What Is Visual Journalism?
May 30, 2014
•General, Visual Journalism
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It's a new buzz term in the industry, but what is visual journalism? If journalists tell stories through words, visual journalists strategically combine them with images to convey a story that sparks a more immediate connection with the reader (or viewer). They use photographs, illustrations, charts, graphics and film to express deeper meanings and multidimensional messages that words can't achieve alone.
Visual journalism is accessible to a wide range of disciplines. Today's visual journalists create designs for newspapers, magazines, television and websites. The field offers a wide array of opportunities for any creative mind, and requires stellar design skills and a journalistic eye. Visual journalists work with reporters and editors to bring news stories to life and tell readers what they need to know in a more engaging way.
How Visual Journalism Developed
From the pyramid walls to a still emerging digital newsroom, visual journalism has spent centuries evolving, and the field continues to grow and change in exciting new ways. Here's a quick look at its history:
- The emergence of the field came in the mid-19th century. Prior to the 1840s, images rarely appeared in newspapers. All that changed in 1842 when The Illustrated London News began using illustrations to enhance its text.
- In the 1870s, photojournalism pioneer John Thomson published a monthly magazine called Street Life in London, which became the model for the modern news magazine, providing in-depth coverage of news stories complemented by colorful photographs and illustrations.
- The visual journalism scene shifted again in 1925 with the development of the 35mm camera, allowing journalists to take pictures on the go.
- From the 1930s through to the '60s, the field of visual journalism grew by leaps and bounds. People recognized value in presenting images alongside news to help tell the story and draw in interest.
Today, visual journalism is a centerpiece of contemporary media. With the Internet dominating the eyes of news junkies, people have access to more information than ever. With attention spans getting shorter, journalists now need to draw in readers and tell them what they want to know before they even reach the end of the page, and graphics allow for that quick interpretation. But today's visual journalism isn't just about illustrations and photographs. It's about getting people involved in the news with quizzes, surveys, video and interactive tools that make the reader part of the story.
The field of visual journalism is increasingly dynamic. Photography, technology and the news are all converging, and journalists need to keep up with them. There's no telling where the field will be in 10 years, but you can count on its growing importance as readers crave more convenient ways to read the news and share it when they're done.
Who's Doing It?
Visual journalists work in a variety of positions. Art directors, graphic designers, copy editors, new media designers, photographers, photojournalists, filmmakers and web designers all work within the realm of visual journalism to produce compelling content driven by diverse infographics and multimedia technology. Many visual designers work on publications that allow them to travel the world and explore a variety of cultures.
So what is visual journalism? It's more than just the creation of attractive images to go alongside the news. Prospective visual journalists will excite readers, spark communication and convey a deep message — all in a single glance.
Photo source: Flickr