AJAs 2017 Finalists


Date Aired or Published December 6, 2017 (plus Twitter timeline before and after)
Media outlet where first aired or published: the Signal (University of King's College)
Name of Program: n/a
If co-produced, list partner: n/a
Location: Halifax
List awards, grants: None
Running time (TV/Radio): n/a

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

In 9:04:35 modern data journalism and online storytelling techniques are combined with one of Canada’s most poignant historical events to bring the story of the Halifax Explosion to a new audience. The work was done jointly by two groups of journalists at the University of King’s College, in the MJ class in data and investigative journalism, and the third-year journalism research class. It began as a way to teach archival research, and evolved into an original and engaging package. A month before the anniversary, the team unveiled Halifax in 1917, a Twitter account that chronicled everyday life in the city in the month leading up to the explosion. The students then “live tweeted” the events of the explosion itself, and the immediate days thereafter. Reading the Twitter timeline you get a sense of the suddenness of this cataclysmic event that is real and personal. The shift from the utterly ordinary to the unimaginable is striking. The main package was researched and written during October and November by students who had many competing classes and assignments. It launched at 9:04:35 a.m. on December 6, the exact moment 100 years before when Halifax was devastated. The centerpiece of the package was the map that recreated 1917 Halifax, including its street network, and showed the devastation caused by the explosion, building by building. This was based on an historic map created by the Halifax Relief Commission, the body established soon after the explosion to administer financial and rebuilding assistance to victims. It showed the levels of destruction in the officially designated devastated area. Using a process called georeferencing, the students matched historic city streets to a modern digital map, then drew in the buildings one by one, more than a thousand in all. A separate map showed the home addresses of explosion victims who lived in Halifax. The addresses were obtained by scraping the online book of remembrance maintained by the Nova Scotia Archives, then added to the map through a process called geocoding. At the same time, students in the third-year class hand-entered data from damage surveys done by relief commission inspectors in early 1918. These were also geocoded and added to the devastation map. This material had never been digitized before, bringing to life reports that had lain dormant for a hundred years. The result of all this work was an interactive map that allowed readers to explore the damage within two kilometres of the explosion, in a way never before possible. At the same time, the third-year students used original archival records to research and write stories about the heroic efforts of Haligonians in the immediate aftermath of the blast, the loss of the Mi’qmaq community of Turtle Grove and the rebuilding of the devastated Richmond neighbourhood. Another group of three students used the coordinates of destroyed structures from the devastation map to create a series of before and after photos, showing what historic explosion locations look like today. It was a visual feature rather than a story, and we have provided the link with the entry. While we have submitted a PDF as required by the rules, we would recommend you consider viewing the project online at http://signalhfx.ca/90435am/ to appreciate the full effect of the interactive elements. Links to the embedded maps are also provided with the entry. The Twitter feed, again not a story per se, can be found at https://twitter.com/signalhfx1917. This link is also included in the entry and the entire timeline is included after the three stories in the PDF, for your convenience. Note that the quality of the PDFs appears to have degraded upon upload to the AJA system.

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

No specific financial resources were allocated for this project; it relied entirely on existing school resources and student legwork. Students worked on the stories during class time, and as out-of-class assignments. Most if not all were carrying full loads of other, unrelated classes.

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