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September 23rd, 2014

Year in review: The art of visual journalism in 2012

We live in a visual age, consuming thousands of images every day via a range of devices that allow us to access the Internet and its vast resources quickly and easily. Just as with virtually every other aspect of our lives, journalism has also evolved to keep pace with our increasingly visual world.

“The future of journalism has changed forever,” says Nomi Morris, program chair of Visual Journalism at Brooks Institute, a leading provider of higher education for film, graphic design, visual journalism and photography. “For example, photojournalism has evolved into visual journalism to respond to the changes in our society, culture and industries. Today, a journalist is not just a reporter or a photographer. He or she must be equally adept at stills, video, multimedia and writing to create a complete package of nonlinear storytelling.”

Visual journalism strategically combines words and images to convey information. This emerging type of journalism is transforming how people consume news. For readers looking to find the best examples of visual stories on major news websites, Morris suggests the Los Angeles Times’ “Framework,” New York Times’ “Lens” and Time Magazine’s “Lightbox” blogs. Each site has captured some of the most memorable news stories in 2012, such as the U.S. Presidential election, the Summer Olympics in London, Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, and the ongoing unrest in Egypt and Syria.

However, Morris points to a series of articles from the Los Angeles Times as among the best examples of visual journalism in 2012.  The series titled “Dying for Relief,” about prescription drug overdoses was written by Lisa Girion and Scott Glover, with photos and video by Liz. O. Baylen. The article includes more than just words on a page. It includes interactive elements, including video, audio and photos of doctors behind the scenes and those affected by the tragic loss of loved ones overdosing on prescription medicines.

“The edgy visual style, both in the black and white photos and video, as well as the graphic presentation on the website, feel completely fresh and original,” says Morris. “The Los Angeles Times is using innovative techniques, such as where you move your cursor over a photograph and the eyes blink or a hand moves. This interactivity draws the viewer deeper into the content of the story.”

Unlike conventional journalism schools, which are scrambling to add courses in visual storytelling to their curriculum, Brooks Institute’s visual journalism program emerged out of a photography and film school. As a result, students are creating photo and multimedia works, short documentary films and audio documentaries, as well as feature articles, to assemble multi-platform journalistic packages.

“Whichever of the media you are working in, the fundamentals of honest and compelling storytelling apply to all,” Morris says.

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