2017 Excellence in Visual Digital Storytelling, Large Newsroom finalist

A New Age of Walls

Samuel Granados, Zoeann Murphy, Kevin Schaul and Anthony Faiola

The Washington Post

Excellence in Visual Digital Storytelling, Large Newsroom


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About the Project

Immigration dominated the Donald Trump campaign, and a near identical debate over migration was taking shape in Europe and elsewhere. We recognized that the new nationalism being unleashed across continents would be a defining global story of 2016.

We spent a month reporting this story on three different continents, gathering more than 70 voices in 8 countries. We then dedicated ourselves to creating an experience that explained the complexity of this phenomenon in a way that was rich, fair, deeply reported and emotional.

“A New Age of Walls” is driven by its deep analysis of the cause and effect of walls. We explain their manifestation as a pushback against globalization that is spanning continents, dividing countries, separating families and becoming a defining characteristic of the early 21st Century.

A feat of this scope achieved in writing alone would have been an echo of the animated, multi-media package that took our readers on an intellectual journey and helped them grasp the causality and roots of a divisive force reshaping their world.

We absorbed the views of world experts — talking to the architect who designed the West Bank Wall in Israel as well the top academics who keep track and document each new border barrier. We interviewed border enforcement agents, national and local politicians, and concerned citizens. We talked to desperate refugees, even following them as they sought to break through the new fences that are blocking their paths to hope.

In content, form and experience, everything about this project was innovative.

We saw this project as an opportunity to challenge our regular reporting process. Of the four reporters who led the project, one has a strong background in design, another in development/engineering, and still another in video journalism. These non-traditional reporters teamed with foreign correspondents, who brought established range in writing and synthesizing complex global issues.

After much experimentation with structure, we crafted a radically new journalistic template, breaking each episode of the series down into high-altitude text, on-the-ground video slides, and maps and charts that explained the key concepts.

It was enormously difficult to execute with continuity — we ask the reader to travel from place to place while introducing them to many ideas and characters. But the innovative structure we developed allowed us to create consistency in visual pacing while building conceptual momentum.

We then adapted this across platforms. In desktop, a full screen sequence of slides blend into each other while you scroll. In mobile, we used stacked cards intertwined with text and graphics. In both experiences, the reader is seamlessly immersed in the story as they move through it – and not distracted by the novel technical approach.

We took a subject with enormous complexity and scope and transformed it into an easily digestible yet intellectually rigorous and entertaining piece of ambitious journalism. To do so, we mixed data visualization, mapping, video and writing for a sophisticated reader experience that set a new standard for still-evolving multimedia efforts.