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Graphic evidence of how digital age transforms news

One of the absolute joys of the digital age is interactive graphics. These are essentially moving graphics which contain a range of media that can include animation, video, audio or more.

They're known as interactive in that the user inputs some kind of data and the graphic then changes. This can be as simple as pushing a 'play' button. Or it could be answering quite complex questions which change how the graphic displays data.

This week we published, as we often do, several interactive graphics on our website, including as an example, one on the "military build-up around Syria" from London-based Graphicnews.com.

The graphic elegantly charts the military forces positioned around the region. When the user swipes or clicks on certain parts, more information is revealed; for example the approximate position of the USS Harry S Truman carrier strike group in the Red Sea, or the positions of Syrian Republican Guard or mechanised infantry battalions around Damascus.

This graphic also has an animated sequence showing how cruise missiles use software that digitally scans terrain to find their targets and then compares an internally stored image of that target with what it is seeing.

The graphics give media outlets like ourselves, once restricted to ink and paper, a wonderful, three-dimensional way to illustrate complex matters.

If the BBC has the original mission to "educate, inform and entertain", as its guru Lord Reith famously put it, now we can all do it and do it very well.

My own personal favourite interactive graphics are the science ones.

The reader can travel inside a DNA helix or cross the universe for a look at a gigantic black hole devouring a galaxy.

The graphics look brilliant on iPads and other tablets with high-quality screens and I think they will make one of the compelling reasons for people to subscribe to digital editions of newspapers such as the Belfast Telegraph.

* Praise is still coming in for the Telegraph's front page of Saturday, July 13 showing a loyalist protester being knocked rather energetically off a police Land Rover by a water cannon.

The stunning image, taken by photographer David Fitzgerald, subsequently appeared around the world and went 'viral' on the internet.

That impactful front page was not just a strong statement of the power of photography – it was also proof that printed newspapers still have a long future.

* Oh what a witty lot you are. The last column, in which I light-heartedly pondered the use of irony, drew some appropriately playful comment.

My favourites were "Irony – I thought that was the art of smoothing clothes" and "Irony – like coppery and bronzy".


Belfast Telegraph