Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rubina a Graphics Editor - What's That?

For the couple of years after graduating from the Columbia School of Journalism our daughter Rubina has worked as a graphics editor, the last 18 months with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

What does she do as a graphics editor? She obtains the data and material and then uses it to create charts, tables, inset summaries and other visuals (except pure photographs) that accompany news stories. For her and her colleagues it can be a charged - some will say stressful - environment with tight deadlines. But she has a passion for it.

For the most part she and her colleagues walk into work in the morning, learn about developing stories and then conceive of the graphics in consultation with reporters, columnists and editors. Then it's data and materials search, verification, creation, iterations and all to be completed before "press time" by late evening.

They each do anything from two to five graphics on a typical day, depending on the complexity and the workload. To maintain an efficient and collaborative environment without worries about who gets credit the graphics folks generally do not put their names on their creations. We don't know about her precise handiwork till she tells us, though we can make some guesses.

Want to see a sample of Rubina's work? Unfortunately, most of the online versions are not the same as the ones in print, and need a subscription to view. If you have one, here's one from May 12 that she did on the US federal highest bracket tax rates going back all the way to 1913. The print version was better. It is overlaid with the terms and pictures of US Presidents. Rubina had to work with some IRS folks to get a major part of the information. When the story came out the IRS called to compliment the WSJ on the graphic.

Addendum on July 22: Today, Rubina had a graphic on childhood obesity so I thought I'll add it. Here's what she had to say:
I have a U.S. map on today's Currents page on child obesity rates by state. Rather than color-coding the states like we usually do, we decided to make the heights of the states correspond to their obesity rates. This was done using a program called Cinema 3-D, which I used for the first time on Monday. You can see the print version on page A11 or online here by clicking on the small map: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124821547930269995.html


Ashok Sadhwani said...


Great graphics by Rubina, especially the heightened U.S. obesity map. I looked at downloading the software Cinema 3-D but it's way too expensive for me. I do a lot of presentations when I teach/lecture/train and could use a new package or two if Rubina would guide me.


Rubina said...

Hi Ashok, I wouldn't recommend anyone get Cinema 4D for your purposes. It's a specialized program, and even at our newspaper we rarely use it.

For most graphics, Adobe Illustrator is the program you need. You can learn it either by buying a tutorial book or a subscription to Lynda.com.


You can buy an older version online that might be cheaper.