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St. Louis graphics editor adapts to changing environment

By Anna English
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Chris Spurlock has seen many changes in the industry since he began working in journalism.

For the graphics editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the changes have been dramatic.

In a phone interview, Spurlock explained that Flash was used to build Web graphics while he was still a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Once Apple announced it wasn’t supporting Flash, Spurlock had to shift his attention to HTML 5, CSS 3 and JavaScript.

Working two days a week for six weeks, Spurlock taught himself the new programs.

It’s important to be able to develop information for mobile, Spurlock said.  All stories and infographics need to be rescaled for mobile, otherwise they’ll lose people.

According to Spurlock, students need to actively try to learn as much as possible if they want to be involved in graphics.

“A lot of stuff I learned by myself,” Spurlock said.

He recommends taking coding classes online.  Sites such as Codecademy offer free tutorials.  Students need to be curious to learn what’s next.

Students can also try to replicate different things found online.  Spurlock said lots of people will tell you how to make something in HTML if you simply call and ask.  The Web community is very helpful in the learning experience.

When working with infographics, it’s important to “know what story you want to tell,” Spurlock said.

Infographics have brought Spurlock lots of success.  He started a blog with sports infographics while in college.

Spurlock graphic

Graphic created by Chris Spurlock

Spurlock was hired to work at The Huffington Post directly out of college.  After a year, he moved back to Missouri to work at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

While working at The Huffington Post, he created one of his favorite graphics.  During Banned Books Week, he created an infographic of the 10 most banned and challenged books of the year.

Readers could click on the title of the book and see why the book was challenged.  A passage from the book that illustrated some of the reason also came up.  Readers could also click on the reason a book was challenged and see all the titles that fell under that category.

The infographic also had a tab for challenge trends.  This tab included a graph of the number of books banned for the past 22 years.  The graphic was originally built in Flash but was rebuilt in HTML after Flash was phased out.

While working for the Post-Dispatch, Spurlock made infographics for many local stories. This includes the daily attendance at the Zoo-Museum District Institutions, the St. Louis Cardinals’ race to win their division and the success of the Cardinals’ pitching staff.

Spurlock has come a long way from his first lecture about graphics in college.  Through untraditional tools he found a way to influence journalism and editing.

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