2022 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Medium Newsroom finalist

San Francisco Chronicle

About the Project

In 2021-2022, our newsroom doubled down on its commitment to audience engagement, breaking news, investigations and visuals. Our mission to innovate took major leaps forward with investments in data journalism and immersive experiences. Here’s how we helped readers:

Wildfires Texts: We launched a text messaging service to make it easy for people, including those relying on phones, to get news.

Climate Tools: Drought and fire are grim realities of California life. We launched a Drought Tracker that shows shortage status, reservoir levels and restrictions for local water districts. We upgraded the mapping and speed of our Fire Map and Air Quality Map to help readers understand conditions near them and stay safe. These tools are among our most visited of all time.

Next-level election results: Our dev and data team built infrastructure to pull in results for the S.F. school board recall with graphics showing voter turnout, and how each precinct voted. For the June election, we upgraded the functionality with news updates so readers can find everything in one place.

3-D animations: We launched a four-part narrative project with maps and aerial imagery on sea level rise. Our designers used 3-D drawing software to create animations showing how proposed solutions would work.

Pandemic impacts remained present in all our work, but in the past year we found readers looking to us for much more. Here are the most captivating experiences we created:

Immersive storytelling: A narrative about a man who brought his fiancee back to life as an A.I. chatbot was one of our most popular of all time. It caused such strong reactions that it made “Black Mirror” go viral. Devs worked hand-in-hand with the writer and editor to create animations mimicking the chatbot, and a design embodying the story’s emotional progression.

‘Best Day Ever’: Our Food, dev and design teams dreamed up a fun-filled itinerary to expand our food coverage of neighborhoods, and have done over a dozen guides using this easy-to-publish template.

Data + Design: Across the newsroom, we worked to integrate data visualizations into in-depth narratives. One example is our coverage of the fentanyl crisis. We published projects tracking overdose deaths, and a multimedia story showing the epidemic through the eyes of those most impacted. The opening visualization shows the staggering death toll within just a few S.F. blocks.

GPS audio stories: So many of our readers tell us they want to learn more about San Francisco’s history. We launched a series of GPS-guided audio stories that put our knowledge and storytelling into their ears as they explore IRL.

On social media, we used live audio/Twitter Spaces to give readers access to famous COVID experts like Dr. Bob Wachter, and to converse with us about holiday giving or other hot-button topics. On Instagram, we have used reels to make our account the ultimate place to see the best stuff to eat, and take in advice from the Insta community on their favorite food experiences.