2023 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Large Newsroom finalist

The New York Times

About the Project

Security camera footage showing deadly atrocities, 3D models of a building blackened by smoke, artificial intelligence that learns before your eyes: Over the last year, The New York Times produced incisive and imaginative projects that were at the heart of the most important stories of the moment.

A powerful video revealed how Russian forces killed dozens of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, in March 2022. When reporters entered the town a month later, they discovered carnage: a man dead beside his bicycle, a woman half-buried in a garden, dozens of bodies strewn along a residential street.

Using classic ground-level reporting and cutting-edge visual forensic analysis, our journalists undertook a meticulous effort to document Russia’s most gruesome war crime. The project earned a Pulitzer prize for international reporting.

In recent months, the rapid rise of artificial intelligence has become a lightning rod in classrooms, Hollywood, diplomatic circles and practically everywhere else. But understanding the consequences of AI can only go so far if you don’t get how it works.

So we set out to make our own chatbots to explain the principles of large language models — the bedrocks of wildly popular tools like ChatGPT. With each step of the interactive, our models showed readers how they can transform from crude regurgitators of symbols to being capable of composing lyrical turns of phrase.

Stairwells aren’t supposed to become chimneys. But for residents of a New York City high-rise, smoke from a fire in January 2022 billowed throughout the building’s tower, claiming 17 lives.

Over months, a team of reporters, graphics editors, 3D modelers and developers painstakingly reconstructed what went wrong inside the building and why, using city data, footage shared by onlookers and other public sources. The deaths were preventable, The Times’s investigation found, exposing the risks of fire-prevention systems that can easily fail.

For decades, Californians have been preparing for the big one. But as residents brace for earthquakes, new research shows that a danger has been building in the sky: Rising global temperatures are strengthening “atmospheric rivers,” supercharging storms.

Weaving together data visualization, narrative writing and photography, we demonstrated how climate change is intensifying global weather patterns, disrupting communities, ecosystems and economies. Millions read the piece, shared it and talked about it. NPR and other news outlets did stories on our story.

The project was alarmingly prescient: Months after it was published, atmospheric rivers began lashing California, drenching the state one after another after another.

As the world continues to grapple with questions of climate change, racial equity and political extremism, the work of Octavia Butler — a Black feminist female writer of science fiction — has been hailed as eerily prophetic, nearly two decades after her death.

Her novels are now being adapted into high-profile film and TV projects. To tell Butler’s story, a team of visual journalists used depth-scanning technology and immersive storytelling techniques to illuminate the worlds and ideas that shaped Butler — and how her ideas shaped the world we live in now.