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2021 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Large Newsroom finalist

The Washington Post

About the Project

The news was unceasing and unprecedented. A continuing pandemic ravaged families and communities and the economy, here and abroad. The killing of George Floyd sparked massive protests and demands for a reckoning on race. President Trump and his allies’ refusal to accept defeat shook the foundation of democracy.

To cover this torrent with precision and sweep, at breakneck speed, The Washington Post expanded and innovated. We launched new ways to keep readers up to date as news broke at a relentless pace. We let readers track cases locally and globally with interactive graphics updated with data that Post journalists collected and verified. We staffed a coronavirus live updates file every day, around the clock, and stood up similar coverage of the roiling campaign and street protests.

These files blended short text feeds and visuals — graphics, live video feeds, photos — to deliver real-time news in a highly scannable format. A constantly evolving “key updates” box placed near the top of each file allowed harried readers to catch up quickly on news and also provided context and depth. The coronavirus and election live files were not paywalled, as a service to readers.

To help readers navigate their rapidly transforming lives, we experimented with new story forms and sharpened older ones. The Post’s immensely popular personal finance columnist got a double — an animated avatar who created personalized retirement advice through an interactive questionnaire. A pop-up newsletter, What Time Is It?, offered a daily suggestion to recovering a lost sense of time in a bewildering year. To learn more about what readers felt they needed to know, we asked them, through a series of callouts designed by our community editors.

As ever, as we reported ceaselessly on what happened, in the United States and across the world, we also pushed to explain why it happened, and what it meant, and how it felt.

We looked for surprising ways to take statistics and data to reveal the human toll of a brutalizing year: the newly hungry, the newly disenfranchised, the spiking fever chart of covid deaths, the sudden explosion in a Beirut warehouse port, the relentless assault on objective truth.

We expanded the rigorous investigations that are core to The Post’s mission and presented our findings and analysis in new ways, through visual reconstructions and an award-winning podcast, through interactive graphics and animated databases.

And we made space for wonder, and for joy. We pushed the boundaries of explanatory journalism to explore the remarkable 17-year life cycle of Brood X cicadas and experimented with visual narrative to chronicle the adventures of Percy and Ginny, a.k.a the Mars rover and its accompanying helicopter. As vaccines made their way into the arms of more people, we shared the exuberant reunions at airports and doorways, in pews and high school parking lots. Readers told us in emails and comments that they were transfixed.

At The Washington Post, we undertake all of this every day, because our readers deserve the best journalism.