23 Ideas That Could Change The Way You Teach Journalism
Interactive/visual stories
Credit: shutterstock
April 4, 2014

AJR is the publishing partner for the Journalism Interactive 2014 conference, held April 4 and 5 in College Park, Md, where Richard Koci Hernandez opened the event with a talk about visual storytelling.

Here, in 23 bullets, are tips from UC Berkeley School of Journalism assistant professor Richard Koci Hernandez.

Richard Koci Hernandez

Richard Hernandez tells Journalism Interactive attendees that everyone has a visual storyteller inside them, waiting to emerge. “My charge is that we must experiment,” he says. By Joanna Nurmis/AJR.


First, give your students inspiration. Tell them:

  • Remember how much information is at your disposal: “I tell students: Do you realize that what you have in your pocket is more information than Ronald Reagan had as president?”
  • Think of the Internet as a new medium: “The Internet is not a dumping ground for media created for other platforms.”
  • But don’t worry about coming up with something that hasn’t been done before: “Take the weight off their [your students’] shoulders that they have to create something new. There’s nothing new. Every story’s been done.”
  • Throw yourself into your work: “Start where you are with reckless abandon. Work-life balance is overrated; just go down the rabbit hole and stay there.”
  • Practice your craft: “If you aren’t shooting or practicing every day, you’ll fall behind so quickly.”
  • Then learn design: “I don’t care how good your story is; if you wrap a diamond in a newspaper — something that’s kind of crappy and doesn’t look so good — and people will ignore it, but you could put something terrible in a blue tiffany box and people would be like, ’Oh, my god.’ We need to marry things so the outside and the inside are beautiful.”


Then give them some light reading assignments:

  • “Steal Like An Artist,” by Austin Kleon
  • “The Passionate Photographer: Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great,” by Steve Simon
  • “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be: The World’s Best Selling Book,” by Paul Arden
  • “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art,”  by Scott McCloud, specifically chapters five and seven


And let them watch some videos to take a break from all those words:


Devise some projects to get their creativity flowing. Ask them to:

  • Design a boarding pass that includes hierarchy. (Give them some options for fonts through Style Tiles.)
  • Reverse engineer some of the pieces already published by rating a story or video at multiple points to see where the high points and low points are.
  • Cut a trailer for a film.
  • Create a two-minute piece only using images from Creative Commons.
  • Spend half the semester consuming media from nontraditional publications.


Finally, introduce them to the wealth of tools that will help them realize their visions:

  • Klynt: A multimedia storytelling platform compatible with social networks ($199-599, depending on the version).
  • Racontr: Similar to Klynt but it’s free unless you need more space.
  • iBooks Author: A free way to create online guides; all the content is stored in the Apple Store, though.
  • X theme from WordPress: With no code involved, you can customize your site and incorporate elements such as parallax scrolling ($60).
  • Projeqt: A dynamic presentation platform.


And remember, Hernandez says, journalism is still important : “The ancient art of storytelling just needs some modern clothing.”

Here’s the archived video of Hernandez’s presentation, and his presentation slides.


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