An industry-leading graphic journalist emphasised the importance for budding journalists to be familiar with programming language, “at the bare minimum”.
Dan Archer from the University of Missouri spoke to students at Macleay College about his work as a graphic journalist and the visual news consultancy he co-founded, Empathetic Media. He introduced students to the art of illustrating stories with interactive multimedia and comics; a concept being used in an increasingly digital age.
“This form of journalism covers news and events using a framework of comics – a combination of words and images,” Mr Archer said.
“Empathetic Media produces feature pieces to help newsrooms make their stories [more] visually appealing.”
This framework substitutes words with photos and illustrations and uses direct quotes from interviews in speech bubbles rather than quotation marks. Mr Archer sees this as vastly beneficial for the current competition for audience attention.
“Visual explainers are useful for stories that don’t attract a lot of readers and an advantage is that people can experience what you are seeing,” he said.
Mr Archer showed samples of his work, which has been featured by the State Department, American Public Media and BBC. His work has received thousands of hits on social media.
“I am adamant about using this form of visual storytelling, not just with a privileged audience who have access to laptops and smartphones, but also with people whose stories are being shared.”
In response to the criticism of the lack of objectivity in his stories, he created timelines to contrast the viewpoints of different parties involved in incidents he covered, including a story on a homeless Native American woman and the shooting of Michael Brown.
“As you click through this timeline and move to the different parts you can see where they were at that moment and then as you actually click on them you can read some of the supporting materials.”
Mr Archer also reinforced the value of collaborating with experts with different skillsets to amplify the message of a story. – Vishnavi Kulenthirarasa
Top photo by Alison Cheung.