Archives for posts with tag: infographics
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, WordPress.com 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.

I’ve settled back into the routine in Auburn now after spending three days conventioneering at the Online News Association conference in Atlanta. This will be a brief post since I have a ton of grading to return to, but these are my main takeaways:

  • The technological wonders never cease for info gatherers: From the fledgling journalism drone programs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Missouri School of Journalism to wearable sensors, innovative means of gathering information are popping up at every turn. The next challenge is figuring out how news organizations can put them to use (as well as figuring out how to fight government efforts to curb our adoption of these technologies, which Matt Waite of Nebraska explained in detail at the Knight Village on the convention’s Midway).
  • Nor do the possibilities for sharing data visually: I came out of ONA13 with a renewed enthusiasm for the integration of visuals with data and in a fit of irrational exuberance, I signed up for Alberto Cairo’s current MOOC on infographics and data visualization out of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. I’m two weeks late into a four-week course, but he kindly assured me I didn’t need to worry about doing the homework since a lot of folks just sign up to see the course materials. I deeply appreciate his willingness to share since I’ll incorporate some of it into the multimedia journalism course I teach in the spring. This will give me a sense of best practices to apply to the stuff I learned last week about using TileMill and Google Fusion Tables for mapping data.
  • Collaboration is king: Journalists don’t have to be coders, and coders don’t have to be journalists. But it sure does help if we know each other’s language, values and guiding principles. I’ll be collaborating with a team of Auburn University coders and reporting students on a hackathon next month. Do I know code? Only in the most rudimentary way, though I’m learning more all the time. But I have done research about journalism and migration, which happens to be where the team needs expertise since that’s the subject of the hackathon. Right place, right time, right connections.
  • Journalists must master data or data will master them: The highlight of the convention for me was the Friday keynote address by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight. His topic: Eight Cool Things Journalists Need to Know about Statistics. So many people live-tweeted about it at the event, myself included, that it made sense to make a Storify story about it. The link is below. I hope you enjoy it!
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