Archives for category: Journalism
Made with Google Map Engine Pro

Made with Google Maps Engine Pro

The Kansas City Star recently ran the results of online poll asking where to find the best barbecue in the metro area. Only problem is, it didn’t tell where to find them. So I threw together a map using Google Maps Engine Pro while I prepared a step-by-step visual guide on making interactive maps for my multimedia journalism students.

I was pleased to see so many options I knew nothing about, despite my always being open to trying new ‘cue joints each time I’ve returned to see family and friends in the place where I grew up.

Locator maps were a staple of the infographics diet when I was a print journalist. Bar charts and fever graphs were also pretty typical. Illustration was seen as pretty exotic.

But locator maps were and continue to be important for mid-sized and large metro papers because city geography can be complicated, and we can’t always expect our readers to know much about neighborhoods far from their own.

At the same time, you can pack only so much into the space of a print graphic. And sadly, infographics were sometimes seen as “just one more thing to fit on the page.”

That shortsighted view was a symptom of a text-centric orientation of a “reporters’ newsroom.” Yet designers in more visually oriented newsrooms, like the ones where I learned the craft at the St. Cloud Times, Lawrence Journal-World, The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, and the Santa Fe New Mexican, know photos and infographics are the reader’s gateway into the page.

We also know EyeTrack studies have shown information from infographics is more likely to be read, retained, and potentially acted upon. But you could only fit so much into the space of a print infographic since real estate on the printed page was at such a premium.

That’s why I love the new tactics of online data visualization, in which the first layer provides general information and orients the reader to the subject, giving them points to click to find deeper information. That’s the logic of the graphic generated with Google Maps Engine, which is easy for the reader to use and relatively simple for journalists to use to create content.

Unfortunately, does not make it easy to embed Google Maps Engine maps. Please, add your comment asking WordPress to add this functionality to this forum.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this sample of what Google Maps Engine can do: Kansas City barbecue: Star readers poll results.

Oh, and if you want to see something that might get your blood up AND show you how handy Google Fusion Tables can be for blending numerical and geographic data, here’s a map showing how each state compares in terms of combined state and local sales taxes. Alabama, which has a reputation as anti-tax, actually has one of the highest combined state and local sales tax rates in the United States. That’s as I suspected, based on every time I’ve made a Costco run and been bitten by Montgomery’s sales tax, which combined with state tax is 10 percent.

The students in Multimedia Journalism voted on one another’s audio slideshows after we did a screening and critique in class last week. Winners got their choice of two versions of Auburn University College of Liberal Arts T-shirts as a reward. Around here, that means either orange on blue or blue on orange. Either’s a great option.

Hands down, the students’ favorite was Reese Counts’ piece on a Triumph Motorcycles shop not far from campus on Opelika Road, a place called Skinner’s. As you’ll see, Counts had free range of the place, and access means a world of possibilities when shooting still photos.

Kate Seckinger’s piece on Chick-Fil-A took second prize. You can see the rest of the audio slideshows by clicking the links below. Please enjoy!

They were produced by creating audio stories in Audacity, shooting, culling and editing photos using Lightroom and Photoshop, and blending the two media forms in Soundslides’ Demo version.

Unfortunately, blogs do not work and play well with complex projects that combine folders and files, so we used Google Drive as a host server. It’s not an elegant solution, and most of the students noted that following the upload steps in precisely the right order and some of the subtler aspects of Google Drive made the upload the most challenging part of the assignment.

But that’s the way journalism works in the online world in a time when many newspapers are shedding their dependence on paper and ink in favor of browsers and bandwidth: Everybody needs to know a little technology, regardless of whether we believe (or even want to believe) that we’re technology people.

Multimedia journalism uses technology in the service of telling a story.

As with so much in life, learning to do this using Google Drive had a learning curve. When you first do a thing, it can be frustrating. When processes break down, you have to figure out how to troubleshoot it. That’s what everybody in this course did together (and that includes me) for this assignment.

This one goes out to My Beloved Multimedia Journalism Students:

This is just to give you a gauge on your progress on the blogging portion of your grade. As you know from reading the syllabus, 30 percent of your grade in the course comes from your regularly posting items on your blog that are related to your blog topic.

Some of you have been creating killer content. Others haven’t been blogging much. You know who you are. So do I. Check yourself against the next several paragraphs to know what you need to do to earn the grade of your choice. Hey, it’s your grade; how well do you want to do?

If you have about 10 blog posts up at this point and they are substantial, you’re right on track. Keep it up at the current pace and you’ll lay down enough to ace this part of your final grade. (No, just a photo and one sentence are not enough to even qualify as a post for our purposes; see “What is enough content to be considered a complete post?” below for guidance.)

If you have about eight up, you’re a little behind an “A” pace and at this rate you’ll probably eke out a B if you continue at this pace.

If you have six or fewer, you’d better get a couple of posts up each week for the rest of the semester unless you just want to end up with the minimum of 10 posts for a C.

Five or fewer? There’s still time to turn things around, but you have backed yourself into a serious hole. Find stuff to write about that’s interesting and relevant to your topic. Repeat as necessary, which for you will be two or three a week till the end of April.

