Journalism has traditionally depended on witnesses and documents, often leaked, to uncover the truth. The Visual Investigations unit of The New York Times has used novel sleuthing to uncover new forms of documentary evidence:cellphone videos, police-scanner audio, a satellite image, an Instagram post and forensic analysis to produce reporting that answers fundamental questions with authority. Time after time, this team set the record straight, exposed government deceit, and established the standard for a fresh form of impactful and explanatory visual journalism.
Each of these investigations incorporated essential, exclusive elements that set them apart. And each had direct impact.
“Killing Khashoggi” is the definitive account of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. It named the Saudi officials responsible and helped shift the focus worldwide to the crown prince just as President Trump appeared to embrace the false Saudi narrative that a rogue agent was responsible.
Our investigation into the killing of Rouzan al-Najjar, an unarmed Palestinian medic among hundreds of protesters in Gaza, pushed the boundaries of 3-D reconstruction using eyewitness footage. We gathered – and arranged – over 1,000 images from the phones and cameras of over 40 witnesses, mapped the protest area in 3-D, froze the position of medics, protesters and Israeli soldiers at the critical moment, and retraced the bullet’s deadly path. In response, the new Israel Defense Forces commander in Gaza warned his soldiers in early 2019 to take additional precautions when firing at targets.
In Nigeria, we debunked government claims that soldiers acted in self-defense when they opened fire on dozens of unarmed marchers in the capital, Abuja. Our reconstruction of the critical moments used previously unseen eyewitness footage, identified the military unit responsible and heard from victims recovering in the hospital. The story forced a government inquiry and was cited in the U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights Report.
Our reconstruction of the burning of U.S. aid delivered to Venezuela disproved a false narrative over who was responsible that was pushed by high-ranking U.S. officials, amplified by the mainstream media and brought to the United Nation Security Council. It came at a critical moment when the U.S. was escalating international pressure for President Nicolás Maduro to step down. When confronted, U.S. officials rolled back some of their claims.
Especially challenging was our investigation into a lethal chemical attack in Douma. Syria locked down the area, displacing residents, witnesses and advocates. By using Russian news broadcasts and amateur footage, we reconstructed the scene. We enlisted scientists to examine the clues left behind and establish a chemical attack. The scientific analysis of the evidence was so comprehensive that it was supported by the findings of U.N. investigators.
Although the methods are high-tech, the finished story is clear and direct. The government may say that it hasn’t used chemical weapons; hasn’t violated its own rules of engagement; even has justification for shooting into a crowd.
But here are the facts and images. Here is the hard-won, indisputable truth.