Haiti is a fascinating and dangerous place. Nobody covers it like Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald. For the hundreds of thousands of Haitians living in the Miami area, Haiti is a local story.
So, when Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated in the middle of the night, Ms. Charles was the first American journalist to report it. By the end of the day, she was able to make her way to Haiti, despite closure of its international airport. We are sworn to secrecy as to how she accomplished this.
Through brave and dogged reporting, she was soon able to reconstruct the night of the assassination and with the help of colleagues back in Miami had determined that the murder plot had been hatched in South Florida, using trained killers from Colombia. I
t was an incredibly convoluted plot and to tell it in all its twists and turns we enlisted the help of the Herald’s interactive team (which Miami shares with the rest of the McClatchy company). The result was: Made in Miami, a magnificent multimedia portrait of how schemers in South Florida gave birth to the plot to assassinate a foreign. leader. If we can get geeky for a minute, here is what we did digitally to support and enhance the reporting through interactive tools.
For the Made in Miami particle intro, we designed a Blender to threeJS workflow. We set up scenes in Blender involving lighting and shadows that we applied as static textures to the 3D models. For each scene, we created a specific camera movement as well. We then imported a series of these 3D Blender scenes into our reusable, custom-built threeJS engine, complete with custom shaders, and camera movements tied to scrolling text. By sampling the static textures on the 3D models, we created a particle effect in threeJS. And by applying custom shaders, we manipulated these particles to add noise and transition effects, like the particle dispersion effect.
For the Made in Miami network graphic, we designed a workflow exporting from Google Sheets directly into our reusable, custom-built network graphic Web Component. We designed the network graphic in Figma, livened up the visualization with excellent illustrations, and powered the experience using d3. By filling out a templated Google Sheet, the reporters and and the interactive team were able to collaborate in a familiar format. When complete, we exported that Google Sheets data into a JSON file format using a McClatchy plugin. This exported JSON file directly powered the network graphic experience. This workflow made it relatively simple to iterate on the network graphic, add/remove connections, and update text without directly affecting the code.
The result was a powerful mix of shoe-leather reporting by Herald staff,– primarily but not exclusively Jacqueline Charles — undertaken under volatile, dangerous conditions, melded with digital storytelling at its finest.