A visual journalist's survival guide: Expand the comfort bubble

Sometimes, truly innovative creative work really can scare the hell out of editors.

Maybe I exaggerate, but it does require some courage to take risks – to do anything non-standard. I've been lucky to work with some editors who have had have the courage and the trust to allow us to take a chance on some new ideas. It doesn't happen overnight, though. It comes from building trust with your editors and especially from expanding the comfort bubble.

How many of you have done work that was killed by one editor or another? It's easy to get discouraged and think of that as wasted effort. The reality is that every time you expose the newsroom to an idea that seems a little too far, you are desensitizing them to that kind of work, expanding the comfort bubble. And over the long run, attitudes will change.

Most of us know the strategy of showing several choices, one of which is a little extreme, to make the one you can live with seem more acceptable. Here's an example.


During our last redesign, Tribune's innovation officer suggested an all-map front page, something to make us stand out from the competition. That concept was radical enough that it helped us push the redesign much further. Our goal wasn't just to be unconventional. but to reach a specific demographic in the South Florida market. This was for a big project, but the same techniques work on a day-to-day, long-haul basis as well.

If you are patient and politely persistent, you will move the needle over the long haul. No one will say that visuals need to be more important unless you start the conversation.

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