The Change project from the Wall Street Journal

Country/area: United States

Organisation: The Wall Street Journal

Organisation size: Big

Cover letter:

To the Judges,

In 2021, the Wall Street Journal dispatched a team of journalists across the country to show readers how the pandemic is accelerating demographic, economic and social change far beyond the walls of the workplace.

The series melded data analysis with vivid photography and insightful interviews to reveal how the contours of American society — from where we live to how we worship to the risks facing seniors — are being permanently altered by the battle with Covid-19. 

Using FOIA requests, we obtained every residential change of address filed with the U.S. Postal Service between 2018 and 2020 to show how the pandemic accelerated moves from big cities to suburbs and rural areas. The series attracted the attention of everyone from Elon Musk, who tweeted that the decline in population growth documented by the WSJ posed “potentially the greatest risk to the future of civilization,” to readers like Rita Smith of Palm Desert, Calif., who wrote of our story on elder abuse, “You are doing a great service for our senior population and their families.” 

Our review also identified what are likely permanent turning points for the economy, with a surge in retirements, and changes in the patterns of practice for religious institutions. The number of churchgoers has steadily dropped in the U.S. over the past few decades. But Covid-19 and its lockdown restrictions accelerated that fall. In-person church attendance is roughly 30% to 50% lower than it was before the pandemic. That has left churches looking for different approaches to connect with existing members and attract new ones.

The package of stories is prescient, sometimes chilling, and beautifully presented for readers. For those reasons, the Wall Street Journal is proud to nominate the series, internally dubbed “The Change Project,” and it’s authors, Janet Adamy, Paul Overberg, Yan Wu, Luis Melgar, Clare Ansberry, Amara Omeokwe, Anthony DeBarros, Arian Campo-Flores, Joseph De Avila, Elizabeth Findell and Christine Mai-Duc, for the Sigma Awards.

Thank you for your consideration,

Jeanne Cummings

Washington Deputy Bureau Chief



Description of portfolio:

The Change project attracted more than 2.3 million readers and brought data-driven rigor to topics of national importance. Our biggest obstacle was getting access to the U.S. Postal Service files showing how many Americans moved during the pandemic and where they went. Thanks to our FOIA requests, we were able to obtain a full three years of data on U.S. moves so we could compare 2020 relocations to pre-pandemic trends. Our own data journalists analyzed the figures and created an interactive map that brought these new mobility patterns to life in fascinating detail. It included a tool that allows readers to search their own county to see how many people it gained or lost to moves during the pandemic.

Project links: