Introducing Columbia Visuals, A Viz Journalist’s New Best Friend

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a blog covering all aspects of photography is pretty much priceless.

At least that’s what the Digital Media department at Columbia Journalism School is aiming for with its new project, Columbia Visuals. This new blog is meant to give advice for all visual journalists an online home. Basically anything that affects your career as a photographer or videographer — everything from copyright information and inspiration for great storytelling to practical tips on how to cover high-stress events like protests, for example — is fair game for Columbia Visuals.

Yesterday I spoke with Abbey Adkison, the Digital Media Coordinator at the NYC-based, storied journalism school (where she is also an assistant adjunct professor) about the blog, which just had its official launch Sept. 16.

Adkison said the J-school’s staff had been discussing ways to shed more light on the visual side of learning journalism as they were working toward developing new curriculum that places a greater emphasis on producing journalism in the digital space.

“We really wanted to be a place where students can come and find posts with a practical takeaway,” she said. (By the way, she’s using the term “students” loosely — the blog, filled with posts written by Columbia J-school fellows and digital media associates, has really valuable tidbits for journalists at any point in their career). Adkison herself went through a two-year photojournalism masters track at the University of Texas but said her program focused more on the creative aspects of the craft.

“I don’t feel like we got around to learning the business side of things,” Adkison said. That’s why Columbia Visuals seeks to address those issues in posts with titles like “Freelancing: The Money Issue,” which walks you through calculating what your work and time are worth, and “The Rights to Music,” which discusses fair use and general instructions for determining what kind of music you can use with video footage without violating any copyrights. Other blog posts highlight the implications of sharing your photography online, what kind of portfolio site you should use and speaking with police on assignment (Did you know you’re not obligated to show an officer your photos? These fun facts and more can be found on the blog).

Adkison said Columbia Visuals isn’t solely for multimedia journalists.

“It’s really important that we’re all well-rounded journalists,” she said. The blog will seek to increase “visual literacy” as Adkison calls it, and coming up will be posts about using Instagram for photojournalistic purposes and mobile photography in general — topics that should be of interest to any reporter.

“It can be intimidating to create visual work,” Adkison told me, but Columbia Visuals is hoping to be a place that alleviates that anxiety a little.

You’ll want to keep this one bookmarked, folks. It’s going to come in handy.

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