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2017 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small Newsroom finalist

STAT

About the Project

We call them STAT addicts: In emails, on social media, and in person, we routinely hear from readers who say that they just can’t get enough of our journalism since our website launched in November 2015. The response has validated our hunch that readers were hungry for sustained, deep coverage of health, medicine, and scientific discovery — stories that embrace and explain complexity and hold researchers, government agencies, hospitals, and drug companies accountable. We believed that stories from this realm could be credible without being dull and dutiful. Instead, we thought they should engage and delight, with vivid writing and the full set of multimedia tools, from video to animation to data visualization to social media; one of our videos surpassed 80 million views on Facebook in just two weeks. We believe we’ve achieved our ambitions.

Two years ago, STAT had no staff, no mission, no functional office space. Today, we have become the go-to site for news, long-form journalism, and investigative reporting about everything from the national opioid addiction crisis to the scientific revolution triggered by CRISPR gene editing technology. Our reporting on EpiPen price hikes supercharged the national conversation about drug costs, and Vice President Biden cited our work in calling for greater transparency in science.

We vigorously pursue public service journalism, unafraid to investigate powerful targets. We revealed problems at an over-hyped Google spinoff and analyzed decades of video clips of President Trump to document changes in his speech patterns that could signal cognitive decline. We were at the forefront of coverage of the Zika outbreak, sending reporters to Brazil, Cuba, and Miami to better understand this mystifying virus and revealing that Puerto Rico was undercounting Zika-related birth defects. We dedicated a team of reporters and multimedia journalists to our searing coverage of the growing opioid epidemic, and mounted an expensive legal fight to unseal court documents. After we persuaded a West Virginia judge to unseal records showing how OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma thwarted efforts by state officials to limit prescribing of the drug, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted: “When I talk about drug corporations being a major threat to the lives of Americans this is what I mean.”

Most of all, we meld visual and written language to tell stories in the most gripping, seamless, innovative way possible — as the samples included in our entry demonstrate. They include a documentary on the medical crews who staff “the world’s deadliest race,” which was done with the Verse interactive video storytelling tool and was so popular it crashed Verse’s server. “Game of Genomes” was a modern take on an illuminated manuscript, And “Dope Sick,” seamlessly wove together 8,000 words, 20 videos, 2 texted conversations, and 15 scene-setting photographs. More than 100,000 readers stayed with the package for well over six minutes on average — an eternity for digital media. The Poynter Institute newsletter called it “a knockout, tragic tale” while also noting that The New York Times cited the piece in an internal memo about digital innovation.