Tracing History | Editor and publisher


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Gretchen A. Peck | for publisher and publisher

You would have to be Luddite or living on a desert island not to have experience with Google Maps. On smartphones, it reigns as the app of choice for planning routes and finding local destinations. Google reports that 154.4 million people use the app each month.

Mike Reilley is a former journalist who teaches visual journalism at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also founded the Journalist’s Toolbox, acquired by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in 2007. As part of his role with the SPJ, Reilley travels to newsrooms across the country, teaching journalists to make efficient use of digital tools, including My Google Maps.

This tool allows journalists to create layered maps by importing shapefiles and overlaying them with data imported from a spreadsheet under 1000 rows.

One of the newspapers he featured on My Maps, the Santa Barbara Independent, constructed a layered map with the local mudslide evacuation areas and the locations of victims in the Montecito mudslide. The newspaper was then able to recount the extent of the devastation and how 17 of the 23 victims – aged 2 to 89 – were in areas not designated as evacuation zones.

Reilley cited Joel Currier and Walker Moskop of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who used Google My Maps to locate, track and archive homicide-related data across the city. This is an interactive map that not only visually indicates the location of the crime, but also the type of crime – whether it’s a shootout, a shootout involving police, child abuse. children, a vehicle, a stabbing, arson, asphyxiation, beatings and even cases considered “justified homicide”. Each specific point on the map can be expanded upon and a link takes readers to a more in-depth story about that victim and that particular homicide case. The newspaper produces an annual version of the map.

The Nashville Tennessean used Google’s My Maps to locate potholes around town and the progress of repairs.

At Nashville at The Tennessean, the newsroom used Google’s My Maps to create a multimedia story about potholes around town and the progress of repairs. The Pensacola News Journal did the same, tracking road repairs around Santa Rosa County. In Florida, at the Tallahassee Democrat, reporter Wayne McGahee III produced a map of the Florida State Football Recruitment List for 2020, showing where each of the potential players is from – state by state and across the country. country.

The Tallahassee Democrat newsroom was able to create a map of rookies from football programs, state by state and across the country.

Reilley produced a quick explanatory video in which it shows how to import shapefiles in .KML and .KMZ formats and then overlay worksheet data. In the video, he quickly maps potholes throughout the distinctive neighborhoods of the city of Chicago.

Journalists can also add additional multimedia, such as photos or videos.

Naming your map is essential, Reilley explains in the video, because people are likely to find your map in one of two ways: when it’s embedded in your news article or through a Google search. The application has the option of making the map visible only to people who have the link, or open to public navigation.

Another pro tip: label each layer.

“There are thousands of stories to be found in your city, county, state and federal data portals datasets,” Reilley said.

To verify JournalistsToolbox.org for more tips and practical instructions from Reilley and SPJ.

Gretchen A. Peck is a freelance journalist who has worked in publishing and journalism for over two decades. She began her journalistic career covering municipal government in a suburban Philadelphia daily and was editor / editorial director for a magazine publisher. She has written for Editor & Publisher since 2010 and contributes to the writing. She accepts comments and advice at [email protected]

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