2023 Feature, Medium Newsroom finalist

The Rise and Fall of the Jersey Seagull

NJ Advance Media

Feature, Medium Newsroom


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About the Project

What dark force would compel a reporter to immerse himself in an intimate realm of violence, thievery and vindictive defecation?

Maybe it’s curiosity. Or maybe it’s the lasting scars of a childhood encounter with a laughing gull, when writer Adam Clark suffered “a disgusting dollop of pungent poop” landing on his thigh.

Whatever the malignant influence, the result was “The Rise and Fall of the Jersey Seagull,” a tour de force on the bird New Jersey loves to hate. A bird that terrorizes beachgoers. Defecates from the heavens. But a bird that’s also a loving parent, devoted mate and regal presence, a cunning and majestic spirit animal for the gritty Garden State.

Adam took an iconic animal known for its brashness and guile, facing the existential threat of rising seas. He added colorful writing, witty humor and sophisticated observations. And he mixed in a wide spectrum of unique voices – from terrorized boardwalk inhabitants to invested conservationists lauding the gull’s charming beauty to the falconers whose charges chase and kill the birds.

Readers frequently brush aside exhaustive reporting on climate change as too technical and dry — a vague, distant threat. But “The Rise and Fall of the Jersey Seagull” offers a fresh and distinctly digestible brand of public service journalism accessible to all.

The result is a story that’s part unforgettable profile and part punk-rock manifesto of an animal at the abyss.

But the epic storytelling is only one piece of the project. Mix in stunning photos and video from Michael Mancuso and Andre Malok, who captured the sights and sounds of summer at the Jersey Shore. Then inject an arresting, innovative and playfully interactive web design by Carl Roberts.

How do you distinguish between a laughing gull and a herring gull? There’s an interactive tool. Don’t know anything about the gulls’ secret domestic life? Watch Andre’s video illustrating the gulls’ relationships with their lifelong mates and adorable hatchlings. Wanna have a little fun? The cursor becomes a pizza slice, fries or a hamburger depending on your place in the story, underscoring the birds’ favorite boardwalk delicacies.

You don’t care about seagulls? You will after experiencing this singular project.