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– 1% of the news in infographics …

Tiger Woods chased by his wife in Animated News from Apple Daily

If you’re reading the gossip following Tiger Woods’ recent car-accident, you’re probably speculating if Tigers wife really used the golfclubs to get him out of the car – or if she was smashing his Cadillac for other reasons. Maybe she chased Tiger Woods as he was speeding away from home on Thanksgiving Night after a marital dispute over dating other girls?

News as animated cartoons
Well, – The guys at the Apple Daily (Taiwanese tabloid) speculated about the same, and so decided to put the story into their brand new Animated News factory. Watch the result here (via YouTube).

160 people to produce the videos
I call the Animated News Department a factory rather than a newsroom, as the description says it’s close to 160 people each in front of two screens and connected with the editor over a headset. They sit there ready to produce the videos as soon as the news happen and a videoclip is ordered. They aim to produce more than 20 videos each day – and the primary market is readers who are willing to pay a small fee to download the video and watch it on their cellphone.

A pretty innovative idea – content-wise as well as businessplan-wise. Isn’t it just what newspapers are looking for in this time of crisis?

Where did journalism go?
Unfortunately this video doesn’t have much to do with News – as in a journalistic product. The only thing connecting the 3D-viz to News, is the simple fact, that it is a supposed reenactment of something which took place recently and is shown inbetween other news-elements. They took the Infographic and removed the word Info to be able to serve their viewers fast with something Graphic. Look at the video – you get no information – and you’re even served inaccuracies so big, I’ll call them visual lies.

The story is about a car-crash. So you should imagine that you get at least these two elements correct. The car – and the crash. You get neither. The car? It’s an expensive Cadillac Escalada – not a Kia or some other minibus from Korea. Look at the size of it while the wife is chasing it – or is Elin Nordegren really a dwarf? And the crash? well, you see a car crashing into a tree, but get no idea of the actual event – that it took three collisions before the car came to a stop.

Tiger Woods and his wife are modeled ok – although they look like something straight out of The Sims. I don’t know the technical setup behind this, but Apple Daily tells us, that they have spent two years building a library of all kind of 3D-models, so they can make a video like this seconds after the news enter their screens.

Research is the most important when producing Breaking News
Nowhere in the announcement of their Animated News is said anything about the necessary research-phase. For any good Breaking News Infographic I’ll estimate the workload to be 80% research and 20% producing the thing. Apple Daily states in the press-release that they are obsessed with getting the details right – and gives an example about always getting the right hair-colour and -length. I wonder if they have virtual actors they can easily customize – but then fail to get the important things right.

This is it? Emotional Graphics?
I know I have been advocating at Malofiej and other conferences about Emotional Graphics and Violent Graphics. I still do, whenever I’m asked for an opinion. This is it, eh? — No, Not really what I’m asking for, I’m afraid.

When I ask the infographic artists to break away from the statistics and do some emotional visual reporting, I do so because I believe we’re journalists for a reason. Some stories aren’t served well with just a map or a bar chart showing some data. With some stories we want readers to take action – change something or give support to a cause – and that is why we need to incorporate emotions into our graphics. A good example are roadside bombings in Iraq. When something dramatic takes place, we can’t allow ourselves to betray our readers and show only a sanitized version of the news with dead soldiers reduced to circles and barcharts.

But for visual reporting to make sense, we as graphic artists first need to have information to serve. It’s simply not enough to aim for: ‘Can you show a man in a car driving into a tree – do it 3D – and emotionally’. We give nothing new to the reader with such a lazy assignment. The result can be used only for background with a voice-over in lack of actual video-footage.

It might look fresh and exciting now (although a bit laughable), but I’ll predict it will end up being rather annoying if you have to watch several of these animated news clips each day.

Different versions as the news unfolded
Apple Daily apparently published different versions of the graphic as the news unfolded. That’s good online-practice. Here are two different clips: