Boston Globe sports graphics maestro Luke Knox moving to ESPN

Luke Knox — for the past five years, an ace visual journalist for the Boston Globe — announced Friday on social media:

In a year of exciting changes, I have another one to report: I accepted a job this week with ESPN The Magazine and we are moving to Connecticut!

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Starting next month, I will be Associate Art Director for Infographics and will build graphics for the mag and ESPN.com. It’s an absolute dream job, working for [creative director] Chin Wang and alongside folks like Paul Wallen.

I’m sad to leave all the incredible colleagues at the Boston Globe from the past five-plus years, and I owe that place everything. But for Jen, the kids and myself, it’s an amazing opportunity for everyone and we are ready to get to know our new home state!

Luke tells us:

I finish [at the Globe] at the end of the month and start [at ESPN] Aug. 10.

A 2002 graduate of UNC-Asheville, Luke spent two years with the Pensacola News Journal in Florida and then a year-and-a-half at the Albuquerque Journal before joining the Arizona Republic in Phoenix in 2005.
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He moved to Boston in 2010 as a sports design supervisor. He moved to graphics in 2013.

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In particular, I love that Tom Terrific piece. I dissected it here in the blog when it ran — in February 2011 — and I still use it in many of my slideshows. In fact, I sent a JPG of it to a friend just this past weekend (Hi, Marcia!).

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In addition, Luke reportedly works for my design firm. Heh.

Find Luke’s portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.

When you use a free tool, you might get what you pay for

A few weeks ago, the Huffington Post posted a fascinating article about our field:

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Gets your attention, doesn’t it?

The author — who happens to be the head of communications for Canva, a maker of free online data visualization software — explains why today’s journalists really need, y’know, free online data visualization software. He uses visual aids — presumably created by the software he peddles — to show why we need to reach out to social media…

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…what percentage of journalists use various social media…

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…and the retention rate of visual information vs. good ol’ prose alone.

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There’s just one little problem with all these graphics. And I’m hoping you spotted it right away.

They’re not accurate at all. In fact, they’re laughably incorrect.

Visual journalist John Telford recently blogged about the Huffington Post story, going into great detail about picking it apart each piece.

For example, that bubble chart I just showed you. John writes:

Notice anything wrong with the proportions of the bubbles relative to each other?

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The most obvious issues are that the 16% and 14% orange bubbles are way off compared to the 30% gray bubble. However, just about all the proportions for every bubble are off to some degree. Let’s take a look at what the chart would look like if the proportions were correct.

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When the scale is off as badly as this, you lose credibility. People are more skeptical today than ever before, and if they catch what could simply be an innocent mistake but they perceive it as an intentional misrepresentation of the facts because you have an agenda to push, you’ve lost them.

Bubble charts have become extremely popular over the last few years, but they’re rarely the best choice to allow for easy comprehension (as is often true for most forms of circular charts). It’s almost always better to use a bar chart as they’re more easily understood and make for easier comparisons between categories.

Bubble charts are so easy to screw up. This is just what we need: A tool to help us screw them up more efficiently than ever before. Sigh.

John also has harsh words for the third example at the top of this post:

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John writes:

I’m not even sure what kind of chart it’s supposed to be exactly. However, since the author went to all the trouble to attach the data points to the arrow, it would have been good to use proper proportions to space the data points evenly.

…A much better solution would have been to use the humble bar chart:

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Wow! Now there’s an impressive looking statistic displayed in a chart that holds some impact and meaning.

Excellent analysis by John. Read his entire blog post here.

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A former artist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, John now runs a freelance infographics and design business based in Florida. Find his web site here.

Deeper in his writeup about bubble charts, John mentions one of my blog posts. In fact, I’ve written about bubble charts time and time and time again.

Deeper in his writeup about bubble charts, John mentions one of my blog posts. In fact, I’ve written about bubble charts time and time and time again.

Several years ago, I took issue with Dipity, a free tool that gave journalists a way of creating illustrated interactive timelines. Poynter had written about that tool in glowing terms. Find that blog post here.

Hey, free tools can be a great way of helping visual journalists make ends meet when you have zero resources and zero budget. But make sure you check back over the results those tools give you — just like you’d check back over anything you write. Don’t assume the developers of these tools know what the hell they’re doing when it comes to content going out via your site, your feed or under your byline.

Washington Post’s Alberto Cuadra moving to Science magazine

Award-winning infographics guru Alberto Cuadra has left the Washington Post.

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Alberto tells us:

I will be the Managing Editor of Graphics for Science, in their digital division.

The idea is to bring their culture — very print-centric at this moment — to a more web/mobile/social/ multimedia zone. Very exciting and very imposing at the same time

I will start on July 20.

Alberto’s colleague Richard Johnson posted this sketch Richard did of Alberto at work during his last week at the Post:

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Alberto worked his last day Thursday.

A 1992 graduate of the University of Navarra, Alberto worked with el Mundo in Madrid and then Reuters before joining the Houston Chronicle in 2004 as a senior graphic artist. As then-graphics editor Jay Carr wrote a few years ago:

With an ability to create a wide variety of stunning visuals and a constant drive to never do anything “ordinary,” Alberto put the Chronicle’s graphics department on the map. In 2006, the Chronicle was one of four papers worldwide to be cited for “use of graphics” in the annual Society for News Design competition. Without Alberto, this wouldn’t have been possible.

Alberto moved to the Post in 2010. A few samples of his work:

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The aging brain

In addition, I have a fairly extensive collection of Alberto’s work that moved on the Washington Post wire that I used on my Focus pages in California. Typically, I’d re-edit the heck out of them — because, y’know, I rarely had room for both the graphic and the story. So I’d edit the story down to an intro graph, punch up the headline and then move things around just a bit to make the graphic the lead element — or the only visual element — on the page.

Here are three modest examples of this:

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Find Alberto’s portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.

A lush graphic look at a biodiverse mountaintop rainforest

Have you ever heard of the Google Forest in northern Mozambique?

Me, neither.

Botanists from the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens near London theorized there must be some virgin biodiverse rainforest-like territory near Malawi and Mozambique, nearly a mile above sea level.

They used Google Earth to search for likely spots and eventually zeroed in on Mount Mabu.

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Bingo! The area proved to be as biologically diverse as hoped. Scientists have been studying it ever since.

This happened ten years ago. My friends at Graphics24 in South Africa celebrated this anniversary with an ginormous graphic that explains how what’s become known as the Google Forest was discovered and some of the species found there.

Click this for a much, much larger look:

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Graphics24 graphics editor Andre Gouws tells me:

I had an idea for this one when I read an article that this forest was discovered by Western scientists ten years ago. I thought it would be great to show this amazing forest in all its beauty in an infographic.

I did the research, found the names of all the new species, and told Hanlie Malan about my idea to sketch the forest filled with all these beautiful creatures.

I love doing these kind of arty graphics with Hanlie.

Hanlie picks up the story:

This graphic was Andre’s great idea. He asked me to make sure to create the feeling that when you look at it, it must feel like you are inside a forest.

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First I made a study of all the trees — I found a great site with all the info, then I proceeded with a rough drawing to be able to figure out where each bird/plant/insect etc must go. I discussed it with Andre first, and then I started the detailed drawing of the trees, after which I added the colors and effects. This took me one whole weekend and the following Monday nonstop.

After that was done, I started drawing each animal/insect separately, knowing it would facilitate the process as I go along, in case it needed to be made bigger or smaller or moved to add info later on.

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The snake took many hours to draw.

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Andre supplied a lot of info which helped me to me able to illustrate a lot of the newly found fauna and flora. I used a few different artist pens for all of the drawings. I added each one’s colors separately as well, and these took me an additional two weekends, but I also worked on this a few times during the weeks, when I had time, between my other work.

Yes, you are 100% correct by saying I drew it first, scanned it in and then added the colors in Photoshop. I drew everything quite big so that it could have a lot of detail afterwards, when scanned and reduced in size. I tried to make it look hand-colored with the effects I used.

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And yes, I added the ‘halo’s’ to make them stand out, I am glad you say it works.

Andre finishes the story by adding:

I sent the graphic to the researcher, Dr. Julian Bayliss (he is in Malawi now)…

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…and he very kindly responded with some additional info. He also asked for a copy of the graphic. He says he likes it a lot.

Graphics24 is the infographics division of South African media giant Media24. Among the company’s many holdings: Daily Afrikaans-language papers in Johannesburg, Bloomfontein and Cape Town, two large nationally-distributed Sunday papers — one publishes in Afrikaans and one in English — and a number of tabloids. I did quite a bit of teaching and consulting work for the company’s print operation between 2009 and 2011.

This graphic ran in the English-language Sunday paper, City Press. I’m told it’s possible it might also appear in City Press‘ Afrikaans-language counterpart, Rapport.

Hanlie Malan works out of the company’s Port Elizabeth office.

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I posted about her work from time to time during my trips to South Africa. Here’s an example of her graphic work.

Here’s what I wrote about graphics editor Andre Gouws back in 2010, when Media24 appointed him to be graphics director:

Andre is very sharp and very organized. He has a ton of experience as both and editor and a manager, having worked in Cape Town and then at the Gulf News in Dubai.

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When I was here [in 2009], I helped write a job description and recommended criteria for a departmental leader. Seems to me they’ve chosen wisely.

In November of last year, Andre and Hanlie teamed up to create a nice piece on the Berlin Wall. A month later, they worked on a piece that observed the 10th anniversary of the gigantic tsunami that affected the Indian Ocean.

Find the Graphics24 online graphics archive here.

The new graphics editor of the Boston Globe: Tonia Cowan

Tonia Cowan — for the past eight years, graphics editor of the Globe & Mail of Toronto — is the new graphics editor of the Boston Globe.

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She starts her new job today, in fact. Friday was her last day at the Globe & Mail.

A 1989 graduate of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Tonia spent four years as a news artist for the Canadian Press before becoming deputy art director for the Associated Press in 1994. In 2000, she moved to Newsweek as an artist specializing in 3D graphics. She became graphics director of the Toronto Star in 2004 and leaped to the Globe and Mail in 2007.

I should add that Tonia is one of my favorite people in the world. She, Kris Viesselman and I taught together for a week in Manila, back in 2007.

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For a while, Tonia kept a very cool sketch blog. I once posted her field guide on how to identify Canadians during winter:

Another time, I posted examples of watercolor work she did on deadline for her paper.

She told me:

I’ve learned that watercolors are hard. I mean, really really hard.

Possibly the coolest thing of Tonia’s I ever posted was this terrific International Space Station diagram:

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The diagram attracted not only my attention but also that of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Who just so happened to be in orbit at the time.

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Later that year, Tonia pulled out her sketch pad again and dropped in on the Toronto Film Festival.

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You recognize Sandra Bullock, right?

Tonia even managed to put herself into one of her graphics from the festival:

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And those are just the samples of her work I’ve blogged about recently. Find much more of Tonia’s work in her online portfolio. Find her Twitter feed here.

Tampa Bay Times looks back on the Gulf Oil Spill

Five years ago this past Monday, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana. 11 crew members were killed and 26 more injured in the fireball.

Two days later — five years ago today — the rig sank. Millions of barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf before the leak was plugged in mid-July.

The Tampa Bay Times observed the anniversary Sunday with an enormous tag-team graphic on the front of its Perspective section.

Click this for a much larger look:

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Assistant managing editor Ron Brackett tells us:

Jim Verhulst is the Perspective section editor. He wrote the copy. Artists Don Morris, Steve Madden and Cameron Cottrill created the graphics/illustrations and Tom Bassinger was the designer.


UPDATE – April 27

Don sends along this rough sketch of the piece in progress:

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The meat of the piece shows the spill and poses the question: What happened to all that oil?

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The right side of the page takes a look at the effect the spill had on various creatures of the Gulf:

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Average daily circulation for the Tampa Bay Times is 299,497.

An amazing display of data visualization in Sunday’s Washington Post

Did you see this piece of genius data visualization in Sunday’s Washington Post?

The conflict in Syria just passed its fourth anniversary. Over those four years, more than 220,000 people — nearly a quarter of a million — have been killed.

Richard Johnson of the Post took a doubletruck to illustrate just how many lives that is. Running across pages A10 and A11 is this enormous illustration of a Syrian flag, drawn in a form of stipple — it’s made of thousands of little dots.

Click this for a much larger view:

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How many dots? 220,000 of them. Each dot represents a life lost in Syria.

