In 2021 I wrapped up my time running the Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism (ECFJ). Over the course of the three years I worked on building up ECFJ we published many incredible pieces for publications like The Atlantic, Wired, New York Review of Books (also the first publication to take a chance on us!), The Nation, The Guardian, and Buzzfeed News. Many of the pieces went on to win awards, including Ruddy Roye’s “They Will Remember Us” from the New York Press Club, and an Overseas Press Club Award for Alison Killing’s piece for Buzzfeed News. Here are some of the pieces I worked to support.
The piece, “Inside Xinjiang’s Prison State,” came out in February 2021 and it was The New Yorker’s most ambitious interactive work to date. The piece is accompanied by the immersive virtual reality documentary “Reeducated,” which premiered at South by Southwest (SXSW) in the Virtual Cinema category.
The article and film examine the secret world of “reeducation” camps in the Xinjiang region of China, the site of what is believed to be the largest mass internment of ethnic and religious minorities since World War II. In 2018, a year after the camps began to crop up in the region, it was reported that as many as one million Chinese citizens, predominantly Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, were held in captivity. For the article and film, the artist Matt Huynh worked with the journalist Ben Mauk to tell the stories of three men imprisoned in a camp in the city of Tacheng.
This was one of the most ambitious projects ECFJ has supported since the program debuted, and it underscores why the program was launched: art explores abstract truths, and when it is paired with rigorous journalism, readers are able to understand a story in a way that is closer to how they experience the world itself.
I spoke to Matt Huynh about his collaboration with Ben Mauk and director Sam Wolson, the potential impact art can have on the world of journalism and the advice he would give other artists seeking to work side by side with reporters. You can read the interview here.
2021 Excellence in Immersive Storytelling
This was a series of stories from Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing and Christo Buschek that used satellite imagery and architectural expertise, as well as interviews with two dozen former prisoners, to identify a vast new infrastructure built by the Chinese government for the mass detention of Muslims. The series went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.
This was one of our very first pieces to support. In April 2019, Radcliffe (Ruddy) Roye traveled to Lynch, Kentucky, to photograph black miners in a town that once boasted the largest coal camp in the world. He found a community of fewer than 700 people, without industry, left behind and largely forgotten in national conversations about coal country that presume a white face. The work went on to win a New York Press Club Award.