Handbook of Independent Journalism (5) : Editing The Story

Graphic artists usually produce the visual images; the role of the editor is to conceptualize the graphic, find the information it should contain or illustrate, and ascertain its accuracy.

Graphics can convey basic facts or illustrate a process. Imagine you are reporting on air pollution in your country. A map could be used to show where the air is most unhealthy.

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An illustration could be used to show how air pollution affects the lungs. Both types of graphics work just as well for broadcast as they do for print.

Whatever the medium, avoid graphics that are crammed with too much information. The reader or viewer should be able to look at the graphic and take away one basic idea.

Think of a graphic as a highway sign — the driver doesn’t get a chance to study it because things are going by too fast, so the information has to be clear and easily absorbed.

Let’s imagine you have a story that says the city’s annual budget is twice as large as it was 10 years ago.

Reading closely, you notice that most of the growth has been in the last three years.

A bar graph charting the size of the budget for each of the last 10 years would be an easy way to make that clear.

It is easier for readers and viewers to absorb information presented with shapes rather than raw numbers.

For example, in a story about your city’s business development crowding out residents, you could list the number of apartments and office buildings in the area.

However, it would be more effective to create a pie chart showing the relationship between the two.

Compare rates whenever possible, not raw numbers. It is misleading to show that one town has twice as many deaths from AIDS as another, when the first town has 10 times as many inhabitants.

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