Transforming the Comics Section: Dan Archer Illustrates the News

By Kara Tabor

Wikimedia Commons image from user Emuzesto
When thinking about visual media, the formats that probably readily come to mind are photography, video and infographics. Tried and true, multitudes of journalists have used these media as the default go-tos when trying to add dimension or boost the power of a story as a whole.

But rather than the text of A1 or the video packages at the top of the hour
having the most compelling story of the day, what if it was the images in the Sunday cartoons instead?

Dan Archer, one of the 2014-2015 Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows, has made a career out of committing acts of journalism through his comics. Before coming to the Missouri School of Journalism, he served as a 2011-2012 John S. Knight Fellows at Stanford University, where he worked to promote the use of the format for journalistic purposes.

Archer, who will kick off our first of this year's many ONA speaker events on September 18, uses his comics for multidimensional storytelling on serious topics.

Moreover, these aren't to be mistaken for your traditional editorial cartoons or serialized comic strips. Comics journalism, as he explained in a comic published in Poynter in 2011, is the pairing of traditional journalistic practices like researching and interviewing with a final output that consists of integrated illustrations and text.

He has covered issues ranging from human trafficking in Nepal to survivors of domestic violence for new organizations such as BBC, American Public Media and The Guardian. One of his most recent works includes a graphic narrative on the situation in Ferguson, Mo.

During his time as an RJI Fellow, Archer will be working with faculty and students to develop transmedia—or the telling of single stories across multiple platforms—through his visual consulting business Empathetic Media.

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