Malofiej-week is here

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– 1% of the news in infographics …

Enough with the non-factual Breaking News Graphics

‘Breaking News Infographics are part of the News Business – not the Show Business’. Seen from this angle the bin Laden-graphics of last week weren’t exactly a highlight to celebrate. And so Juan Antonio Giner (Innovation) and Alberto Cairo (Epoca) have decided to give it a try to write a set of ‘rules’ to follow, when creating infographics. See bottom of page.

The rules are also posted, alongside a list of people who endorse them, at the Nieman Watchdog site here.

I decided to endorse the rules too, when given the opportunity to do so. Even if I think the authors forget for a moment that infographic artists like all other journalists are meant to describe the breaking news as they look on a daily basis – we’re not historians with all the time in the world to analyse the different sources and put a footnote on every uncertainty. Sure, we will make mistakes – but as long as we don’t invent stories or manipulate the known facts (like the official sources did in the bin Laden-case) I think we’re on solid ground.

A good journalist will juggle the different sources to produce the most newsworthy article – as much backed up by facts as possible. An infographic artist must do the same thing. We should not, however, move into an area, where we give up important storytelling, just because we lack minor details in the overall scenario.

Reliable information is hard to get with breaking news – sometimes you’re officially lied to. You better make sure never to leave your critical sense behind, or we could end up with very one-sided and convenient infographics, which fail journalistically even if they are factually correct.

The discussion is on again – and if this set of rules can help move editors and artists into a more reflective mode, when working with Breaking News, then it’s good enough for me to leave the issues I have with the exact wording behind for now.

The six rules for a good infographic:
1. An infographic is, by definition, a visual display of facts and data. Therefore, no infographic can be produced in the absence of reliable information.

2. No infographic should include elements that are not based on known facts and available evidence.

3. No infographic should be presented as being factual when it is fictional or based on unverified assumptions.

4. No infographic should be published without crediting its source(s) of information.

5. Information graphics professionals should refuse to produce any visual presentation that includes imaginary components designed to make it more “appealing” or “spectacular”. Editors must refrain from asking for graphics that don’t stick to available evidence.

6. Infographics are neither illustrations nor “art”. Infographics are visual journalism and must be governed by the same ethical standards that apply to other areas of the profession.