Transparency In Journalistic Comics

Many journalistic comics do not show any source. But some comics journalists spend a lot of effort trying to make their work as transparent as possible. In “Journalism”, Joe Sacco explains in a preface how he works. In “The Cartoon Picayune”, Josh Kramer uses footnotes to signal comedic freedom. David Axe and Ryan Alexander-Tanner include photographs in their comic “Boom!”. Darryl Holliday and E. N. Rodriguez make clear they use information told by a single source for “How to survive a shooting”. Susie Cagle adds additional Information like photographs and audio via ThingLink to “Down in Smoke”. In “The Man Who Build Beirut”, Andy Warner makes himself part of the story. Mana Neyestani leaves out what he does not know and shows blank space instead of making things up in “An Iranian Metamorphosis”. In “Apocalypse Left and Right: A Graphic Primer”, Dan Archer displays his sources and background Information for (most of) the panels. In “The Right to Return: A Graphic History of Diego Garcia”, he shows the sources at the end of the comic. And in “The London Olympics”, Tom Humbersone uses corrections.


Reactions and Corrections

"Fortunately, there is no stylebook to tell the comics journalist how far he or she must go to get [little] details right.“ - Joe Sacco (Journalism; p.XII). Even the most important comics journalist does not like special guidelines for his craft. So I did not publish my comic about comics journalism for weeks. Mostly because it is me talking about comics journalism as if I knew everything about the matter without having published a journalistic comic before.

I finally decided to put it online. Because the main reason behind my Thesis is to start (maintain) a discussion. As I expected, I got mixed reactions. Here are some of the negative comments (in my own words):

  • The comic is more opinion/drawing conclusions than journalism. True. I wanted to convert the conclusion of my Thesis into a comic. Maybe I should have done otherwise and instead portrayed different comics journalists and how they work.
  • Symbols are cumbersome and confusing. Yes, maybe two symbols (one for “based on reporting in the field” and one for “illustration”) could be enough.
  • Comics journalism is journalism. The comic contains mainly of prejudices. If it does, I failed. I tried to talk about how other forms of journalism are subjective too on page 3. I do realize I should have put in more quotes of people who are against “special rules” for comics journalism.
  • The comic does not show female comics journalists and people of color. I selected the quotes and examples based on their views/content. But this should not be an excuse for ignoring how diverse comics journalism is. As soon as I find the time to, I will make a new version of the comic.
  • Who is he to tell us how to do our job? Yes, drawing the comic the way I did and presenting it without a decent preface was pretentious. However, I did a lot of research for my Master’s Thesis. I made a guideline for comics journalism because I could not find one. I would be happy if someone else makes a better guideline.

I am thankful for the feedback I got and I plan to reflect it in an updated version of my comic soon.

There are two things I realized too late to put it into the comic:

  1. The role of Publishers. I know Comics who appear on Cartoon Movement, Symbolia Magazine or The Cartoon Picayune get fact checked by the publishers.
  2. The role of media brands as labels of journalistic quality.

One thing has not changed though: I still believe comics journalism needs rules.  I don’t think it is as clear as Susie Cagle sees it:

If you draw a journalistic story, you can show facts you’ve seen on YouTube, got via a Skype-Interview, experienced yourself etc. - all without giving the reader a clue where you have the information from. So maybe there aren’t different ethics but different ways of how to quote. My idea behind using symbols was having a tool to show visual quotations. I think this might be a problem for visual journalism in general, so maybe I should demand those “visual quotation marks” not only for comics but also for documentaries, infographics etc.

Please let me know if there is anything you would change in the second version of the comic.

Drawn Truth - Preface/Title

When I was researching for my Master’s Thesis about comics journalism, I could not find rules for the media. Comics journalists work very differently from each other and their views on how to balance between fact and fiction/art vary. Part of my Thesis was a guide on how to create a journalistic comic according to the criteria for journalistic quality as written down by media researcher and journalist Stephan Russ-Mohl.

Most of my ideas came from what many comics journalists had already been doing. I tried to collect different ways of how to be transparent when creating a journalistic comic. And I came up with the idea of symbols.

With the following comic, I try to illustrate parts of my Thesis. I draw conclusions and I say what I think could work best. Therefore, it is - if comics journalism at all - an opinionated piece of comics journalism. And it is certainly not the best “manual” on how to make a journalistic comic.

I am looking forward to other guidelines. Guidelines that are drawn better by people who have a better understanding of comics journalism. I believe readers have a right to understand if what they see in a journalistic comic is artistic interpretation, illustration or based on reporting in the field.

Read More

Drawn Truth - Page 1


Drawn Truth - Page 2


Drawn Truth - Page 3


Drawn Truth - Page 4


Drawn Truth - Page 5


Drawn Truth - Page 6


Drawn Truth - Page 7


Fixed. theme by Andrew McCarthy