This video graphic utilizes the aesthetic of VH1's Pop Up Video, a popular music video program from the '90s

As one of the inaugural Google Journalism Fellows, I spent the summer working at ProPublica, an “independent non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.” There, I worked under the News Apps team (or, as they’re affectionately known, the nerds) on a number of stories around unpaid internships and government surveillance. My culminating project was a graphic debunking various claims government officials had made concerning the Edward Snowden revelations.

For this project, I worked with a reporting intern, who focused on research and writing while I was responsible for design and production. The graphic consisted of two parts: a video component inspired by VH1 pop-up videos, and an annotated transcript. After identifying the NSA “myths” that we wanted to bust, I cut together a short video from the relevant clips. Then, I paired some geometrically simple icons from The Noun Project and the bold Raleway typeface to recreate the iconic trivia bubbles.

An example of VH1's music video pop-ups
...deployed here to debunk government claims about the NSA

Our treatment of the story was based on two concepts in media studies: spreadability — a piece of media’s tendency to be circulated around social networks — and drillability — a piece of media’s tendency to deeply engage audiences through narrative complexity. The video works by itself as a standalone piece and is something that can be easily consumed and shared on social media; for those who are interested in reading more, they can view the full graphic with its in-depth analysis.

The real-time transcript and analysis

From a technical standpoint, the graphic utilizes YouTube’s Player API to chop up the video into individual segments and synchronize them with a live transcript. At the end of each clip, readers are provided with evidence disproving that claim. The graphic is also responsively designed; on mobile devices, instead of showing the video and transcript together, I chose to show the video at the very top, followed by the clip-by-clip breakdowns. Through this creative presentation, this project explores a timely, complex issue in an accessible and playfully irreverent way.