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Is that amazing, or what?

Richard didn’t just give readers a realistic illustration of a Syrian flag. Note how the red portion at the top turns into droplets of blood…

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…while the black parts below depict Syrian citizens in freefall.

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Here’s what the artwork looked like before it was converted it into dots:

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Richard was kind enough to reply to my queries:

Q. [I was wondering] how you plotted the artwork. Is there software that did that for you?

A. Ha. I wish. Nope, all plotted by hand in Adobe Illustrator. Had it gone black and white, I would have scaled the dots to make the shades in black.

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Q. Wow. That’s what I was afraid of! About how much time did you spend on that?

A. I had about six hours on Friday and three [Saturday] to get it ready after the concept was cleared.

Q. Awesome stuff, man. As usual.

I’d invite you to visit the online version of Richard’s piece, where a little magnifying glass allows you to zoom in on various sections of the artwork…

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…and see the detail work for yourself.

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Those of you who have sat through my slideshows on infographics — and especially my “graphics for word people” sessions — have heard me talk about infographics vs. data visualization.

Typically, infographics quantify and compare, using data to help you get a handle on information that may — or may not — have meaning for you or your family or your career or your government. Or maybe just on something you care about — a hobby or an interest.

Data visualization, on the other hand, typically doesn’t really compare data or actually quantify anything in a way that invites analysis. Typically, data visualization is there just to help you get your head around something. It’s more there to make you say Hmm. Or maybe Wow. Or even Holy shit!

Richard’s piece definitely does that.

But that’s not surprising. He’s done this sort of work a lot, over the years. On the left, below, Richard used simple data visualization to show the number of people who had been killed by handguns in just the first month after the Sandy Hook incident.

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The piece on the right is equally stunning. This shows the equipment — and especially the ammo — carried by the man who shot up the movie theater in Colorado three years ago.

I wrote about the “31 Days later” piece at the bottom of this blog post. The other graphic ran while I was teaching in Kenya, so I missed it at the time. I use both of these in my slide shows, however. They’re both amazing.

See more of Richard’s infographics work here.

In addition, Richard has made a number of trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to produce battlefield sketchbook work.

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Twenty of his sketches, in fact, now reside in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Here’s a Tedx talk from last year in which Richard speaks about his battlefield work:

Richard made his first war zone tour when he was still with the Detroit Free Press. The Freep collected his work into a book.

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It normally lists for $19.95 but is on sale right now at the Freep for $12.95. Amazon, too, has discounted the book. Buy it from them for the nice, round number of $16.81.

Richard is really amazing. You saw earlier that he did this Syria doubletruck Friday and Saturday. But what did he do in his spare time Saturday and Sunday mornings?

This little piece…

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sketched on-site, of course.

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Wow. Again.

See more of his “urban sketches” here.

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1989 graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, Scotland, Richard was an artist at the Detroit Free Press. He was named graphics editor of the Globe and Mail of Toronto in 2005. He moved to the same position at the Toronto National Post in 2007 and then left newspapers for nearly two years as an Information Management Officer at the United Nations. He returned to the National Post in 2010 and then to the Washington Post in October 2013.

Find Richard’s web site here and his Twitter feed here.

Why build maps repeatedly when you can make a tool to build them for you?

Many of us graphics types keep a number of templates that we constantly pick up and modify from day to day, from story to story, from graphics assignment to graphics assignment.

And then there are those geniuses who go a step beyond and create software to do those repetitive tasks for them.

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Enter Patrick Garvin of the Boston Globe. He’s created his own open-source online tool that will turn Excel data into those chloropleth maps that we use so often.

He calls the tool Mr. Map Generator and it’s very, very cool. Especially since he’s giving it to us for free.

Here’s how Patrick describes the tool:

The user copies the contents of a spreadsheet, pastes that into a field, clicks a few buttons and then has code for a responsive, color-coded map that can be used on any browser on any platform. It can also be modified to be used in a vector file.

The reaction via social media Tuesday was strong and swift:

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Patrick tells us:

I created Mr. Map Generator this past summer. I had just finished updating my gay marriage timeline

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…and felt this void now that the timeline didn’t require daily heavy lifting. I wanted an evergreen project that I could work on in my slow times at work.

In the year or so since I had originally launched my gay marriage map/timeline, I found myself using the SVG of the U.S. map a lot. I had repurposed it for a web map about state by state insurance numbers and then gotten the idea to save that file as a PDF so I could use it for the print version.

From the summer of 2013 through the summer of 2014, I found myself repurposing the U.S. SVG a few times so that I could make color-coded maps. It saved time to reuse an old file, but I wondered if I couldn’t find an even easier and more efficient way.

Around the time that I had wrapped up version 2.0 of the gay marriage timeline, Chiqui Esteban and Gabriel Florit were both making web graphic generators for our department to use. These were in-house tools that helped graphic artists and web producers make web graphics that played nicely with Methode, our CMS.

Méthode, for those of you not familiar with it, is the Globe‘s front-end system — also used by the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Times of London and the Washington Post.

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My friends at Media24 in South Africa use it, too — except they call it by the name of its corporate parent, Eidos.

Patrick continues:

As I was looking for projects and was already considering ways to streamline my process of making color-coded maps, I followed Chiqui’s and Gabriel’s leads and began on a tool myself.

I was very much influenced by Shan Carter‘s Mr. Data Converter website.

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It has such a simple-and-easy-to-use interface. I wanted something as simple that would be of ease for web producers and graphic artists that might not feel comfortable yet with JavaScript.

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As of now, Mr. Map Generator has more steps than Mr. Data Converter, but I tried to keep that same feel. It might seem daunting to novices, but I wanted the steps to have screen grabs that explained things. I’ve found that in the explainers I’ve sent to staff members on other projects, screen grabs make a huge difference.

Therefore, you’ll want to bookmark this post — the one in which Patrick walks you through how to use Mr. Map Generator.

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He shows you how and where to enter your data and then what to do with it.

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In the end, you can generate files to post to your web site or PDF vector files that you can then open in Adobe Illustrator…

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…for incorporation into your print graphics. Easy peasy.

Currently, Patrick has templates for U.S., Massachusetts and Boston area maps — with more to come, he says.

The Massachusetts maps really paid off. Color coding 351 shapes by hand in Illustrator is a nightmare and can introduce errors. That anxiety is significantly reduced when the process is automated.

