Graphic Journalism with National Geographic’s Marc Silver

Session: Graphic Journalism

Marc Silver, National Geographic

When you open the pages of National Geographic, your eyes are instantly attracted to the pictures. I had never thought about what this meant for the production of the magazine.

Marc Silver came to the CMA conference and talked to us about the process of creating the magazine each month.

He started off talking about deciding what should be front page art. When you have so many great photographs, it is a much more complicated than picking the best piece of art. Instead they look for stuff they know will gain people’s attention like stories about adventures and stories that take you places. For example, a recent success was the front page that involved Paris underground. This took people to a speific place and inspired adventure. With the recent closure of the National Geographic publication Adventurer, they are combining these elements into the original publication.

One thing he talked about was the hierarchy of the magazine. At other publications he worked at the writers were at closer to the top of the hierarchy. At National Geographic the people involved with photos are on the top, with designers following and then writers.

This system does create a strong relationship between the photo and the writing staff. Successful story pitches are the ones where a photographer and a writer have sat down and mapped an idea out before presenting it. This is something that I feel The Pendulum could learn from because right now we assign a writer to do the reporting and a photographer to take the pictures, but the elements do not often come together until Monday night.

How can we expect these to become cohesive products every time if there is minimal discussion about the two elements?

One of his closing pieces of advice was interesting. He talked about while you should have experience in everything, you shouldn’t focus on being an expert in everything. He said that doing everything can lead to spending less time on an element you could make great. I somewhat agree with this, and in a way this was a nice thing to hear. However, it also contradicted what I have basically heard from every other conference and every class. It made me think. Once upon a time I would have gladly agreed with him, now I am hesitant, but should I be? We can’t be experts in everything. But I guess we can try.

-Rebecca Smith


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