Monday, January 13, 2014

Infographics, reporting, and editing

What is a polar vortex?
One of the most valuable lessons I learned in the years I worked with experienced and tough editors —at Época magazine, mainly, but also at El Mundo— is that infographics, as journalism in general, is as much about reporting (getting the right information) as it is about editing (displaying the right amount of information.) The correct balance between too much and too little data in an infographic is always debatable and hard to achieve: It depends on the publication, your audience, the time you have to produce the graphic, the space available (online graphics can be organized in as many layers of depth as necessary; print graphics can't) and the very nature of the story.

However, there are infographics that make me exclaim: "That's it. That's all I need to know!" The latest one I've seen comes from The Washington Post, and it explains what a polar vortex is. Would I like to see more? Sure. I'd like to be able to explore those maps, to zoom in to the areas that were affected by the vortex, etc. But those are minor grievances. The fact is that the step-by-step explanation is as simple and clear as it gets: No realistic 3D or gratuitous lighting and shading effects, no fancy animations and transitions. Just the story, tightly edited.