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2018 General Excellence in Online Journalism winner

The Trace


The Trace launched in 2015 with a mission to shine a light on gun violence in America. The beat we cover makes it imperative to serve an array of communities, from journalists to policymakers to survivors in hard-to-reach neighborhoods. To do that, The Trace harnesses the innovative tools and collaborative spirit of online media.

With our investigations, The Trace deploys code to analyze data and publishes document troves to facilitate follow-up reporting. Other Trace enterprise journalism relies on learning from underserved populations whom we engage through digital outreach.

* “Missing Pieces”: In collaboration with more than a dozen NBC television stations, reporter Brian Freskos surmounted federal data restrictions and produced a groundbreaking multimedia package on the role of gun theft in gun violence. His colleague Daniel Nass wrote a script to help clean the 800,000 police records we collected from around the country. Our TV partners produced in-depth segments driving home its human costs. Other outlets have used the full dataset to report their own stories, increasing our impact.

* “The Unchecked Influence of NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer”: Co-published in The New Yorker, staff writer Mike Spies’s profile revealed how the powerful Florida operative improperly uses public resources in influencing the actions of lawmakers and state employees. We subsequently published the more than 1,000 pages of correspondence that Mike obtained in his reporting, so that local journalists could dig in.

* “Listen as Gunshot Survivors in New Orleans Open Up About Chronic Pain and Unequal Medical Care”: For this installment of our ongoing “Shot and Forgotten” project, we partnered with the Listening Post to use social media callouts and text messaging to engage survivors with our Screendoor survey of gun victims. The collaboration led to a segment on New Orleans Public Radio and a multimedia post on our website.

We also cover major news events. In between, readers seek facts and context on an issue for which polls reveal a big knowledge deficit. Combining our reporting with savvy social content and smart UX allows us to meet those needs.

* “The Las Vegas Shooter’s Accessories”: We partnered with The New Yorker’s multimedia team for this animated guide to bump stocks, whose legality and technical function we had reported on two years earlier.

* “How Much Do You Know About Gun Violence in America?”: More than 4,000 readers completed our quiz, which we conceived to increase understanding of the issue and distributed through social platforms and newsletters. Many told us they were surprised by what they learned.

* “11 Facts That Tell the Story of Gun Violence in 2017”: Here, the “scrollytelling” form helps those facts stick. This explainer has an average time on page of nearly six minutes.

In the year under consideration for this entry, more than 100,000 people were shot — about a third fatally. We strive every day to meet the challenge of giving gun violence the full-time coverage a problem of this scale demands.