2012 Resolution: February Update from our self-improvers

In early January, you were introduced to five visual journalists who volunteered to take part in SND’s Year-Long Conversation. Their goal? To learn new skills that will help prepare them for new challenges that lie ahead in our ever-changing industry — and share their journey with you here at SND.org.

Here are their updates for February:


Carrie Cousins

What I learned this month: I started the month jumping way ahead with my goals because of a webinar opportunity and took part in a webinar on Quark App Studio, which is an add-on that allows users to pretty seamlessly create an iPad or iPhone app using familiar software. The major takeaway from the webinar is that designing an app is not some super-foreign and difficult thing. It is simpler than I imagained — designing and saving the app with a proper file format save — with the proper tools, so why aren’t we all (newsapers) doing this?

I also really ramped up my individual HTML lessons. I have been working with a couple of tutorial sites, including w3schools.com. HTML is making a lot of sense and has plenty of practical applications in what I do almost every day.

That being said, I have almost given up on coding. I have fallen behind in the Codeacademy courses and and feel quite lost during each lesson. I would like to better understand the process, but am not sure this is something that I can do without more guidance. I am still looking for a great book if anyone has reccomendations.

Where I learned it: The Quark webinar was sponsored by the company as tool to sell the product but contained valuable information. I am using online tutorials to learn more about HTML.

What was most challenging about what I learned: Coding is still the most challenging part of my learning process. While I am completing tutorials, the logic behind them is not coming easily to me.

What I plan to do next month: I plan to keep moving ahead with HTML. The language is practical and usable in what I do. I am reading more every day about it and hope to further my understanding of HTML with a goal of creating a site on my own.

CUTLINES: Photos from Quark App Studio webinar.





Donnita Fisher

What I learned this month: While January seemed to last forever, February has flown by. I’d like to say I tried many new things and processes, but this month was spent just trying to keep up! One thing we did try was extremely successful. Every year we run a “Best Of” readers’ poll. We print a ballot and ask our readers to vote on the best banker, realtor, community event, barbecue joint, chicken fried steak, etc. This year we added a digital ballot. Oh my goodness! We got as many digital ballots as we did hard copies! Our readers are definitely interested in getting their information online … now to find a way to keep that momentum going.

Where I learned it: To that end, we started a dialogue on our Facebook page and translated that into a story for the paper. It worked very well, weekly sales went up slightly, we gathered a few dozen more Facebook fans and the story posted to our website got the most hits for the week.

What was most challenging about what I learned: I continue to struggle with the balance between updating our websites, posting to Facebook and writing for our print product and integrating the trio. The dialogue on Facebook was a bit more spirited than what it would have been if we had simply interviewed the two sides of the issue. It definitely made for a more interesting print story. Another issue we’ve been dealing with is the volume of comments generated by certain polarizing stories. We allow readers to comment on stories posted on the web. The comments are delayed and must be approved by editors before going live on our website. One story generated more than 120 comments and that takes a lot of time away from the daily job of getting the news out. Still not sure where to go with that dilemma.

What I plan to do next month: This month I hope to continue to find ways to marry our Facebook, web and print stories. And I’m definitely going to do the Poynter program on mobile content.





Shajan Kumar

What I learned this month: The Digital Publishing innovations in India is getting huge appreciation. The Times of India group of publications have started working on exclusive products for iPads/tablets. All these products will be design savvy and user friendly.

It is not just the newspapers and magazines going the the digital way. Many corporate communication plans are now turning towards digital mode. Well designed and interactive. ‘Connecting to the client in a sober way makes a difference. It makes them come back and pay attention!’ a corporate communication head working with a FMCG company said.

The education segment is also keen on moving to digital forms. The ‘Y’ generation really enjoys it. They want a campus which is WiFi connected and the classes online every time. So you never miss a class!

BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) on collaboration with Noida-based company  Pantel Technologies, has launched three tablets which includes one 7-inch screen tablet with resistive screen and it runs on Android 2.3 operating system, while the second comes with 7-inch screen and the third tablet comes with an 8-inch screen, both of which are capacitive but with a higher price. These tablets are designed keeping in mind the students need, the tablet come with a promotional offer of 3 month free data download. BSNL is also giving 2G SIM along with all the tablets.

India is country where we use more than a dozen of regional languages. And here comes the scope for developers to create designs and forms which can be used in multiple levels. Once again ‘design savvy and user friendly’ will be the key to success.

Where I learned it:

  • Indian Institute of News Design, New Delhi.
  • Indian Association of News Designers, New Delhi.
  • BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited).
  • Various videos on Adobe Digital Publishing System and Creative Suite here, here and here.

What was most challenging about what I learned: Understanding the requirements of regional language specific needs. There is huge potential untapped here. Bit risky but. May require lot of research and development.

What I plan to do next month: Planning to visit local libraries and learn on degitalisatiion processes. What will happen to these libraries after the iPad/Tablet boom which is expected in India next decade? Let me see what answers I am going to get!





Wesley Watson

What I learned this month: I’ve been continuing to learn about illustration with a Wacom tablet. First, I finished the skiing hazards illustration (below).


Here’s a closer look at the tree art that illustrates the safety point:

As of last post, this project was in the beginning stages and in pieces. So, I’m including the final version. I am pleased with how it turned out. I feel I could have accomplished the same illustration without the tablet, but I saved a lot of time.

Secondly, I’ve been working in Corel Painter 12 – still on the tablet. I began my sketching for a mountain lion project that’s coming up.


Sketching has taken up a lot of my free time, so I’m just starting with Painter.

Where I learned it: I’m pretty much on my own. No books, just a few online tutorials.

What was most challenging about what I learned: I’ve never had any formal training in painting; anything I know has just come from trial and error. For this reason the program is proving much more difficult than anticipated. Picking brushes is somewhat frustrating because I never learned them by name. Painter seems to have about a hundred or so of them. When I find one I like I write it down and make note of when it’s helpful. Otherwise, I forget what it’s called and can’t find it when I return to use it again. I think the hardest thing right now is staying patient with myself.

What I plan to do next month: I’ll be continuing the mountain lion project. I’m hoping to make some real gains there. I might have to look into books on Painter or just painting in general. I also have a caricature-type illustration due, so I’ll probably be back in Illustrator.

Great work by all involved who are improving themselves in 2012.

• 2012: Improve yourself in 2012 — January

What new skills are you learning this year? Let me know at the link below!

Joe Greco is corporate design director for GateHouse Media.
Contact him at [email protected]







• 2012: January Update

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