The American skier Ted Ligety was surrounded by the international press corps after winning the giant slalom in February at the Sochi Olympics. Several reporters pressed Ligety and his coach to explain how he had managed to beat the best skiers in the world by nearly half a second, an eternity in an event that is often decided by far smaller fractions of time.
Ligety tried to explain his prowess, then shrugged and said, “If you want to know how I do it, go look at The New York Times. They can explain it better than I can.”
Ligety was referring to an interactive graphic published online days earlier that broke down the intricacies of his performance. Our online visitors — from skiing experts to first-time Olympics viewers — ate it up. The piece also crystallized what The Times tries to deliver to a global audience that can see the Games themselves on TV: Deeply reported pieces — presented in graphics, photographs, text and video — that pop on several platforms.
Over several weeks in February, The Times relied on nearly three dozen journalists in Russia and many more in New York to produce the most robust and diverse digital report possible. Real-time data, interactive analysis, video features and special multimedia projects like “Fourthers” were party of the daily flow.
For the first time, The Times provided a photo Firehose, a real-time stream of photographs that often proved more addicting than the TV broadcast itself. Another major success at the Sochi Games was The Times’s interactive analyses that illuminated what had happened soon after an event. Many of those pieces, like the explanation of Yuzuru Hanyu’s gold-medal performance in figure skating, were worldwide sensations via Twitter, Facebook and The New York Times homepage.
The Times approached the Olympics with a full understanding of its obvious shortcoming: It did not pay billions of dollars to secure rights to video of the Games themselves. But that weakness can become an advantage if, through deep reporting, a digital presentation brings a new level of understanding. This was on display during the Sochi Games — including after the men’s giant slalom race.