The Ferguson Project

by: Adreana Young

The Ferguson Project

From the front lines, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported day and night on the eruption of civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo. that began in August 2014. The protests followed the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. After a no indictment verdict came back for Wilson, Ferguson residents and people around the nation began protesting both peacefully and violently against the decision.

Faced with the daunting task of compiling every photo, story and video from the nation-wide news story, the Post-Dispatch launched “Ferguson.” The online project (graphics.stltoday.com/ferguson)  is a collection of nearly six months of reporting, including more than 600 stories, 14 videos, and hundreds of photos, all produced by the Post-Dispatch staff, for readers to better navigate and understand the timeline, severity and impact of what happened in Ferguson.

“I think (the site) reminds us all of the profound impact these events had—and continue to have—on our community. It’s a resource for people who want to learn more, and for people who worry about similar issues in their own communities,” said managing editor Jean Buchanan.

She said that while the story was unfolding the Post-Dispatch’s website was “overwhelming to look at, and it was difficult to figure out what to read to get a good sense of the events.”

At the height of the protests, the Post-Dispatch had eight photographers working around the clock, said Lynden Steele, director of photography.

Flooded with stories, images and video from the events, Buchanan said it wasn’t until months later that they were able to organize the content.

“We started talking a few months in about a better way to curate the material, but we were still so slammed, we didn’t have time to act. Once things slowed down in December, we were able to focus on a better format,” she said.

After much of the turmoil tapered off, seven people from the Post-Dispatch, headed by online graphics director Chris Spurlock and online content coordinator Beth O’Malley, finally sat down to compile the material and design the website, said Buchanan. The project took about eight weeks to create.

The website is sorted into 14 different categories ranging from the shooting and the events following, to the economic impact, the civil rights debates, and to solutions for the future.

Buchanan said that throughout the reporting she had kept a running spreadsheet of the coverage, which, she says, “helped tremendously in figuring out the stories to include…It was daunting to narrow the material to five to eight stories for each topic, and I read many stories again through the process.”

As readers scroll through the categories they can click on additional stories, featured videos or photo galleries for that particular category. But the project didn’t end there. Buchanan said the Post-Dispatch is continuing its coverage of the story as news happens. “We still have protests, the governor’s Ferguson Commission is coming up with recommendations for change, there are bills in the General Assembly to reform the municipal courts, St. Louis is considering a civilian review board to investigate police shootings. And we are still doing our own investigations. I expect us to be writing about the events and issues for the rest of my career, certainly.”

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