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2014 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Large Newsroom finalist

washingtonpost.com

 

About the Project

In a groundbreaking year for The Washington Post, our success drew from tenacious efforts across our newsroom, technology and business teams. This approach allowed us to put users at the center of our priorities and focus on high-impact innovation. The result? Digital journalism that inspired political action, affected change and informed the public, no matter where or how they chose to consume the news.

We embarked on a long-planned site redesign with the goal of improving load speeds and navigation while enhancing the overall reader experience. By streamlining items on article pages, we decreased load times significantly—on desktop and mobile—and cut the amount of data required to read our articles. It is an iterative design, so we will continue to build in the coming year, but the new article page launch is of central importance to our mission.

We also announced a new program that allows partner publications to offer The Post’s suite of digital products as an added value for their subscribers. The program, which kicked off in May, allows partners with a premium subscription model to give their readers access to trusted reporting across our desktop and mobile web sites and phone and tablet apps. At launch, readers had access to a faster, more intuitive app, allowing us to broaden the reach and exposure of our journalism.

We’ve refined a new, responsive template that allows us to produce ambitious digital feature packages across platforms by seamlessly incorporating text with video, graphics and interactives. The stories published in this template have not only been honored with prestigious industry awards, but have also prompted overwhelmingly positive feedback from our readers.

Two examples of our innovation in video typify our commitment to creating best in class multimedia experiences. “First & 17” is a documentary series on the top high school recruit in the country, Da’Shawn Hand. The project, unlike any we had produced before, was a collaborative effort between video, sports and metro desks. The coverage spanned five months and includes four stories and 14 documentary video episodes, concluding with Hand’s nationally televised decision to attend the University of Alabama. The project received accolades from Sports Illustrated, ESPN and was described by viewers as: “excellent, powerful, fantastic, moving, heart-wrenching and emotional.”

We also expanded our Truth Teller product—originally created in 2012—beyond real-time speeches to fact check movie trailers, viral videos and political ads. The finished products combine explanatory journalism with the types of highly engaging video content that users are already consuming. Leading up to the Academy Awards, we produced “Truth Teller Trailers” for each Oscar best picture nominee based on a true story. We also tackled political ads on both sides of the aisle. These videos were a hit with our users and showcase the type of adaptive experience we strive to bring to our audience.

We tackled one of the biggest legacy challenges in digital journalism—facilitating meaningful user comments. Our first attempt was with the Supreme Court’s strike down of the Defense of Marriage Act. We knew this news conjured strong emotions among our readers, and we wanted to illustrate those feelings in a visual way. This resulted in a structure commenting platform that asked readers to choose from defined options how the decision impacted them. We monitored results closely, but only had to restrict a small handful of comments. This was a huge victory. We used this template again in October during the federal government shutdown. We added geolocation functionality that mapped responses—whether they came to us from desktops, tablets or phones. The answers were illuminating. One reader in southern Arizona checked the box for “It threatens my livelihood” and added: “$48 left after this month’s bills. On hold with unemployment as I type.”

Our graphics team is constantly breaking ground. One particular example showcases the type of impact we make with these pieces of visual journalism. The “Depth of the problem” graphic about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 illuminated information for readers in a way that words could not. The graphic allows users to scroll down to find reference points of familiar landmarks until the ocean floor is reached. This experience was especially tangible on mobile phones. It went viral almost immediately.

We continuously interact with our nearly 3 million twitter followers and have experimented with direct social storytelling on non-conventional platforms, such as SnapChat. Throughout the year, we’ve used the Public Insight Network to help us source stories on everything from the Government Shutdown to Millennials in Washington. And because excellent content is at the core of our mission to engage with readers, we added new digital verticals, such as The Morning Mix, Post Everything, The Switch and Post Nation, to provide our global audience with around-the-clock coverage.

The Post was honored with some of the most prestigious awards in journalism. The recognition is a humbling reminder of the commitment to excellence our staff strives for every day of the year. Most recently, The Global Editors Network recognized The Post at the 2014 Data Journalism Awards. The series “Homes for the Taking” won Best Data-Driven Investigation for exposing a predatory system of debt collection that allowed private investors to take homes from the poor over small tax debts. This series also won the 2014 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

The Post received two 2014 Edward R. Murrow Awards — including the top award for overall excellence among national online news sites as well as the Murrow in the Feature Reporting category. Additionally, the Society of Professional Journalists awarded members of our graphics team the Sigma Delta Chi award for Informational Graphics for “How intelligence agencies spend $52 billion.” The Post graphics team also won 15 awards, including five silvers, at the Malofiej competition, as well as 21 awards in the Society of News Design’s annual digital competition.

Our newsroom was recognized with two Pulitzer Prizes this year, including the prestigious public service medal for a series of stories that exposed the National Security Agency’s massive global surveillance programs.