Last March, as the world fixated on the emerging Covid-19 pandemic, Harriet Constable and Jacob Kushner embarked on a major journalistic endeavor to show the BBC’s vast global audience of nearly half a billion readers, listeners and viewers what we can do to stop the next one. From March 2020 to January 2021 they documented the work of scientists, researchers and experts on the frontlines of pandemic-prevention and preparedness for their online multimedia project, ‘Stopping the Next One’.
The series focused on six animals across six continents capable of carrying six diseases that could cause the next pandemic, and explored the ways in which human activities are making the next spillover more likely. The final product was a series of six feature articles, each 3000 to 4000 words, written for BBC Future, and a three part documentary series for BBC Reel of 10 minutes each. Their work was supported with funding from the Pulitzer Center, which also broadcast and hosted talks about the series with its U.S. and global audience.
From following scientists who discovered viruses in bats in Asia–which helped Thailand understand COVID-19 before China did, saving millions of lives–to tracking a dangerous new species of mosquito that is moving across the globe by military aircraft or shipping containers, spreading deadly diseases to the North America and the Caribbean, this wide reaching series helped readers look to the future in the midst of the worst global health catastrophe of our lifetimes.
Through video, photography and narrative storytelling, the series leads readers through an understanding of why now is the time to pay attention to the other zoonotic (animal-bourne) diseases that will soon plague humankind–and to hold governments accountable to fund the scientists working to stop them. To present the project, the BBC created a special dedicated landing page where readers could click into each of the stores and videos, which were cross-promoted on BBC Future and BBC Reel. This multimedia approach allowed us to engage with the widest possible audience, with stories translated into Mandarin, Portuguese and other languages for the BBC’s global news audience–the largest in the world. All stories in the series were also promoted on the BBC.com international homepage, which receives upwards of 110 million unique browsers a month.
By following the scientists and meeting the communities at the center of the fight to stop the next pandemic, the series helped readers imagine their own individual role in stopping zoonotic spillovers, protecting themselves, and ensuring a safer and healthier planet for future generations. Not only did each story identify an issue we face; each also offered scientifically-tested solutions for ways we can be better prepared, or even avoid the next pandemic altogether.
For our entry, we have shared five of the six written articles, and one of three episodes in the video series.