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2018 Excellence in Collaboration and Partnerships finalist

Crossing the Divide

About the Project

“Crossing the Divide” was a reporting road trip that took five early-career journalists across America during a time of deep divisions. This multimedia and multi-platform reporting project was a co-production of The GroundTruth Project and WGBH Youth Media, and also included partnerships with local media outlets, public universities and public high schools across the country, and storytelling organizations.

Crossing the Divide could not have been produced by The GroundTruth Project alone, or by WGBH Youth Media alone. The partnership between our organizations allowed us to be more innovative and ambitious, to incorporate community listening events and high school storytelling workshops, and to leverage the team’s reporting for different audiences and platforms, with an eye toward media literacy and community engagement.

The project reached an estimated 1 million people through the distribution of in-depth reporting in local media (primarily newspapers and public radio), and daily behind-the-scenes social media (@XTheDivide) aimed at giving audiences — particularly young adults — a window into the reporting process. In each community where they reported, the journalists held at least two “listening events” — one in a high school classroom, in partnership with a nonprofit called Narrative 4, and one for the general public, often in partnership with The Moth.

WGBH Youth Media established relationships with 15 high school teachers across the U.S. — five whose classrooms the reporting team visited — to follow the “Crossing the Divide” journey in real time with their students, and use it as a jumping off point for discussions about media literacy, as well as the issues the journalists were highlighting. The reporting focused on education inequality in Massachusetts, health care and the post-coal economy in Kentucky, Somali-American identity in Minnesota, tension over wildfire management in Montana, and race and gentrification in California.

These classrooms became a testing ground to gauge how students were choosing to engage with the daily content, and how the material was resonating with them. The teachers also introduced the finished reporting in their classrooms, to connect the behind-the-scenes decisions and challenges with the work that was ultimately published.

The educational, storytelling and local media partnerships were instrumental to the five reporters’ ability to produce exceptional journalism in a short period of time.

The high school and storytelling partnerships allowed the five journalists to achieve a high degree of intimacy with the students, some of whom went on to become subjects of stories. Additionally, the local news partners were able to share their expertise and institutional knowledge with the five reporters on the project. The editorial partners accepted and published all the reporting produced on Crossing the Divide, speaking to the excellence of the work.