Ask A Pro
Examples of Work
Graphic of a fatal accident at a school
Map of what areas 2 new city aldermen will represent
Illustration featuring the brain
My work is equally journalistic and artistic. In order to catch a reader's eye, I have to present something that is both informative and attractive. If a graphic looks good, but has confusing or incomplete information, I've done the reader a disservice. If the graphic is informative, but not attractive, then there is a risk that the reader won't even stop to take in the information.
Why do you think graphics have become more important to telling a story?
You've heard the old cliche "a picture is worth a thousand words"? Well, it's true. There are simply some stories that are better told with or enhanced by graphics, especially stories that involve a complicated series of events or abstract concepts.
With news space declining each year, it's more and more important that we are able to give the reader a lot of good information in a small space and it's always important to bring the reader into the page. A well-executed graphic grabs the reader's attention and easily imparts a large amount of information. A graphic is versatile, as well. It can run with a story and enhance its effectiveness or the graphic can stand alone in place of a news story.
What's the difference between a graphic that illustrates a feature-type story and a news graphic?
An illustration is an image, usually without words, that represents the main theme or themes contained in a feature package. Properly done, it piques the reader's interest and draws them into the story. It's usually not as structured as a news graphic and more closely resembles fine art that you might see in a museum.
A news graphic combines images and words to explain a complicated subject or highlight important parts of a story. It can be anything from a map of a news scene to a diagram of a series of events to highlights pulled from a news story.
News graphics are generally more formal and the information they contain will be written according to the newspaper's style guide.
How do you check your work for accuracy?
There are several ways to insure that a graphic is accurate. The first is to use up-to-date, relevant source material. A map of a city from 10 years ago, for example, may not show the current city boundaries or include annexed areas. The second is to cross check your work whenever possible with other relevant sources, if available. A third way is to always ask questions when something isn't clear to you. Assuming you know the answer can be dangerous.
And finally, having many eyes look at the graphic after it's finished will insure that a problem that may not seem obvious to you doesn't get into the paper. This involves showing the completed graphic to the reporter, line editor and copy editor and having them read it for style and content.
What kind of computer programs to you use?
I use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Freehand and Quark XPress. There are benefits to each and some projects call for using a combination of the software to achieve just the right effect. From time to time, I still do some freehand drawing and scan that into the computer, but that's fairly rare these days.
You've coached aspiring journalists in your volunteer work for Native American Journalists Association. In your experience, what are the most important journalism lessons to learn?
A graphic artist or other visual journalist must be a journalist first. Since not all editors think visually, it's essential that aspiring graphic artists not only think visually, but also understand how words can be best used in combination with images to convey an idea to the reader. Having reporting and news writing experience can only make a graphic artist better at what he/she does and will make the graphics he/she creates more appealing and useful to the audience. A familiarity with newspaper style and a critical eye for detail can only help, as well.