This project, which was nominated for the OJA for Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, was months in the making. It happened only through an enormous amount of collaboration between people from different desks, disciplines, races and perspectives. We decided to examine the history of this word after the NFL instructed game officials to penalize players who used the word on the field. The policy was widely criticized as being heavy-handed and out of touch. We wanted to start a conversation about the word and to bring in the voices of all kinds of people with different perspectives on this word and the ways it is used today — whether and how it should be used, who can or should use it, what it means in people’s lives.
Inside the newsroom, the project brought together a wonderfully diverse group, who spent months exploring the best way to tell this story, ultimately deciding that we wanted to present it through a series of conversations that brought people together to talk about things they might not normally be comfortable talking about. We created something that we all felt proud of, that opened us up to conversations among ourselves that challenged our assumptions and taught us all more about each other. It gave our readers a place to start asking uncomfortable questions and talk about what this word means in their lives.