Mapping as Journalism

Maps are a huge resource that I would say are underused by journalists when reporting a story. I believe they can be seen as a tool journalists can and should use, but when given enough detail, can be the story themselves.

I know that I conceptualize ideas and concepts best visually, which is where maps come into play in my understanding of a story. Visuals can help eliminate confusion on the end of the reader, especially when  a story is referencing multiple locations or if a reader is unfamiliar with the location the story is based around. Within my beat of fitness, there are a ton of great examples of how maps can be used to tell a story.

One example of a full story developing within a map comes from the 2008 Tour de France map, showcasing the stages of the race. This map was constructed and published by the New York Times and works as its own story. The map advances through the 2,212 miles and 21 stages of the Tour, linking to related articles and photographs.

My next map, also fitness related, comes from Boston.com and was created in a similar style to the Tour de France map. It is completely interactive, mapping the 26 miles along the course of the 2012 Boston Marathon. One of the best features of this map is the zoom option that brings up a scaled in version of the mile marker that shows elevation and the path of the road. There is also a section  that features the expected arrival times of the elite racers at each mile marker. It is one of the most thought out and user-friendly race maps that I have seen, and I really enjoyed using it back in April on the day of the race.

The last map I found that really struck my interest is an interactive, historical map of San Francisco. The creators of the Old SF map, stockpiled dozens of photographs from 1850 – 2000 of different areas of San Francisco. They then plotted the photographs on a map of the city (using Google Maps) and tagged them by date. There is a slider at the top of the map, allowing you to choose the rage of years you would like to view photographs of. While this map does tell a story of the history of San Francisco and how the city has changed through photographs and captions, it does give a complete story. It would be a perfect supplement to a story about the architectural developments or urban transportation changes in the city.

Overall, I think that mapping can be seen as journalism, it all depends on the information a reader is looking for and the volume of information provided by a map. As online journalism grows and non-traditional forms of media are used to tell a story, I believe that mapping will continue to be seen as an extremely valuable tool for journalists and bloggers.

 

 

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