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– 1% of the news in infographics …

Osama Bin Ladens Death in Infographics – Gallery

Breaking news infographics … Blending the crafts of journalism and illustration almost into an  artform. If you choose to go by the manual – locators, timelines – you know that you’re going to produce solid stuff. But this is your chance to produce something memorable. Most editors will ask for more than maps – and luckily most graphic artists will try to answer that call.

I have been through as many media as I could find, to see what the current state of Breaking News Infographic is. People often talk about this category as an lost artform – with dataviz taking over in the newsrooms, online-discussions and conferences. And yes – Breaking news isn’t trendy anymore (if it ever was?). It’s hard to innovate and experiment with new visualization-tools, when you know you have only a few hours before deadline. You never have the time or ressources you need. All that is part of the art – deliver while it’s hot. Like a glassblower you’ll blow life into your material, while it’s molten and constantly changing.

Handout from Pentagon
What we had to work with this time, was above all the handout from Pentagon of Osamas compound. That is some effective press release on their part. Their drawing made it’s way into each and every paper doing infographics – even if re-rendered in Illustrator or in a 3D-program.

And it looks like the US were mostly content with this solid approach – show the place and make no attempt to tell the dramatic story in your graphic. The exception being New York Post.

Key decisions to make in Breaking News
Meanwhile, in Spain and around the globe it wasn’t enough to show the compound. It was a highly dramatic event, so why settle with drawings of a house? The defining point between the graphics are whether or not you include people in your graphic. This is the key decision you have to make in Breaking News of this kind.

You can include them as silhouettes and still keep inside a safe area on the ‘Offendometer’, (Clarin). You can try a bit more illustration, which will certainly annoy the purists, (El Mundo, El Pais). Or you can go whacky with 3D-animated people, which will take you into a zone, where you can no longer claim to be a journalist, (NMA News, CBS News).

Another decision to make is about the focus of your graphic. The idea to melt everything together in a big rectangular area is weak and outdated. It stems from the time, where graphics were hard to get on the page, so the artist were given a personal playground to fill – ‘Just make sure there are explosions, choppers, soldiers and arrows in there- you’ll get a text later to split up and put numbers on, and we’ll import the whole package. Job done’. (Daily Mail, New York Post, Aahmulehti, etc.)

Who made the best graphic?
After examining the 30+ graphic entries it’s time to pick a winner. While I have very weak spot for drama in breaking news-graphics, I can’t ignore the fact, that this time we didn’t know enough to warrant a re-enactment. We didn’t even know what type of helicopters were used. And the ‘leaked’ story of Osama using his wife as a human shield smelled like the lie it turned out to be.

So I decided to look to the building-category with a flavour of silhouettes and therefore chose the graphic from Clarin to be the ‘Best Breaking News Graphic about Bin Ladens Death’. – Congratulations to the Argentinian team.  As usual you’re invited to send in more examples or perhaps disagree in the comments-section.

CLARIN, Argentina. Winner of the Breaking News Challenge to illustrate the killing of Osama bin Laden. A clear rendering with a well-suited night-feeling to it.

WASHINGTON POST, USA. A very good rendering of the compound. Even if I don't understand the orange parts of the walls.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE, USA. More colours, but the technical quality of the rendering isn't good. Otherwise top-notch.

NEW YORK TIMES, USA. Very clear, but almost too sunny rendering. When you add details about the walls, you should make sure they look absolutely correct.

AAMULEHTI, Finland. A weak mash-up with an unbelievable amount of text in boxes and reversed out on top a map.

UOL, Brazil. Pure crap. Part of an 8-picture slideshow, with no real visual information.

UOL, Brazil. Another drawing which doesn't even make an attempt to get the facts right.

TORONTO STAR, Canada. Does the job, but the photos and maps makes it unfocused.

THE INDEPENDENT, UK. Compound and helicopters too different in drawing style to work together. Clip-art feeling. Never put numbers on text-blocks unless they follow a natural eye-movement.

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, Australia. Content syndicated from NY Times.

PUBLICO, Spain. Nice and clean, but I don't understand the obsession with the wall-heights. Using icons to show the wrong number of soldiers (20) doesn't make it more infographic for me - although it has the look of it.

O DIA, Brazil. Very good technical rendering, but a bit flaky with the details - stairs missing, proportions not right.

