WASHINGTON (Jan. 14, 2015)—Out of Eden Walk, a seven-year project by reporter and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek, will experiment with new digital storytelling techniques and share lessons to help advance the field of journalism with $950,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The National Geographic Society, an early, major supporter of the project, will lead the plan, using its global reach to explore and share new ways to engage audiences and connect with diverse communities.
“The commitment of these two organizations takes the walk’s digital experience to a whole new level,” said Salopek. “It will help make the Out of Eden Walk not simply a destination for strong narrative reporting, but elevate it within the industry as a go-to project to learn about how thoughtful journalism can endure and even thrive in today’s turbulent but sometimes shallow media ecosystem.”
Out of Eden launched in January of 2013 in Ethiopia, when Salopek, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, began an epic journey to retrace on foot and with minimal logistical support the path of early human migration, covering 21,000 miles. Since then, Salopek has connected with wide audiences and generated a huge social media following as well as dedicated supporters. More than 200 schools worldwide have signed up for Out of Eden Walk online curriculums.
To date, Salopek has walked through Ethiopia, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the West Bank, Israel, Cyprus, Syria and Turkey. He has authored four articles for National Geographic magazine focused on the project. Additionally, his nearly 100 dispatches have been published on the National Geographic website outofedenwalk.nationalgeographic.com.
Knight Foundation previously supported the launch of Out of Eden, including a separate project website, outofedenwalk.com, which has served as a hub for experimentation with new forms of online storytelling and engagement — using interactive maps, Twitter “spotlights” that capture conversations happening near Salopek’s geographic locations and educational outreach to classrooms and students around the world.
In the coming months, the two Out of Eden Walk websites will be consolidated and refined into a single site managed by National Geographic. The goal is to expand the Out of Eden Walk audience and provide all followers with innovative ways to experience Salopek’s storytelling. The consolidated website will include new storytelling capabilities such as translation, enhanced mapping and social media experiments. The site will also test new audience engagement tools.
“Deep, contextual storytelling is an integral part of National Geographic’s legacy, and Paul Salopek’s project is an exciting, relevant and modern way to bring this kind of reporting to today’s audiences,” said Gary Knell, president and CEO of National Geographic. “We are proud to support this inspiring project and grateful to Knight Foundation for providing funding that will help us to connect people around the world to Paul’s journey in meaningful ways.”
“The Out of Eden project comes at a critical time when we need to understand how to get and sustain the public’s attention for important stories beyond a headline,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism. “National Geographic has demonstrated tremendous success using social media to build a highly engaged audience. In this next phase, we look forward to sharing lessons learned and best practices with other publishers and journalists from this excellent project.”
Salopek’s goal has been to create a digital storytelling laboratory that combines the perspective of our prehistoric, migratory ancestors with intimate, present-day reporting along his route. To this end, he is able to capture the nuances of ordinary life that are often missed when chasing the immediacy of daily news headlines.
Salopek’s research for Out of Eden was made possible through a Visiting Fellowship at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. In addition to support from Knight Foundation and National Geographic, Out of Eden has educational alliances with Project Zero at Harvard University, the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and the Field Museum in Chicago.
Out of Eden will relaunch as a single site later this year. Until then, Salopek’s online dispatches can be found at outofedenwalk.
About the National Geographic Society
With a mission to inspire, illuminate and teach, the National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. The member-supported Society, which believes in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world, reaches over 600 million people each month through its media platforms, products and events. National Geographic has funded more than 11,000 research, conservation and exploration projects, and its education programs promote geographic literacy. For more information, visit http://www.nationalgeographic.com, and find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. KnightFoundation.org