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2015 Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Large Newsroom finalist

The N-Word

About the Project

The word “nigger” is used 500,000 times a day on Twitter — sometimes innocuously, sometimes menacingly, sometimes out of love. A word often considered the most vile racial slur in American history is now uttered with a kind of casualness unimaginable just a few decades ago.

A team of Washington Post journalists spent weeks brainstorming how best to explain the resurgence of language that is at once forbidden and embraced, revived in a derivative form — “nigga” — that often confuses. A subject as complex and charged as this one required a bold approach unshackled from traditional storytelling. The Post produced an imaginative, video-driven project that challenged viewers as much as the word itself does. The project’s pioneering digital presentation allowed users to explore various points of view on the n-word through creation of their own custom videos and readers could dive deeper and listen to one-on-one video conversations, not moderated by journalists.

This project engaged Post readers like few others and established a new model for ambitious journalism that captures the spirit and opportunities of the digital age. It also elicited reaction pieces from many, including former CNN host Piers Morgan, John Legend and Talib Kweli.