5 takeaways from “The Future of Visual Journalism”

This morning Brian Steffens of Reynolds Journalism InstituteSeth Hamblin of The Wall Street Journal, Jeff Dionise of Gannett and Jeff Goertzen of The Orange County Register hosted, “The Future of Visual Journalism,”  a session about changes in the field of visual journalism.

Here are five key takeaways from his talk:

1) Recently there have been many layoffs of photographers and graphic departments, a rising use of subpar cell phone photographs and an increased demand for high page views.We must ask ourselves what can we do to convey the importance of visual journalism to our bosses, their bosses and our coworkers.

2) According to Seth Hamblin, editor of visual journalism at The Wall Street Journal, we must create content which no one else has and we must be the first to do so.

The Wall Street Journal has grown both developmentally and in circulation in the past few year partially due to an increase in visuals. As a data focused publication, The Wall Street Journal creates graphics using this data in a way in which has not been done before.

Gannett’s Jeff Dionise speaks during a panel discussion on the future of visual journalism.

3) According to Tim Ethridge of E.W. Scripps Co., pages with visuals receive 30 percent more pageviews than comparable pages without. Ethridge stated that problems with news sources of today are that the focus is on the advertising, not on the reader. He also believes that simplicity is key. Many news websites attempt to cram their homepage full of stories while many users come across the story through a link via twitter or other social media.

4) Jeff Dionise, Gannett’s Vice President of Design advised the crowd to build a department of ideas and not “pretty pictures.” He emphasized the importance of brainstorming and the creative process, from a quick sketch on a cocktail napkin, all the way through completion. Although other departments may roll their eyes, taking a few minutes to research the topic and to think of a new approach are factors that set great work apart from the average. Once a unique angle is decided, a productive, open brainstorming session can begin.

Dionise said the design team should be involved in an idea from the beginning to the end and advised that designers pitch ideas for graphics before a story. Offering up ideas will make these employees more valuable than those who can just make “pretty” work.

5) Jeff Goertzen, senior artist/consultant with the Orange County Register and director of education and training for Society for News Design, spoke about  the positive effect of improved graphics on his publication and compared the emphasis on visuals on going back to the 80s. He claimed that everyone in the room was originally hired for their ideas, the visuals can come later.

Feeling inspired after the presentation, Ohio University junior Katelyn Boyden said, “People are afraid of the newsroom, don’t be afraid to be outrageous and pitch a crazy idea. That’s what I’ll probably take form this.”

About Isabel Calder

is a student at Michigan State University and a 2013 SNDF travel grant recipient.

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