Visuals, visuals, visuals: the dollar rule, infographics and readability.

By Michael Bodley

I woke up this morning, worked a bit on a story or two and then headed downstairs into a maze of college media the likes of which I’ve never before seen. Students everywhere, jabbering on the phone in the lobby, writing blistering notes in reporting pads, rushing off to who-knows-where. There’s such energy here, such passion, such, I daresay, fun?

After soaking in the scene, I attended a session about creating infographics are “rock n’ roll” speed. The speaker, Louisiana State University’s Alex Cook, called us, student journalists, Generation C: the creators, curators and collaborators who will form the future of media.

Cook asked editors at major publications like USA Today the biggest deficiency in new college graduates entering the reporting world. It’s not writing. It’s not interviewing. It’s not research.

It’s numbers. Knowing how to crunch data and analyze spreadsheets and use Excel can separate an exceptional reporter, Cook said.

But it has to be done visually! Numbers are useless if they’re not presented well. Free online tools like Tableau can be used ot easily create infographics that prevent pages from being too text-heavy. Remember the dollar rule: if a dollar can lay flat on any print page and touch nothing but text, that’s a problem. Add visuals, good visuals.

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