ProPublica’s approach during the past year leveraged, as ever, every aspect of digital media, including interactive storytelling, videography, mapping, immersive storytelling and engagement with hard-to-reach audiences:
ProPublica journalists Nina Martin and Akilah Johnson sought to understand why the pandemic seemed to be taking a disproportionate toll on Black men in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Their piece powerfully portrays Black men lost to the virus, pillars of their families and communities, their lives cut short just when they were needed most. The longread is jam-packed with detailed, accessible science and moving prose, which readers picked through to find the ones most resonant to them, which they could Tweet (https://twitter.com/search?q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.propublica.org%2Farticle%2Fhow-covid-19-hollowed-out-a-generation-of-young-black-men&src=typed_query).
A different form of immersive storytelling shaped our approach to covering the storming of the Capitol. Computational journalist Jeff Kao received thousands of videos publicly uploaded by Trump rallygoers and insurrectionists to the social media site Parler, which had been archived by a programmer before it was taken offline by its host. Within days, we published an interactive timeline of more than 500 videos taken at or around the Capitol, providing one of the most comprehensive records of the infamous day, and crucial documentary evidence that might otherwise have been lost.
We continued to approach complex topics that will shape our globe in the decades to come. In 2020, Abrahm Lustgarten and Al Shaw of ProPublica, in partnership with The New York Times Magazine, created a series of groundbreaking reports exploring the looming catastrophe of migration caused by climate change. The work was a bracing mix of unprecedented data modeling, overseas reporting, and innovative cartography.
Our journalism also hit close to home. Last summer, New York police unions pressed a court to stop the release of officers’ discipline records. What the unions did not know is that ProPublica had already obtained thousands of the files. We quickly made them public, cracking open a very heavy door that had been closed for decades. A federal judge cited our data before ruling in favor of allowing disclosure of more records.
As part of our Local Reporting Network initiative, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica exposed the various ways coastal homeowners have used loopholes to circumvent Hawaii’s environmental laws at the expense of the state’s beaches. The Star-Advertiser’s Sophie Cocke worked with ProPublica journalist Ash Ngu to develop an interactive graphic that allows people to tour a stretch of Oahu coastline. With the use of drones and advanced techniques that tie the footage to shoreline maps, it seamlessly shows how the area’s beach has been devastated by seawalls, property by property. The piece also includes a built-in feature to allow readers to search whether properties had received permits to keep older seawalls or to build new ones. Among the featured sites: a multimillion-dollar oceanfront estate tied to former President Barack Obama.
We continue to hone our practices and tools, and relaunched our story page templates in 2020 to support rich interactive storytelling across the huge variety of platforms that a modern newsroom must support. https://www.propublica.org/article/2021-article-page-redesign