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Alberto Cairo wants to change the way journalists look at infographics. “Part of the problem is that print journalists believe that it is the job of computer graphics designers and artists only, while designers and artists believe that a traditional journalist will never be able to create good graphics,” he says. “Both groups are wrong. Infographics is not an art, but rather a means of visual communication and its rules can be learned with relative ease.”
Cairo, a Spanish journalist who is the director of infographics for Época magazine, hopes to teach all journalists, not just the artistically inclined, how to work with graphics. His class, “Intro to Infographics and Visualization for Journalists,” will begin on August 15 and end on September 25. The class will be conducted in Portuguese and entirely online. It is being offered by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and is the newest addition to its distance learning program. There is a $50 fee to cover administrative costs.
In the course, Cairo will show journalists how to use graphics to communicate and analyze data. “You don’t need to know how to draw, nor how to use complicated software,” he said. “Instead, you need to educate yourself to think in a more visual way, something that is within everyone’s reach. This change in mentality is fundamental for the future of journalism. I will also explain how to create computer graphics/display departments, which professionals to hire and how to train them.”
His goal is to give journalists a more global perspective of infographics and to help them see graphics as an informative tool that helps readers better understand stories. “The main error is to think of graphics as simple decorative and aesthetic elements and not as tools to improve communication with readers and to improve the depth of news and reports,” he said. “I meet journalists every day who don’t understand the importance of graphics and designers and artists who don’t understand the importance of journalism. The main objective of the course is to serve as a bridge between the two worlds.”
It is divided into weekly modules containing audiovisual presentations and links to online resources. Exercises, online discussions and additional assignments will also be part of the curriculum. Students can work at their own pace but will be expected to complete the assignments.
“It is very important to enter the class each day.,” advises Cairo, “I understand that we all have jobs to attend to but, as a minimum, each person should at least enter the classroom early Monday morning because that’s when the most important points of the course will be posted.” Participants can expect to spend 10-20 hours per week on the course. For more details, the course information sheet can be found here. Interested students have until 5pm (CDT), August 3, 2011 to apply.
In addition to his work at Época magazine, Cairo was a professor in the Master em Jornalismo program in Brazil and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in Spain. He was also the James H. Shumaker term assitant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and taught at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid, Spain. Between 2000-2005 he was the director of interactive infographics at El Mundo where his design team won the most awards in the Society of Newspaper Design (SND) and Malofiej contests. He regularly blogs for Periodismo con Futuro de El Pais and is the author of two books on infographics.
“We are very proud at the Knight Center to have Alberto Cairo among our instructors this year,” said director Rosental Alves. “He is one of the best journalists in the world specializing in infographics who moved from his native Spain to the United States. After a successful career in Madrid, he recently transferred to Brazil. He has been one of the first to understand the art of using interactive, digital graphics for the journalistic narrative.”
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was created in 2002 by Professor Rosental Alves at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism. It was funded with a generous donation from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Center also receives contributions from other donors, including the Open Society Foundations and The University of Texas at Austin. The Center’s main goal is to help journalists in Latin American and the Caribbean improve the quality of journalism in their countries.