In these times of compact newspapers and Berliner formats, information graphics have taken a hit in the fight for space. Even with the traditional broadsheet format, advertising display rules and the editorial ratio is declining.
But does this trend of cutting our ‘infographics’lie at the feet of advertising departments which, in all honesty keep our industry afloat, or is this an editorial issue?
We can’t really find fault with advertising departments as they are only fulfilling the job description. And the editorial floor has a commitment to telling and explaining as much of the news and its angles as possible.
We must, however, acknowledge that our news production is in a state of transition. Longer story lengths are now queried, and photographic displays are less breaking news, and more generic. Less analysis and more comment. The quid pro quo is that, in general, infographics are becoming a rarity, and their very existence is questioned beyond Super Tuesday and terrorism.
So, let us reconsider this visual-journalism thing. Is it right that graphics can only be maps and charts, or the excruciatingly clichÃ©d artistic impressions of military positions being bombed into oblivion?
We must move away from the dull and the obvious and ask serious questions regarding the content and structure of an infographic, just as we would a written piece of journalism. What about the ‘why?’and the ‘where?’By ‘how much?’and ‘how does this compare?”.
Every statistic is meaningless on its own. It needs to be qualified and quantified. The easiest and most-effective way of showing a percentage or figure is by showing its volume.
Even better is to compare this chart year on year, or any comparison that is similar.
Our profession has not moved on over the past 15 years, but our readers have. Today’s readers and viewers demand visual content, interactivity and non-traditional narrative. But most of all they demand information.
So with the afore-mentioned suggestions and notions in mind, the following two points may improve the content and ability of your graphic department:
Initiate change and awareness
Understand that infographics are not illustrations that merely support the text, they can also show and explain much more to your reader. Information, not decoration.
Good journalism equals better infographics
Raising the journalistic standard of your graphics staff is a priority. For these editorial changes to be successfully implemented, your graphics editor and their staff must be encouraged to think like journalists, and not as artists.