Color coded maps are common for graphics departments, and I think that simplifying the process has saved us time to focus on more complex projects.

Here are the links to save:

A 2004 graduate of the University of Missouri, Patrick spent a year-and-a-half at the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sun News before joining the Times-Union of Jacksonville, Fla., in 2006. He moved to Boston in 2010.

In addition, Patrick does stand-up comedy on the side.

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Find Patrick’s blog here, his portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.

Schock and awe this week in the Peoria Journal Star

Major news broke nationally Tuesday with the resignation of four-term Illinois Congressman — and one-time magazine cover model — Aaron Schock. But nowhere did this story strike harder than in Schock’s hometown of Peoria.

Chris Grimm, assistant universal editor for dayside at the Peoria Journal Star, walks us through the day:

Schock is a big name in the Peoria area ever since he ran for the District 150 School Board as a college freshman. Honestly, a lot of people around here thought he had a shot at becoming president.

As I’m sure you’ve experienced when big news happens, the newsroom got a bit of an adrenaline rush. This sounds lame, but honestly, everyone wanted to work on the story in some fashion.

Lately, we’ve been trying to plan out our A1s earlier in the day more than we have in the past. After the news broke, Dennis [Anderson, executive editor] asked me to get things started.

Right off the bat, our biggest question was photo. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve run through a good chunk of recent Schock file photos. Also, many of these photos are the ones we sent to AP in the weeks before the resignation so they’ve been out there a while.

Fred Zwicky, the photo assignment editor, and I went through some photos and designs before landing on the one we ended up with. At Fred’s suggestion, we cropped in tight on Schock to put the focus on his eyes and I believe freshen up a photo that while we hadn’t used before, was being used quite a bit.

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The lead file photo was by staffer Ron Johnson. Click that page for a much larger look.

Chris continues:

The headline was a pretty easy decision as Dennis wanted “Schock resigns’ as big as we could make it. We reversed it on black to make it stand out. When we put the head under the photo, it just clicked.

When Shannon got in, I handed off to him and he finished it off.

“Shannon” would be copy editor Shannon Countryman, who adds:

Basically, Chris Grimm did the top half and I filled in the bottom half.

We had some great inside content as well, including a six-column graphic presenting a timeline of Schock’s rise in politics and recent fall.

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Click that for a readable version. That was built by graphics editor Michael Noel, with an assist by reporter Scott Hilyard.

Shannon goes on:

That led off a spread of two facing pages that included a column from Phil Luciano, who spoke to Schock recently, as well as reaction from local politicians, local Schock supporters/donors, and people on the street.

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Chris picks up the story again:

In a way we got lucky. Chris Kaergard, our assignment editor and political reporter, was in D.C. for vacation. He had scheduled a meeting with Schock at his D.C. office prior to the resignation and was actually in the waiting room when the story broke. Chris took the lead on the main game with a Washington, D.C. dateline while several other reporters worked the story from Peoria.

The whole production was truly was a team effort. Also, not a lot of papers still have the ability to design and copy edit locally. To me, yesterday’s news showcased the advantage of having these capabilities in house. We worked as a team.

It feels good to flex your muscles sometimes, and I really feel like we did yesterday.

Shannon agrees:

It was another strong effort all around by a staff that always steps up tremendously and works together to put out a great product when major news breaks.

Find the paper’s web site here.

In November 2013, we looked at several days of Journal Star papers in the wake of a devastating tornado. Find that blog post here.

Average daily circulation for the Journal Star is 63,024.

Na na na naa… Na na na naaa… Hey, hey, hey… Have some pi

As you know, today is March 14.

Here in the U.S. we shorten that into 3/14, which looks a bit like the first few digits of that mathematical value known as pi.

Thanks to a little oddity of nature, pi is a repeating decimal: You can never get to the end of it. Click on this to see pi carried out a long, long ways:

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That ran at the top of the centerpiece package on the front of today’s Orange County Register. My old pal Chris Soprych — the Register‘s A1 designer — tells me:

We have pi calculated on the cover to the 373 decimal place, but that’s nothing compared to some local kids that can do it to over 4,000.

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My former colleague Theresa Walker wrote the story about local high schoolers who celebrated pi day a little early. Mark Rightmire shot the picture.

Note the little graphic at the bottom right that reminds  those of us who barely passed math just what pi is:

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Chris leaves us with these words of advice:

When you explain what pi is in a news meeting, you look like a genius.

And there ya go.


UPDATE: 11:37 a.m.

Just what good is pi, anyway? The folks at NASA have anticipated your question.

Springing forward with enormous sets of bar charts

As you know — and as you perhaps struggled with over the past couple of days — daylight saving time went into effect early Sunday.

I built this timeline history for Sunday’s Victoria Advocate.

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Click that for a much larger, readable version. Or, better yet, follow this link to read the online version.

In the far right chunk of intro copy, I addressed what we call daylight saving time: It’s “saving” and not “savings,” and it’s all lower-case letters with no hyphenation. I’ll bet money I’m the only journalist who wrote about daylight saving time this weekend who quoted Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. I’m rather proud of that.

The photo up top is a five-year-old file photo by the talented Frank Tilley.

This page was a revised version of a Focus page I did last fall for the Orange County Register.

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But the real reason I’m showing this to you is the back page of the Your Life section in Sunday’s Advocate: This enormous diagram showing the number of daylight and nighttime hours for every day of the year.

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Again, click on that for a much larger look.

Down the side are various superlatives: Longest day, shortest day, earliest sunrise, earliest sunset and so on. The little notches are the days daylight saving time kicks in and out.

And that page, too, is a do-over of a Focus page I built a year-and-a-half ago for the Orange County Register.

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Note, however, that the gigantic bar chart — with more than 1,000 separate data points — had to be redrawn from scratch. Victoria, Texas, and Santa Ana, Calif., are at completely different latitudes. The longest day of summer in Texas is a whole 22 minutes shorter than the longest day in California.

So what would this chart look like if it were drawn for a city way up north — say, a city like Fargo, N.D.?

Glad you asked. My friends at the Fargo Forum also drew a version of this chart for Sunday’s paper.

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That was built by the Forum‘s Troy Becker. When I was teaching at the Forum a couple of weeks ago, I showed them this chart and suggested they try it for the day the clocks changed. Troy was brave enough to give it a try.

