The Importance of the Visual Aspect of Journalism

When trying to decide what focus to choose for my journalism major, I went back and forth between electronic media and magazine.  I wanted to do electronic media because I love film and I felt that of all the focuses, it would give me the best experience for pursuing a career in film later on.  However, then I started thinking about what I like about film: cinematography.  And really, the techniques of cinematography are very similar if not the same for still photography.  I have always had a love of all things visual and being able to recreate what I see for other people.  So, I decided that I wanted to pursue a focus in magazine in order to hone not only my photography skills but also my design and visual communication skills.

Magazines are very much about the visual.  If they are not appealing to the eye they won’t get read.  I believe that people read newspapers more for the content than the visual appeal or visual stimulation they get out of reading it.  However, with magazines, the layout and visual style of an article or photo essay is much more important.  In magazines, not only will an interesting headline or lead draw us in, but an eye-catching font or an interesting title page will do the same.  The visual appeal plays a much bigger role in the success of an article than generally applies to newspapers.

In magazines, as in newspapers, photography plays an important role in helping to engage and further inform a reader about the story they are reading.  But with magazines, photos can become the story in and of themselves rather than just supplemental, as in most newspapers.  I have come to love photo essays and believe that sometimes, pictures can do more to tell a story than words.  After all, the saying does go that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Photographs allow readers to see exactly what a person, place or event looked like out without having to infer from just a word description.  A picture also often times packs much more of an emotional punch than a paragraph and can do more to engage and interest readers.  For example, one can only write so much about the way a surfer rides a wave.  However, a photograph can show a reader exactly what it looks like when a surfer is completely engulfed in the tube of a wave or takes a big wipeout.

While I understand and appreciate the importance of the written word, and personally love to read and write, I also feel that journalism can take place visually without words.  As journalists we are told to watch and to take note of what happens around us.  Then why not capture our visual experience and show it to our readers?  When this is done, we not only capture what we see as observers standing behind the lens, but a picture is also up for interpretation and allows our readers to make their own judgments on what they see.

In my career as a journalist I hope to be able to make use of my love for the visual in a way that supports and enhances the stories I cover.

About Madeline Dickerson

I am a recent graduate of the University of Oregon with Bachelor of Arts degrees in magazine journalism and cinema studies. I am currently interning at the "Chinook Observer" in Long Beach, Washington. I plan on pursuing a career in photojournalism and reporting.
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7 Responses to The Importance of the Visual Aspect of Journalism

  1. Leah Olson says:

    I absolutely agree with you and I also have an appreciation for pictures. There are several magazines, like National Geographic, that are endlessly pleasing to flip through not just because of the articles but also because of the fantastic photography. I have great respect for photographers. It amazes me who good photographers can capture the essence of a moment so perfectly sometimes. Have you ever heart of/seen the pictures of James Nachtway? I learned about him in Dr. Ryan’s design class and was blown away by his work. He is a war photographer and his images are so incredibly moving. He captures raw emotion that would be extremely difficult to capture with words. I think words are incredibly powerful as well, but there are certain instances when pictures transcend the power of words.
    The ultimate fantastic-ness in a magazine (for me) happens when there an article is perfectly complemented with amazing pictures. Photo-essays are pretty awesome too.

  2. davidmehr says:

    I share your passion for powerful images and what they can do journalistically. I am encouraged by the thought that having a passion for both writing and photography might make us more attractive to journalistic publications because we become a more self reliable unit having the skills to do both. Have you taken any of the photo classes here at the J school yet? Blake and I are in one right now with Professor Emmert, J466 i think, and so far it’s been really worthwhile. What kind of things do you like to take photos of? Sometimes I will decide to write on a certain story because my first thought is I can get some really great images of that. Maybe it’s supposed to be the other way around. I don’t know.

  3. sweetsaltd says:

    Photography and the art of storytelling go hand-in-hand, and this grasp will only tighten as journalism continues to move in a multimedia direction. It is now not only imperative to have visual stimulation but to offer the reader more in every way you can. Stories are encouraged to take on new dimensions with video and communication through online social platforms. The days of only text are over. Just as newspapers have primarily moved to an online format, magazines are moving in this same direction. This calls for journalists to be technologically savvy and possess the skills taught by both the electronic media and magazine majors offered at the J School. You won’t have any problem finding opportunities to explore your love for photography and cinema within your journalism career.

  4. Doris Tsai says:

    I agree that Journalism can not live without visuals. Most people always attracts by the photos on the front page of the newspaper or the cover page of the magazines. For readers, they need the enjoyment of both visual and words. I think journalism can not live without both writing and visuals. A successful newspapers and magazines always have a wonderful photos along with their articles. Visual also brings out more understanding to readers. Journalism do need visuals!!

  5. anuradha dey says:

    Yah i agree with it. Photography is the impprtant part of media & journalism.

  6. jagila says:

    in magazines as in newspapers photography plays an important role in helping to engage and further inform a reader about the story they are reading.

  7. NICH ALOY says:

    This is a good work. I love it with all my nerves.

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