I get asked that a lot. And it’s a good question. Why does the visuals team exist? What’s the point? I’ve interviewed dozens of job candidates in the last month and it’s given me time to think a lot about my answer.
What it’s not
It’s not pageviews. We try damn hard to make things that people want to see and share, and we hustle to get our work in front of them. But it’s easy to gin up the numbers — just put more opinions, otters and asses on your website.
It’s not awards. Sure, we’re glad to win one. It feels great to be recognized. But the approval of your peers is weak sauce, and I have no interest in showing off. We keep the awards in a drawer.
It’s not money. We put ads on our stuff, and work with the sponsorship team on creative ways to encourage people to pay us money. But 1) NPR’s business model is only partially reliant on advertising, so we’ve got the luxury to care less and 2) more importantly, we’re expensive and couldn’t possibly pay our salaries with ads alone.
It’s not prestige or brand awareness. Yes, I believe our work makes NPR look good. And yes, I believe our work can and does help NPR reach new audiences. These things are important, but they’re not the *mission*.
So what is it?
We’re here to create empathy. To introduce you to somebody you’ve never met, and think for a few minutes about life in their shoes.
We’re here to open your eyes and make you give a shit about the fucking terrible things that are happening all around us right fucking now. To show you the beautiful and the terrible and the terribly beautiful things.
We’re here because there’s this amazing, lizard-brain, innate thing about oral and visual storytelling. Humans invented writing. We were *born* with ears and eyes.
And we’re here to serve our audience, so yes, pageviews or it didn’t happen. And I think visuals have the power to deliver audience to a difficult story. But our success is measured in engagement, not views. User-centered design, not interactive gimmicks. Affecting stories, not clickbait.
“We make people care.” That’s our mission, and I’m fucking proud to say so.
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