But talk about a difference in latitude! The longest day of the year in Fargo lasts nearly 15 hours and 53 minutes — that’s a whole hour and 49 minutes longer than it is here in South Texas.

Graphically, this manifests itself in a curvier curve on Fargo’s huge bar chart.

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Fargo’s is on the right. Texas is in the center. My old California chart is on the left.

The Forum ran this inside Sunday’s paper. Out front, the Forum ran a story about a local man who changes the giant clocks in the tower atop the Cass County Courthouse.

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Read the story here by the Forum‘s Archie Ingersoll.

Note the nice A1 refer to Troy’s graphic.

So, where did all that info come from? Troy built this fun little piece to demonstrate the creative process behind this project.

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Ah, yes. Very cute. But seriously…

1) Find a reliable listing of sunrise and sunset data for your area for the entire year. Or if, like Troy, you want to go more than an entire year. My favorite source for this type of data is TimeAndDate.com.

2) Convert all the data — sunrise and amount of sunlight hours — to minutes and then chart them using Adobe Illustrator.

3) Make sure all the data is charted to the same scale. You could probably build all this using stacked bars, but I build mine separately and then stack the bars manually.

4) Once all the bars are in place, group them and then fill with whatever gradient turns you on.

5)Very carefully place all the labels. After all that work, you wouldn’t want to make a mistake at this point.

OK, so there’s an idea for you to rip off — with my compliments. A timeline history of daylight saving time plus an enormous light/dark bar chart.

Daylight saving time ends on Nov. 1 and will resume again on March 13, 2016. Reserve some space now.

A sampling of Super Bowl pages from the Boston Globe

Joe Moore, sports designer at the Boston Globe, shared a selection of pages from before and after the recent Super Bowl.

I can’t remember who won that game. Some guy in a shark costume, I think. But, for some strange reason, the Super Bowl was a huge story for the Globe.

Anyway, Joe tells us:

We had 30-40 pages of Super Bowl content in the week leading up to Sunday’s game, followed by a 32-page Score section, which is our weekly NFL gameday section. The following Sunday, we ran a 28-page commemorative special section.

Here, he walks us through the pages. Click any of these for a much larger look…

Thursday, Jan. 22:
The 1/22 sports cover featuring reaction from Deflategate.

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Wednesday, Jan. 28:
Profile of Matt Patricia, the defensive coordinator. Illustration by Rafa Alvarez.

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Thursday, Jan. 29:
We answered the question: Do you have to be smart to be a Patriot? Illustration by Rafa Alvarez.

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Friday, Jan. 30:
A look at Ernie Adams, the man behind the curtain for the Patriots.

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The photo there is by the Globe‘s Jim Davis.

Seahawks and Patriots stats on facing pages.

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Just look how simple those pages are. Look at all that white space. Just gorgeous.

Roger Goodell bombarded by Deflategate questions.

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That features another photo by Jim Davis.

Sunday, Feb. 1:
Comparing the personalities and coaching styles of Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll. Illustration by Rafa Alvarez.

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Here’s one I showed you last week. I like a lot, though, so let’s see it again:

Doubletruck graphic by Luke Knox breaking down 25 of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history.

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Monday, Feb. 2:
The cover of our Score section.

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The photo is by Larry W. Smith of EPA.

Thumbnails of every Super Bowl program to date.

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Comparing the first three years of Tom Brady and Russell Wilson’s careers.

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That was compiled by Sean Smith.

Sunday, Feb. 8:
The commemorative cover for the special section that ran the Sunday after the Super Bowl.

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Yep, that’s another Jim Davis picture.

Stats recap of regular season.

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You guys know how much I dislike bubble charts, but this one seems very clear and easy to read. As does the bubble charts on this page:

Every one of Brady’s 53 record postseason touchdowns.

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A 2006 graduate of the University of Missouri, Joe Moore worked as a reporter, copy editor and graphic artist for the Missourian.

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He spent five-and-a-half years as a graphic artist and multimedia coordinator for the Daily Journal of Vineland, N.J., before rolling into the Gannett Design Studio in Asbury Park in 2012 as lead sports designer. He moved to the Globe a little over a year ago.

Find Joe’s NewsPageDesigner portfolio here.

Average daily circulation for the Boston Globe is 225,482.

Previous blog posts about this year’s Super Bowl:

They’re getting a little punchy up there in snowed-in Boston

Dan Zedek, assistant managing editor of the Boston Globe, tells us:

A small number of us made it in through the latest blizzard and were brainstorming about the best way to show the overwhelming amounts of snow we’d gotten. I remembered a series of graphics we’d done a decade ago measuring the snowfall each day against Celtic great Robert Parish and said I’d like to do an updated version.

Here’s what Dan and his staff came up with:

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Using the modestly-statured Dustin Pedroia seemed like a natural. Initially, you could see his batting helmet, but as the evening progressed and the snow total mounted, he was submerged and I added a bat to the graphic to mark his place.

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Other local sports celebrities used for measuring sticks: Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins, the Patriots’ famed Gronk

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…and, head but not quite shoulders above the white stuff: Seven-footer Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics.

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Dan tells us:

The graphic has taken off online where it’s been shared on 177,000 Facebook streams and on sites like Deadspin

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…and ESPN.com.

Getting home from work last night, now that’s a whole different story.

Average daily circulation for the Boston Globe is 225,482.

This cool Super Bowl preview page wasn’t about football

My pal Nate Bloomquist — now a team leader for the Lee Enterprises design center in Munster, Ind. — writes to say:

I saw that you had a blog post about some Super Bowl stuff, so I figured, I’d provide some work of one of my coworkers that I am very proud of. Justin Gilbert is our design secret weapon here in the Lee Enterprises Design Center in Munster, Ind.

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He designed not one, but two Super Bowl pages that many [of the Lee] newspapers decided to pick up. He designed a food centerpiece with three tasty and easy recipes for the Super Bowl:

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Justin, you see, has been writing about food for years. But instead of writing prose and then running old-style text recipes, Justin builds everything as an alternative story form-type graphic. Here’s a sample from my collection:

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Now, I have zero cooking skills. But after reading that, I almost feel like I could make a bleu-cheese crispy-onion burger.

