaza hotel.

A security official announced that the hotel was in lockdown because of an explosion at the finish line, and that no one was allowed to leave.

But Krupa, knew he had to go.

He would run toward danger to fulfill his role as photojournalist, bringing back the gripping photo of a man, legs shattered by the explosion, being rushed from the scene in a wheelchair. It was one of the signature images of the bombings that transfixed the nation and brought Boston to a standstill for four days. For his professionalism and determination that awful afternoon Krupa wins this week’s Beat of The Week.

As guards started to lock the two marked exit doors, Krupa grabbed three cameras _ one with a 70-200mm zoom lens, one with a 300mm telephoto lens and the last one hurriedly attached with a 16-35mm zoom lens that would allow him to get up close to the subject. He put his laptop on his back and bolted for an unmarked, unlocked door he remembered near the race officials desk.

He crashed past three guards about to lock the next door, leading outside, and broke into the street.

He stopped, checked his cameras and ran toward the finish line on Boylston Street, half a block away.

It was there, in the panic and confusion, that he saw Jeffery Bauman being tended by a doctor, an emergency medical technician and a volunteer in a cowboy hat. “When I saw Bauman’s legs were gone, I knew whatever happened was bad,” Krupa said.

Image

An emergency responder and volunteers, including Carlos Arredondo in the cowboy hat, push Jeff Bauman in a wheel chair after he was injured in an explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday, April 15, 2013 in Boston. At least three people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy, and more than 170 were wounded when two bombs blew up seconds apart. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The volunteer, his hands bloody from applying tourniquets to Bauman’s mangled legs above the knees, was hailed as a hero. Bauman woke up in the hospital and helped the FBI identify at least one of the bombing suspects who he said had looked him in the eye shortly before the bomb went off.

Krupa shot six or seven frames, and moved on to capture more images.

When a crew of Boston police officers saw him coming and made it clear he wasn’t getting through them, he doubled back to the finish line photo bridge, only to be blocked at the bottom of the staircase by another policeman. But then a race official whom Krupa has known for 25 years told the officer to let him pass. Krupa covered his first Boston Marathon in 1986.

From there, Krupa said, he could survey two scenes half a block apart: race officials, doctors and police helping the injured, ambulances being quickly loaded, and the sidewalks splattered with blood and broken glass.

After a few minutes, concerned about more possible bombs, police and officials cleared the area.

Krupa had been on Boylston Street about 8 minutes. He had shot about 250 frames.

He went back to the hotel but couldn’t get in, so he sat on the sidewalk, took out his laptop and filed about 25 images.

Those eight minutes were the first extraordinary individual effort of an extraordinary week, but hardly the last. If Krupa showed the world what happened, Washington newswoman Eileen Sullivan told how it happened and who authorities say did it, and Atlanta-based videojournalist Robert Ray got the only shot of the suspect being taken away in an ambulance. In between, New York photo editor Karly Domb Sadof plumbed social media for user-generated content that kept the photo report fresh all week.

Sullivan, the AP’s domestic counterterrorism reporter, broke two agenda-setting stories. The day after the bombing, she reported exclusively that the bombs were made in ordinary kitchen pressure cookers hidden in black bags. Then, after working sources through the predawn hours on the last day of the police dragnet, she reported the names of the suspects and that they were Russian Chechens.

When the manhunt ended and the surviving suspect was taken into custody, Ray captured exclusive video, sprinting ahead when he saw the ambulance leaving, escorted by police. As it passed, Ray raised the video camera up to the window and got the shot of the suspect inside, on his back. The single edit was used more than 1,800 times by AP video clients, leading BBC and Sky News bulletins.

Domb Sadof, who normally is the photo desk liaison to the Business Desk, was virtually a one-woman show pursuing user-generated photos through social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. She obtained permission from the families to use photos of the three people killed, and in at least two cases her efforts led to interviews with photographers that developed into stories.

She even managed to connect the Boston bombings to another tragedy. A marathoner on his way home from Boston witnessed the Texas fertilizer plant explosion. Domb Sadof located the man and passed along his information to the Central Desk for a story.