The pork industry has been raising a stink in North Carolina for years. Duplin County, NC has one of the highest concentrations of hogs in the United States — about 30 hogs for every person in the county. North Carolina is second only to Iowa in number of hogs in the state.
But Duplin County wasn’t always so hog heavy. The rise of industrialized hog farming in the 1980s and ’90s inundated the county with pigs and their waste. This pork industry explosion fattened some pocketbooks, but it also drove a wedge through the community over odors, health and environmental effects.
Now, 20 years later, a pending nuisance lawsuit filed against pork producers claims that the odors, gases, particulates, bacteria and other toxins emanating from hog farms have made it almost impossible for people to live safely nearby. This class-action lawsuit against the world’s largest pork producer shows that, once pulled apart, it isn’t easy to put a community back together.
We approached our storytelling with a media-neutral strategy. We knew that the storytelling had to be fair, accurate and trustworthy. But even in this age of multimedia, learned that some stories could be best told with words. With some community members hesitant to be in front of a camera, we used short video clips with well-chosen words in the site section, “Pulled Apart.”
Investigative work about the complexities of the pork industry also challenged the team. Getting quotes “on the record” proved difficult. We used interactive and motion graphics to explain the industry’s growth and carbon footprint. We also did a video story to capture the state’s culture of pork. And we used text and video storytelling to tell the story of a persistent and enthusiastic hog farmer who makes energy from hog waste.
The media of our stories matches their messages.
Our journalistic exploration of these issues was met with some pushback, ostensibly, at least in part, from fear: fear of losing one’s job, assets, reputation, even livelihood.
Perhaps the ultimate irony is that this fear — pitting activist against farmer, corporation against reporter, neighbor against neighbor — is driven by a shared set of values and common goals of maintaining community, family and tradition.
Whole Hog NC aims to shed light on the energy dynamics within the hog industry in North Carolina. We explore the complex set of relationships among those with an economic, environmental, cultural and political stake in the industry. We work to inform, engage and surprise through the multimedia telling of human stories behind the facts.