VG tells story of Oslo shooting in just four days

By Eva-Therese Loo Grøttum

Verdens Gang AS

Oslo, Norway


It was one of those rare, warm summer nights when people gathered to celebrate the Pride festival in Oslo in June last year. But the celebration was shattered by bullets.

At 1:05 a.m., Zaniar Matapour opened fire against two bars in the city centre, right outside the VG HQ. Brave civilians managed to overpower him and take his weapon before the police arrived.

Two people were killed, and 24 people were injured. Matapour is charged with murder, attempted murder, and terror. It was a targeted attack on Pride and the gay community, police said.

But in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the question remained: What happened?

VG reporters left their summer holiday plans and rushed to the scene and the newsroom in the middle of the night to provide the public with minute-by-minute information. When did the shooting start? When was the gunman overpowered, and how? And when did the police arrive?

At this point, we had worked for months on the war in Ukraine. Many reporters had learned the fact-checking method OSINT, and we knew that witnesses had filmed during and after the attack. This could provide us with valuable information, and the amount of video material also presented a unique storytelling possibility.

VG used video from witnesses to provide a moment-by-moment account of the Oslo shootings.
VG used video from witnesses to provide a moment-by-moment account of the Oslo shootings.

We wanted to use video evidence both in gathering and publishing information. Our main objectives were to:

  1. Give our readers an accurate insight into the minutes of horror.
  2. Give a timeline of events that could also shed light on police response.

Varied perspectives

In a few days, 40 videos of the attack were gathered in a Google Drive, showing different perspectives of the shooting. Google Drive is accessible and allows many people to work together in real-time. The videos were scrutinised and filtered out one by one; six videos were used in the final story.

We used metadata (the programme metadata2go) to fact-check the videos and collect data such as coordinates and time of the recording. As we determined the exact time of the first fired shot, we could manually count seconds to determine when civilians were fighting the gunman, providing first aid, and when police arrived.

A clock breaking down the attack second-by-second played a prominent role in the presentation.
A clock breaking down the attack second-by-second played a prominent role in the presentation.

We used the sound editing programme Logic to determine the time of the following shots, as the videos had only captured the sound, not visuals of the shooting. We built two timelines using Google Sheets, one for internal oversight and the second to enable the designer and developer to build the final presentation.

Storytelling-wise, we built on a system created for another story using React, enabling us to have the story up and running in less than a day. The main visual element, in addition to the running video presentation, was the black-and-white digital clock taking the reader into the attack second by second. All information was directly imported from Google Sheets.

Using OSINT and modern storytelling focusing mainly on video, we were able to present a detailed overview of the shooting just days after the attack. As the first investigative and visual long read successfully published in the immediate aftermath of a big breaking news event, the project has been a true inspiration to our newsroom.

It is also a great illustration of how new methodology can quickly be adapted to new areas of journalism and storytelling and was celebrated as one of our biggest innovations in 2022.

About Eva-Therese Loo Grøttum

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