The Guardian and Tumblr will 'live-GIF' first presidential debate

The animated GIF will be further enshrined as a reporting tool during the first presidential debate Wednesday, when "four GIF-making all-stars," as a press-release puts it, will join Guardian reporter Adam Gabbatt to live-blog the proceedings with quickly created animated GIFs.

Reached by phone, Gabbatt says he's "never live-GIFfed anything before" and that his role will involve curating a furiously deployed stream of GIFs from Bobby Finger, Lacey Micallef, Mr. GIF and Tumblr Editorial Director Christopher Price. (The uncurated GIFs will be flowed onto another site called Gifwich; you may want to approach that one cautiously.)

"This won't be like a serious news analysis of what's going on, but it will offer a light alternative," Gabbatt says. In addition to dropping the GIFs he selects into Tumblr's election blog, he'll round up several to shoot over to the Guardian's live-blog, which the Guardian's Richard Adams will operate. Gabbatt says he's "long been a keen admirer" of animated GIFs but is pleased that he will not be tasked with the "nitty gritty of making these GIFs."

"We've never pulled together gif makers in the same room for a live event before," Price said via email. Each GIFmaker, he writes, will "have a USB TV tuner plugged into our laptops to capture a live feed of the broadcast, but the real trick in doing them fast is to have lots of experience in Photoshop and to be able to come up with ideas that are relatively straightforward to execute."

In a post for The Atlantic Wire, Elspeth Reeve writes that her publication, too, "will be hoping and praying for any watch checks, nods, blinks, or sighs, and live-GIFing them if they happen Wednesday." Reeve previously used GIFs to fantastic effect while covering the Summer Olympics.

Related: What journalists need to know about animated GIFs — really

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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