President Donald Trump repeatedly promised while he was running for president that he was going to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico. Actual details were scarce on the campaign trail, but the USA Today Network is launching a multimedia report Wednesday that gets into what the process of constructing a barrier across the nearly 2,000 mile frontier might actually look like — and what challenges might present themselves along the way.
“The Wall: Unknown Stories, Unintended Consequences,” accessible on thewall.usatoday.com, is the work of over 30 reporters, photographers and videographers from Western newsrooms in Gannett’s USA Today Network. The Arizona Republic spearheaded the project, which includes virtual reality, bots, aerial and 360-degree video, documentaries, photos, podcasts, LiDAR (light-based radar, used in self-driving cars) data, exclusive reporting and a forthcoming long-form film.
Journalists traveled every mile of the border by helicopter, mapping it and making every inch of it available to view in high-definition video for the first time. And that mapping produced several findings, such as that building a border wall through Texas could require authorities disrupting or seizing nearly 5,000 privately-owned parcels of land. The VR experience, designed for the HTC Vive headset, includes terrain models and captured audio from the border, as well as curated journalism.
“We’ve got the sources, we’ve done the homework and we understand the issues,” Nicole Carroll, Vice President/News and Editor of the Arizona Republic, said in a statement. “We’ve examined the border from thousands of feet in the air and from a tunnel 70 feet underground. We’ve roamed the ocean and desert with Border Patrol agents and the hills with armed vigilantes. We’ve learned something new at every turn.”
“This unprecedented project is a testament to the innovation happening across the USA Today Network,” Maribel Wadsworth, Senior Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer, Gannett, said in the statement. “This project highlights our unique ability to leverage our local footprint along the border to educate and inform Americans on a crucial topic at an important time, as Congress debates funding for the proposed border wall.”
“We set out to bring the border to life in groundbreaking ways, through mini-documentaries, behind-the-scenes podcasts and an interactive map that offers the most exhaustive view of the U.S.-Mexico border,” Kevin Poortinga, VP, Gannett Innovation Lab, said in the statement. “With the HTC Vive headset, we are transporting you to the border. That technological prowess is powerful when paired with informative stories that spark curiosity and help you relate to the people experiencing life along the border.”