2016 Excellence in Visual Digital Storytelling, Medium Newsroom winner

Casualties of the Streets

James Barragán, Liliana Soto, Ricardo Brazziell, Deborah Cannon, Kelly West, Andrew Chavez, staff.

Austin American-Statesman

Excellence in Visual Digital Storytelling, Medium Newsroom


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Judges comments

Very good investigation. Nice use of video and photography. Great data. And nice that it’s available in Spanish or English. Excellent.

About the Project

In a time when Austin is listed on numerous “Top Cities” lists for innovation, job creation, growth, and the best places to live, the plight of the extremely poor and chronically homeless in the city is often forgotten.

“Casualties of the Street” put a human face on the chronically homeless men and women who are dying on the streets of our city while it is touted as model of economic success. Photographer Ricardo Brazziell visited several times with homeless people living the harsh conditions we described in our story and captured in photographs and an audio slideshow the wide-ranging scope of their experience: their makeshift tent homes in the middle of wooded areas in the city, their comradery and even their panhandling.

Deborah Cannon traveled to the sites of several deaths we reported in the piece, capturing the quotidian nature of the places where the deaths occurred: a park, a lake, an offramp on a state highway – that brought home for the reader the near invisibility of this population that is dying around us.

In perhaps the most effective demonstration of the problem, our data team created a database of the 77 death records so reporters from both the Statesman and a local Univision affiliate could collectively report on the circumstances of each death within the 2-year span captured. Each news organization then went on to produce their own reports.

The database was used in an online visualization to help readers understand the scope of the deaths by geography, the cause of death and other contributing factors.

The database and the entire series was easily accessible in English and Spanish and could be changed with a quick toggle of a button.

This reporting helped kickstart discussions by city officials and homeless advocates on how to better serve the homeless community.