Telling news stories with illustrations

byLindsay Kalter
Mar 20, 2013 in Miscellaneous

While many news organizations approach alternative storytelling with the most high-tech methods in their digital media toolbox, a handful of outlets are using a much older method: hand-drawn illustrations.

Several organizations are experimenting with this form of storytelling, notes Al Tompkins in a Poynter Online post. The California-based Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and California Watch created a video comprised of drawings called "In Jennifer's Room" to accompany a story on abuse and neglect in California's developmental centers for people with disabilities.

Because of the story's delicate nature and the importance of maintaining the anonymity of the girl in the story, the author had "no photos, we had no audio interviews, we had no compelling visuals that we could use,” CIR Senior Multimedia Producer Carrie Ching told Tompkins. “But we did have an amazing human story to tell, and we had to tell it within these limitations.”

This style of journalism generally uses animation rather than minimalist-style drawings. The New York Times often uses animation. NPR’s StoryCorps' animations “John and Joe,” “Germans in the Woods” and “Danny and Annie" use animation to help communicate ideas about difficult life topics.

There is some question about how receptive audiences will be to illustrated storytelling. CIR has identified two elements that ensure the success of such a project: careful reporting and plenty of time. "The team that produced 'In Jennifer’s Room' began conversations about the project months before it rolled out to the public," Tompkins writes. "The conversations allowed a time-strapped staff to question every artistic detail and enabled all of the team members to offer ideas about how to tell the story."

To read the original post, click here.

Poynter Online, IJNet’s partner and the website of the Poynter Institute, is a school serving journalism and democracy for more than 35 years. Poynter offers news and training that fits any schedule, with individual coaching, in-person seminars, online courses, webinars and more.

Photo courtesy of grietgriet on Morguefile