Shortly after the Center for Public Integrity focused its mission on investigative reporting that confronts inequality in the United States, Janeen Jones joined the newsroom as editor-in-chief and set out to reimagine how photography, illustration and web design could enhance the impact of this work. It took on a greater sense of urgency as the shutdown of the COVID-19 pandemic that came weeks after it started stretched into weeks, then months.
She has participated in every major investigation conducted by Public Integrity since, from vital work exposing the extent of the pandemic and providing data to local health officials that the Trump administration kept secret, to hard-hitting series on climate change, wage theft and excessive surveillance of schools.
In January, more than a year of Jones’ efforts culminated in the launch of a new website at publicintegrity.org that centers reader experience and the organization’s inequality journalism mission.
Jones, who previously worked as a graphic designer at The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and POLITICO, and at newspapers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as an editor, reporter and editor, was recognized the last year with inclusion in the Institute for Nonprofit News’ Emerging Leaders program.
We asked about his role at Public Integrity and some of the most important work of his time here:
When readers think of our journalism, they may not consider the importance of graphic design. How does your work as a design editor fit together with Public Integrity’s award-winning investigative articles?
Part of my job as a design editor is to select art for stories. The visual elements that accompany a story are so essential to our investigations. Whether it’s a photo or an illustration, these elements also tell the story. Some readers often remember a story more quickly through its photos and illustrations than from the title or a quote from the story. I say this to emphasize how visuals can have a lasting impression on readers. So the art of a story is just as important as the text. It adds another dimension to the storytelling.
You joined Public Integrity just days before the pandemic changed our world – and the focus of much of our reporting. How have you seen Public Integrity stories influence and help our readers across the country?
From coronavirus reports at the height of the pandemic to our stories about the mental health effects of survivors of natural disasters, our stories have a big impact.
State and federal officials have used information from public integrity stories to make critical decisions about how to keep the public safe during the coronavirus pandemic. They were getting this information from us, exclusively. No other government officials, from us, Public Integrity. It was a wonderful public service.
And our “Hidden Epidemics” series examined how natural disasters take a toll on the mental well-being of survivors. The stories offered advice from survivors and mental health experts on what to do to help overcome the trauma they are facing. He offered practical help. It’s not a story you read every day.
As a Design Editor, you constantly communicate with freelancers and partner news agencies based across the country. How do you view partnerships as an essential part of Public Integrity’s mission?
Public Integrity has done some very good reporting. We are small but mighty. We cannot cover every state, city or town in America. So, teaming up with other newsrooms allows our reporting to go deeper and explore an issue by focusing on the angle of a local community. It helps readers better understand an issue when you can tell how it affects their particular lives and communities.
Public Integrity has no ads or paywalls, allowing our content to be accessible to everyone. Why do you think the person reading this should support our work?
The surveys we report on, the data we find, the community stories we write are all of great value. But Public Integrity is a non-profit organization. And these stories don’t happen without donations.
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