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Rebecca Pazos is an interactive graphics journalist at Singapore Press Holdings. She works with journalists and designers at The Straits Times to create visual content to enhance stories. She’s also a catalyst at the organization, putting together talks for the in-house innovation lab.
Rebecca is a co-organizer of Hacks/Hackers Singapore. She appears here as part of our stories to identify the evolving generation of professionals in the service of journalism. Follow her on Twitter here or drop her an email at email@example.com.
How did you get into this role as an interactive graphics journalist at The Straits Times?
By a stroke of luck and a little bit of perseverance.
The position opened up and I applied immediately. It had been my dream job ever since I’d started voluntarily working on data visualization projects back in Sydney as a journalism student.
Plus, it’s not one of the most common jobs in a newsroom so I knew it was a kind of now-or-never moment.
What are the biggest opportunities in interactive graphics that the wider media industry isn’t seeing?
I believe good interactive graphics allow the user to read information at the level they choose.
Although it’s true most people are content with a one- to two-minute video explanation or one lead graphic that explains everything, not everyone consumes content equally.
Interactive graphics allow us to provide various layers of information, from the simplified for the average reader to the more complex for those readers who want to dive deeper into the story or data.
What do you love about what you do?
One of the most enjoyable things for me is when someone tells me they’ve learnt something new or are now able to understand something complex after experiencing one of our graphics.
Where do you struggle most?
Prioritizing! There are so many wonderful stories to explore, it can be hard to limit myself and set achievable goals because I want to do it all.
What’s one thing you would like to do better?
I enjoy and understand the power of data in my stories but I’m yet to use it to determine whether the stories, messages and ideas are being communicated effectively through our visualizations and graphics.
One thing I’d like to improve is my understanding of how people interpret and understand visually, and also how they naturally interact with our projects. User experience and design plays into this as well as the psychological effects of different visual patterns, colors and environments.
What do you think the next 3 years look like for you in terms of learnings and growth?
I am constantly aware of the changing media landscape and although I’m worried about what will happen to traditional media, I can see many of its principles and ethics paving the way for us moving forward.
Technology will change, platforms will change, mediums will change but the storytelling will always be what we, as an industry, do best.
Over the next three years, I will have to be quick with adapting to new technologies like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, chat bots and whatever else comes my way.
I’ll also need to be willing to let go of old ones.
What is the biggest thing you know today that you didn’t know a year ago?
Don’t be afraid to bring your personal project or idea to your editor — at any stage of the process.
I used to feel like my idea or project would need to be in an almost complete state before I show it to anyone but I’ve learnt that my colleagues and editors are happy to give their advice at any stage.
Of course, I need to do my homework, have a news angle and pitch but I don’t need to have an essay or complete prototype on hand. In fact, I’ve found it better to get other people’s opinions in the early stages to help shape it into something better than I originally imagined.
What are the top 3 things that motivate you in a job?
Firstly, working as part of a multi-talented team is inspiring. I’ve learnt so much from each of them, from better design principles to coding etiquette. There is much to be gained by understanding how others work and learning how to work better together.
Secondly, and at the heart of it all, is improving my ability to tell stories. I don’t like to restrict myself to any particular platform though, so for me, video, audio, virtual and augmented reality and so much more are all up for grabs.
Thirdly, I enjoy being on the edge of what’s new. It’s exciting to be able to experiment. For example, the other day I worked with the ST Video team to create a 360-degree piece for the opening of the Singapore Biennale. It’s not within my usual scope but I am happy to be given ample opportunity to experiment and be creative within my role.
What are some of the attributes you most admire in the people you currently work with?
Their kindness and their openness to experiment — this helps to get the team working well together and to keep pushing boundaries.
What you do know about managing young talent in newsrooms that most managers probably don’t get?
I imagine it’s very tough these days for most managers. The usual workflow of a new journalist coming in and learning from an experienced journalist just doesn’t seem to be the way it works anymore. There is a transfer of knowledge flowing between them as a result of technology and the changing media landscape.
In that regard, I think both young talent and managers could be more open to listening to each other because we all can learn something from one another.
What kind of a boss would bring out the best in you?
Someone who is transparent about what they want but is open to listening to the ideas and opinions of the team in terms of what’s technically and visually possible. I also have a high regard for feedback and I enjoy it when someone is candid with their assessment of my work by helping me to identify ways I can improve.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a boss?
One editor told me to “do your homework” before every story and I couldn’t agree more. Research and being aware of your subject is what helps give you an advantage over your peers and also gives you the tools to ask revealing and interesting questions.
Another boss taught me about being as prepared as you can as far in advance as you can. If it’s a big event you know is coming, like Olympics or elections, there are certain stories or graphics we are all expected to do. If you can get them out of the way early, this gives you time to do the more creative, innovative and spur of the moment graphics that come up during these big events — and are usually the ones everyone remembers later.
If someone came up to you seeking advice on whether he or she should get into journalism, what would you say?
I enjoy journalism because one, I love the feeling of being the first to know something; two, I enjoy listening and learning from other people about any aspect of their lives, and three, I love being able to help communicate those stories to others through any innovative and creative means available.
And ultimately (here comes the cliche): You gotta love what you do!
We’re looking for people with an elasticity in their views of media and journalism. It’s rare.
The faces of people in the service of journalism are often found on stage. They are often the heads of their newsrooms. They are often men. There’s little space on stage for the younger people sitting further down the hierarchy of these newsrooms. I want to tell their stories because some of them could one day redefine this industry.
So if you want to be featured here (or know of someone who should), drop me an email. I’m firstname.lastname@example.org.
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