|Chapter 15 - Graphics Journalism
Graphics journalism is a specialized form of journalism that uses graphic forms to present information. These forms often use words as well as illustration, so the graphics journalist must have the ability to write -- especially to use words efficiently.
Graphics journalism generally backs up and adds information to other reporting and writing that the publication has done. Graphics journalists usually take one part of a story -- that which lends itself to graphic presentation -- and do additional reporting so that a graphic can be developed for the story. Such reporting is very difficult because it must be precise and complete. And it must produce the information that can be properly used in a graphic form.
The most common types of charts the journalist uses are bar charts, line charts and pie charts. These are used to present numerical data. Certain principles apply to using these different kinds of charts, and the graphics journalists must know what they are and follow those principles precisely. For instance, a pie chart can only be used to show the parts of a whole and for no other purpose.
Maps are widely-used graphic forms for many publications, and a good map can give the reader a sense of place and location for the events being reported on. Maps are also subject to certain conventions. For instance, the top part of the map is usually the most northern point. Graphics journalists must understand and observe these conventions. Even a simple map -- if it is to be informative for the reader -- takes a good deal of skill to report and construct.
The chief goal of the graphics journalist is to present accurate information in a form that is understandable and engaging.
Data and charts. It is very important to understand the three major kinds of charts used in graphic reporting line, bar and pie (look at the charts in the image above) and the information that is appropriate to each chart.
Tips for beginners. Students who are learning about charts and how to produce them should remember the following:
Click on the image to the right (or here) for more information about how to design a chart.
Data is plural. The word “data” is a plural noun and should have a plural verb. The word “media” is plural also.
Graphics reporting. Finding the appropriate data to build a good chart is not always easy. Graphics reporters often find that the data they need are not available or are incomplete. Try to find as much statistical information about the students at your college or school. Begin with the number of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Who would have that information? See what you can come up with and how many different kinds of charts you can build.
Building charts in Excel. Excel, the commonly used spreadsheet program developed by Microsoft has an excellent chart-building function called Chart Wizard. Click here for some instructions on how to use this function.
Finding maps to use. If you are working for a publication high school or college you should not use maps created by MapQuest or some other professional service without specific permission from that service. To do so is a violation of copyright laws. Maps that are free from those restrictions are available from other sources, however. For national and state maps, try the U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/geo/www/maps/). For local maps, look on the web sites of city and county governments. University libraries and geography departments often create maps of the areas they serve, and those can often be used without permission. Before using any map, check to make sure there are no restrictions on its use.