2022 Student Journalism Award, Portfolio: Student Team finalist

Reflections of the L.A. Uprising

About the Project

We knew it was an ambitious project. With a class full of students new to immersive storytelling, the challenge was how to use the technology to commemorate the 1992 Los Angeles Riots/Uprising in just a handful of weeks. With these challenges, I’ll admit I was scared what we could produce might do harm to these communities that were frustrated and misrepresented 30 years ago.

But the students delivered a series that was more thoughtful and innovative than I could have imagined. And it was so successful that both the Los Angeles Times and KCET, independently, decided to publish some or all of our pieces.

Despite not being alive when it happened, the young journalists researched the historic event that changed the city – and country – proposing immersive stories and producing powerful pieces.

We grouped them into four pillars:
• The Photographers: Using 360/VR video and AR portals via Snapchat, present iconic photographs from the event in context to today, hearing directly from four photojournalists that were there. David Butow, Hyungwon Kang, Kirk McKoy and Ted Soqui – all award-winning photographers – met with the students to tell the stories behind their powerful images.

• The Scars: Hundreds of businesses that were burnt down during the uprising have remained empty lots 30 years later. We met with Cornelius Pettus, the subject of an iconic 1992 photo, to talk about how he tried to save his business and community but these lots are painful wounds that have never healed.

• The Liquor Store/Intersection: Florence and Normandie was the epicenter of the uprising and located on the corner is a controversial liquor store that has rebranded as a market and hopes to move beyond the trauma to serve the community. In addition to the 360/VR video, we created two WebXR experiences of the infamous intersection.

• The Echoes: Whether it is a volunteer at the historic First AME church or a police officer or an artist or historian, everyone in the community still feels the echoes 30 years later. This collection of oral histories – presented as a VR gallery and 360/VR video – represents and shares the community’s pain and growth.

KCET, the local PBS station in Southern California, was impressed but worried our work was too cutting-edge for their demographic. But they still wanted to run the photojournalists piece: The Los Angeles Times, the leading newspaper that captured the events of 1992, wanted it all. Our projects became core to their 30-year anniversary coverage:

While these professional news organizations were our media partners, this entire project was student produced.

We did the reporting, the innovation and the production. We designed a new style of AR portals that blends historic images with today’s reality. While JOVRNALISM™ has been pushing immersive innovation since 2015, this is our most experimental project to date.