2017 Topical Reporting, Large Newsroom finalist

ISIS From All Angles

About the Project

“Don’t rejoice over claims that ISIS is on the ropes,” CNN’s Ben Wedeman wrote in June last year. “The dark, poisonous soil that has given birth to tens of thousands of extremists in Iraq and beyond hasn’t lost its fertility.”

He was right. Despite significant losses of territory, the threat posed by ISIS within Iraq and Syria and around the world has not abated.

CNN is on the frontline of the battle against ISIS, both literally – reporting from places like Mosul, Jarablus and al-Qayyara – and by responding with speed, authority and integrity to ISIS-inspired or directed attacks.

With deep investigative journalism, CNN explored the inner workings of ISIS and some of its members, and covered the ISIS-influenced perilous mass migration of people and its global ramifications.

In November 2016, while embedded with Iraqi special forces, CNN’s Arwa Damon and Brice Laine were under siege in Mosul for 28 hours after their convoy was ambushed by ISIS. They later returned, reconnecting with those they met during that ordeal to find out about the continuing ISIS threat and witness the humanity that somehow thrives in Mosul. The result is their graphic and video-led report, “Return to Mosul“.

On Facebook, the bespoke video had 120,000+ views, and Damon hosted a Live Q&A from Mosul (

A different angle on ISIS: A VR experience from the burning oil wells in al-Qayyara that ran on Facebook and CNN Digital.

CNN has frequently produced investigative work on ISIS topics. After obtaining 90,000 pages of documents and photos from investigators, CNN broke the news ISIS intended the November 2015 Paris attacks to be far worse.

Another angle: CNN’s Clarissa Ward met Michael Delefortrie, a former altar boy-turned-ISIS fighter now living in Belgium. With this digital special report, we delved into his life and also detailed the journey ISIS fighters make.

Extensive investigation by Scott Glover broke the case of Daniela Greene – a former FBI translator who married a key ISIS operative. The story casts questions about US national security.

Throughout, one of CNN’s key missions is to provide in-depth analysis to our audience, putting seemingly incremental developments into a broader, comprehensible narrative. One example: “Islamic State 2.0” by Tim Lister.

All too often, our coverage of ISIS involves breaking news of terror attacks. An example: the Westminster attack in London.

Within minutes of confirming the attack, CNN published alerts on all platforms plus posts on Twitter and Facebook.

CNN then threaded tweets to make it easy for users to follow the story on mobile. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram updates and a live blog ensured users could access the latest developments on any device and platform.

CNN sourced, cleared and ran video from eyewitnesses’ social media, streamed aerial footage of events live on Facebook and produced special coverage on its Snapchat Discover edition.

Shortly after the attack, CNN produced a comprehensive timeline complete with an animated 3D map, video footage, images and social media embeds.