Illustrations tell the private stories of international journalists

Credit: Image by TapiF on Flickr. Some rights reserved

The private stories of international journalists rarely make the cut in conventional news. But Correspondent Confidential, an illustrated documentary series from Vice News, makes these unique reporting experiences the focus of its episodes.

Series producer Carrie Ching said she knows first hand from working with investigative journalists that some of the best stories do not go into the final piece. One of the goals of the project was to "expand the way that we tell stories in journalism by allowing the reporter to be part of the story".

Ching said that personal stories provide a lot of insight into the process of reporting, but because of the idea that journalism is meant to be objective they are often missing.

"Vice is really excited about doing journalism in a different way," Ching told Journalism.co.uk, "and they are absolutely not squeamish about including the personal narrative of the reporter, acknowledging the reporter's subjectivity in the process."

The latest episode, Strange Border Kidnappings in Kosovo, features the story of journalist Michael Montgomery who travelled to the Balkans to investigate the disappearance of Serbs after the war in Kosovo.

The animated story of Michael Montgomery's experiences in Kosovo from Vice News

Ching said Correspondent Confidential is illustrated in the style of a graphic novel instead of using real footage because sometimes there is no video to use. "Even if the reporter is out there capturing video for their story, often the personal side of the story is not part of the reporting."

She said illustrations also help tell a very personal narrative that would be hard to translate in video or even photographs. "People enjoy this kind of storytelling especially because some of the stories that are being told are pretty tough subjects, we're talking about sex trafficking, we're talking about organ trafficking, we're talking about some dark subjects which could be really difficult to digest."

Ching said the format helps soften the subjects and make them more palatable, especially for an online audience. She said people on the internet do not have the time, the energy, or enough "bandwidth to absorb some of these subjects in the way that a real video often requires you to".

The series received a mixed response from viewers. Some loved the storytelling style, said Ching, but some complained that the reporter was such a prominent part of the story, and that they could not see the real video.

Mimi Chakarova talks about going undercover in Turkish brothels for Vice News

The first episode told the story of photojournalist Mimi Chakarova, who went undercover posing as a prostitute in Turkish brothels for her film The Price of Sex. The film was not shown in Turkey at the time of its release, but the Correspondent Confidential episode was especially popular in the country and got Chakarova’s story on the front page of national newspapers.

Ching said the impact of the first episode was an eye opener for the team and showed "the power that this platform can have online, and how you can really push stories out in this way on this platform and it can reach an entirely different audience".

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