Here’s another one that’s even easier: Essentially, a pizza sandwich.

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Justin’s been doing this sort of thing for years and then selling his work freelance. For the life of me, I don’t understand why every paper in the country didn’t buy his work. Truly, this is inspired stuff.

I wrote about him back in 2011 and then he wrote a guest post for me in 2013. Somehow, I missed the news that he joined the Lee Studio last fall.

Find Justin’s Behind the Bites web site here. Find his Twitter feed here.

Nate tells us:

The food page ran in the Provo (Utah) Daily Herald, the Southern Illinoisian (Carbondale), the Coos Bay World, Mason City (Iowa) Globe Gazette, the Maysville Ledger, Auburn (N.Y.) Citizen, the Quad-City Times, Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, Butte (Mont.) Standard.

Justin adds, via his blog:

As a bonus, I got a VIP award from the management, but more important, there are editors at Lee Enterprises that are now well aware of my skill for recipe development and food presentation. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to arise.

As if that wasn’t enough — Justin previewed the game itself, too:

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Nate tells us:

The game preview page ran in many of the same papers..

It is an honor to work with Justin, and we have a small army of folks just like him here at the design center.

And, we’re hiring!

Previous blog posts about this year’s Super Bowl:

Behind the Victoria Advocate’s Narrowing the Gap visuals

I thought I’d tell you about a big project that ran this weekend in the paper where I work, the Victoria Advocate.

The story — expertly reported by Carolina Astrain — addresses the test score achievement gap between white students and black students and between white students and Hispanic students.

Those are the way the scores are measured, but it’s not really a racial issue. Students from economically disadvantaged homes tend to fare much more poorly than students from middle-class or well-off backgrounds. But drawing a direct comparison is difficult because while we can find scores for students who qualify for free meals, schools don’t keep up with scores of everyone but.

So there’s no “gap” to measure between economically disadvantaged and non-economically disadvantaged kids. Only between economically disadvantaged and the entire pool of students. Which doesn’t really help tell a story.

Here’s how we started Carolina’s story on page one.

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Carolina found faces to put on her story: One youth who’s struggling in school and one who’s been a success story. The portrait up top is by veteran photographer Frank Tilley. The smaller one was shot by our intern from the University of Missouri, Yi-Chin Lee. Another picture of this second student ran one one of the jump pages.

I put together a little graphic — which I intentionally kept as simple as possible — to illustrate “the gap” and what it looks like.

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As nice as Carolina’s work was, the real unsung hero on this project was our digital editor, Jordan Rubio. Jordan took the numbers Carolina got from the Victoria School District and crunched them into a database that helped us quantify the problem and identify which of the schools in Victoria have the biggest gaps.

After all the crunching — and believe me, Jordan did a lot of crunching — we then regrouped and decided just what we needed to put into our print report, what we wanted to put online and what we could omit.

The result, for Sunday’s print edition, was this double page spread. Click — if you dare — for a much larger look:

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Is that a bit overwhelming, or what? I’d like to think that the actual dead-tree version isn’t quite so dense. I purposely put in as much leading and white space as I could spare, just to keep readers’ eyeballs from spurting blood.

We showed a column of data for all 17 of Victoria’s elementary schools and all four of its middle schools. For a closer look at one of these columns, let’s take it from the top, shall we?

For each school, we listed the percent of economically disadvantaged students — I called them “poor” students, which is politically incorrect but a heck of a lot shorter — as well as the percent of black and Hispanic students at each school.

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Some of our local neighborhoods are in flux, so we listed — smaller and greyed back just a bit — the change in percentage points over the four years for which we have data.

All of this I put in front of a grey screen, because we wanted it to recede just a bit on the page, to keep it from competing with the next section: The percentage of students passing.

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For each school, we listed a) the overall percent of students passing, b) the percent of white students passing, c) the percent of black students passing, d) the percent of Hispanic students passing and e) the percent of economically disadvantaged students passing.

For the two major fault lines we identified — blacks and Hispanics — we cited “the gap” and how that gap has increased or decreased over the past four years.

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This was the most important data on the page, so I made sure it “popped” by reversing it out of a black box.

Finally, at the bottom of each column, Jordan — the guy who crunched all the data — gave his analysis of the data. In case readers had difficulty processing all the data for their kids’ school, this would give them a clue what to look for.

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This made the topic about as simple as we could make it. The downside: It took an awful lot of space. I’ve worked with huge agate charts of school data before. But not one that required quite so many numbers and bar charts.

For the record, there were 105 little fever graphs on this two page spread, including 435 data points.

And those are just the graphs. That’s not including all the separate numbers we cited. There were 336 of those.

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Don’t feel sorry for me, though. I’m a pretty methodical designer. Once I develop a plan, it’s just a matter of plowing through the data. The guy to feel sorry for is JR Ortega, the Advocate’s copy desk chief who had to go back and proofread all this stuff.

At the bottom of the grid, I did something I rarely do: I wrote a “How to read this chart” breakout that was about six to eight inches long.

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I did this to a) explain my use of “poor” instead of “economically disadvantaged” and “black” instead of “African-American,” and b) to make sure readers understood the difference between percents (as in “students passing”) and percent points (in which we measured the gaps and the four-year change in data).

Because we determined that this really was probably more of an economic issue than a racial issue, we added — at the last minute — a little bar chart that shows how the poverty rate here in Victoria is higher than the state and national averages.

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That was a little brainstorm by the Advocate‘s editor, Chris Cobler.

Carolina also wrote a breakout explaining why the educational achievement of economically disadvantaged students affects the entire region.

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After dealing in the macro, we also brought the story a full circle for readers and listed ways they can get help in bringing up their own kids’ test scores: Online tutorials and practice standardized tests, tutoring hotlines, various resource offices and so on.

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In all, it was an exhaustive package. Carolina did a superb job of putting it all together and balancing all the requests from her editors and colleagues.

Again, though, the real superhero for the numbers part of this project was Jordan. He posted a detailed blog piece explaining his methodology. He writes:

The first thing  you should know about data reporting is that any set of data will be imperfect; in fact it will be downright messy most of the time. This is because the organization collecting the data will often change its definition or collection methods.

Jordan goes on and on about how he made the choices he made and why. And then he goes on to — and this is the best part! — make the data he collected available to readers. They can download the Google document

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…save it in a format compatible with Excel and then crunch and recrunch, hide and reorder the numbers all they like.

