Tag Archives: New York Times

An image with an impact

If good writing is the foundation on which technical communication is built, then visual elements provide the curb appeal.

Even though most of my training and experience are in writing, not illustrating, I’m keenly aware of the huge effect — for good or ill — that visuals can have on content.

I pay close attention to how the artist chooses to present data in maps and graphs, because that choice can strongly influence the reader’s perception.

I like to spotlight images that are informative and well-executed — like the map in ProPublica’s story on last summer’s Houston floods and the Tampa Bay Times‘ 2015 infographic about the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Unfortunately, the Times has removed the infographic from its site, but a small piece of it survives in my post.)

Then there’s the recent op-ed by the New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof on gun violence in the U.S. In an article full of bar graphs and maps, one image in particular made my jaw drop.

Wishing to point up the lack of research into gun violence, compared with research into diseases like cholera and diphtheria, Kristof had a Times artist compare two data points for each problem: number of people affected and number of research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health over the 40 years ending in 2012.

As you scroll down, try to set aside your political views — whether you’re pro- or anti-gun control — and evaluate this image on how effectively it delivers its message.

graph juxtaposing 4 million gun-violence cases and 3 research grants

I’ve seen very few images that delivered their messages so startlingly, so resoundingly. The numbers are impressive, but the huge red circle and the three tiny boxes thunder out the message: gun violence, while a serious threat to public health, is woefully under-researched. (Kristof says that’s because of lobbying by opponents of gun control.)

Feel free to disagree with the message. But don’t tell me that it wasn’t delivered effectively.

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When your personal brand takes a blind-side hit

Jonathan Martin noticed a sudden influx of personal messages directed to his Twitter account. New York Times reporter that he is, he figured out pretty quickly what was happening. The message senders had him confused with another Jonathan Martin, offensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins, who was the subject of an exploding story about hazing in football locker rooms.

Jonathan Martin, football player

Jonathan Martin (not the journalist): NY Times photo

Martin (the journalist) reported that the messages ran the gamut from encouraging to insulting to profane. As a sports fan, he found the whole experience amusing. But it also provided a window into the free-wheeling nature of social media, especially into what one of his correspondents called keyboard courage: the tendency for people to say online what they’d never dream of saying to someone’s face. Especially to a 6-foot-5, 312-pound pro football player.

I’ve written and presented about personal branding: the importance of creating and cultivating a professional image or personality. So what happens when you carefully build a personal brand, only to have something come along that casts your name in a completely unexpected light? Continue reading