The Best Online Storytelling and Journalism of 2014
Josh Stearns

Ten Great Pieces of Immersive Journalism

I Missed in 2014

A week ago I published my yearly round-up featuring some of the best online journalism and storytelling from 2014. This is an annual project in which I try to shine a spotlight on tremendous journalism, take stock of big trends in storytelling and help others discover stories they might have missed.

One of the best parts about my yearly list is that I ask the community to help. Thanks to great tips this year I have already added on a number of new stories to my main list. However, I got so many suggestions that it became unruly to keep updating the main post.

Below I offer ten more great pieces of journalism from 2014. If you want more, I send out a weekly email with actionable advice and concrete tips for innovation, community engagement and sustainability in local news. Sign up here.

The Last Hijack — Tommy Pallotta & Femke Wolting

Chris Berthoud, the digital lead at the BBC, suggested I look at some of the interactive documentaries coming out of European public broadcasters. One he specifically mentioned was The Last Hijack. He describes it well: “It’s a Dutch production, and a feature film as well as interactive documentary. I think the clever mix of real footage and animation, the ability to shift perspectives between characters and some of the data graphics make a potent mix — all in the context of pretty exceptional access to a Somali pirate and his family — and also to a British victim of piracy and his wife.”

Netwars — Filmtank GmbH

Chris Berhoud also made mention of a German project, Netwars. The piece “combines the use of an actor to engage emotionally, and vast amounts of information, interviews and data. Interestingly, it also became a Graphic Novel app, and an ebook.”

Florida City’s ‘Stop & Frisk’ Nabs Thousands of Kids, Finds 5-Year-Olds ‘Suspicious’ — Fusion

Robby Deming called my attention to Fusion’s work on stop and frisk in Miami. The piece uses videos, data and documents well throughout the reporting. The combination of these elements makes you feel at once the individual and person experience of Stop and Frisk but also the size and scope of the program.

Deming also highlighted a great data journalism project from the local LA NBC station: “Handling of Officer-Involved Shootings Questioned.” The piece is a reminder of how these immersive and data driven elements can be quietly included in pieces to great effect.

A Changing Mission — San Francisco Chronicle

Judy Walgren, the Director of Photography at the San Francisco Chronicle, noted that they had received a lot of feedback on their piece about the big changes in a little neighborhood in San Francisco. The splash page for the report includes a surreal aerial video and offers three ways into the story: movie, people, or story. Each element weaves together data and narrative in great ways.

Instagram Longform Journalism — Jeff Sharlet, Neil Shea and others

Jeff Sharlet wrote to describe how he is experimenting with Instagram as “a forum for writing differently than we do in magazines.” He writes, “For me it began with the realization that the Instagram grid was like a comic book — it invites serialization.” Reporting on Instagram allows him to “side step the traditional divide of image and text. Usually one serves the other — caption for a photograph, illustration for a text. On Instagram, they’re a block.” Jeff is at @jeffsharlet and he suggests Neil Shea’s (@neilshea13) work as well. Longreads has bundled Jeff’s reporting here and here, and GQ did as well. You can see Jeff’s most recent project at the hashtag #A_resourceful_woman.

Late last year Damon Kiesow also suggested Everyday Africa as another one of 2014's great visual journalism projects. It combines Tumblr and Instagram and weaves together professional and citizen photos. Sponsored in part by the Pulitzer Center, the journalists behind the project call it “an attempt to re-direct focus toward a more accurate understanding of what the majority of Africans experience on a day-to-day basis: normal life.”

Rosetta mission: Can you land on a comet? — BBC

Dmitry Shishkin wrote in to highlight the work of the BBC News Visual Journalism team, which, he notes, has been creating interactive projects in nearly 27 different languages. Shishkin pointed specifically to the Rosetta mission package the team created which includes satellite images, graphics and an interactive game. Many more examples on their Twitter feed.

Heartland, Missouri — KBIA

Austin Federa sent in this nice piece from local public radio station KBIA, which tackles a wide range of issues through the lens of one place. The writing is lyrical, the audio is terrific and it is punctuated by lovely photos. I really liked their use of ThingLink and maps.

A Game of Shark And Minnow — New York Times Magazine

The Leith Agency pointed me towards this piece which uses big full screen pictures and interactive maps to take readers to a corner of the South China Sea. The piece looks at the complex intersections of culture, tradition and politics through the lens of those who work on the water. Short video clips are interspersed with the photos, bringing life to the piece as the sounds of the ocean fill the screen.

Go back to my main list to see more than 30 other examples of great online journalism from 2014.