Posted on October 5, 2012
What should be in a “visual journalism” course?
One meaning of the phrase “visual journalism” is simply photojournalism. There are people who use the two terms interchangeably. I respectfully disagree with that approach — mainly because the word “photojournalism” is perfectly good, and clear. It is a word that can easily embrace video journalism (but maybe not TV journalism, which I see as a very different animal) and digital — including editing and optimizing photos for the Web and mobile.
In other words, adding some video and Web to a photojournalism course does NOT (in my opinion) make it a “visual journalism” course. It certainly does not make it a “multimedia journalism” course!
So here are my 10 proposals for a university-level course in visual journalism:
1. A visual journalism course comes after an “intro to journalism” or “intro to mass comm.” course, because we want the students to have a general idea of “What is journalism?” first, before starting visual journalism.
2. A visual journalism course can precede all writing and reporting courses if item 1 above is followed.
3. A visual journalism course includes 2D design for both print and Web, and that includes typography and color theory, as well as principles of composition (which apply to photography as well as page layouts).
4. A visual journalism course includes an introduction to photojournalism, with examples and discussion of great photojournalism.
5. A visual journalism course includes (a little) video, with discussions of the differences from and similarities with still photography.
6. A visual journalism course includes (a little) motion graphics, e.g. The Girl Effect.
7. A visual journalism course includes data graphics/information graphics, with analysis of design principles therein (proximity, unity, balance, etc.), as well as the idea of communicating numbers with graphics.
8. All journalism students today need to complete a visual journalism course of this type to be suitably prepared for working in journalism today.
9. As a course required of all majors, an introduction to visual journalism need not be a fully lab-based course with a large number of hands-on or skills-based assignments.
10. A visual journalism course must include at least a few hands-on assignments (which may be completed outside class time).
Feel free to add, argue, expand or copy!
Extra: This post by Juan Antonio Giner gives support to my claim that EVERY journalism student today MUST study information graphics: An International Statement on Infographics and Visual Journalism.
(This post was inspired by a recent discussion on the Listserv for AEJMC’s Visual Communication division.)