About Map of the Week
I’ve been working at the Star as a Web editor since 2001. I also write for the paper occasionally, though not as often as I’d like.
In 2005, colleagues Brett Smith, Chris Carter and I started to explore the possibilities of the Google Maps API as a news tool for thestar.com: We had one of the first homicide maps on a North American news Web site, in early 2005. Later, we started mapping home towns of Canadians killed in Afghanistan and marijuana grow houses busted in the city. We were the first in the city to link to live traffic camera images on an interactive map.
Our splash page for the last provincial election was built around a Google Map, which for the first time displayed polygons, or two-dimensional shapes.
Many other online media outlets have taken advantage of the API:
- Homicide maps sometimes seem almost compulsory for a news site of any size. Here are different approaches taken in Baltimore, New Orleans, LA, Manchester, Oakland, Rochester, Boston, Houston, London and Philadelphia.
- The Washington Post’s site has a much more complex casualty map than ours, using Flash, multimedia and the Google Maps API.
- British freelancer Alex Tingle used Google Maps to produce a graphic overlay showing areas of the UK and Ireland which would be flooded by a rise in sea levels, which he explains here. Graphic overlays on Google Maps have an enormous potential, which we’ve barely scratched the surface of. I’m not aware of a media organization which has really exploited it, though University College, London’s geography department has put it to excellent use displaying demographic information about London.
- The New York Times maps travel stories.
- The Bowling Green (N.J.) Daily News maps the weekend’s yard sales.
- San Diego PBS affiliate KPBS used it to map local wildfires. They credit geographers at San Diego State, who seem to know some very useful tricks for the MyMaps application.
As you can see, we’ve barely scratched the possibilities of the medium, which brings us to Map of the Week.
Like the maps that the magazine Harper’s used to run, the concept is that the weekly maps will work as stand-alone features, not necessarily connected to a story or to content in the paper, though opportunities to link them would be exploited as they arise, as I expect they will.
Some will be complex, others simple. The research required varies considerably – some can be prepared quickly from open-source data, while others will require FOI requests. One in particular took months of negotiating, off and on, before the data was eventually released.
The blog’s central feature will be the weekly map. I will also link to maps outside the project, especially as map projects designed for the print edition become more Web-friendly, which is something else we’re working on.
I’d like to thank Brett and senior editors Marissa Nelson and Neil Sanderson, all of whom showed the patience of Buddha while the various details were being pulled together.
Feel free to use the comment section. Hopefully readers will want to discuss the ‘why’ behind the facts presented – ideally, I’ll present the information and we can discuss together what it means.