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Pittsburgh City Paper launches monthly comics journalism feature

"I'm interested in stories about people whose voices aren't often heard."

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Em Demarco
  • On the beat: Em Demarco

Em DeMarco wasn't always a journalist.

In fact, when she left Pittsburgh for Syracuse University, she studied printmaking and painting. Her first jobs out of school included seamstress, model-maker, carpenter and bread baker.

But after working for two years as an investigative journalism fellow at Pittsburgh's PublicSource, DeMarco decided to combine reporting with her artistic talent. The result is graphic journalism (also known as comics journalism), a hybrid of illustration and news reporting. Starting today, DeMarco will produce one piece of comics journalism for City Paper each month. (Starting in May, the comic will move to its regular spot on the fourth Wednesday of the month as the paper's "Last Page" feature.)

"For me, I view this kind of story as having the same nuts and bolts as any form of journalism, except that it's presented as text and illustration. The sequence of the story unfolds panel by panel, rather than paragraph by paragraph."

DeMarco's first piece — "Gender Pronouns: An Introduction" — can be found here. To introduce herself to CP readers, DeMarco, a Woodland Hills High School graduate, answered a few questions about herself and her art:

You didn't study journalism, so where did you learn the ropes?

After moving back to Pittsburgh, I began learning how to report audio stories with the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center. A few years later, I met Sharon Walsh, the editor of PublicSource, an in-depth and investigative news outlet. I'm grateful that she took a chance on me. For two years, I was one of PublicSource's investigative-reporting fellows, learning about data, researching public records and writing. It was an incredible opportunity. ... When I began my fellowship with PublicSource, I began to get the itch to merge reporting with drawing. When I started freelancing last year, I began teaching myself graphic journalism in earnest.

What's your process for creating these pieces?

I try to document as much about the scene as I can. I take notes, record audio and shoot photos. Back at my desk, I create a mockup of the comic. I print a draft of the story and hack it with scissors, reordering parts, highlighting passages and pairing the text with drawings. Later, I'll have something that looks like a storyboard that is ready for inking.

What kind of stories are you interested in covering/presenting? What sorts of issues resonate with you?

I'm interested in stories about people that readers may have a lot of assumptions about: stories about people whose voices aren't often heard.

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