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Erin PolgreenErin Polgreen
Erin Polgreen is a media strategist and consultant, as well as an advocate for comics journalism and media innovation.

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Project Blog: Symbolia

Symbolia, headed by Erin Polgreen, strives to be the ideal place to foster the growth of comics journalism, engaging a new generation of news consumers in a way that is exciting and accessible. Symbolia will mesh first-person reports, infographics and comics by pairing reporters and comics artists. Regular alerts via Twitter and e-newsletters will keep Symbolia on a bi-monthly schedule.

Some Thoughts on Tone

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SymboliaI’ve been thinking a lot about truth, tone, and entertainment lately. Now that Symbolia is approaching launch (expect an announcement very soon!), we’re planning for future issues and are lining up stories as we go.

I’m bumping up against a bit of an editorial challenge, though. How do we balance personality – or editorial tone – with solid reporting and a well-defined brand? I’m not talking about fact-checking or “how to DO comics journalism.” That’s not the problem.

Symbolia’s Creative Director Joyce Rice and I have developed a visual style for Symbolia that feels hand-crafted, clever, bright, and slightly folksy. We love comics and journalism because they add whimsy, celebrate curiosity, and bring artists into the news process. We are also deeply committed to telling true stories.

For years, I’ve been speaking about comics in the newsroom, and every time, editors ask me about subjectivity and truth. We work very hard to make sure that our stories are accurate, are fact-checked, and offer fair representation of the subjects at hand.

Our problem is humor.

More specifically, now that we’ve done the work to make sure our content is meaty, well-crafted, and worthy of journalistic inspection, can we keep our product entertaining? It won’t do to publish three to five stories of doom and gloom in every issue. Readers would flee instead of subscribing in droves.

Humor is subjective, of course. Funny often requires a point of view –and a joke is often only funny to those who understand what the joke references. So how can we strike the balance between funny and accurate? How can we preserve the levity of the funny pages, while also providing content that enriches our readers lives?

For our preview issue, we’ve sought out a mixture of stories that explore culture, society, environmental change and science. All of these stories are stories of survival, but we’ve tried to hit many touchstones and mix fun with fact. I think we’ve managed to walk the line pretty well. In Symbolia’s double-sized preview issue, you will:

  • Experience life as a journalist in Iraqi Kurdistan with Sarah Glidden.
  • Hear bones crunching underfoot on the desolate seascape of California's Salton Sea with Susie Cagle.
  • Learn about the microbial universe in your gut with Lauren Sommer and Andy Warner.
  • Hear the best of Zambian psychedelic rock and get to know a rock legend with Damien Scogin and Chris A. Smith.
  • Discover secret species in the rushing, sprawling Lower Congo River with Audrey Quinn and Kat Fajardo.

Joyce and I are super excited to be booking visually stunning investigative and in-depth work around themes including defense, work, belonging, true crime and more. But as for meshing fun and fact in the future, it’s still a delicate balance.

Make sure to pitch us if you’ve got any ideas.

In other news:

  • We got a great preview in CJR.
  • The National featured Symbolia in an article about the Midwest’s burgeoning comics journalism scene.
  • And, finally, I spoke at Columbia University a few weeks ago about comics, journalism, tablets, and life as an entrepreneur. Special thanks to SPJ and the duPont-Columbia awards for having us! You can read a round up and Storify of the event here.
   • Posted by Erin Polgreen on 11/27 at 02:56 PM

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