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Visual Journalism
by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 83]

Computer Graphics are increasingly being used in news publications. The web versions of the most important newspapers host nowadays sophisticated animations that clarify the intricacies of current affairs.

The tragical events in which we have been immersed for several months have had an enormous impact on the mass media in the West. Particularly the events of September 11th in the USA, the war in Afghanistan and the dramatic worsening of the crisis between Israelis and Palestinians have taken up the headlines, textual as well as graphical, in all the communication media. 

In order to cope with the complexity of these situations, many publications have created outstanding illustrations, diagrams and interactive visualisations about the chronology, geographical location, structure of the buildings, weapons, etc

CercoRamala.gif (125384 bytes)
The Palestinian presidential complex in Ramallah. Screenshot of the interactive computer graphic made by the "El País" newspaper.

Click on the image to enlarge it or connect directly to the web site of "El País"

As an example of this, we have the excellent interactive graphics of the Spanish newspaper “El País” about the conflict during the last month. In it you can see the evolution on a day by day basis, through a series of text and graphics illustrating the events, the number of deaths on each side and the diplomatic initiatives.

Specially clarifying is the interactive graphic about the besieging of Arafat in Ramallah, where you can see the structure of the Palestinian presidential complex . 

Regarding this issue it’s worth taking a look at the interesting web site that Gert K. Nielsen maintains about Visual Journalism. The current issue is devoted to a comparison between the different graphics covering the siege of Arafat by news companies like TIME, CNN, The Guardian, New York Times and up to eleven publications.

All this is part of the progressive introduction of computer graphics in the world of journalism. Most of the important newspapers nowadays have a digital version on the web where, in many cases, they publish sophisticated interactive versions of the static diagrams and graphics that appear in the press version. 

This type of activity requires whole teams of people devoted to applying graphics to the presentation of the results of what is, to a large extent, research journalism.

The possibilities of computer graphics allow them to capture images directly from TV, selecting the most interesting take and transforming it into a primitive graphic that can then be annotated and enhanced. This, among many other techniques, make it possible for sophisticated graphics to be elaborated on a daily basis through the collaboration of visual journalists and editors in a record time. 

On the other hand the latest technologies of graphic presentation on the web are particularly useful in this context. We have been very negative about using them indiscriminately on the web without a clear usability criterion. Nevertheless, in this context, technologies like Macromedia’s Flash are particularly useful for the illustration of certain events.

AtlasGuerra.jpg (162402 bytes)

As an example of this evolution you can take the book “11-9-01, Atlas de la Guerra” (11-9-01, “Atlas of the War”) edited by the Spanish editorial “La Esfera de los Libros” that uses the graphic contents deployed by the Spanish newspaper “El Mundo” to situate the events that have developed from September 11th on. An excellent compendium of illustrations accompanied by a CD-ROM with 40 interactive animations. (In Spanish).

Visual journalism is acquiring a strong impulse in the most important media worldwide and in the future there’s no doubt that its relevancy will increase.

 

We encourage our readers to send outlines about visual journalism to the address webmaster@infovis.net


By the way, from April 24th to 26th, the 10th edition of the Malofiej awards will take place. The awards acknowledge the excellence in visual journalism.

Links of this issue:

http://www.elpais.es/multimedia  
http://www.elpais.es/multimedia/internacional/inti.html  
http://www.elpais.es/multimedia/internacional/arafat.html  
http://www.visualjournalism.com   VisualJournalism.com
http://www.macromedia.com/es/software/flash/  
http://www.esferalibros.com  
http://www.elmundo.es/graficos/multimedia/  
http://www.unav.es/malofiej/  
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