Soon after the Center for Public Integrity focused its mission on investigative reporting that confronts inequality in the U.S., Janeen Jones joined the newsroom as design editor and set out to reimagine how photography, illustration and website design could heighten the impact of that work. It took on a greater sense of urgency as the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown that happened a few weeks after she started stretched into weeks and then months.
She’s had a hand in every major investigation Public Integrity has produced since, from life-saving work exposing the extent of the pandemic and getting data to local health care officials that the Trump administration was keeping secret, to impactful series on climate change, wage theft and the over-policing of schools.
In January, more than a year’s worth of effort by Jones culminated in the launch of a new website at publicintegrity.org that centers the experience of readers 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 a copy editor, reporter and news editor, was recognized last year with inclusion in the Institute for Nonprofit News’ Emerging Leaders Program.
We asked about her role at Public Integrity and some of the most important work in her time here:
When readers think about our journalism, they may not consider the importance of graphic design. How does your work as design editor go hand-in-hand with Public Integrity’s award-winning investigative pieces?
Part of my job as design editor is to select the art for stories. The visuals that accompany a story are so vital to our investigations. Whether a photo or illustration, these elements tell the story, too. Some readers often recall a story more quickly through its photos and illustrations than from the headline or a quote from the story. I say that to emphasize how visuals can have a lasting impression on readers. So the art for a story is every bit 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 lots of our reporting. How have you seen Public Integrity’s stories influence and help our readers all across the country?
From the coronavirus reports during the height of the pandemic to our stories about the mental health effects on survivors of natural disasters, our stories have great impact.
State and federal officials used information from Public Integrity stories to make crucial decisions on how to keep the public safe during the coronavirus pandemic. They were getting that information from us, exclusively. Not from other government officials, from us, Public Integrity. That was a tremendous public service.
And our “Hidden Epidemics” series looked at how natural disasters take a toll on the mental well-being of survivors. The stories offered tips from survivors and mental health experts on what to do to help with the trauma they face. It offered real-world help. That’s not a story you read every day.
As design editor, you are constantly communicating with freelancers and partner news organizations based all over the nation. How do you see partnerships as being a core tenant of Public Integrity’s mission?
Public Integrity has done some really great reporting. We’re small but mighty. We can’t cover every state or city or town in America. So teaming up with other newsrooms allows our reporting to go deeper and explore an issue with a focus from a local community’s angle. It helps readers understand an issue better when you can say how it affects their particular lives and their communities.
Public Integrity does not have advertisements or paywalls, allowing our content to be accessible to all. Why do you think the person reading this should support our work?
The investigations we report on, the data we find, the stories about communities we write about all hold great value. But Public Integrity is a nonprofit. And those stories don’t happen without donations.
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