Visual editing still has value

Hey, I know: Print’s dead. But visuals shouldn’t be, even if they are taking different forms in different programs/mediums and requiring different skills.

What’s that mean for editors? Well, the Web has been remarkably text-heavy for a future-is-here product.

Sunday’s Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., hearkened back to its days when the likes of Charles Apple were still in visuals. It was simpler than back then, without quirky or complicated graphics, but it still worked:

These are real people who are unemployed, presumably from the paper’s coverage area, and they bring some life to a story about unemployment and other economic factors/conditions/indicators that could quickly bore readers with nothing but numbers.

Those numbers are important, obviously, but people have emotions, and they like to connect, to discern why and how the story matters to them. Giving them this stark, dignified montage allows for that connection. I’m sure there are criticisms that could be made of aspects of the design and layout, but does it strength — indeed, justify — this Page 1 story? I think it does.

And just because this example is in print doesn’t mean it can’t (or shouldn’t) be done, in an organic way, online. There are a million tools, a millions methods of presentation, and at least a million talented visual thinkers — if you’re an editor, find them, embrace them, and use them. And if you’re having difficulties, ask around, take a class, and learn more.

Text is good — ideal, when done well. But text isn’t everything, and if we limit ourselves to thinking that it is sufficient alone, we’ll be falling behind. And worse, if we allow ourselves and others to think editing only matters with text, we’ll be left behind. Then, the closest we’ll get to the new media reality is as one of those faces of the unemployed.

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