PAULINE’S PICKS: ‘Statesman Journal’ Uses Web to Tell World War II Internment Story

By: Pauline Millard

There are things that the Web can do that a print newspaper will never be able to. Case in point: Today I discovered a project from the Statesman Journal in Salem, Ore., about Japanese internment camps during World War II. It’s a multi-tiered, multimedia project called ‘Beyond Barbed Wire’ that tells the story of the internment camp experience through the eyes of two Salem-area residents.

From the turn of the century through World War II, many Japanese immigrants and their children made the Salem area — specifically, the Lake Labish farming community — their home. Per a policy signed by President Roosevelt, shortly after Pearl Habor these citizens of Japanese descent were sent off to internment camps in the California desert.

Salem residents Tom and Georgette Yoshikai were still in school when they were sent to a camp. The two met 65 years ago as teenagers jitterbugging at a dance in an ironing room in one of the barracks.

A three-part video is the core of this project. Through interviews with the two Yoshikais, as well as experts on the subject, viewers are introduced to the area; the eventual loathing of Japanese residents after the Pearl Harbor attack; and the internment. Viewers go inside the camps and see the knotholes in the wood of the barracks, as well as the barbed wire and military police that surrounded the buildings.

In addition to the video there is an extensive gallery of old photographs, documents such as newspaper clippings and vocational certificates, and a map of the area. The whole project takes about a half-hour to experience in full, but it offers a comprehensive recount of the era the and plenty of context.

Newspapers have a great niche when it comes to local stories. By default, newspapers are also bastions of history, what with all the back issues they have at hand. The Statesman Journal used all of these resources, both new and old, and put together a great project that tells of a big part of history with a personal spin from residents who lived through it.

Is your paper planning any large-scale historical projects? I’d love to hear about them.

Check out some past Pauline’s Picks:

North Carolina Paper Exploits Web for Local Stories

‘The Sun’ of Baltimore Creates an Interactive Homicide Map

Montana Web siteUses a Simple Podcast to Tell Local Stories

AP’s asap Creates Video for a Young, Niche Beat

The Fayetteville Observer looks to the web to fill a nightly newscast need .

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