2017 Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, Medium / Large Newsroom winner

The Wall

About the Project

As a candidate, Donald J. Trump vowed to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. But the notion of building a 1,200-mile solid wall isn’t a simple undertaking. We had lots of questions about the process and its impact: How would it affect environmentally sensitive areas? Does the government have all the land it needs? How would it build over tricky topography? Would it really deter illegal immigration?

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting figured the best way to highlight those issues was to help readers explore the border geographically. We already had a good handle on the process from previous reporting on border issues. So we turned to our existing mapping data and added more information from documents to build what likely is the most complete map of the existing border fence.

For our podcast about the wall, we faced a challenge: how best to tell the story of the porous barrier on our southern border through audio. Using tools we have developed to turn data into sound, we mapped the border through a wall sonification: low notes represent tall fence, higher tones were fence designed to stop vehicles, an airy keyboard drone signals gaps.

We also invited readers to make their own music about the wall. We partnered with our friends at Snap Judgment for the #wallrapchallenge, using our wall sonification as a base, adding beats and then inviting readers and listeners – including targeted youth poet organizations along the border – to layer on their hip-hop and rap lyrics.

Our border coverage also included “The Wall,” an interactive map that includes locations and types of barriers that make up the 700 miles of existing fence.

No one created an online map of the entirety of the fences and wide unfenced expanses along the U.S. border until we did it on our website this spring. We didn’t horde that data for ourselves, either. We put it up on GitHub, and newsrooms such as Univision and The New York Times have used it to build their own visual journalism.

This will not be a static feature on our site; we will continue tracking all future work on the wall as well. It also serves as a hub for all of our reporting on the border wall: from the bidding process to the people who will be directly affected by an impervious wall on the border.