Breaking into Comics Journalism

SusieJourno-1 copyAs a child Susie Cagle loved to draw, scribbling little comic books and cartoons here and there. A talent for drawing ran in the family – her father was an editorial cartoonist. But to her, these illustrations were a hobby – she didn’t want to follow in her father’s professional footsteps. She decided that she wanted to be a reporter instead and enrolled at the Columbia Journalism School to help launch her career.

She graduated in 2006 and moved to the Bay Area in hopes of finding some freelance writing gigs. Eventually, she got hired at San Francisco’s Curbed blog a week before the stock market crash of 2008. Two and a half months later, she was laid off and her career ambitions came to a halt again. She decided enough was enough; she had debts to pay and was desperate to find a new way to earn some money. She’d never considered pursuing her drawing hobby professionally, but figured that some of her non-fiction comics might work in a journalistic setting. (more…)

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Drones & Journalism

You may have seen their footage from protests, sporting events and the Nepal earthquake. You may have watched them whizzing around public parks and beaches. But, thanks to stringent rules set up by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), drones are still a limited part of the modern journalist’s reporting arsenal. 

There always seems to be a new piece of gear, a new version of editing software or a new trend on the market for videojournalists. We decided to consult the experts, Columbia’s very own video professors, on the equipment that they can’t live without. Here’s some amalgamated wisdom on what they think is essential for anyone starting out in the videojournalism industry.

Behind the Prizes: Hers to Lose

Brent McDonald was the lead videographer for the New York Times' 'Hers to Lose,' the second-prize long feature winner in the 2014 World Press Photo Multimedia awards. McDonald explains the challenges of filming a campaign that took a turn for the worse, and how he and his team got access in the first place.

“When you don’t have money and you don’t have experience, you need to have time.”

A lack of experience or formal media training didn’t stop Katriina O’Kane, an environmental scientist, from producing a sophisticated multimedia web doc. Profiles from the Arctic casts a spotlight on scientific research in the Canadian North. O’Kane answered a few questions about what it was like to do a big project with little financial support, why she thinks science reporting is important and what lessons she learned while producing the series.

Behind the Prizes: Silent Night

On March 11th, 2012, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales left his army base and allegedly killed 16 innocent civilians in the villages surrounding Kandahar, Afghanistan. While he was criminally tried in America, little has been heard from the villagers who witnessed the gruesome murders firsthand. Lela Ahmadzai, a German video and photojournalist who was born in Kabul, happened to be in Afghanistan when news of the massacre trickled out. She decided to go to Kandahar and record the firsthand accounts of those who saw their families massacred. In her multimedia piece, Silent Night, she uses photo, video and audio to showcase the stories of those directly affected by Bales’ actions. (more…)

Behind the Prizes: Staff Riding


“Staff Riding” is local slang for a dangerous sport: surfing the trains that wind through the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. Photojournalist Marco Casino took last year’s World Press Photo Award’s 1st Prize in Short Feature Multimedia with his film about the young men who ride the outsides of trains, and the toll it sometimes takes on them.

Shooting from the tops of trains and attempting to evade the police (staff riding is illegal), Casino shows the adrenaline-riddled highs and the tragic lows that staff riding brings to the townships in South Africa. Now, he hopes to turn the short into part of a long-term project about the metro train system in Johannesburg. (more…)

The freelance market can be precarious, especially for those who are just starting out. Journalists complain about poor pay, unclear expectations and needy editors - a contract can help you avoid these problems. Columbia Visuals reporter Joanna Plucinska met with Bill Loundy, the Director of Talent Management at Content.ly, to discuss some of the things that every freelancer should keep in mind when drafting a contract.

Illustrating Privacy: behind the scenes with Comics journalism

Michael Keller, a member of the Interactive Multimedia team at Al Jazeera America, has created work with data visualizations, video, graphics and in print. When he decided he was interested in reporting on privacy and Big Data, he turned to a method he hadn’t used before: comics journalism. (more…)

Illustrated Journalism

Comics journalism is exactly what it sounds like: a hybrid of comic book-style illustrations and reporting. We interviewed some of the pioneers of the graphic journalism field about their projects and publications, and the way they're contributing to journalism.

If you’ve just started working in visual media, you may notice you’re starting to accumulate a lot of digital files. Yes, digital files take up less space in your apartment than literal files, but figuring out what to do with all of that stuff can be daunting. First time choosing a hard drive? No problem. We’ve got a crash course for you.

Want to learn how to build your own website? Design your own app? Or are you simply looking for a way to diversify your resume? In today’s media job market, having some experience in coding can help you stand out in the crowd. You may think the cost of a coding class is out of your reach, but it's not! There are a lot of free options.

"Audio is the spine of multimedia," according to video experts MediaStorm, and you should believe them. Sometimes in the hectic race to get a video project shot, we forget that sound is critical to producing a watchable film. We've put together some basic microphone and editing tips to take your audio from an afterthought, to a priority.