Webby for Good is a collaborative program formed by The Webby Awards and WP Engine to showcase Webby-recognized projects built to change the world.
What’s the elevator pitch for your project?
Through a series of stunning photography, data graphics, video and drone footage, Reuters will unveil the science — and the scientists — involved in tracking environmental change in Greenland and show how sea level rise can impact human life.
What was the impetus for this project? What real-world challenge were you trying to solve?
For both journalists and scientists, climate change is difficult to document. It most often happens imperceptibly—a tenth of a degree increase in temperature, a few less inches of rain, a slowly melting ice sheet. Scientists have had the computational power to understand global warming for only a few decades, and the numbers are sobering. But where does the data come from? In a time when the conversation surrounding climate change has often become politicized, we wanted to reveal in rich detail and present in an accurate and accessible way the impact of climate change on Greenland and how the scientific effort study of it is often fraught with "mind-boggling" challenges.
It was towards the end of our photographer's trip embedding with a group of researchers on the Helheim Glacier when he managed to capture footage of a massive calving event. Over 30 minutes, a chunk of ice about a third the size of Manhattan broke apart and tumbled into the water—a mesmerizing sighting of the sea level rise and a poignant end to a months-long project examining climate change in Greenland. Such major glacial ruptures (an estimated 10 billion tons of ice were lost) are rarely observed in person and it was a breakthrough for us to be able to record that moment.
Once you settled on your idea, what was your first step in moving it forward?
Our first step was to contact researchers and scientists who were conducting studies in Greenland and convince them to let us come along to observe their field work.
Was there a moment during the project where you ran into a hurdle; or faced a problem you didn’t know how to solve? Take us to this moment, what happened and what did you do next?
When our photographer was embedding with a group of scientists in Greenland, it rained continuously for days and nothing was happening so it was difficult to make pictures. Nevertheless, we made sure that we were set up and prepared for any movement at the glacier. Patience eventually paid off and during the end of the trip, we managed to capture a spectacular, rarely seen glacier calving.
Did the real-world impact meet your expectations? Can you share an example?
The real-world impact exceeded our expectations. After the project was published, we received praise from the scientific community for its accuracy and Reuters was selected for a panel at this year's SXSW as a part of their "Future of Oceans" programming.
What technologies/media did you use to develop this project (AI, Social Media, WordPress, etc.)?
Was the tech/medium you chose crucial to conveying your message? If so, why?
Yes. The way the project was presented and being able to break up different elements of the project so that it can be used in different ways allowed us to reach as many people and clients as possible. The presentation combined video, photos, graphics, and text in a compelling and accessible way, giving the reader a comprehensive view of how Greenland is melting and the study of climate change on the island.
How did this project defy your expectations?
This environmental project is a first of a kind for Reuters. We are delighted by the response we got from it both internally and externally. It was widely picked up by our media clients and the images and other elements continue to be used in climate stories related to Greenland. The project laid a strong foundation within the organization on how visuals and text can work together to tell in-depth stories on climate change.
How will you use technology in future work to create inspiring, cutting-edge projects that also make a difference in people’s lives?
We are embarking on several projects this year — from space exploration to coral reef bleaching — that will make use of different forms of technology to tell visually-compelling multimedia stories. We are heavily invested in finding new and better ways to tell complex stories and topics so that they can be more accessible to our audience.