case study


Project Management
Guiding visual storytelling for an investigation into sexual abuse in the Amish and Mennonite communities
Photography by Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Assistant Managing Editor/Visuals
Visual Editing

Project Overview

How the story began

After the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covered the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in August 2018, we learned about the underreported issue of sexual abuse in the Plain communities. Reporters Peter Smith and Shelly Bradbury, and photographer Stephanie Strasburg teamed up to begin a nine-month-long investigative series, which was a 2020 Pulitzer Prize finalist in Local News Reporting.  

Establishing the scope

The first planning meetings with newsroom editors, including project leader Lillian Thomas, focused on what the team was learning about the issue, contacts that were being made and leads to follow. As the investigation continued, the team uncovered additional stories and the project’s scope was determined — a six-part series. We held status meetings at key stages and I met with Stephanie regularly to discuss the visual stories she was developing.

Managing the project as it developed

From the beginning of the investigation, I worked with Stephanie to schedule regional trips to photograph important elements of the story. After each trip, we met and looked through photos to discuss the visual narratives — what she was trying to show, what the larger story was and what else was needed. These conversations helped drive in-depth photography and videography that complemented the written narratives that were forming. Additionally, I helped problem-solve how to create visual consistency across six unique stories. With a limited budget, I advocated for Stephanie to go on a solo reporting trip knowing her photography and videography would be essential to capturing a transformational experience for one abuse survivor.

Throughout this project, as the assistant managing editor of visuals, I ran the day-to-day operations of our nearly 20-member photo and video team and directed other visual projects that were published weekly. I balanced the demands of daily responsibilities with longer-term projects through time management — scheduling time for one-on-one meetings while having impromptu discussions for quick updates and edits.

Collaborating towards publication

During digital and print production, I interfaced with project team members to set deadlines – and guided Stephanie to meet them by prioritizing tasks and other projects. I worked with Lillian Thomas, the projects editor, to streamline the photo, video and caption review process, as the project was vetted by our lawyer. Afterward, I edited captions for clarity, accuracy and consistency across platforms.

As the series was being laid out, I collaborated with Stephanie and the designers to craft the visual narrative for each story in print and online. With limited space in the print edition, I worked with the page designer to create maximum impact with a small number of photographs. With web designer/developer Zack Tanner, we fine-tuned photo and video placements within the written story to integrate all of the elements cohesively. 

This project prompted dialogue about sexual abuse within the Plain communities and raised critical awareness of an underreported issue.


Team — 2020 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Local News Reporting

Individual — 2nd Place, Digital Project, 2020 Best of Photojournalism picture editing competition

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