Just amazing.

But wait! There’s more!

Jordan, as I mentioned, is our digital editor. You don’t think he’d pass up a chance to do something spectacular for our online presentation, do you?

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For each school, Jordan took all of the data I used in print — and a lot more — and presented it graphically, using widgets from infogr.am, a digital “data visualization” application. Unlike the tiny, as-simple-as-possible bar charts I used in print, Jordan put all the data on the same chart.

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Individual data points are available via mouseover.

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The pie charts transform as readers click on the buttons for each year.

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Each chart includes extensive notes, telling readers what to look for and how the numbers have changed over time.

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What’s more: The online presentation is designed to have legs: Jordan intends to add more data to it over time. Right now, the presentation focuses on test scores and the achievement gaps. But  over time, this data base will include lots of other data as well.

It’s amazing stuff.

Now, let me introduce some of the fine folks upon whom I just bragged: My young colleagues here at the Victoria Advocate.

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A 2014 graduate of TCU, Jordan Rubio worked as a reporter, a multimedia reporter and managing editor for the student media there, the Daily Skiff and TCU 360. He served internships at the San Antonio Express-News and a fellowship at News21 before joining the Advocate last August. Find his Twitter feed here.

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A 2010 graduate of the University of Missouri, Carolina Astrain served as online editor for the student paper there, the Maneater. She served internships at Houston Community Newspapers, KXAN-TV and KBIA-FM before moving to Minnesota Public Radio in 2011. She joined the Advocate in 2012 and covers the education beat. Find her Twitter feed here.

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A 2009 graduate of Texas-Pan American, JR Ortega served as editor-in-chief of the student paper there, the Pan American. He served a Maynard Fellowship and then came to the Advocate as a health and ranging reporter. He left in 2012 to become general manager and editor of a weekly in Matagorda but then returned later that year to work on the features and diversity beats. He moved into his copy desk position last fall. Find his Twitter feed here.

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And you know me. I’m just me: The still-awfully-brand-new managing editor for visuals of the Advocate. I moved here in November.

Which brings me to one last quick point: You’ve read this far. You’ve seen the kind of work we aspire to. We want to do stuff this cool, and more often.

But we’re missing a key element from our team: You.

The Advocate is on the hunt for entry-level journalists. Sharp, hungry and eager to set the world on fire. At this very moment, we have need of a copy editor-slash-designer. In fact, unless I’m mistaken, I think we could stand two of them.

Here’s the ad. Interested? Want to know more? You know where to find me.

If you’d like to see more, here are links to this project and all its components..

Average daily circulation for the Victoria Advocate is 26,531.

Hanging out his freelance shingle: Master visual journalist Scott Brown

Many papers out there would love to run fabulously researched and finely illustrated infographics, but only get so many of them from wire services like AP and MCT.

Here’s where my pal Scott Brown can help out.

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Scott was longtime graphic artist at the Orange County Register who took one of the paper’s infamous buyouts last summer. He’s freelanced for many years — his clients have included United Airlines, Oral-B, and Taco Bell. But now he’s interested in helping papers around the country meet their graphics needs.

Scott tells me:

I hope to cater to 50,000-200,000 circulation papers who have eliminated their art departments, but still want the occasional large graphic.

More importantly, if editors know I am available, they may hire me to do special project graphics, etc. If they have that five part series but no art department, I hope they call me.

Scott and I worked together at the Register for a little less than a year and a half. During that time, he built at least nine Focus pages for me.

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I should add that in addition to drawing them, Scott also researched and wrote these graphics.

Of course, Scott had been around a lot longer than I had. Scott spent three years as a graphics reporter for King Features syndicate and then seven years with the Los Angeles Times before moving to the Register in 1998.

The body work he did over the years for the Register was just amazing. This was one of my favorites. It hung on the wall in the lobby of the newsroom:

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The Victoria Advocate was fortunate enough to have one of his first freelance offerings this past Sunday: This celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Coast Guard.

Click for a larger look:

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This worked out well for us: Victoria is very near the coast and we have a mid-sized Coast Guard station in the Advocate‘s readership area. I wrote a brief piece for the front of our Sunday Your Life section, illustrated it with a few gorgeous file photos and then refered to Scott’s piece on the back page.

The man definitely has my endorsement. In fact, if you scroll down the home page of his web site, you’ll see that endorsement:

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Scott’s next project: The 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden — which, by the way, is Friday, Feb. 13. He gave me a preview of the piece and it’s terrific. Here’s just a taste:

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Scott says:

The topic speaks to the issue of civilian casualties from U.S. air strikes during war time — the same 70 years ago as it is today.

Other projects he’s planning over the next few weeks:

  • March 8: The 50th anniversary of the start of the ground war in Vietnam
  • March 19: The 70th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Iwo Jima
  • March 27: The 100th anniversary of the arrest of Typhoid Mary

About that last one, Scott tells us:

Typhoid Mary died in quarantine — it seemed topical because of ebola. The graphic will touch on the history of quarantine, how public health rules were born.

Sounds like a great read. And no one can do this quite like Scott.

If you’re in need of quality content and visuals, please contact Scott Brown. Find his web site here.

Inside GateHouse’s commemorative Super Bowl section

Adam McHugh, national and special projects manager for the GateHouse Center for News & Design in Austin, Texas, shares pages from the 12-page Super Bowl commemorative section that inserted in GateHouse properties in New England yesterday.

These pages are from the Cape Cod Times version, Adam tells us.

Page one features artwork by my former colleague Fred Matamoros.

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Fred joined the GateHouse hub in October. The rest of the section was designed by Adam.

Pages two and three address the Patriots’ legacy. Page three — “Fellowship of the rings” — puts last weekend’s win in perspective with other NFL dynasties.

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The rail down the left side of page two looks at other great sports dynasties: UCLA basketball, the Boston Celtics, the New York Yankees and the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls.

Pages four and five hold nice profiles on the Patriots quarterback and coach, respectively.

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Pages six and seven feature a thumbnail look at the 2014-15 season, with a brief summary and a photo of every game.

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Page eight, below left, addresses some of the team’s unsung heroes and also holds pictures of the Patriots’ triumphant return to Boston on Wednesday.