What is enough content to be considered a complete post? It’s not enough to just post a picture, a photo gallery, even an audio slideshow or a video, without providing a short introduction to what awaits the viewer if they click the link. You need a headline with good SEO principles applied, about 75 words of introduction to your photo/slideshow/gallery/video/what have you, and the content (either embedded in the post or linked to on a host server such as Google Drive, which everybody now knows how to do after the audio slideshow assignment). Multimedia means more than one kind of media. In most parts of the online world, you have to sell audiences on your content. Give them a reason to click the link! Just don’t do one of those Upworthy headlines, of which I am sick. When you tease to multimedia content, you are making a promise of what to expect. Be sure you don’t promise more than you can deliver.

We’re into the homestretch. I want to see you all get good grades, but you do have to earn them through your effort, skill, creativity and enterprise (not necessarily in that order).

In case you have misplaced your syllabus, these are the guidelines for grading the blog posts:

The instructor will, from time to time, assign you to write a blog entry discussing online journalism and related topics. These will be identified as mandatory blog posts. Mandatory topics will be announced in class and posted on the class blog, located at Beyond that, you need to keep up a regular blog. “Regular” means “every week and a half or so.” In addition to mandatory blog posts, you’ll be shooting for 10 to 15 blog posts throughout the semester…

The key here is that you write something interesting and witty. It must be a professionally oriented blog. Your blog needs to be passionate and subjective and have feeling. There should be some primary source reporting. For examples of what I am looking for, check out You are expected to publish in your blog about once a week. If I see that you have dumped a lot of blog entries in the days before the semester ends, I will mark you down significantly. I will grade you on a minimum of 10 entries during the semester (note that this is a minimum; if you want an A, work it!) We will use WordPress, a free blogging platform …

You will do three kinds of posts for this course: Three mandatory focused, three mandatory critique, and at least four freestyle. Grammar, style, punctuation, and AP style all matter. Accuracy matters. Attribution (giving credit to others’ work, ideas, and quotes) matters. Here’s what I’m looking for from you:

Mandatory focused posts: Three of your posts will be on a topic of your choice relating to your topic area. These must be 300 to 500 words, with links to at least two websites.

Mandatory critique posts: Three of your posts will be journalistic critiques, each dissecting a journalistic/nonfiction audio story; a video story; and an interactive story or a data visualization. These will be 300 to 500 words, with links to the stories you critique. It’s up to you to pick the subject of your critique. These are the ingredients of a good critique: description of the content; link to the content; assessment of its content (use of human and document sources, whether and how it hooked your attention effectively, whether it was well organized); and assessment of its presentation (Was sound/video quality good? For data visualizations, were they usable?).

Freestyle posts: At least four of your posts need to be briefer posts (75 to 200 words) on a topic of your choice relating to your topic area. You may report your own original content, or you may comment on others’ journalistic work (and you must always link to that work). As an alternative, you may use to curate shared and sharable online content and embed or link to it on your blog.

Keep the blog posts coming. Regular posting is the way you build a following and boost your blog’s position in search results.

Dr. Fuhlhage

Gosh Almighty, I hope this is the problem ...

Gosh Almighty, I hope this is the problem …

A Google Drive problem has vexed a student and me for the last 24 hours.

After preparing a really nicely done Soundslides presentation, my student emailed to say she was having trouble uploading the files to Google Drive. She followed all the steps in’s fantastic Using Google Drive as a Web Host post. Yet it would not allow her to upload folders inside the publish_to_web folder; whether with drag-and-drop or hitting the upload files button inside Drive, it just wasn’t letting it work.

She brought her laptop in and we looked at her files; they looked in order. We noticed that in Drive, the icon for her folders looked different than the one for my folders. When she clicked on the 400_300 and 600_450 files, they would not open. Mine, however, did in my Drive.

After beating our heads against the problem for about an hour (and after she showed her beautifully done audio slideshow to me on her computer), I conceded defeat with apologies for not being able to figure out the problem.

And it just kept nagging at me. I wrapped up some grading and returned to the problem, replicating the steps with a test upload on my Drive. And when I hit the upload button, the same thing happened to me: It would not let me load folders, only files.

I backed up a couple of steps. And that’s where I think I found the problem.

When you hit the little upload button, it asks if you want to upload a folder or files. I think if you click on it without noticing that option, Drive assumes you want to upload files. This time, I selected folder, then uploaded the contents of the publish_to_web folder. Then I clicked index.html, then hit preview.

The thing worked. Here it is (and it’s just a quick-and-dirty to demonstrate how to upload these things to Drive). To test whether that explains the incomplete preview of the Soundslide presentation, I tried uploading to Google Drive by just clicking the upload file indiscriminately; when I did so, Drive assumed I just wanted to upload files. Drive will upload either a folder that contains a bunch of stuff (it could have a mix of folders and files inside) if you use the “Upload>Folder” option. If you use “Upload>Files” and you point it inside a folder (like the publish_to_web folder) and try to select all the folders and files inside it, it will only upload the files. The result will be something that looks like this shell of a Soundslides project that I uploaded to test this theory.

I really hope this is the solution for my student. After this testing, I am certain it is.

Incidentally, these are the directions I gave in class before spring break for how to upload the projects:


  1. In Soundslides, complete your slideshow and export it by using the EXPORT button. This creates a folder called publish_to_web that contains everything necessary for an online viewer to look at/hear your audio slideshow.
  2. Upload the contents of the entire publish_to_web to Google Drive. For directions, click through the galleries at the post “Using Google Drive as a Web Host” at this link:
  3. Write a blog post that explains the content of your story, including the title (this is the headline you gave it in Soundslides) and link to the publish_to_web folder you uploaded in Step 2 above. The link in Step 2 will explain what that link is.
  4. Email the link to the blog post containing the link to the audio slideshow to me at
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