Richard Koci Hernandez


Richard Koci Hernandez in conversation with two Fellows of News21 at University of California, Berkeley
Richard Koci Hernandez shows photo equipment in News21 at Berkeley

Visual Storytelling Is a Natural Tool For Change

News21 editorial director and multimedia shooter from University of Berkeley, Richard Koci Hernandez  “refuses to believe the journalism is dying and it should be incorporated via visual storytelling”. The idea is to practice, participate, promote and present with the passion. Koci Hernandez spoke on visualizing complex storytelling at News21 spring of 2011 training at ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism of Mass Communication. We did interview latter in the summer in the NEWS21 newsroom at Berkeley.

I heard  so much pessimist thoughts on journalism.But your idea is somehow different from this. Why visual journalism is the form that is saving the journalism of dying?

Yes, in the West we love to be pessimistic about the future of journalism and just about anything else. A casual Google search will return various headlines where someone is heralding the death of ‘something.’ I happen to believe we are living in unprecedented times. The potential that a storyteller has to produce high quality information with relatively inexpensive tools and broadcast that story to the world is a powerful and optimistic idea. In general I think humans are extremely visual creatures and since bandwidth allows the streaming of visual content to hand-held devices, visual storytelling is a natural tool for change.

What do you mean that you are memory specialist? How that is helping to develop sense of visual story telling?

This is kind of inside joke. In the USA we are infatuated with titles and it was just a joke that the very first title I was given in the working world was “Memories Specialist.” There is nothing important to this title, just a small joke.

Do you believe in taking ideas from other people, art, film and music? How much the borrowing of ideas is important to develop personal style?

I believe it is extremely important. The mere fact that we are living breathing human beings means that we are continually influenced by the world around us. To deny that music, books or what have you, doesn’t influence our creations from art to storytelling is denying the very nature of humanity. We live to see, hear, touch, smell and share those experiences with others. My point is this, why deny that we are influenced by the outside world? Why not just embrace it. Acknowledge the influences, pay attention to them, and as long as you are transparent about them, what you create will be honest. “It’s Not Where You Take Things From – It’s Where You Take Them To” Jean Luc Godard

How much is visual content important for the digital world? How can we use Dali’s experiment to paint in pixels or Lucas film rich visuals of the Star Wars saga to tell the story in journalism?

My answer to this is question is basically the same as answer number 3. As long as we tell true, honest and transparent stories I believe in ANY influence or technique to tell digital stories. I always caution a sense of restraint as to not go overboard and create sensory overload, but am open to all influences and techniques as long as they are used responsibly. How many time you allowed to your students to fail in journalism? Failure is a funny thing. I believe we are always failing. We never get anything 100 percent correct. It’s important to strive for perfection but failure is always part of any process. There is a saying, “Fail early and often.” I believe in this. In a practical sense this is what I mean. When producing a piece of news journalism, if we wait until we are 100 percent finished, the speed of information has passed us by and some else gets the story. In my opinion it’s better to be 70 percent finished with the story and publish it and get the 30 percent as we go. As long as we are learning from our failures, then I’m happy.

Simplicity is a luxurious word in the colorful world. I cannot agree it is everything. Maybe should be minimalism?

To me the term is irrelevant. What is more important is that we as storytellers distil our online presentations to the bare essentials. We must be constantly asking ourselves, What’s the point of this or that? Making sure we are using the right tool for the job and the proper design and presentation.

What is your vision of NEWS21 for the future, since the project should go commercial if wants to survive?

I think it’s very difficult for a project of this size and nature to go commercial. I believe it should stay in the hands of non-profit universities and foundations. This way the stories can remain free of economic pressures.

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