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Page nine is a wonderful graphic look — also by Adam — at the history of the Patriots. The blue bars show wins in playoff seasons. The grey bars are years the Pats made Super Bowl appearances. The red bars are Super Bowl wins.

Here’s a closer look:

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Click for an even larger look.

Robert Kraft took ownership of the team in 1994 — the big red dot in the center of the chart. Notice there are a lot more colored bars to the right of that dot than to the left.

Pages 10 and 11 focus on the exciting end of last Sunday’s game.

Across the bottom of page 10 is that amazing catch by the Seahawks’ Jermaine Kearse that put Seattle up in the waning moments.

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But then an interception by Malcolm Butler — an undrafted rookie — changed what looked to be a sure loss for the Patriots. Here’s the page, featuring a picture by Kathy Willens of the Associated Press, turned rightside up.

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Evidently, the back page was an ad.

Adam also sent me a preview section GateHouse had produced before the game. The cover, Adam, says, featured a…

…terrific Tom Brady photo illustration, which was done by graphic artist Lawrence Seil.

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Adam designed the rest of the cover as well as the inside pages.

The visual highlight of the inside of the section was this fun look at Super Bowl tickets.

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Adam tells us:

Much of the content came from the Providence Journal.

Previous blog posts about this year’s Super Bowl:

Super moments of super Super Bowls

One of the more inventive Super Bowl previews that made the round this year was this amazing doubletruck spread featuring 25 goldent moments in the history of the Super Bowl, written, compiled and designed by Luke Knox of the Boston Globe.

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Click that for a much, much larger look.

Luke tells us:

The idea was to illustrate the 25 biggest moments, rather than plays, since some of them are things that happened off the field.

But my boss, graphics director Chiqui Esteban, did a pretty great soccer graphic a while back along these lines…

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[Read more about this here.]

… and we talked about how we could do a Super Bowl version once the Patriots started getting deeper into the playoffs. Luckily, sports editor Joe Sullivan was on board and helped clear the way for some space to run the graphic.

I came up with a list of 25, plotted out the paths and locations from YouTube clips, and then started creating the illustrations. I’m not someone with a background in creating this type of artwork, and I was definitely out of my element trying it. But it was a lot of fun!

My favorites were the Lynn Swann catch…

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… Parcells’ gatorade bath…

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…and John Elway’s headlong dive against the Packers.

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While the style was intentionally very simple, I did try hard to be accurate in team colors, shoe colors, jersey numbers of nearby players, etc. Credit to Chiqui and fellow graphic artist Dave Butler in particular for good advice on keeping the ilos as simple as possible and to give them a cartoonish feel.

Chiqui came in at the end for some good edits and refining of the lines and shadows, so it was a team effort.

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A 2002 graduate of UNC-Asheville, Luke spent two years with the Pensacola News Journal in Florida and then a year-and-a-half at the Albuquerque Journal before joining the Arizona Republic in Phoenix in 2005. He moved to Boston in 2010 as a sports design supervisor. He moved to graphics in 2013.

Find Luke’s portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.

A South African chain observes the 10th anniversary of the tsunami

Ten years ago today, a 9.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The resulting tsunami grew to nearly 34 feet tall in places. Nearly a quarter-million people were killed in and around the Indian Ocean.

My friends at Graphics24 — the infographics arm of the Media24 chain based in Johannesburg, South Africa — put together this piece to commemorate the disaster.

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Click that for a much larger look. Click here to see a version in Afrikaans.

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The illustrator for that graphic was Hanlie Malan, who works out of the company’s Port Elizabeth office. I posted about her work from time to time during my consulting gigs at her company. Here’s an example of her graphic work.

Graphics editor Andre Gouws researched and wrote the piece. Here’s what I wrote about Andre when Media24 hired him to be graphics director back in 2010:

Andre is very sharp and very organized. He has a ton of experience as both and editor and a manager, having worked in Cape Town and then at the Gulf News in Dubai.

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When I was here [in 2009], I helped write a job description and recommended criteria for a departmental leader. Seems to me they’ve chosen wisely.

Last month, I wrote about Andre and Hanlie’s collaboration on a piece about the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Find the Graphics24 online graphics archive here.

A tribute to Joe Cocker by the Times of Oman

You probably know that legendary singer Joe Cocker died Tuesday.

What you might not have seen: A Joe Cocker tribute page that ran Wednesday in the Times of Oman.

Design director Adonis Durado tells us:

I designed the Joe Cocker obit.

I knew from the very beginning that my headline will be taken from Cocker’s iconic songs. I was mulling over between Up Where We Belong or You Are So Beautiful. I thought that if I used the former, I am going to redact “we” and write “you” on top of it — “Up Where You Belong”.

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But when I read in Wikipedia that the lyrics of You Are So Beautiful is actually a love song about God, I decided to work my concept around it. In my initial sketch I had Joe Cocker’s head replaced one of the letters in the title.

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Then I pulled a little conceit to myself — an obstruction — not to use any mugshot of the legendary singer. So I ended up with the final design where I highlighted his five memorable songs.

Click this for a much larger look:

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Adonis illustrated 45 rpm singles to use as devices to replace the O’s in his big text and with which to pull out factoids. Here are closer looks at them:

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A 2001 graduate of the University of San Carlos in the Philippines, Adonis Durado worked as a designer, art director, and creative director for a number of magazines and advertising agencies before serving as the consultant for a major redesign of the Cebu Daily News in 2004 and 2005.

From there, he became design editor of a free weekly tabloid published by the Gulf News of Dubai and then news presentation director of Emirates Business 24-7. He spent two years as group creative director of Instore and Indesign magazines in Bangkok, Thailand, before moving to the Times of Oman — and its sister publication, Al Shabiba — in 2010.

Find Adonis’ Twitter feed here.

Previous posts featuring work by Adonis and his staff at the Times of Oman

  • Feb. 10, 2011: What the hell is the Times of Oman?
  • Sept. 2, 2011: Times of Oman observes Ramadan with a page a day… for 28 days
  • July 31, 2012: ‘The world would never forgive us if we don’t do this particular graphic’
  • Aug. 2, 2012: Yet another genius Olympics visualization by the Times of Oman
  • Aug. 15, 2012: Yet another bit of Olympics graphic genius from the Times of Oman
  • May 30, 2014: Now this is truly an alternative story form