After two academic quarters of research, design, coding, and implementation, students in Stanford's Graduate Program in Journalism launched "Leaded Gas: A Toxic Tale", a web adaptation of Jamie Lincoln Kitman's award-winning article "The Secret History of Lead", originally published in The Nation.
Three journalism masters students, Katie Brigham, Vjeran Pavic, and Matt Hansen, supported by Journalism faculty advisors Ann Grimes and Geri Migielicz - and with research support from Stanford's Revs Program and technical support from Yahoo's Tumblr team - developed a new, digital-friendly adaptation of the long-form article.
The team combed through hours of historic video footage culled from the Internet Archive, discovered early advertising campaigns for gasoline products, and uncovered archival photographs of researchers and corporate executives who played key roles in the story. The students supplemented the historical record with original, contemporary video footage. They also updated the science and industrial reporting behind Kitman's article, which was published in 2000.
The process was a learning experience for everyone involved. Students broke the story into “chapters” and synthesized an in-depth, multi-part research article into "snackable" web-first pieces, scoured digital archives for historic footage. The site was unveiled in late May to a group of faculty members, Yahoo editors and Kitman himself - who collaborated with the students on the project. The team hopes the project shows the potential for using popular, easily available web platforms like Tumblr to present in-depth reporting in an engaging and visual way.
"We wanted to show that serious reporting has a place in the digital era," said project advisor Ann Grimes. "And our team did that using some of the web's most popular tools."End