‘Coal: A Love Story’ wins SXSW Interactive award

Coal: A Love Story,” an interactive multimedia website produced by students in the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, won in the student category of the SXSW Interactive Awards presented March 13, 2012, in Austin, Texas.

The project, which explores modern culture’s complicated relationship with coal, is the latest iteration of Powering a Nation, the school’s contribution to the experimental News21 project funded by the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education. The initiative fosters in-depth, interactive and innovative journalism at journalism schools across the country.

“Coal: A Love Story” provides audiences with an immersive online experience that challenges them to engage with energy issues in a personalized way.

Susan King, dean and John Kerr Distinguished Professor in the school, said the SXSW award proves that Carolina students and faculty are marrying great journalism with innovation.

“A national foundation that recently evaluated Carolina’s work along with other major university journalism schools, called Powering a Nation ‘stunning,’” she said. “Its power as visual communication and its integrity as an hub for complex information are impressive.”

Laura Ruel, the school’s Hugh Morton Distinguished Associate Professor and executive producer for "Coal: A Love Story," credited students for the project’s success.

“Faculty mentors from all disciplines in the school – reporting to editing to marketing to visual storytelling – have challenged these students to take what they have learned and innovate,” she said. “And they are responding by bringing storytelling to a new level that strengthens not only our program – but also our industry.”

The school’s “Finding the Uwharries” – a website featuring multimedia narratives produced in and around Badin, N.C., during the eighth annual Carolina Photojournalism Workshop – was also one of five finalists in the student category.

For two consecutive years, two Carolina journalism school projects have been selected as finalists in the category "devoted exclusively to the student designers who are refreshing this industry with new talent and new ideas." In 2011, reesenews.org and “Now What Argentina?” were selected as student finalists.