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2021 Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Medium Newsroom finalist

Blue to Red in 30 Miles

About the Project

We knew that we had the story of the 2020 election encapsulated in a single county. But telling our readers wasn’t enough — we had to show them.

“Blue to Red in 30 Miles” was the culmination of that effort, combining video, data and old-school door-knocking into the story of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, one of the country’s most reliable presidential-election bellwethers.

This was one centerpiece in the “Swing County, Swing State” project, a collection of more than 100 pieces of unique content from breaking news on the campaign trail, mid-level enterprise and deep, creative dives. Swing County was our response to parachute journalism from larger outlets: This is our home, and we know it best.

“Blue to Red in 30 Miles” embodied that concept in story form. The premise was to pick a single road that captured the diversity of Northampton County — politically, of course, but also socially, economically. That was found in Pennsylvania State Route 248, with one end in the city of Easton’s blue neighborhoods and the other in the red, rural rolling hills of the county’s northern tier, and the battleground boroughs and suburbs between.

It was an ambitious venture. Reporters, photographers, videographers, editors and designers from LehighValleyLive.com and our sister site, NJ.com, collaborated for weeks to bring together the main elements into a single package.

First, the data. Demographics were a starting point, a snapshot of each community and its key attributes for readers not as familiar with the area. These are incorporated as a visual design that follows the reader, with a map showing their place in the journey.

Second, the stories. The people of Northampton County are what make it a purple county in a purple state. We had to capture the wide range of lifestyles and experiences. Our data, aided by a collaborative effort with Syracuse University to contact more than 200 area voters, informed our decisions on who to approach. Personable reporting convinced them to open their thoughts to us. The diversity of backgrounds and opinions is the heart of our story, marking divisions and similarities within our region that echo across the country.

Third, the visuals. Any good road trip requires photos. We went the extra mile with time-lapse and drone videos, the product of numerous scouting excursions, to great effect. The story design uses looping animations to draw the reader through. Videos of the interviews are strong enough to stand by themselves, each as impactful as the story itself.

The weeks of work from concept to completion gave us something comprehensive, impactful and never-before-seen in the 15-year history of LehighValleyLive.com.

No cliché diner drop-ins required.