by Matt Bors
A few months ago, at the Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland, Oregon, I appeared on a comics journalism panel with Steve Duin, a columnist for The Oregonian. Duin, who is collaborating with Shannon Wheeler on a graphic novel about the BP oil spill in the Gulf, opened by stating, "Fewer people seem motivated by the enduring imperative of journalism, which is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. And a business that is suddenly a slave to website traffic is no longer willing to spend 60 seconds understanding Israel, much less 60 days," a reference to Sarah Glidden's recent graphic travelogue.
Being at a comic convention, Duin was surrounded by cartoonists and comics readers. "The possibility that a story might be better told in words and pictures than in words alone is hardly a news bulletin to anyone in this room," he said.
But a week earlier, at the National Conference for Media Reform in Boston, the possibilities available in combining comics and journalism were new to many of the journalists, editors and activists who came to came to the panel where myself, Susie Cagle, Ronald Whimberly, Erin Polgreen, and moderator Sarah Jaffe of GRITtv discussed what is happening in the field.
"The Future Of Journalism Is... Comics?" was the panel's original title, but feeling the question mark spoke to the uneasiness editors have in dealing seriously with comics, we changed it to an exclamation mark at the last moment. There seems to be an eagerness for something new in our current media landscape and comics journalism is that; an idea that is no longer a novelty, but a genuine emerging field. The future of journalism is comics. At least, part of it.
You can listen to the entire hour and half long panel here or watch the YouTube video below.
During the end of the panel, Susie, Ron, and I drew as we answered questions and took turns with a Wacom tablet that was projected onto a screen. Susie also did a nice comic for Truthout on the conference.