Quartz and Corn

Today I'm happy to report that I have a visual essay running on (in?) Quartz, a new offering from the folks at Atlantic Media Group. 

The American Drought: What it looks like at an agriculture collective struggling with a blighted crop of corn.

The publishers of The Atlantic have made big investments in electronically delivered content. In the process they've helped blaze a trail out of the Totally Free Content Wasteland. That is, the Atlantic folks aren't willing go down with the print ship. They're working to generate enough online revenue to keep the Atlantic viable, and to build new properties. (I am a periodical junkie. I have long admired the folks who write and edit the Atlantic.) 

Quartz has been conceived as a competitor to The Economist and the Financial Times: an international business entry, digitally native, designed for tablets and mobile devices. It's barely a week old. The enterprise does not charge for its content; rather, it's supported by sponsorships: Boeing, Credit Suisse, Cadillac and Chevron are signed through the end of the year.

Almost exactly four years ago, I was gearing up to produce a real-time Election Day Sketchbook project in St. Louis. I recruited two students to assist in the process, mostly shuttling sketchbooks back to the university to be scanned and uploaded. One of my recruits was David Yanofsky, a graphic designer, Red Sox fan, and all-around ball of fire.

We had a fun day.

After graduation David went on to work in journalism at Bloomberg News. Now he's taken a position as a reporter for Quartz. It's understood that David's information design skills are basic to his work, but by calling him a reporter, his employers integrate him into the journalistic enterprise on a fundamental level. By historical standards, that's quite provocative and forward-looking.

I'm in the same boat as a freelancer. My work for Quartz on this project was grounded in textual reporting, focused on the consequences of this year's historic drought on the corn harvest and agricultural businesses. I focused on Top Ag, a cooperative based in Okawville, Illinois. My visual reporting supported and expanded my writing. I generated a text plus five illustrations. Critically, I wasn't cast as a decorator; I built the story with words and pictures. If you'll pardon the pun, that's newsworthy.

I've written plenty about the history of visual journalism and the role of illustration herehereand here. I have been convinced that we're on the edge of a revival of visual reportage, and this project has underscored that belief. Good luck to David and the folks at Quartz; here's hoping we'll be working together again soon. Honored to be part of an exciting new and–for the periodical publishing industry–surprisingly historically aware entry: 

"Like Wired in the 1990s and The Economist in the 1840s, Quartz embodies the era in which it is being created. The financial crisis that recently engulfed much of the world wasn’t just a cyclical decline or a correction or even a bubble bursting. It was a breaking point. And its shockwaves exposed a fundamentally changed economic order with new leaders and ways of doing business." From Welcome to Quartz, September 2012.  

D.B. Dowd, Slow Day at the Granary, Trenton, Illinois, as seen on Quartz (qz.com) October 8, 2012

Dowd, Poll Workers, South St. Louis, November 6, 2008

Dowd, Mike Fuhler, Grain Merchandiser, Top Ag, Quartz, October 8, 2012

William Glackens, Loading Horses on the Transports at Port Tampa, Inkwash and Chinese white, field sketch on assignment for McClure’s Magazine, 1898. Collection, Library of Congress.