2021 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Medium Newsroom finalist


About the Project

In pursuit of becoming a truly multi-platform news organization, WBUR has developed new and engaging ways for our audience and community to stay informed and connected, with deeply reported newswriting, podcasts, data, creative use of social media, audience engagement, newsletters, virtual events and stunning visuals. Amid all the turmoil that 2020 and 2021 has wrought, WBUR has doubled down on what it does best: nuanced, narrative storytelling excellence across many platforms.

In a year rich with stories centered on complex identity, WBUR’s illuminating profile of a then-6-year-old child — who declares one morning to their family that they are a boy-girl — truly shines. Over the course of an extraordinary year, our reporter conducted countless interviews and collected audio diaries as the family charted their new journey and embraced new experiences, questions and even new words. An intimate photo essay helped drive an immersive audio-visual experience to our readers and listeners, in addition to resources for parents and children. Other standout narrative storytelling examples include an exploration of anti-Asian racism, trauma and health impacts; an affordable housing investigation; and the final wrenching days of a restaurant closing its doors amid the pandemic.

As a wave of coronavirus cases and deaths crested and tumbled in Massachusetts, WBUR provided comprehensive coverage through data, analysis and our signature feature story-telling, both online and on air, that helped residents make decisions about their safety. The case and death count we provided daily is an example of our public service journalism, where we made sense of confusing, overwhelming and sometimes conflicting data from multiple sources, creating understandable visualizations and explainers. Our charts and maps provided real-time context to the governor’s decision to begin reopening the state last summer, and served as early indicators when cases and deaths crept back up during a second wave in the winter, and evolved again to focus on vaccination rates in 2021. We heard from countless readers, listeners and subscribers to our daily and weekly newsletters, including our special coronavirus newsletter, that our digital tools and stories about the pandemic were helping people better understand the risks that existed in their own communities. This page has been one of the highest trafficked of any on over the last year.

WBUR also excelled at nimble investigative reporting, as we scrutinized Massachusetts’ decision-making around mask procurement in a series that revealed how individuals and businesses “saw a chance to profit in a Wild West of inflated prices for coveted N95 masks and the like” and failed to deliver on goods promised and paid for by the state.

WBUR’s events team grappled with moving to an all-virtual environment through 2021, moving to curate digital conversations that were timely and meaningful, bringing together journalists and experts to discuss complex subjects. These included conversations like racial inequality in sports; the 2020 election; a series on the safety and science of the COVID-19 vaccines, including answering questions from the public; and other topics ranging from women in STEM to the looming climate crisis in Massachusetts.