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May 09 2011

12:37

AN INTERNATIONAL STATEMENT ON INFOGRAPHICS AND VISUAL JOURNALISM

Last week, we saw how some of the “worst offenders” explained the Osama bin Laden story with fictional graphics.

As soon as I started to post some tuitts in my Twitter account @GINER, I saw that many colleagues from many countries reacted in the same way, among them ny friend Alberto Cairo, the infographics editor of EPOCA magazine in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

With Alberto, we wrote “six basic rules” that must be observed to deliver real news with graphics.

Then I contacted Barry Sussman, an INNOVATION Senior Consultant that now serves as editor of the Harvard University Nieman Watchdog Project and he offered that website to post the “check-list” with a short article, and a first list with 58 colleagues from 22 countries immediately endorsed the statement.

Claude Erbsen in New York edited the “six rules” and Barry Sussman in Washington DC edited the full article.

A few minutes ago all this was posted at the Nieman Watchdog website with the same illustration that leads this post, as it fits the purpose and sense of this statement: the front page of the William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal “explaining” the news from Cuba.

And we included a few examples from some of the “worst offenders.”

Like this one from UOL in Brazil:

This from the Daily Mail in the UK:

This one from CBS News:

This one from ABC in Madrid:

This one from the Hindustan Times in India:

This one from NMA News in Taiwan:

Or this from JT France:

You can find an extensive selection with wise comments of Gert K Nielsen about some of the best and worst infographics in his blog VisualJournalism.

But, more important, we just wanted to stress five ideas:

  • Facts ,not fiction, is what drives Journalism.
  • Visual Journalism is not Show Business.
  • Editors must lead this battle against fake information.
  • Visual journalists must resist any pressure to deliver graphics “at any cost.”
  • And infographics are not a substitute when we don’t have real information.

This what I learned from Alejandro Malofiej, Miguel Urabayen, Peter Sullivan, Mario Tascón, John Grimwade, Chiqui Esteban, Nigel Holmes or Javier Zarracina, and many of the best visual journalists of the world.

And we cannot accept less.

• If you agree with these convictions, please add your signature in the comments section of the Nieman Watchdog, spread the word between your newsrooms, and we will include your names in the next editions of this first wave of endorsements.

September 29 2010

15:30

Margaret Atwood on Twitter-as-performance, and why you should keep your Kindle in a lead-lined box

Continuing our impromptu series Literary Figures Talk About Twitter: The terrific Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood did an interview with Big Think about (among other things) her usage of and thoughts about Twitter. Atwood’s long been an investigator of technology both in her fiction and in real life. (Who can forget the LongPen, her freakishly awesome tool for doing book signings via long-distance robot arm?)

Like New Yorker writer Susan Orlean, whom we interviewed earlier this month, Atwood has found a lot of connections between Twitter and other forms of human communication. (Atwood currently leads Orlean in Twitter followers, 88,000 to 81,000. That would make for a much classier version of Ashton Kutcher vs. CNN.) Here’s some of what Atwood had to say:

Well, it is just an extension of the diary. And there is a wonderful book called The Assassin’s Cloak, which takes diary entries from all centuries and arranges them according to day of the year. So you can turn to January the 1st and there will be an entry from Lord Byron, and there will be one from somebody during World War II, and there will be one from Brian Eno. And then on January 2, there will be somebody else.

People used to perform their lives this way to themselves in their diaries, and also through letters to other people. So for me, anything that happens in social media is an extension of stuff we were already doing in some other way. So, it’s all human communication. And the form that most closely resembles the “tweet” is the telegram of old, which also was limited because you paid by the letter. And so short communications very rapidly sent.

So all of these things, the postal service, et cetera, they’re all improvements, if you like, or modernizations of things that already existed earlier in some other form. Even African tribal drums, for instance, could send very complex messages over great distances. They were very rapid, they were very well-worked out and communications could just go like wildfire using that medium of communications.

So all of this stuff is what we do now, but it’s not different in nature from what we have always done, which is communicate with one another, send messages to one another, and perform our lives. We’ve been doing that for a long time.

Atwood also gets into the performative aspects of social media: “And if you think that what goes up on people’s blogs is really the full content of their lives, of course, you’re quite wrong. It’s what they’re doing in the spotlight. It’s their turn. And this spotlight they can shine it on themselves and they can go in there and sort of dance about and create a persona for themselves. Of course it’s not the whole story.”

She talks about Twitter in the videos above and immediately below; in the third video, she talks about the rise of ebooks and why you should keep your Kindle in a lead-lined box. You can find the entire interview (which covers topics like speculative fiction and “the neurology of reading”) here.

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