Highlights from our Documenting Impact discussion on our Media Impact Festival winners: Part 1

Since 2014, Media Impact Funders has been showcasing the work of producers dedicated to creating documentaries in the public interest through our annual Media Impact Festival.

This year, we celebrated the power of interactive technologies to deepen the relationship between news and documentary projects and their audiences. Our 2016 selections—celebrated at our annual Media Impact Forum—span a range of interactive techniques, participatory reporting, physical installations, and personalized digital experiences.

Last week, as part of our Documenting Impact series, MIF Director of Research and Strategy Jessica Clark highlighted three of those #MIFestival selections: Question Bridge, a transmedia project that facilitates a dialogue between black men from diverse backgrounds and creates a platform for them to represent and redefine black male identity in America; Hollow, an online documentary that addresses the rural “brain drain” faced by communities in West Virginia; and The Counted, a journalism project and database created by The Guardian to track the number of people killed by law enforcement in the U.S.

If you missed our conversations with Elaine Sheldon, director, producer and editor of HollowJon Swaine, a Guardian reporter who worked on The Counted; and Bayete Ross Smith, one of the artists who produced Question Bridge, you can watch them all here. We’ve also included a quick guide to help you follow along in the conversation.


2:45: Elaine Sheldon explains why she wanted to tell this story: “It started with reading a book called Hollowing the Middle: What Rural Brain Dream Means for America. I’m a brain drainer. I left West Virginia. … I felt guilty about leaving because I knew the state was in very steep decline.”

“I was surprised by the devastation there.”

9:10: Watch the clip for a sense of Hollow’s interactive component.

26:14: Sheldon discusses the triumphs and challenges of producing an interactive, web-based documentary: “I’m very thankful for Hollow because it let me collaborate in a way that I often don’t get to as a standalone filmmaker, and that taught me a lot about storytelling. It was a rich process for me.”

The Counted

27:10: In late 2014, Guardian reporter Jon Swaine was covering the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after the death of Michael Brown. Swaine recalls editor in chief Katherine Viner being struck by the lack of a comprehensive database to track who was dying at the hands of law enforcement.

32:22: Swaine on reporting on death: “It’s pretty relentless when every day there are two or three or four, sometimes five, sometime more cases coming in to you from around the country. We try not to become numb to it. To become numb means you’re not really reporting or engaging on what’s happening.”

33:34: “We know that by the end of 2016, the current phase would have come to an end. … “The U.S. government has said they will be releasing their own improved system that has been prompted by our work, so depending on how good and how comprehensive that is, it may not be necessary for this project to carry on.”

Question Bridge

45:33: Bayete Ross Smith on creating this transmedia project: “What we wanted to do was examine black male identity and essentially use it as a case study for deconstructing traditional and somewhat inaccurate and outdated identity frameworks.”

48:00: Watch the clip to get a sense of how the project works and how the producers are trying to foster a greater sense of understanding through these series of questions.

Learn about the goals, lessons learned and outcomes in the case studies for each project.

Our Documenting Impact series features online discussions that delve into the impact of exemplary documentary films and other media projects.