2019 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Large Newsroom finalist

The Washington Post

About the Project

Jacob Hall was a first-grader at Townville Elementary School in South Carolina. You don’t remember his name because school shootings have become so commonplace in the United States that victims blur together. After Columbine and Parkland and Townville, our readers are becoming immune to the horror.

Washington Post writer John Woodrow Cox and editor Lynda Robinson, veterans of covering these tragedies, are aware of this problem. They knew they had to tell Jacob’s story differently for it to resonate. Using John’s interviews with Jacob’s classmate, Ava Olsen, and her family as the journalistic bedrock of the piece, they chose an immersive approach to best capture the schoolyard murder. Working with an artist who specializes in new forms of animation, The Post spent a year creating a Virtual Reality short film that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

We think “12 Seconds of Gunfire” best captures the ethos of The Washington Post. To be a great publisher, it isn’t enough to merely cover big, breaking stories in breathtaking ways or complete one or two spectacular projects. Continuous excellence, at a time when paying subscribers are key to survival, is the goal. And only through continuous experimentation with storytelling forms can we reach those heights.

We believe humans are shifting to more visual forms of communication. So to tell the story of the Bears Ears National Monument, we used photogrammetry to show the etchings made thousands of years ago. To let readers experience the horrors in Yemen, we relied on great text reporting and the spectacular photography of eventual Pulitzer Prize winner Lorenzo Tugnoli.

We focused on mobile storytelling, whether it was visually spectacular Amp Stories or through our Snapchat channel, which brought critical national coverage to a younger audience.

And for all our visual excellence, we defy you to find a better written piece than this one by Elizabeth Bruenig. Continuous excellence requires covering breaking news as well as anyone, which we did from the horrible fire at Notre Dame cathedral to the Virginia Beach shooting.

The Post is synonymous with investigative reporting, so we dug deeply into the opioids crisis and uncovered the places in America where it is possible to kill someone and get away with it. And when one of our own, Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered in Turkey, we did the reporting that showed Saudi Arabia’s role in the crime.

Through it all, we kept our eyes on the presidency of Donald Trump and the splintering of the country. Our reporting was among the best in the world. And when the Mueller Report came out, not only did we do wall-to-wall live coverage, we quickly turned it into a book.

We had some fun, too. Who else would catalogue every single person killed on Game of Thrones?

All of this work is part of our goal of achieving across-the-board greatness. We owe it to our readers. And we owe it to Jacob, whose name we hope you never forget.