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Digital forensics show chaos of those fleeing Maui wildfires

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Rebecca Boone, Heather Hollingsworth, Claudia Lauer, Chris Keller, Caleb Diehl and Ty O’Neil led a cross-formats team using digital forensics to make sense of the chaos during the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. They created a detailed interactive highlighting key moments in the fire’s spread.  Built on the back of a spreadsheet of more than 100 data points, the innovative interactive was accompanied by a hard-hitting and compelling text narrative that reconstructed the fire from ignition to complete devastation, and a video piece with survivor accounts and critical UGC of the fire’s likely ignition point. The team started by asking reporters to ask everyone they interviewed for their address, where they were when they evacuated, what time they tried to flee, whether they ran into roadblocks or traffic jams and where those blockages were. Text reporters Boone and Lauer and data analyst Keller winnowed the data down to 15 key moments, while Kansas City’s Hollingsworth scored incredibly detailed and emotional interviews with multiple survivors. Video journalist O’Neil translated the team’s work into a video piece. Caleb Diehl and Keller worked together to design and fine-tune the interactive, and Diehl built it to allow the team to do critical updates. The story was in the Top Three stories the day it moved, with 169,000 page views and the elusive 100% engagement score.

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