Tag Archives: mapping

Maps on news websites – an overview

The following is part of a chapter for a forthcoming book on online journalism. Contributions welcome.

Maps have become a familiar part of the news language online due to a number of advantages:

  • They provide an easy way to grasp a story at a glance
  • They allow users to drill down to relevant information local to them very quickly
  • Maps can be created very easily, and added to relatively easily by non-journalists
  • Maps draw on structured data, making them a very useful way to present data such as schools tables, crime statistics or petrol prices
  • They can be automated, updating in response to real-time information

News organisations have used maps in a number of ways: Continue reading

BNP members names mapped – anonymity (and backs) protected

In the UK the leaking of a list of the members of far right party BNP online has created a classic new media problem for journalists: anyone can find the information, but no one in the mainstream media dare publish it for legal reasons… or can they? From Ewan McIntosh (via Stuart on the 38minutes blog):

“To republish the list would be illegal, so newspapers such as the Guardian printed the numerical stats on line-art maps. Far from breaking the law, it was crowdsourcing that came up with a better solution, both allowing us to see how many BNP-ers are on our doorstep without revealing their names and exact locations. Cue the anonymous, but powerful, BNP member Google Heatmap, which has since allowed our Government ministers to realise the pockets where local politics lets people down.”

Combine two maps with MapTube

Thanks to James Thornett for pointing out this wonderful tool. MapTube allows you to select any two or maps and combine them, so: “For example, to see a map of the London Underground overlayed on top of a map of population, go to the search page and enter the keywords “tube” and “population”. Then click on the two relevant maps to add them. They will be displayed when you click on “View”.”

Not only that, but you can add your own data and combine them with others too, something which the BBC – James’ employer – has done on user surveys on issues such as the credit crunch and anti-social behaviour.

If you manage to have a play, let me know how you get on.

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Mapping news just got a kick up the arse

Meta carta

Once again news organisations will be looking over their shoulder at the launch of MetaCarta’s news mapping service. The more I play with this, the better I like it.

The red page icons on the opening page are something of a red herring – those are just the main headlines. A search for “Birmingham” brings up a whole lot more from my home town (and interestingly, not Birmingham, Alabama, meaning the site has worked out where I am).

Perhaps more interestingly, a keyword search gives you a global picture of what’s going on with, say news on the “environment”. How else would I have discovered a story about logging in Indonesia?

You can combine places with keywords, and change the date range of your search (the default is last 24 hours).

There’s a lot of scope for serendipity here, but a few weaknesses.

The most obvious is lack of RSS or bookmarkability. Having to keep checking this site and, worse, repeat a search makes this extra work.

Secondly, the current sources are limited to Reuters, AP and Guardian.co.uk. News organisations should be helping make their content map-friendly to get in on this.

And related to this, locations are currently quite generic, seemingly based on text recognition. Imagine what this could do if it tapped into geotagged stories from local newspapers such as those of Archant?

Mapping UK stories – does the Ordnance Survey have a role?

I’ve had an approach from Scott Sinclair, Head of Corporate Communications at Ordnance Survey, the national mapping agency for the UK. They have recently launched a mash-up API for non-commercial development at http://openspace.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/openspace/ – and he wanted to know how to involve journalists.

Now I think this is a great opportunity for the OS. Google Maps, as demonstrated by my mapping of OJB readers (you can still add yourself by the way), is not as usable as one would like. And the OS already have relationships with picture desks and news websites who make use of their mapping royalty-free to illustrate stories: around 200 publications have long-term royalty-free licences and “many more come to us for one-off uses,” according to Scott.

So here’s what Scott says about the API: Continue reading

Journalist, map thyself

I’d like you to help me out with a little mapping demonstration. I’ve created a map of Online Journalism Blog readers – here. I’d love if you could add yourself to the map. If you’ve never done this before (and what better way to start?), this is how:

  1. make sure you’re signed in to Google,
  2. search for your postcode/zip code/street address,
    address search
  3. click ‘Save to my maps’ on the box that appears – select the OJB readers option from the drop-down and click ‘Save’.


  4. You can then edit the entry – change the title to your name and add any biographical details you want (e.g. link to your blog) in the Description box. Then click OK.

I’m hoping that a) this will allow OJB readers to network with each other more easily; and b) this will provide a platform for experimentation/mashups (perhaps a mashup with WiredJournalists.com?) – if anyone has any ideas, let me know.

But it’s only as powerful as its members, so map away!

Help make ‘5Ws+H’ happen

I felt so strongly about the Five W’s and a H that should come *after* every story that I pitched an idea based on it to the Knight Foundation. It’s called the ‘Conversation Toolkit’, and it’s through to the second round of the Knight News Challenge. Think it sounds like a good idea? Have any improvements? Want to help make it happen, or test it out? Then log on to the idea wiki at http://bidideas.pbwiki.com/conversationtoolkit (password: idea) and add what you can, or contact me directly.

Here’s the text so far: Continue reading