I keep a blog, so obviously I’m interested in new media and the future of journalism. To spice up online content, a lot of news sources have turned to using maps. Simply using photographs is not enough in the 21st century of journalism so news outlets are enhancing the way consumers get their news.
Take for example the following map put reflecting the 2008 presidential elections:
A map like this gives readers an illustrated version of what they are reading about. It’s nice to see statistics broken down visually. In the case of the presidential elections, which was the story of the year, I believe maps are necessary tools for news sites.
Ultimately, I think maps are useful when combining statistics. Take a look at this map which tracks the amount of money in US total for federal contracts, grants and loans as reported in the Recovery Act. When dealing with numbers, and especially money, maps can be an easy way to present the information in a user-friendly manner. The map used by Dismal Scientist to track the business cycle across US states and metropolitan areas for me is a little unnecessary. While it’s nice to have all the information compiled together, there are different ways of presenting it.
Therefore, I do not think that all stories require a map. Even a restaurant review, or a profile of a coffee shop or live music venue shouldn’t have a map. As long as an address is included in story, I think it’s safe to say that most people would know how to plug that in to Google maps or MapQuest.
So while maps can definitely enhance a story, I do not think they are an absolutely necessary tools for journalism. Personally, I find using MapMyRun.com, to track the distance and route of my runs, and MapQuest for directions much more useful in everyday life.