Sara Dickenson Quinn

Sara teaches in the areas of design, illustration, photojournalism and leadership. She encourages visual journalists to find their voice in the newsroom and to think beyond traditional job descriptions for ways to contribute their ideas, passions and abilities.


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What students need to know about code and data viz

A stunning amount of data is available to journalists these days, and it is growing exponentially. Not surprisingly, the need for data journalists is expanding as well.

Data-driven journalism is a diverse field that involves interpreting data, developing programming code, and creating databases, maps, charts and other visualizations. Some of the skills required take considerable study. But we often overlook the complexity of data journalism and leave our young journalists without the knowledge they need to succeed.

What should students know about code and data visualizations? What skills should be taught to best prepare them for jobs in data-driven journalism?

Northwestern University Medill School professor Jeremy Gilbert, University of Southern California Annenberg School professor Robert Hernandez, ringleader of For Journalism Dave Stanton and I got together to discuss the tremendous possibilities at the intersection of data, technology and news. Our live chat focused on what educators need to teach and students should learn to succeed in computational journalism. Read more

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Tips for Storytellers: If you tweet, tweet well

No wonder media experts gravitate to Twitter. It’s arguably where news breaks and it’s a wonderful real-time tool for reporting. Here are a few more ideas for getting the most out of your tweets — part of a series of graphics with tips for storytellers. Next week: Tips for data visualization.

More tips for journalistic tweets: Tips for Storytellers
More tips for journalistic tweets: Tips for Storytellers

For a PDF: Quinn-fo-graphic: More tips for journalistic tweets

Related: How to make photos better | How to polish your writing | How to make the most of your tweets | How to get your video right | Tips for an online portfolio | Creating a personal brand Read more

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Tips for Storytellers: Your personal brand

If someone “googles” you, what will they find? A well-crafted, professional profile? The finest samples of your work or structured settlement cash now? A summary of your ideas about the future of journalism? Over time, you leave quite a digital trail. Here are bits of advice for refining your personal brand—part of a series of graphics with tips for storytellers. Next Friday: Tips for data visualization.

Poynter Quinn-fo-graphic: Creating Your Personal Brand
Poynter Quinn-fo-graphic: Creating Your Personal Brand

For a PDF: Poynter Quinn-fo-graphic: Creating Your Personal Brand

Related: How to make photos better | How to polish your writing | How to make the most of your tweets | How to get your video right  | Tips for an online portfolio Read more

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Tips for Storytellers: Creating an online portfolio

The key to getting a great job or internship is showing what you can do. An online portfolio is the new norm for a crucial first impression. Here are a few ideas, part of a series of graphics with tips for storytellers. Next Friday: How to sharpen your personal brand with social media.

Poynter Quinn-fo-graphics: Tips for online portfolios

For a PDF: Poynter Quinn-fo-graphics: Tips for creating an online portfolio

Related: How to make photos better | How to polish your writing | How to make the most of your tweets | How to get your video right Read more

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Tips for Storytellers: How to make photos better

As a designer and editor, my projects have been made infinitely better because I’ve worked with stellar photojournalists. They’ve patiently schooled me on the importance of capturing the moment, finding the best light and thinking about composition. Here are a few tips. Part of a series of graphics with tips for storytellers, think of this as bite-sized inspiration. Next Friday: How to create your online portfolio and personal brand.

Quinn-fo-graphics: How to make photos better

For a PDF: Quinn-fo-graphics: How to make photos better

Related: How to make the most of your tweets | How to get your video right |
How to polish your writing Read more

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Tips for Storytellers: How to polish your writing

Lucky me. My office is two doors down from one of the world’s best writing coaches. I go to Roy Peter Clark often when writer’s block hits me. Here, you’ll find a few particularly helpful tips. Part of a series of graphics with tips for storytellers, think of this as bite-sized inspiration. Next Friday: How to make your photos better.

Poynter Quinn-fo-graphic: Polish your writing
Poynter Quinn-fo-graphic: Polish your writing

For a PDF: Poynter Quinn-fo-graphic: How to polish your writing

Related: How to make the most of your tweets | How to shoot great video Read more

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Tips for Storytellers: Get your video right

If you never trained for video, here are a few basic tips from Regina McCombs, senior editor for visual news at Minnesota Public Radio and Poynter adjunct faculty.

Part of a series of graphics with tips for storytellers, this infographic can be thought of as bite-sized inspiration.

Last Monday: How to make the most of your tweets Next Friday: Tips for polishing your writing, with Roy Peter Clark and others
Poynter Quinn-fo-graphics: Get your video right

For a PDF: Poynter Quinn-fo-graphics: Get your video right

Related training: Effective News Videos with Videolicious: A Digital Tools Tutorial, Oct. 30 | Key Elements to Compelling Video Storytelling, on-demand Webinar replay Read more

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Tips for Storytellers: How to make the most of your tweets

My Grandma Helfrey was a master storyteller, using voices and just the right sense of humor. Over the years at Poynter, I’ve met a host of great storytellers and I’ve loved seeing them perfect the tools of their trade—for writing, audio, video, photography, graphics, social media and more.

To summarize a few of the ideas that have stuck with me, I’ve created a series of graphics with tips for storytellers. Think of it as bite-sized inspiration. Here’s the first one: How to make the most of your tweets. On Friday: Tips for great video, with Regina McCombs and others.

Poynter Tips for Storyteller: How to Make the Most of Your Tweets by Sara Quinn
Poynter Tips for Storyteller: How to Make the Most of Your Tweets by Sara Quinn

For a PDF: Tips for Storytellers: How to make the most of your tweets Read more

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8 tips for training, hiring young newsroom designers

Tracy Collins hired 40 of the 63 designers on his staff in one fell swoop last summer, getting many of his new employees directly out of college.

They joined him at Gannett’s Phoenix Design Studio, where an average of 14,000 pages are produced each week for nine daily newspapers.

Tracy Collins

That’s a heck of a lot of pages, and a pretty young staff.

The Phoenix studio is one of five U.S. design centers that produce Gannett papers — the others are Nashville, Tenn.; Des Moines, Iowa; Asbury Park, N.J.; and Louisville, Ky. This hub system for design is becoming more common as news organizations downsize, consolidate and seek more bang for their buck—Cox Media, McClatchy, and Media General have all pursued similar strategies.

The conversion hasn’t been pain-free for Gannett, Collins said in an in-person interview. But design directors like him continue to fine-tune the process, seeking coaching strategies that will develop their designers’ skills quickly by offering them regular feedback in highly visible ways. Read more

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How the National Post’s Gary Clement turns tweets into illustrated stories

Illustrator Gary Clement has a social media fling going this summer with readers of Canada’s National Post.

Each week, he tweets out a question using the hashtag #npsummer, then draws full-page cartoons to immortalize the readers’ replies. From summer romance and backyard barbecues to mishaps on camping trips and in summer school, he’s getting the skinny on his audience — 140 characters at a time.

Gary Clement

“I did one cartoon about summer jobs — that’s probably been the funniest one so far. I sort of ended up with drawings that gave people job tips,” he said by phone. “Job tips from a cartoonist — that’s funny. What do I know about working?”

“My theory was that people tweet sort of indiscriminately. I thought, why don’t I ask people for little bits of stories, and I will stitch them into some rich tapestry? Turns out, it’s a lot harder than I thought.”

But he appreciates their contributions, just the same. Read more

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