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2017 Explanatory Reporting, Large Newsroom winner

Weigh Anchor

About the Project

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is a $7.4-billion project that would nearly triple the capacity of a major pipeline that delivers oil from Alberta’s oil sands to the coast of British Columbia.

The pipeline is a politically charged topic: Environmentalists are concerned that the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic greatly heightens the risk of a catastrophic leak or spill. Meanwhile, businesses – along with the federal and provincial governments – see the expansion as critical to Canada’s economy and energy sovereignty. The pipeline was a key issue during the recent B.C. election, and its future is still unknown.

“Weigh Anchor” is a highly visual and extensively reported examination of what the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will mean for Vancouver and B.C.

The project weaves together text, animation, video, graphics, photography and exclusive data to help Canadians see beyond the rhetoric. It aims to provide a close look at sensitive shipping lanes, and what increased oil tanker traffic means for B.C.’s coastline and Canada’s oil industry.

Our journalism approaches the topic from two sides: An analysis of raw shipping data that is extrapolated and visualized to show the increase in traffic; and the story of one tug boat as it threads a narrow course through a busy port and costal islands.

“Weigh Anchor” makes extensive use of auto-play video on all platforms, a technology that has only recently become widely available on smartphone operating systems. This necessitated an exhaustive testing regimen in order to build an experience that worked flawlessly on any device and screen size.

What does that mean, in practical terms? There are 24 slides that contain video. Each slide needs to work on smartphone, iPad and desktop, and load quickly no matter what. This means that there are a total of 363 unique video files created for this piece. Along with that, there are 232 individual image files.

Our analytics show that this piece was consumed heavily via social media, but also a hit with our subscriber audience via desktop. Both groups spent a large amount of time with the piece. The visual story was also repackaged for Instagram.

“Well done @globeandmail. Great use of visual tools,” said one Twitter reader. “Innovative journalism here from the G&M,” added another.

Readers on both sides of the debate responded to our fresh approach, praising the clarity of presentation and the project’s ability to distill a complex, politically fraught topic.

One e-mailed: “It is not only the slickest thing I have ever seen on the web, on any subject, but is highly factual and accurate with little bias one way or the other no matter on what side of the Trans Mountain pipeline debate one sits.”