O Dia, Brazil. Again nice technical skills. Hard to see what goes on - and no wonder, as it was an obvious lie 'leaked' to miscredit bin Laden in the macho-muslim world.

NEW YORK POST, USA. Celebrating the long hunt for bin Laden by assembling a graphic, that looks at least a decade old?

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, USA. A strange inverted-shadow-colorstyle. And the headline makes no sense at all. What exactly marks this building as monster-equipped?

LOS ANGELES TIMES, USA. The most natural ground-rendering of them all. I like foliage in graphics. But did the buildings sink into the ground? Different wall-measurements than NY Times - I don't know who is correct.

LA VANGUARDIA, Spain. Another nice rendering with a strange obsession with wall-heights. Put in info if it has a role in the story. Like the privacy-wall, which was suspicious because of it's extra height. Built to hide a tall man like bin Laden, obviously.

LA TERCERA, Chile. Very solid rendering from Chile. Unfortunately they crash the helicopter in the wrong spot. Did it even go down with an explosion?

LA PRENSA GRAFICA, El Salvador. Yikes, they need better rendersoftware - and better 3D-models too. The black dots in front of the textblocks are way too big

KLEINE ZEITUNG, Austria. It would be an easy world if we could just put blurry photo-people in our graphics and get a good result. Unfortunately we can't. It looks silly with the different styles.

HINDUSTAN TIMES, India. Pretty good and stylish storytelling. Unfortunately it crashes in the last panel, where bin Laden is tossed from the Chinook into the ocean. The text says warship, so what went wrong?

FOLHA DE SAO PAULO, Brazil. Small and decent job.

EL UNIVERSAL, Mexico. Not a good 3D-job and a bit strange with the line-art for the rest of the compound. If you don't have the info for a timeline, why make one?

EL PAIS, Spain. A very nice job, but the decision to put in a big hill is a catastrophe. I'd love to hear the story behind it - maybe it was made earlier when the location of the compound was unsure?

El MUNDO, Spain. Handdrawn graphics are fine and in the Spanish tradition. But if you trace a handout I would ask for some handdrawn details and effects - like night-setting. The exploding chopper and the bedroom-scene is too much guesswork in disguise.

El MUNDO, Spain. Not a good example to follow. Four navy seals popping out of the walls to execute a sleeping couple? Wouldn't they have hit each other attacking like this?

EKSTRA BLADET, Denmark. The compound is modeled too simple. Explosion to back up the theory of an expert, who is quoted about how the attack would have unfolded.

DAILY TELEGRAPH, UK. Strange sunlight beaming out from the building. And that flat chopper-silhouette doesn't do any good for the graphic either.

DAILY MAIL, UK. A mash-up mumbo-jumbo. And several 'facts' in the text detracts from the credibility too. Like 'Commandos dodge bullets as Bin laden fires his AK47 from bedroom window'.

NMA NEWS, Taiwan. This animated video re-enactment is so bad that NMA have removed it again from YouTube. They have also removed my last hope, that they are capable of producing work of value. It's like they don't live on the same planet as the rest of us. Calling themselves 'News' is an offense too.

DAILY EXPRESS, UK. Another graphic so afraid of its own corners, that it gets filled with photos to distract the reader. The Black Hawk crashing in a lotusflower-shaped dustcloud with two red arrows makes no sense.

DAGENS NYHETER, Swden. Why do you make a Breaking news-infographic, if you're more interested in showing big archive-pictures than showing the information (the compound)?

CBS NEWS, USA. A screengrab of another incredible bad animated re-enactment. What is going on in the tv-business, that they think they can serve this junk to their viewers?

24 SATA, Croatia. Oopsie. It's one thing to get the location wrong, but when you do so with call-out boxes you put yourself in big trouble.

AUJOURD'HUI EN FRANCE, France. All too cute colors, which doesn't work for hard news. Helicopter is wrong too. Moving the dish, so it fits the layout speaks of disrespect of the assignment to inform your reader.

ABC, Spain. What is going on with the bubbles coming out of the roof? Whole setup created like a D-Day-diagram with troop movements, except it's all made up by the artist. Legend states that the yellow troops are Pakistani - Luckily I can't find any, as they didn't take part in the attack. So why label them?