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2019 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small Newsroom finalist

The Trace

About the Project

The Trace is a nonprofit news organization that’s home to the only team of journalists reporting exclusively on gun violence in America. Over the last year, our team used the power of digital media to produce high-impact public service journalism on the issue that comprises our unique beat.

With our investigations, The Trace holds institutions and industries accountable with shoe leather reporting and multimedia storytelling.

“Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the NRA”: Co-published in The New Yorker, staff writer Mike Spies exposed how National Rifle Association executives and top contractors have enriched themselves through self-dealing that they took pains to keep hidden from members, regulators, and the public at large. Data and graphics editor Daniel Nass produced a visually driven untangling of the web of business arrangements, lavish perks, and clear conflicts of interest that have benefitted NRA executives and their friends.

“Easy Targets”: Brian Freskos’ immersive exposé of lax gun store security, another collaboration with The New Yorker, laid out in riveting detail how unaccountable retailers fuel the firearms trafficking that circumvents gun safety measures by putting illegal guns on city streets.

Sometimes an event on our beat requires our newsroom to go above and beyond, deploying nontraditional approaches — and reporters — to tell the story.

“Since Parkland”: In partnership with the Miami Herald and McClatchy, The Trace assembled a sweeping look at one year of gun violence in America, featuring portraits of 1,200 children and teens killed by bullets during the 12 months that began with the Parkland school shooting, reported and written by student journalists across the country. On the project’s interactive site, readers see the victims as more than statistics. They are siblings, musicians, athletes, gamers, college-bound seniors, dancers, and young parents — all details surfaced by our teen journalists’ rigorous reporting. The project gave a generation shaped by gun violence a platform to tell its own story and corrected for media coverage that has been dominated by mass shootings while largely ignoring the everyday gun violence in communities where the overwhelming majority of victims are black and brown.

Our journalists also use data and design to craft rich and informative storytelling experiences.

“Follow the NRA’s Spending on the 2018 Midterms, Down to the Last Dollar”: Nass’s NRA Campaign Spending Tracker and its related @NRAMoneyBot provided clear, real-time access to the group’s federal campaign spending. To create the tool, Nass wrote code sorting the NRA’s latest filings to the Federal Election Commission, creating a running tally of every dollar the group had spent to influence the midterm elections. His computer assisted reporting enabled us to spot a significant development that would not have been apparent from following individual races: The NRA’s spending last cycle was way down, signaling a potentially major shift in American politics.

“An Atlas of American Gun Violence”: Gun violence touches every corner of the United States. In this interactive map, Nass displayed every shooting — fatal and nonfatal — recorded in the five years since Sandy Hook.